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25.The Parable of the Talents


Chapter 25

The Parable of the Talents

Matthew 25:14-30

Eric H. H. Chang

November 15, 1981


We continue today, in the exposition of God’s Word, and we turn to the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. Here, I would like you to notice the frequency of the word “more” and “with interest” which is also the more.

“For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had two talents, made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent, went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time, the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward bringing five talents more saying, “Master, you delivered to me five talents here and I have five talents more.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” And he also who had the two talents came forward saying, “Master, you delivered to me two talents, here I have made two talents more.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little. I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” He also who had received the one talent came forward saying, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you did not winnow. So I was afraid and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and slothful servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gathered where I have not winnowed. Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have abundance. But from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. There men will weep and gnash their teeth.” (Matthew 25:14-30)

The church, the household of God only has full-time slaves

Here is a parable which is rich in meaning and powerful in content. The picture is of a household, of a master and his servants, which is very common in the Bible. You will notice that the word translated “servant” is the Greek word, δοῦλος (doulos), the well-known word for “slave”.

In Matthew 24, you will notice that verse 45 onwards, has exactly the same picture of a master and a whole group of servants as described here. There is one who is in charge of those servants, and he misuses his authority to beat up some of his fellow servants, getting himself drunk and feasting himself, without any care for his fellow servants.

In this parable, the master is settling accounts with each of his servants, which is generally a picture of the Judgment in the Bible. The Judgment is the time for each servant to be accountable to his master, the Lord Jesus, God’s representative.

The picture of the church as a household is also very common in the New Testament. This concept is something we need to grasp very clearly because it is so fundamental to the Scriptural teaching. Paul speaks about the “the household of faith” for example, in Galatians 6:10, and he speaks of “the household of God” in Ephesians 2:19. So Paul is drawing on the Lord’s teaching about this household of which God has set Jesus Christ as the master. And others in the household, that is, you and I, we are the master’s servants, or slaves. Now in this sense, you will see that there are no exceptions in the Lord Jesus’ teaching. Within this household, everyone is a slave serving the same master.

Are there any part-time slaves? No, there are no part-time slaves. There is no such thing as a part-time slave. The slave is always wholly the possession of his master. Today, I would like to be able for us to catch a glimpse of the New Testament concept of the church. I say catch a glimpse because we may not have reached the stage spiritually, in which we are yet able to implement it. But at least, it is time for us to catch a glimpse of what the New Testament concept of the church was like.

Look carefully again at this picture. The Lord Jesus is represented by this master who is going away but he is going to come back. He has gone to be at the right hand of his Father, and he is coming back again for us. That is the whole point of the parable. Notice its position after Matthew 24, speaking about the last things and his coming again. And now he turns his attention to us, and points out that we are in his Father’s house­hold, in which he is authorized to be master, so we are first his Father’s slave-servants as well as his slave-servants. Indeed, we are his Father’s sons, but we are also slave-servants. We often like to stress our sonship much to the neglect of our responsibility, as expressed in this idea of servanthood.

Paul delighted supremely in the title of being a slave of Jesus Christ. He doesn’t speak of himself as “son of God”, much at all. But he opens every letter with the words, “Paul, servant (slave) of Jesus Christ.” That is the same word as in this passage here. For him, that title was even more precious than his adoption as “son”. It is remarkable, isn’t it? You would have expected that he would have begun with a statement, “Paul, a son of God,” but he does not use that term. He would rather speak of himself as a “slave of Jesus Christ,” for Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 5:23), and the head of Christ is God. (1 Cor. 11:3) And then he sees everyone in the church as a servant of God, as a slave of Christ, as indeed, every slave was totally the possession of his master, living totally for God and for Christ, imitating Christ.

If only we could grasp this concept of the New Testament pattern of the church, as the household of God in which we are all fellow servants, we can forget about this distinction of some being full-time workers and others not being full-time workers, because everyone has this responsibility of being a full-time servant, a full-time slave of God and of Jesus Christ. I feel our churches are full of part-time employees of Jesus Christ, not slaves of Jesus Christ. We clock in in our spare time; we are spare-time attendants of the household of God. That is not the New Testament picture at all. If everyone in the church were a full-time worker of God, every person a true slave of Jesus Christ, every person could be trained as a full-time worker. Paul spoke of a whole church all fully trained, fully equipped. Maybe some young Christians are in the process of being equipped, but everyone is to be fully equipped.

Live for Christ: Vision & power of the New Testament Church

What are we speaking about? We are speaking about the New Testament idea in which no Christian lives for himself, but like Christ, he lives only for God. Let us read in Romans 14:7-9, lest you think that I am inventing all this. Let me show you what is Paul’s concept of the Christian. He is not talking of some high level of specialized Christian workers, he is talking about Christians generally; and he is talking about relationships within the church, and then he goes on to say,

“None of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died, and lives again that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”

Is Jesus Lord in your life? If so, you live to him, you don’t live to yourself anymore. If you claim to be a real Christian, can you honestly say that living to him—who lives to do the will of God—is the direction of your life?

If this is not plain enough, let us turn to 2 Corinthians 5:15 to make sure that we have understood the matter perfectly. Paul writes,

“And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves, but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Jesus died for you, that you don’t live for yourself anymore, but for him. He died for me, that I don’t live for myself anymore but for him. If you say that you are a Christian, and that Christ died for you, can you honestly say that from now on you live for him, just as he lives for God?

Now think of this brothers and sisters, if all of us in the church are living for Jesus, the head, then where is the distinction between a full-time worker and a non-full-time worker? Where is the distinction? Do you mean that the full-time worker lives more for Jesus? Well, in the state of affairs in the church today, it does indeed look like that. The full-time worker does indeed live more for Jesus, but is that what it should be? What does the Scripture say? It says that if you truly understand that Jesus died for you, you don’t live for yourself anymore. Let me ask you, do you honestly dare to say that that is true in your life? Now if you live for him day by day, moment by moment, that is a full-time worker. How else do you define a full-time worker?

A full-time worker doesn’t necessarily mean that he will not be engaged in any form of employment. That is not the Scriptural sense of a full-time worker. You well know that when financial necessity arose, Paul often engaged in working at a job to earn his own living. What are those of the First Team doing in Hong Kong? They also engage in jobs, some in teaching, some in the lab. They apply their learning just to earn their living, but they live for God and for Christ. The moment there is a necessity in God’s work, they resign from their jobs immediately. For one of them, when his job took up too much of his time, so that he was no longer able to concentrate on getting on with serving fully in the church, he decided to look for work in another less time-consuming job, in order to give more of his time to God. So even when he was engaged in that job, he was doing it for God. His direction of life was for God and Christ. So it is for everyone in the team. How do they differ from anyone else? There is no difference at all!

When those of the present Training Team go back, they will, according to necessity, take up jobs after their own professions for a time, whether it be engineering or whatever it was. For them, this would simply be a way of maintaining their livelihood. Their direction of life is living for Christ. But the moment God’s work requires it, all of them will immediately drop their jobs, because their commitment is not to the job, their commitment is to God and His church. Now if this is true for them, how does it differ from any other Christian? If you are engaged in a job, is that your priority? If that is your priority, how do you live for Christ and for God?

Now try to think of the concept of a church, in which everyone lives for Christ. This is how it should be, is it not? Isn’t the Scripture perfectly plain about that? That is how it should be. Let us grant that by God’s grace, this Scriptural teaching will become a reality in our midst, where not only the Training Team but everybody in the church will function in the same way as the Training Team functions. In fact, do you know that the Training Team is merely to be a model for the church as a whole, to show like pioneers, what is the path for the whole church to go? That is the way the New Testament Church functions.

It is all right that you are working in your job, but are you prepared to go somewhere else and work in another job when the spiritual strategy of warfare requires it? Will you say, “Sure, I’ll go. I am at the Lord’s disposal at any time”? Is that attitude primary in your life? That is vital for you to think about. Now if that is your thinking, you are no different from the Training Team, because that is their attitude. And if that is your thinking, we are on the way to building a New Testament church in which every person genuinely lives wholly for Christ and for God. I say “genuinely” because I know most Christians are prepared to beat around the bush and begin to say, “Oh yes, I live for Christ.” It must take an awful great thickness of the skin for some to be able to say that, but I doubt, if closely questioned, that kind of a statement can be sustained in the lives of many Christians. I am a very blunt person when it comes to speaking the words of the gospel.

So if at all possible, let us try to capture this vision of the New Testament Church, by the grace of God. No wonder the New Testament Church could turn the world upside down, because everyone could see their devotion to God.

When people look at your life, are they impressed by your devotion, or just by the spiritual-sounding language that you are able to pour forth, if you even do that much in your place of work, or at your school? Perhaps, when you get to school, you are so cowardly embarrassed at being a Christian, that you hardly open your mouth at all! Your Christianity is like putting on clothing for when you come to church. When you go to school, you put on the school gown that has nothing to do with the church.

Is living for Jesus in 2 Corinthians 5:15 a reality? When your family, when your friends look at you, do they say, “Wow! This guy really lives for Christ! For him, nothing else matters. He may do his job well, but his devotion to God is to totally imitate Christ Jesus.” Would that God grant us such a church in these days, because until then, the world will not bat an eye with all our talk about Christianity!

So we see that there is this household of God in which everybody is equally committed, and holds a responsibility within this household. The Lord Jesus did not say he gave one servant five talents, and another two, and the third servant one, and some got nothing. No, every person has been entrusted with a certain responsibility.

“Talent” represents enormous responsibility

Now I must remind you again here, “talents” has nothing to do with nat­ural abilities. It has nothing to do with the English word “talent” meaning ability or gift. The word “talent” is simply a term for a particular sum of money. In fact, the word “talent” began as a weight of silver or a weight of gold. So you can read about a talent of gold, or a talent of silver, or a talent of brass in the Old Testament. “Talent” is a weight which became a term for a very big sum of money. In the old days, the transaction between one nation and another was talked about in terms of this great unit of monetary wealth called the “talent”.

If you have a Revised Standard Version Bible, you will see in the footnote that the talent was more than a laborer’s wages for fifteen years! That means if you work for fifteen years, all the money you can save up in those fifteen years would be equivalent to one talent. Assuming the average worker earns about $20,000 a year in Canada, so for fifteen years, we are talking about something close to $300,000. A quarter of a million dollars is an awful lot of money! A talent was a very, very big sum.

So what is being indicated in this parable is that God has entrusted to us something of enormous value. One servant is being entrusted with five talents, which means we are talking about millions of dollars in modern- day terms.

God gives power according to one’s spiritual capacity

Notice in this parable, that not all are entrusted with the same amount. Verse 15 tells us that it is decided on the basis of each man as he is able. “To one he gave five, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.” What is the decisive factor?

In the New Testament, “ability” must never be understood solely in terms of natural ability. It is a great mistake to think in this way. God does not entrust one with more simply because he is naturally more able. Natural, worldly ability in God’s work is not necessarily always an asset. In fact, it can instill a lot of pride, and become a hindrance. People who are able are generally very conscious of their ability. You know your own capacity because you have many chances to compare yourself in your performance with others, and you become fully aware of your ability. And no matter how humble you try to be, it is very difficult to be humble when you know you are good. At least, Mohammed Ali was not trying to be super humble when he blew his big horn, and said that he is the number one. He knew he was good. And people thought: “This guy is a brag!” Some people know they are good, and they pretend to be nothing, but in their hearts they say, “I’m the best, but of course, I’m not going to say that.”

True humility comes when you don’t deny the fact that you are good. If you are good, you are good. You don’t have to pretend you are no good. But you also recognize that in the realm of spiritual reality, your natural abilities don’t necessarily advance the work of God, therefore we have a genuine reason to be humble. I repeat, the genuine reason to be humble is not the failure to recognize the reality of your ability, but to know that it is not necessarily that useful in the spiritual realm. In fact, it can be counter-productive, because we tend to rely on our own ability and do things in our own way, rather than in God’s way. We are too confident in our own capacity, so we don’t need to trust in God. Whereas the person who is weak, and recognizes his weakness and inability, realizes he has to trust in God when it comes to spiritual things. So it is very important for those who are capable to learn the lesson, that in the realm of spiritual warfare, your ability doesn’t count. It is God’s power manifested in you which counts.

Paul was a very capable person. You need only read his letters and you will realize how intelligent and capable he was, both in management as well as in his profound insight into the spiritual truth of the Scriptures. Yet God had to cripple him, because he was simply too capable and too brilliant. Did you realize that? We read in 2 Corinthians 12:7 that God had to put “a thorn” into Paul’s flesh, and it weakened him greatly. He pleaded with God to remove this thorn, but God would not remove it saying, “You are going to be stuck with this. My grace is sufficient for you.” Paul was a very capable person, but it began to be a hindrance to him, so God had to put this thorn into his flesh. Then Paul said, “I know it is because I am proud, and I have to be kept humble. Therefore from now on, I would rather rejoice in my weakness that God’s power may be manifested in me.” Some of us have to be humbled in this way, because our ability goes to our head, and begins to affect the way we work, and becomes a hindrance to the advance of God’s work.

Once we realize this, we must understand that when the Lord Jesus distributes these talents to the various servants, it is not based on natural ability. In “to each one according to his own ability”, the Greek word, δύναμις (dynamis) translated as “ability” is better translated as “power.” As for “own,” it doesn’t mean that we have this power in its innate sense, that we were born with it, or are predestined to have it.

In Luke 1:17, Jesus speaks about “the spirit and power of Elijah.” There you have the same Greek word, δύναμις, translated in this parable as “ability”. What is Elijah’s power? Did he generate this power in himself? No. When we speak of the power of Elijah, we mean the power is God’s fundamentally, but it functions in Elijah, therefore it can properly be called Elijah’s power. It has been given to him by God, so it is in a sense truly his. And so this parable says, each servant was entrusted according to each one’s own power or ability. Now spiritual power is the key idea here.

Clearly, you entrust a certain responsibility to a person according to his capacity. You don’t put power into the hands of a person who is not really capable of using that power. For example, you don’t put a live hand grenade in the hands of a five-year-old child. Perhaps a twelve year old may be quite sensible, and you can entrust it to him. But one day, he might just get so angry, that he pulls out the pin out of spite. The five year old definitely has no clue about what this grenade is in his hand, and he might think that pulling this string will have some interesting effect. He will be right of course, except he will not be around to see what those interesting effects will be! This five-year-old child has not reached the moral capacity to cope with the responsibility of this explosive in his hand. He doesn’t know he cannot play around with it. In the same way, when God entrusts things to us, He must look at whether we have reached the capacity where we can handle the situation.

God increases your power as your faith increases

Now it is also very important for us to grasp that this capacity is not a fixed thing in the Bible. The Scriptural evidence constantly indicates that you can increase the capacity. That is, you may start out as a one-talent man, spiritually speaking, and go on to becoming a two-talent man, and onto a five-talent man. It is not Scriptural teaching at all that God predestines some people to have five talents, and others to have two talents. The Scriptural teaching is indeed that every person can rise to the level of Elijah, and have the power of Elijah within himself.

What is the determining factor? To answer this, let us look at what Romans 4:20 says about Abraham:

“No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God. But he grew strong in his faith, and he gave glory to God.”

As I have always emphasized, you cannot really expound the Bible without the knowledge of Greek. The following is an example of the reason. The words translated as “he grew strong” is the Greek word, ἐνδυναμόω (endynamoō), which is a cognate of the Greek word “power.” As mentioned earlier, this Greek word “power” is translated as “ability” in this parable, and as “power” (of Elijah) in Luke 1:17. This Greek word, ἐνδυναμόω means increase of power. In the face of the challenge of the reality of Sarah’s barrenness, God’s promise to Abraham—that his descendants would be as multitudinous as the sand of the sea—would seem impossible. Yet Abraham did not waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong by faith, as Romans 4:20 tells us. It doesn’t make any difference whether it is translated “in faith” or “by faith”, because it is the Greek instrumental “in” (instrumental dative). Abraham grew strong (increased in power) by faith. This power then, comes through faith. This point is made very clear.

In Acts 9:22, it relates to Paul. Here Saul has become a Christian, and soon, he was going to abandon the name Saul for Paul. But when he became a Christian, he met the strong opposition of the Jews.

“But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.”

This Greek word, ἐνδυναμόω is translated into “increased all the more in strength”, which is exactly the same word that we saw in Romans 4:20 ἐνδυναμόω, to grow strong. It is from the Greek word δύναμις. Saul did not start out that strong, but now he was increasing in strength through faith.

This point goes on right through the New Testament. You will find that in Ephesians 6:10,

“Finally, grow strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might.”

In Philippians 4:13, Paul says,

“I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.”

There you have the same Greek word. Paul is saying, “God increases my strength so that I can do all things.” His confidence in God is limitless, therefore he can do anything through God.

Now that is the kind of Christianity we need in the church. When your faith is such that your power increases through faith, then God entrusts more talents to you. This is very easy to understand.

“More”: Increase is the key idea at the Judgment

Let us come to the central part of this parable. We saw that the extra oil made all the difference in the Parable of the Ten Virgins. All the five wise virgins as well as the other five foolish virgins had their lamps burning. There is no difference in that point whatsoever. But the whole difference was that five of them were prepared for the age to come. Their extra oil was of no use in the present time. The extra oil only became useful in the age to come. That is what mattered. How we try to unravel the symbols as it were, of this parable is not very important. Remember the word “more”, the extra, the increase in this parable. That is the key idea. And we need to look at what this means.

Now the virgins carried lamps. The burning lamp symbolized life in the Old Testament, as in Proverbs 13:9 for example. It is a symbol that when the lamp goes out, the person is dead; the lamp of life is extinguished. When the lamp is burning, you are alive. If we follow this picture, the lamp would represent the body. The flame would represent the activity of a person who is alive. When he is dead, there is no more activity; the lamp goes out, the fire ceases to burn. The oil then, which is critical for the burning of the lamp would represent life. And so the picture would be that as the oil runs out, the life runs out, the fire goes out. It stops burning. If this is the picture that is understood in the Parable of the Ten Virgins, then the extra oil would refer to an extra supply of life. It is very important to grasp that the oil does not mean life within the virgins themselves, because this oil is not in the virgins. It is oil that they bring along with them.

What does all this mean? Well, in the Lord Jesus’ parables, one parable has the way of explaining the other parable. Instead of using the picture of the extra supply of oil, the Lord Jesus now changes the picture to talents. The picture in the Parable of the Talents is virtually the same fundamental idea as in the Parable of the Virgins. They all started out with their being entrusted with certain talents. What is important is whether you have more pounds or talents at the time of the Judgment, not at the present time, which is exactly like the extra oil. Now if you have five talents, there needs to be at least another five talents. If you have two talents, there needs to be another two talents. And if there is one talent, there needs to be another talent. The last servant was in trouble because he did not have the more, the extra. He is thrown out into the outer darkness, the weeping and gnashing of teeth. That servant is finished! Everyone had to have more. Can you see the picture? It is just the same basic idea, but now it is elaborated in greater detail.

Difference between Parables of Pounds and Talents

Well then, how are we to understand the picture of extra or increased talents? Let us simply look at the difference between the Parable of the Pounds and the Parable of the Talents in order to bring out the meaning.

Parable of Pounds: Christian life at the start

The Parable of the Pounds stresses one aspect of the spiritual life, which is a matter of empirical observation, that is, each person has got the same one pound to start with. What is the one pound compared to for example?

The idea in Acts 11:17 is that all get the same pound to start with. We get the same spiritual life. We get the same Holy Spirit:

“If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God? ”

There you have the English word “same” which translates this Greek word for “equal,” of equal value. So the word “same” does not bring out the meaning, that God gave the life of equal value to all who believed at first. Gentiles and Jews now have life. It is not that you and I have the same life in the sense of having a certain sameness, but of being equal in value. God has treated each one equally by giving him the same Holy Spirit, the equal portion of life.

In 2 Peter 1:1, this same word for “equal” appears again:

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours through the righteousness of our God and of our Deliverer Yeshua the Messiah. [Complete Jewish Bible, translation by David H. Stern]

The Revised Standard Version also translates “the faith of equal standing” quite correctly. When you came to the Lord, you got one pound, the same as what I got when I came to the Lord. You got the same life from God, you got the same gospel, you got the same Holy Spirit, equal with me, and I with you. There is no difference; we all started out the same. What strikes me time and again, is that everyone listens to the same message from the Word of God Sunday after Sunday, yet one becomes a spiritual giant and another is a spiritual pygmy, and another one drops out, and is out of the picture altogether. The Word of God was no different. Why?

Now in the Parable of the Pounds, one person got one pound like all the others, and he ended up with ten pounds at the end of the day. The other one starts out with one pound, and he ends up with five pounds at the end of the day. And another one starts out with one pound, and he even lost the one pound that he got! That is very true in the spiritual life, isn’t it?

Look at all those who were baptized recently. Right now they all look the same, but in five years’ time, the difference can be very significant. Five years from now, one is way, way ahead. Another is way, way behind, and some are somewhere in the middle. Yet they started out with the same life from God. Did I hear a different gospel from you? No, I received exactly the same message. Did those in the Training Team hear a different gospel or a different message? They got the same message. The vital difference is in the difference of the response! And it is what we call “faith”. Faith is a response to God, and it is that response which determines the “power”, which is translated as “ability” Matthew 25:15. The power begins to vary, and the difference between the power begins to get wider and wider as time goes on.

Paul describes this in terms of a race. You all start from the same starting line. You all got ready, “On your marks, get set, bang! (the gun goes).” After a time, one is so far ahead, and another one is somewhere in the middle, and another is way behind trying to catch his breath. You can describe that as a race. By now, the picture should be clear. Let us say that in one month, one has made ten pounds, another five.

Parable of Talents: the greater responsibilities and power later on in Christian life that God entrusts by response of faith

Then you have the Parable of the Talents. Do you see? Somewhere, half way between the starting point and the finishing mark, the situation as in the Parable of the Talents becomes a reality, because by that time, one has got five, one has got two, one has got nothing. You see, did the person who has five talents or ten pounds suddenly get five talents or ten pounds on the last day? He got one talent to begin with, he got one talent on the second day, one talent on the fifth day, one talent on the twentieth day, and on the thirtieth day, he got five talents or ten pounds.

Now there is no difference between pounds and talents. It is just a different figure of speech, but the same basic idea. The person who had five talents or ten pounds at the end was building up all along. So on the starting day, he had one pound, the next day he might have a little bit more. Then by the end of the week, he had two pounds, and then by the next week he had five pounds. That is how it is built up!

God enables you by grace to gain “more” through your faith

Now you may think, if this is the case, the Christian would be earning five more talents or ten more pounds instead of having them given to him. If you think like this, you have not yet understood the Scriptural principle. In the spiritual life, everything is of grace. There is nothing in spiritual life that is not of grace. Remember what Paul said in Philippians 4:13? “I can do all things but through Him who strengthens me.” So fundamentally, everything he does is of grace. It is through God who strengthens him. If you got the five more talents or ten more pounds, did you do it of your own strength? No, it was of grace too. God was enabling you all the time. Or as Paul puts it in Philippians 2:13, “God is at work within you to will and to do,” but with our co-operation. It is your faith that determines how much He is going to will, and how much He will do in you. That is the vital thing. Your faith is the determining factor about this.

So first, the Parable of the Pounds really indicates what the Christian life is about at the start. The Parable of the Talents has to do with something further along in the Christian life where there has been a continuing increase of power and God is entrusting more and more to you. Did God entrust all that to you when you first started? In a sense, prospectively yes. Maybe right from the beginning, your response to God was fuller. In some cases, people responded poorly at the beginning, but changed completely afterwards, and had a very full response. So the Parable of the Talents really describes something further along the Christian life than the Parable of the Pounds. Yet whatever we have of the increase, it is all of grace through faith.

Now this also means that within the church, a gap widens out, and this widening of the gap is what makes the difference. Some Christians begin to emerge as spiritual leaders because of their increased spiritual power through faith. Others are further behind, and some are non-functional at all in the church. There are many non-functional Christians in the church, unfortunately. Why? Because God is less kind to them? No, because their response to God is either very inadequate or non-existent.

If these same people would now throw away their obstruction to God’s grace, and commit themselves totally and unreservedly to God, they would have the same power as those who are presently the spiritual leaders, or as those becoming spiritual leaders. God will be entrusting more talents, more responsibilities to you, more gifts to you.

I have seen people who began with virtual inability to preach, such that you would say, “That’s no preaching material. You can’t make a preacher out of him.” But God transforms them and anoints their lips and makes a mighty servant out of a person who was a very unlikely candidate in human estimation. God can do amazing things with each one, if only there is that response of faith to Him without reserve! If you don’t believe what I say, just put the Scripture to the test, and see what God can do with you. There is nobody here that He cannot trans­form into a mighty man or woman of God. He can do marvelous things indeed!

Doing with God’s gift of spiritual life is not optional!

You will say, “Okay, now I understand that there is to be the increase of talents or pounds,” the increase of life. But it is very important to notice in this parable, if God has entrusted pound or the talent to you, when He has entrusted His life to you, and on the Judgment Day, are you going to stand there and say to the Judge, “Lord Jesus, I thank God for giving me eternal life through you. Here is the life God has given me intact, and I’ve kept it safe for you”? You are in trouble, my friend! Anybody who thinks he will be saved simply because he has got the gift of life, and he can keep it to himself and he is all right, will be in trouble! You have not understood the Lord Jesus’ message yet. He tells us that God gives us this life not just so that you can save your own spiritual neck, or that I can save my own spiritual neck. He gives me this life as a trust that I am His servant, and you are His servant. If you have that life, you are answerable to Him for what you are going to do with that life. You must do something with life! Life is not there just for keeping. Life is something to be lived, something to be exercised. You have to do something with it. But if you don’t do that, you are in trouble!

I dare not even look at what will happen to so many of the Christians today, on the Judgment Day! They are going to come to the Lord Jesus and say, “I thank God for giving me life. I have kept it very safe all these years. I was afraid I would lose it. I’ve kept it very safe! But I haven’t done anything with it” And the Lord Jesus will say, “Depart from me, you useless servant!” The word translated “worthless” is “useless.” And you will say, “Lord, what are You getting angry for? Now just keep Your hair on. I know You are a hard man; You are a tough character. I was scared You would demand from me, so I kept it safe, and now I am giving it back to You.” You won’t get away with this because if God gives you eternal life, He means you to be a channel of that life to pass it on to others; to live for others and for Him.

“More”: Pass on God’s life in you to others

Now you begin to see why we quoted these words at the beginning. If God sent Christ to die for you, he died so that you will no more live for yourself, but you live for him. To live for him means that you channel the life that God has given to you through Christ, to other people.

Now think of it. How do you channel life? How do you have another pound, another talent? It’s very easy. When you draw someone to God, as Christ does, and you make another person a disciple of Christ by God’s power, does the life in you diminish? Of course not! Here is the wonder that happens! You have still got the life, and that one person also got the life through you. Now the one pound, the one life in you has become two lives, because you have brought another person to life; you have been a channel of life to him. There are two lives now. If you bring yet another person to God, and he becomes a disciple of the Lord Jesus, that life that started out as one in yourself now becomes three, and then maybe four, five, six, seven, ten! Do you see what it means? There is the extra oil, extra talent, extra pound! The life is still in you, but now there is another life in this person, there is another life in the next one, and another life in the other one—all starting with you transmitting the life to the next person.

The Parables of the Pounds and the Talents are very easy to under­stand. On that Day, when you stand before the Lord Jesus, you don’t just say, “Lord Jesus, God gave me life, and here I am! I’ve kept it safe in me.” Oh, you are in trouble if you do that! No, you will say, “Look at this one, look at that one, and that other one!” Paul says, “Who is my joy and my crown? You are my joy and my crown. You are the evidence of the life that is in me, because you now have that same life in you that was in me and still is in me.” Look at how many pounds has Paul got! The whole Corinthian Church, the whole Ephesian Church, the whole Philippian Church! This man has become a spiritual millionaire! Can you grasp that message? There is the message for you. Grasp it clearly in your mind.

Or be condemned to outer darkness, eternal death, hell

Any person who thinks, “I will save my life” will lose it. But the Lord Jesus says, “He who loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s, will gain it unto eternal life.” When you are giving your life to another person, when you are training him or her as a disciple, you are giving your energy, your time, your sleepless nights, you are losing your life, but you will gain it in giving it. But if you keep your life in yourself to yourself, you will lose even what you have. That is the gospel of the Lord Jesus.

What is more, not only do you lose what you have, you are in trouble! What does the Lord Jesus say at the ending of this parable? He says in Matthew 25:28, “So take the talent from him.” The pound was also taken away from that slothful servant in Luke 19:24, when the Lord Jesus says, “Take the pound from him.” If the talent or pound that represents the life is taken away from you, you have lost the life that was given to you! What else does it mean? This point is confirmed explicitly in Matthew 25:30 which says, “And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The meaning of that is not to be escaped; it is very, very plain.

In the Bible, there is light where there is life; there is life where there is light. God’s light and God’s life are always associated together. The Lord Jesus can say, “he who follows me will have the light of life” in John 8:12, because he passes on God’s life to them.

This also means that in the Bible, death and darkness always go together. “Outer darkness” is the place of eternal death, the opposite of eternal life. The apostle Peter says in 2 Peter 2:17, “These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them.” This darkness of death is reserved for the perverse sinners. “Weeping and gnashing of teeth” is what they will do in that place of darkness outside.

We are also told in Matthew 24:51 that this is the place where the unfaithful servant will be put with the hypocrites, “there men will weep and gnash their teeth.Now where do the hypocrites go where they will weep and gnash their teeth? In Matthew 23:15, 33, twice you have the word “hell”, the place for the hypocrites. And that is where the unfaithful servant goes.

Also, twice in Matthew 13:42, 50, the Lord Jesus tells us that this place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, is the furnace of fire. That is why hell is often pictured as a furnace of fire. Actually, it comes from the idea of the branches that were cut off. And what do you do with them? You throw them into the furnace of fire to burn up. And this means that the picture of darkness and fire are one. Both fire and darkness symbolize the destruction in hell. Destruction is the opposite of life. It is to be cut off from God’s light and from God’s life. The fiery furnace, the place of spiritual darkness are total darkness and total destruction! That is not a place that anybody would like to end up in.

Let me say it again, because that is what the Lord Jesus says: If you have received the gift of eternal life from the Lord Jesus, whether the pound or the talent—the talent represents the greater responsibilities later on, but fundamentally, it is still that life functioning in us—unless you multiply it, unless there is going to be “more” on that Day before the Lord Jesus, you will be cast into the total darkness outside God’s kingdom, into total death and total destruction.

Commitment determines use by God, increase in power

You can be like the wise virgins with extra oil. Indeed, the extra has to do with you too, but it also has to do with the life that has been produced in others, and is represented by the increase of pounds or of talents. This will be your joy and crown. You see that the one who had two talents had to bring at least another two. The one who had one talent needed only to bring one more, but he did not even manage that. This shows you that there is a direct proportion between commitment and the end result.

Think back one more time, on what basis were more talents given? It was on the basis of the response of faith. If that is the case, then clearly, the person with five talents was the one with the greater response of faith. Therefore as he grew in the spiritual life, he was entrusted with greater responsibilities, more gifts to do his work in God’s service. The one with two talents also had a full response, but not to the same extent as the one with five. It is not surprising therefore, that the servant with one talent, and the servant with one pound, in both parables, is the one that fails. Both of them came just to get a pound, a talent, but they produced no results, no “more”. Their commitment was already shown by the fact they were entrusted with only one talent in the Parable of Talents.

I cannot over-emphasize that you check carefully your commitment to God. What sort of commitment have you got? Can you honestly say you live for Him? If not, be careful if you cannot say on that Day, “Here is the result—I have brought my son and daughter to You. And look, the life that is in me has now multiplied in my friends and into those people in the church!” If you don’t have “more”, you are in big trouble.

On that Day, all those lives you have brought to God will prove that they are your joy and your crown, because they are the ones who are going to be the evidence of God’s saving grace and power in your life in such a manner as is acceptable to Him.

And I pray that as the Training Team goes forth, they will bear this message in mind. They may have to labor with tears sometimes, as they give of themselves, but remember: as you lose your life, you gain it. It is in giving of yourself that you will multiply life in others. It is no easy road; it is a hard road, but it is well worth it. You will see how worthwhile it is when on that Day, you and I will stand in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ by God’s grace, and rejoice with unspeakable joy!


(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church