A Hard Parable to Swallow

“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Matthew 25:14-30

I have heard a couple different interpretations of the parable of the talents. I heard once that those who use their Heavenly Gifts well on earth will be given more responsibilities in Heaven. I have heard that it is an encouragement to overcome our fears and live boldly so that more (blessings?) will be given to us. And this is, I think, one of the harder parables to understand and to come to terms with, especially verse 29. (“For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”) But when I take this parable in context with what Jesus had been teaching at the Temple, and specifically with the parable of the bridesmaids, I understand it a little differently. 

Like in the parable of the ten bridesmaids, the message is this: you MUST use the teachings Jesus has given you to make the world a better place. When your heart is changed by Jesus, it is impossible to NOT change how you live, how you talk, how you work, everything about your life. Paul compares it to putting on new clothes. Being Christian is a new kind of life. But if you are keeping the Gospel in your heart and not doing anything about it, or not sharing it, Christ hasn’t really changed your life. Just hearing the gospel isn’t enough, it HAS to change you.

And I think this is most easily applied to Spiritual Gifts and Evangelizing. Many people see the talents as believers, and sharing your beliefs with others can help the church to grow. I don’t know if it matters what exactly the talents represent, as long as we understand that we can’t keep Christ or anything He has given us to ourselves. We must share Him, His words, our gifts, our talents, our blessings, everything we have in order to make them grow. And when we share them, God will make them grow, whether in this world or the next.

So often these days we are taught, “All you have to do to be a Christian is accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.” People get baptized and think to themselves, “Okay, I’m good!” and go about with their every day lives. They stop going to church, they don’t share the Good News, they often stop reading it themselves, they don’t try to end their sins, they don’t change. But just saying the words “Jesus died for my sins” does not make you a Christian. Your entire life has to be changed by those words. This may be a hard message, but many “Christians” in America are not Christians at all. They are the slave who got one talent and then went on with his day.

And I’m not saying I don’t understand. Heaven knows I do! Being a Christian is HARD. It is the hardest thing any of us will ever do. But Jesus acknowledges this in the parable. The slave was afraid because his Master was a hard man to please. And it’s okay to be afraid. I learned recently that one talent was the equivalent to a lifetime’s worth of earnings for a slave. I would have been afraid to be walking around with that too! What if it was stolen? What if I took it to the wrong investor and I didn’t make as much as I could? It is certainly easier to do nothing with it. But being a Christian is not about a life that is easy. It is about overcoming our fears and sharing Christ with others anyway. And I admit, I am bad about that in some aspects of my life. I am afraid to give money to others in fear that my family won’t have enough. I am afraid to share the Gospel because I don’t want to lose yet another friend. But Jesus makes it clear, letting that fear control our actions is unacceptable. We MUST overcome it and do those things anyway. Because that’s what Jesus did for us, overcame the worst fears, the most difficult trials, just so we could be saved. How can we not pay that forward?

These one-talent-Christians need our help. They need our love and encouragement, not our judgement. They need guidance. Sadly, they are often the hardest people to help, because they think they’re doing everything right. But if we love them, we must find a kind way of guiding them back to the narrow path. And if you have any suggestions, please share them. There are many one-talent-Christians in my life, and I am running out of ideas. 

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2 Responses to A Hard Parable to Swallow

  1. Pingback: Stay Awake | Understanding the New Testament

  2. Pingback: The Hard Parable Revisited | Understanding the New Testament

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