When the master returned to check on the status of the talents he entrusted to his servants “according to his own ability,” their responses tell a powerul story.
I love the way the scripture reveals the hearts of the first two servants. “’Master, you delivered to me five talents; behold, I have gained five talents more.” Behold is an interjection, an exclamation! It connotes excitement and joy. Like a magician, he flourishes his hand and waves all attention to the talents.
“Voila! I have gained five talents more!”
It is no accident that the word translated gained [κερδαίνω ker-dah’-ee-no; to gain (literally or figuratively):—(get) gain, win] is the same word used to refer to gaining a soul.
- Mar 8:36 ESV: For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
- Luk 9:25 ESV: For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?
- 1Co 9:19 ESV: For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.
That is likely a topic for another post someday.
The third response is heart-rending. The third servant had as much ability to manage the one talent given him as the first servant had to manage the five received and as much as the second had for the 2 he received. Two servants moved ahead and labored and gained more for the kingdom. Each one was given talents “according to his own ability.” Two moved ahead and worked to invest the talents. One backed out in fear, buried his talent, and waited in fear.
When I considered the truth of each servant being entrusted with the endowment that matched his abilities, I couldn’t help but circle back to Matthew 25:25 and, for the first time, I heard such heartbreak in that verse: “So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.”
The servant’s words wreak of heartbreak. The weight of the gift became the focus for this receiver. He could not appreciate the value. He did not feel the compliment of the trust given. This one felt the weight and the risk for loss. This servant ignored the opportunity. He forgot that the master gave him the talent for which he had the dynamis (the strength, might, perhaps even miraculous power) to manage. This receiver focused only on the weight, causing him to spiral into fear—and bury his one talent.
The state of fear nd the loss in the servant’s response stands tragic enough, but pales in comparison to his outcome. The fearful one, paralyzed by fear, wasting the trust and investment of the master, is stripped of what he had been given and cast out. Without any research or even careful reading, Matthew 25:30 communicates fully the horror of that fate: being cast out into “outer, darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
The lesson is driven home by Jesus, when He summarizes the lesson, “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
The word ἔχω échō, translated has in this verse means to have and to hold; to hold onto, to possess, to cling to something; it is sometimes used to describe a marriage, a cleaving to one another. The passage seems to say, the one who has and holds, clings to what God gives Him, will gain in abundance but the one not holding to or clinging to what God gives him, will have that which he has not held onto taken away.
However we analyze this, we clearly see the lesson. Three people are given something to manage, something that had value, something that could be invested or expanded or grown, something that would not grow on its own, something that had weight, something that did not belong to them but which they were trusted to manage as they saw fit until the owner required an accounting. How many somethings have we received from God that are weighty, require management, can be developed or grown or expanded, but left unmanaged will not increase in value or impact? Money, abilities, aptititudes, intellect, bodies, character, belongings, friendships, relationships.
What has God given you that is weighty, requires management, can be developed or grown or expanded, but left unmanaged will not increase in value or impact? What is causing us to fear? What are we trying to protect from risk, burying so that nothing beyond our control can happen? What has the Lord entrusted to us, to use and invest and grow, until He returns or calls us home? When He returns, what will we say to Him? Will we, in excitement, say, “Lord, you delivered to me five talents. Behold! I’ve gained five more”? Or, even with the ability to succeed lying dormant within, will we meet Him with fear and excuses—pointing to the gift He gave us—buried and unused?
That verse has echoed in all our hearts.
“So,” the one with the downcast eyes whispers, “I am afraid. I’ve been hiding this, this weight, this responsibility, this treasure that You have given me. I’ve buried it—and there, in the dirt, is what you have given me.”
God has given us the ability to manage the talent He has given. The fear is all that holds us back and threatens to rob us of the very gifts God has designed us to use. Let’s be the children who know the Father and receive the weight of His endowment with joy, knowing He has also given us the ability to manage it. Then, when we rush to meet Him, out of breath and full of excitement, we’ll gush, “’Master, you delivered to me two talents; Voila! I have gained two talents more.”