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The Reward for Faithfulness
"For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his
own slaves, and entrusted his possessions to them.  And to one he gave
five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his
own ability; and he went on his journey.  Immediately the one who had
received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more
talents.  In the same manner the one who had received the two talents
gained two more.  But he who received the one talent went away and
dug in the ground, and hid his master's money.  Now after a long time
the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.  And
the one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more
talents, saying, 'Master, you entrusted five talents to me; see, I have
gained five more talents.'  His master said to him, '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.'  The
one also who had received the two talents came up and said, 'Master, you
entrusted to me two talents; see, I have gained two more talents.' 
His master said to him, '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.'  And the one also who had received the one
talent came up and said, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping
where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed. 
And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground; see,
you have what is yours.'  But his master answered and said to him,
'You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow, and
gather where I scattered no seed.  Then you ought to have put my money
in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with
interest.  Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to
the one who has the ten talents.'  For to everyone who has shall more
be given, and he shall have an abundance; but from the one who does not
have, even what he does have shall be taken away.  And cast out the
worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping
and gnashing of teeth.'"
I am appreciative of your overwhelming support of me going back to college
to learn Spanish so our church can better minister to our community. I'm
looking forward to seeing our congregation get more diverse as we take
this step to be missionaries in our own community. I'm enjoying my class,
and love mi profesor. But don't read into these statements that I'm doing
particularly well. All I can say is I'm working hard.
One of the things I'm enjoying about taking a foreign language is discovering
words that can have a slightly different meaning just by the way they are
pronounced. As a writer and a public speaker, I've always enjoyed the subtle
nuances of words and now I'm finding the same enjoyment as I attempt to
learn a new language. For instance, if I say "pero," I mean the conjunction
but, but if I roll the "r" and say perro, I'm saying dog.
One of the key words in this parable-talent, represents a similar problem.
Is Jesus using the word talent exclusively to make a distinction between
a talent and a Spiritual Gift? We usually define a talent as something
we come by naturally-something we're born with and a spiritual gift as
something mystically given to us by God when He saves us-something we're
"born again" with. Certainly there needs to be a distinction between talents
and Spiritual Gifts, but part of that distinction does not need to be the
source of the ability. Whether we're born with it or God mystically bestows
us with it after our conversion, the source is the same-God. James 1:17
says, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh
down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow
of turning." (KJV) So whatever the "talent" is that the master gives his
servants we must note that the source of the gift is the master, the servants
would not have it without his act of giving.
But the word problem is deeper than that. As I've said, when we use
the word "talent," we immediately think of it as a special ability that
someone has; so we immediately interpret this parable in that light. We
condense the teaching by saying that if God gives you a talent-meaning
a special ability-you'd better develop it or He will take it away. Sounds
good on the surface, except the word talent, in this usage, doesn't mean
"a special ability."
In Palestine, "talent" was a weight of money. The master in this parable
isn't giving "special abilities" to his servants-something a man couldn't
do anyway, he was giving money. How much? Well that's another problem here.
We don't really know. Because a talent was a weight of coins, not the name
of a coin, the value would vary depending on what the coin was made of.
Was the coin copper? Or was it gold or silver? We don't know. One commentator
I read put a value of 240. Another one said around $1000.00. The only problem
with their estimates is that the first commentary was written in 1957 and
the second in 1969. So frankly, I don't have a clue what it was worth,
and I guess it doesn't really matter except that it was a substantial amount
of money. It was enough that the master cared what they did with it.
Beyond the linguistics involved, there is another issue that we have
to deal with in this text, the master didn't distribute the talents fairly.
To one he gave 5, to another he gave 2 and the other he gave only 1. In
a day where it doesn't matter whether you win or lose, it just matters
if everybody gets to play and has a good time, this seems inequitable.
Is it fair for the master to give more to one and less to another? Doesn't
that give one an unfair advantage?
OK, let's stop here for a moment-let's leave the parable to talk about
God (not a bad thing to do since the parable is teaching us about God's
Kingdom.) Life isn't fair and God isn't fair. Stop trying to make it or
Him that way. God is just-He judges each man based on the opportunities
and responsibilities He's given him, but He isn't fair-He doesn't give
every man the same opportunities and responsibilities. I like the attitude
of Captain David Fortune of the Monterey Police Department. Captain Fortune
has had three different types of cancer. His first round was with cancer
of the larynx in 1979. That cancer led to surgery, radiation and an artificial
voice box. Later, in 1988 he'd get cancer in his left kidney and skin cancer
in 1993. The odds of getting two types of cancer is great but the odds
of getting three types is astronomical. What was his response? "I don't
feel picked on. I don't feel I'm a marked man," he said. "I feel blessed
to be able to handle the challenges and keep going." (Monterey County Herald,
June 19, 2002) Instead of belly-aching over the hardships we face in life,
perhaps we need to develop an attitude of gratitude, like Captain Fortune
Why would the master distribute the talents unfairly? He gave them to
the people according to their ability. Wouldn't you do the same? Aren't
you doing the same? Those of you that are in the age group who are investing
for your retirement think about how you are allocating your resources.
Do you put the same amount of money in every stock there is so you can
be fair? Or do you put the greater amount of money in funds that you believe
will perform well and lesser amounts in funds that you are uncertain about?
That's exactly what the master did. He placed the greater amount of his
wealth in the person he believed would give him the greatest return on
When he returned, he found what he'd expected. The one he gave 5 talents
to and the one he gave 2 talents doubled his money, but the one he gave
only 1 talent did not earn a return at all. As it turns out, he took the
money and buried it in the ground so it would be safe. His concern was
with keeping things the way they are instead of achieving his potential.
The master was livid with him and called him "lazy" OK, no argument here.
Obviously the man was lazy-he didn't do anything except bury the money
and dig it back up. The other two were wheeling and dealing-working hard
to make a profit, but not this one, he was lazy. But the master called
him more than lazy, he called him "wicked." Wait a minute, that's a strong
word. WICKED. The punishment was as startling-the useless servant was cast
into darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The rewards to the faithful are just as surprising. I'd expect him to
give them a cut of the profit and send them away on vacation, instead he
gives them more responsibility.
Why do the rewards and punishments seem strange to us? Because we usually
view the world through the eyes of the leading man and woman and think
of God as playing a supporting role. He isn't! It isn't about us, it is
about God! He does not exist to make our life easier. We exist to serve
and worship Him and the greatest reward we can ever receive is to have
the honor of having more responsibility and the greatest thing we can ever
do in life, is to fulfill the potential that God has given us.