In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells a parable about a man who entrusts his money to three of his servants while he is away. They each receive a different amount of wealth: 10, 5, and 1. The master doesn’t instruct them on what to do with it; he simply leaves it in their possession and takes off. The first two double their money: the 10 now having 20, and the 5 now at 10. However, the servant who only had 1 chose not to risk losing it; he chose to bury it in the ground so that his master wouldn’t be upset with him. He was terrified of what his master might do to him if he was to lose his one and only amount of money. Unfortunately for him, this was the wrong choice and he was punished for it, because he could have made at least a little amount from it at the bank.
The parable is revealing of our Christian walk as well. Our Master, Jesus, has entrusted us with different things in this life to use and bring others to saving faith. Some of us have more money and opportunities than others, but every single one of us has been entrusted with something. You might have money, people, a position at work or school, a certain hobby, physical health, or a variety of different gifts. Jesus expects us to use whatever we have been given for the sake of the Kingdom of God. He doesn’t want us to waste it, and honors it when we give it a shot (did you notice that both of those who tried doubled their investment?). When we choose not to make an attempt, we are operating out of fear, which is the opposite of what Jesus and God empowers us with (2 Timothy 1:7).
What have you been entrusted with by your Master? Take some time to write down what skills, people, and possessions you have been given in a column on a piece of paper. How can you use that to further the gospel message of the Kingdom? Take some time to brainstorm and write down in a separate column next to that first list any ideas that come to mind.
You’ve been given something; don’t waste it. And Jesus is with you always through the process, so don’t fear anything (Matthew 28:20)
Take some time to create your two columns: What have you been entrusted with by your Master? and How can you use that to further the gospel message of the Kingdom? Return to it throughout the weekend with more thoughts. What have you been given that you never considered using to spread the good news of the Kingdom?
Has fear stopped you from using your talents? What should we be most fearful of (men, what others think, what if I mess up – or – what will happen when the Master returns)?
What can we learn from the other two parables in Matthew 25?
What do we learn of God and His Son Jesus in our reading today?
In today’s chapter, there are three parables: the Parable of the the Ten Virgins, the Parable of the Talents, and the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.
It is important to note that parables are earthly stories that teach spiritual truths. Jesus creates images that his hearers would understand, and applies them to spiritual realities. The Parable of the Talents section will go into more detail about interpreting parables.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
In the first parable, we see ten women who are waiting to guide a groom to his bride. Five of these virgins were wise and prepared for the coming of the groom by have enough oil to last all through the night. Five were foolish, unprepared, who have to run off and fill up their supply of oil while the groom is on the way. They weren’t ready for the bridegroom and his coming, and they were not allowed in because they were late.
Obviously, we can see the parallel with our faith. The point made by this story is simple and spelled out for us in verse 13: “Be on alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.” We must be prepared for the coming of Christ, ready for his return.
But what does it mean to be ready for his return?
Parable of the Talents
In the second parable, a master goes on a long journey, and gives talents to his slaves. When we read “talent,” remember that the word HERE means “an amount of money”. A talent is a VERY LARGE amount of money, about 6,000 denarii. A denarius is one days wage. 1 Talent would take a working person 16 years to save. (see note) Five talents, two talents, and one talent are all VAST sums of wealth, and the King gives them to his slaves and entrusts that money into their care according to their abilities. When the master returns, he rewards those who use his wealth to make more, but punishes the one who hides the money away and does not use it.
Again, we should start to see some connections to our own life. It is important to remember that this is a parable. Jesus is using images from the world around him to teach a spiritual point. The talents given by Jesus, the King, to us, his slaves, are decidedly not always money. There may be people who follow Christ who are dirt poor. Moreover, it should not be considered specific abilities or spiritual gifts. Because this story is a parable, one-to-one relations don’t always work. For example, what is the oil and who are the oil sellers in the parable of the ten virgins? Don’t think too hard on it, because those are silly questions. The parable is about being ready for the return of Christ. I’m making a similar point for this parable: don’t try to define what the talents are (spiritual gifts, or natural abilities, or other) but think of them as the blessings of God in our life generally. And that makes the point clear: We can either use the blessings God has given us to produce more blessings for ourselves and others while risking and sharing, or we can bury our blessings and avoid the risk of interacting with others.
If you use the talents with which you are gifted, you will receive the reward the master gives. He says to both the one with five talents as well as the one with two : “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (21, 23). Note the words aren’t different, though the blessings are. We are to use our blessings that we have been given. We are not to worry about not having as much as the next person or whether we can see the fruit of them using their blessings. It is for the master to judge them, not another slave.
Finally, Jesus, our master, EXPECTS us, his slaves, to gain on the blessings given. For the slave given one talent, even if the talent was just “put in the bank”, then it would have been better. Instead, the slave played it safe, and is punished for his unfaithfulness. The one who is was unfaithful has their blessings revoked and the blessings were given to the faithful. (Another reason we don’t think of talents as specific spiritual gifts or natural abilities. It seems doubtful that God would take the spiritual gift or natural talent from one and give it to another.)
We need to be ready at all times for the return, and that is by using our blessings to bless others. Jesus puts a fine point on this teaching by saying the final parable of the chapter.
The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats
In the final parable, all humanity is imagined as a herd of animals, sheep and goats. The final judgement, that comes at Christ’s return, has him separating sheep and goats. Jesus tells the sheep that they fed, watered, invited, clothed, and visited the great king by doing it for the “least of the brothers of mine.” When we care for other Christians, we are caring for Jesus, the great king Himself. Moreover, many Christians have understood a greater implication. Because Jesus is human, he views all of humanity as brothers and sisters. This is why Paul says in Galatians 6:10 “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Not ONLY believers, but especially believers. It starts in the family and radiates outward. However, the goats did not feed, water, invite, clothe, or visit the great king. When they did not care for their brothers and sisters in Christ and for their human family, they were not caring for the king.
And what happens to each group is shocking. One is given eternal life, life in the age to come, life that lasts forever because it is in the presence of the One who is Life. And the other is punished, and the punishment, death, will be eternal and final.
These three stories teach us what it means to be ready for the return of Christ which is promised in chapter 24. To be serving the least of these, both in and out of the family of believers, with any and all blessings that God has given us, actively waiting and expectantly watching for the coming of Christ. It is not staring at the sky while twiddling our thumbs nor is it quietly serving with no Kingdom messages. It is serving the least, blessing them, and sharing with them the Gospel of the Kingdom. That’s the message of the parables.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
Are we the wise or the foolish virgins? Will we be found prepared, without knowing the day or the hour? Will we be running around when he comes, hoping to be found ready?
Are we faithful with the blessings of God we have been given? Are you using the gifts God has given in an effective way?
The sheep seem to be surprised that they were serving the King, and the goats are surprised they weren’t serving him. Are you taking care of the least, the last, the little and the lost? When have you fed or given water to the poorest in your community? When have you given clothes to those who have none or invited them into your homes? It is tempting to say “I give to charities that do that” but Jesus won’t be asking the charity if THEY cared for the least of these, he will be asking you and me. Will we be in surprise that we served or in surprise that we did not?
Today as we look at Matthew 25 we should take notice that though we are starting a new chapter the context surrounding this chapter is the same as that of chapter 24. Matthew 24 and 25 are a single unit of thought. This can be seen in verse 1 with the word “then” (the NIV says “at that time”) indicating what Jesus was speaking about in chapter 24 is continuing into chapter 25. The focus of the chapter is about the end of this age when Jesus returns and the judgement that he will enact.
There are three pictures of judgement in chapter 25. The first two are parables (the parable of the ten virgins and the parable of the talents) and the last one is a description of the judgement scene.
In the first parable there are ten virgins who wait for the bridegroom. The bridegroom delays in appearing and all fall asleep but suddenly the bridegroom appears but only five are ready for the bridegroom while the other five are not ready and they are denied entrance into the wedding feast. The virgins denied entrance are then told by the bridegroom he never knew them.
The second parable is about a master and his slaves. The master gives each slave a talent (an amount of money) and went on a journey. When the master returns only two of the three slaves honored the master with what they were given. The third slave squandered his talent and is rebuked by the master and the slave is thrown out into the outer darkness.
The third picture of judgement involves Jesus separating goats from sheep among the nations. The sheep and goats represent those who belong to Jesus and those who do not. The sheep (believers) are rewarded with the kingdom and the goats (non-believers) are cast into hell with satan and his demons.
What are we to make of this chapter? What does Jesus want us to learn from these three pictures of judgement? I believe it is this.
There is a judgement coming and not everyone who calls themself a Christian will enter into life. The reality is, not everyone who calls themself a Christian is a true believer. In all three teachings there is one group of people who are then divided into those who are accepted and those who are rejected. Many people comprise the Church but not everyone who attends church is a true believer. The judgement of Christ sorts out the self-deceived from the real believers. Jesus himself teaches this earlier in Matthew 13.24-30, 36-43 in the parable of the tares. And he also teaches this in Matthew 7.21-22.
Who are you? Are you deceived or a true believer in Christ? The five virgins were accepted into the feast because they were ready and prepared. The 2 slaves were honored by the master because they were faithful with what the master had given them. And the sheep entered the kingdom because they loved and served other Christians in need.
A true believer will have evidence of salvation in their life. A true believer bears the fruit of the spirit, they grow in holiness, they grow in their disdain for sin, they hunger for the scriptures, they serve other Christians and people. A real believer matures and grows in Christ.
Paul tells the Corinthians in II Cor. 13.5 to test themselves against the scriptures to see if they are in the faith. Compare yourself to scripture and to the words of Jesus. Have you really received salvation from God? In addition to this, talk with mature believers closest to you about this serious matter if you question your salvation.
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 25
Jesus just finished telling his disciples to expect His return. Now he tells parables about how we should prepare for the return. It’s always nice to have concrete instructions. These ones are in the form of parables, but they aren’t terribly cryptic.
The first parable is about a wedding. There are a bunch of people waiting to meet up with the groom so that they can go to a feast with him. Initially, there are ten of these people patiently waiting. They were expecting him to arrive during the day, but on his way, he was delayed. Once the sun fell, only five of them stayed to wait for the groom because they were prepared for darkness. They thought ahead and brought extra supplies.
In this parable, Jesus is the groom and we are the virgins or bridesmaids waiting for his arrival. Notice that initially there were many who expected his coming. Most of us reading this believe that Jesus will come back. There have been times in the past when a biblical scholar has declared that he deduced the time at which Jesus would return (you can find a nice list of these occurrences on Wikipedia). I imagine many of the people who ended up believing these claims were disappointed when the proclaimed date rolled by without ushering the Kingdom of God. Many of them probably fell away from faith because they had expected their groom to show up during the day, yet they failed to wait through the night. The same is true now. Even if we don’t see an exact date for His return, we must continue to wait. We must be especially aware that soon the sun will set. Darkness will fall. But that doesn’t mean that the groom has forgotten his people and his feast. In fact, darkness will certainly precede His coming.
The second parable is about a hedge fund manager. This man gives his underlings various amounts of seed money and expects them to use it wisely. More precisely, he expects huge returns out of them. Two of his employees manage to achieve returns of 100%. The final employee merely broke even. Of course, the manager is happy with the first two. The returns that they managed are nearly unheard of. For example, to get a 100% return on your investment today, you would have had to invest in Apple stock 5 years ago (more precisely, April 17, 2014). The parable doesn’t tell us how long the manager was away, just that it was a long time. Long-term investment is one of the safer ways to grow your money and short-term investments are considerably riskier. Perhaps the third employee knew this and said, “Rather than take a loss on my boss’s money, I’ll just sit on it.” Perhaps this employee thought his manager would only be gone for 3 months. If he had invested in Apple stock three months ago, then he would have lost 27% of what he invested. That wouldn’t make the manager terribly happy, but the 0% gains that he presented still provoked the manager’s anger. The manager said that he would be gone for a long time, but the third employee didn’t take that to heart and decided to do nothing.
Shortly after Jesus ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit was poured out on believers. The Holy Spirit is the investment that Jesus gives us. The Spirit gives us each special gifts. In Romans 12:6-8, Paul lists a few of them: prophecy, service, teaching, encouragement, giving, leading, showing mercy. These are the talents that Jesus gives to us. He expects us to invest these gifts for the long-term. This might mean pursuing one person for years to show them the Love and Truth of Jesus. In can be risky to try to convert someone in a day, like a short-term investment. You win that person over, but you could also completely ostracize them forever. This short-term investment is certainly not ideal compared to the safer returns of long-term investment in people. Jesus wants to get returns on the gifts that he gives to you. So put them to use for the long-term.
The final parable is like the first two. Some will claim to know Jesus, and some will serve Jesus. Those who serve will be like the sheep, separated from the goats and placed at the right hand of the King. Those who never believed, or who believed but refused to serve, refused to make a return on the investment that Jesus gave them, will be tossed out. They will be tossed out just as the devil himself will be tossed out. But the righteous, those who invest wisely, will receive eternal life.
Today we are talking about the New Year’s resolution of making better investments. This is a common resolution in the world whether people are people of faith or not. However I am going to talk about faith investments, more than monetary investments. Yes finances and being responsible are important in our lives and in our faith, however we need to be able to ask God for guidance in all areas of our lives including that one and we need to be flexible enough to listen to him.
At the start of the New Year one of my friends asked God, “Where and in whom should I invest my time, in 2018?” My thought was this, invest your time in the people who will give your time more meaning than just the time that they spend with you. Yes sometimes it is nice to have friends and family who will spend time with you, without there being a specific reason or purpose. However, you need to truly invest your time and energy in the people who will do something big with that time, not necessarily for you but maybe for them and their future. Today we are reading from Matthew 25:14-30. This passage is the parable of the talents. It is about the Master who gave 3 servants different number of talents, which were a type of coin. One was given 5, one was given 2, and one was given 1. The one with 5 invested them and doubled the money. The second servant did the same. The last servant buried the 1 talent in the ground, he did not even put it in the bank to at least collect interest. The first servant proved himself and so the master gave him even more, but to the last servant he gave him nothing, and he actually threw him out into the darkness where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (That seems a little harsh to me, but the reality is life can be pretty difficult sometimes.)
I take a few things from this parable. 1.) Make smart choices and smart investments in your life, and take care of things that people entrust you with. The servants who made their master happy increased the master’s wealth, but they also did not lose the money that he gave them because they were proactive and took care of what they were entrusted with. The servant who did not make his master happy, did nothing with what he was given. This is what we should pay attention to. God gives us a lot of things. He gave us a life to live, and he has a plan for each of us. If you are not listening to him, how are you taking care of the gift that he has given you? If you are not taking care of the earth, and being conscious of how your actions affect other people and other creatures, how can you be taking care of a gift that was given to you? You are not. Think about this as you go about your daily life. How can you take care of the life you have been given? How can you listen to and follow God’s plan for your life?
2.) Invest in the people who are going to give you more than just time. Invest in the people who are going to give you wholesome friendships. Invest in the people that push you to be a better person, and those who hold you accountable to the things that you see. Invest in people who will push you in your relationship with God, and invest in those who will support you when you fall. We are imperfect beings and we will fall short sometimes. We will not always meet others’ expectations of us, God’s expectations or even our own expectations. Those will be difficult moments, but they will be easier to face if we have surrounded ourselves with people who will support us. It will also be easier if we have nurtured those relationships and given them the time that they deserve.
3.) Invest in God. This seems simple, and you’re probably going to guess what I am going to say. A relationship with God is not a one way street. You can not accept that Jesus is your savior and the son of God, and that God is one and only God, and not do anything else. You have to live a life with works. James 2:17 “Even so, faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself.” This means investing in time in prayer, and in time in the word, and even in time with other believers in fellowship. Find little ways to do more of these in your daily life. Later in the week we will talk more about how to do more in the investment of your relationship with God, as we enter into this new year.