What Of Thy Talent? (Matt. 25:14-30)

On the three parables of the Olivet discourse (Matt. 24:45 - 25:30)

The first section (24:3-44) of the Olivet discourse of Matthew 24-25 speaks solely of the time referred to as the time of "tribulation", aka Daniel's 70th week. The language used is very literal, describing in specific detail the great trouble to come upon the earth, and the end result, the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, when all the world "shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." (24:30)

The 'church' is not found in any connection with this first section of the Olivet discourse. The reason for this is that before that great and terrible day of tribulation comes forth, before that stone which the builders rejected comes crashing down upon the kingdoms of men, the Lord Jesus Christ, the "Bridegroom", shall have first escorted his own, his bride, safely to his Father's house. (John 14:1-3)

In contrast then, the second section of the Olivet discourse deals with matters related only to the NT church, and is the topic of this study. The concept of the 'church' was unrevealed at the time the discourse was given, but as we now of course know began shortly after the resurrection and ascension of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
This second section (24:45 - 25:30) presents a marked change in the language used. The Lord no longer uses the literal and descriptive language found in the first section, but instead presents three distinct parables. These three parables are seen as presenting a brief overview and a 'prophetic history' of the new dispensation which was about to begin - the "church age".
It is with this perspective that well known and widely respected bible teacher of years past, A.C. Gaebelein, wrote his commentary on the gospel of Matthew, from which this teaching on the three parables has been excerpted.

1. The faithful and evil servant
2. The ten virgins
3. The talents

excerpted from Exposition of the Gospel of Matthew; 1910
by A.C. Gaebelein (1861-1945)
And now we come to the third parable.

For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strewed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (verses 14-30).

This parable is not identical with the one which is recorded in the Gospel of Luke (chapter xix:i2-27). The one in Luke, the parable of the ten pounds, was uttered before the last visit to Jerusalem; the one here in Matthew when His visit was almost ended. The parable in Luke has more to do with the rewards in the Kingdom and has its special application into which we do not enter here. The parable here, following that of the ten virgins, shows us the same period of time, when the Lord is not present. We see in it again the responsibility which man has, in possession of the gifts which the absent Lord has bestowed and how the gifts may either be used or not used and that when He comes again the good and faithful servant will have an abundant entrance into the joy of His Lord, while the unprofitable servant is cast out.
The difficulty in this parable seems to have always been the servant who received the one talent. The teaching which is often, or rather generally given from his case, is one which is positively unscriptural. It is taught that he, as a believer and servant of Christ, did not make use of his talent and that all Christian believers who act in the same way, must share his fate. Upon this conception, believers are exhorted to faithfulness, to be diligent and use that which the Lord has given to them, in case they do not, they will surely be cast out into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. According to this teach--ing final salvation depends not upon the work of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross, but upon the faithfulness of the believer and upon the use of what he has received. How this thought can be enlarged is easily seen. Some say, indeed, that every human being has some talent, even if it is a very small one, some light, something good, and if it is used, improved, that little good developed, it will result in salvation. That all such teaching is wicked and strikes at the very fundamentals of the blessed Gospel, is seen at the first glance. How can we reconcile the teaching of the Gospel of Grace with the case of the unprofitable servant in this parable ? There is no need of attempting to reconcile it, for the one who had received the one talent and who hid it does not represent a true believer at all. To verify this we only need to hear what he has to say, what excuse he gives for having put away the talent. His words discover his true condition. He was far from being a true servant with a heart full of confidence and love. He is the very opposite. He did not trust the Lord at all, and with his words he accuses the Lord of being a hard master. Surely a true believer could never say such words about his gracious Lord. That he did not use the talent at all and then upon his idleness accuses the Lord unjustly is proof enough that the man represents a mere professing servant. What the Lord had put at his disposal he had refused by not using it.
The whole parable, aside from the case of the unprofitable servant, is not difficult to understand. We must, however, be careful to avoid the thought that the talents, the five talents and the two talents, are things like earthly possessions, mental faculties, such as a good memory, a keen, logical mind, or a robust body. That all these are blessings and gifts of God none would doubt. The talents are His goods and delivered into the hands of the servants when He went away. However natural endowments are considered in the distribution of the gifts. To each is given "according to his particular ability." His own divine wisdom manifests itself in the bestowal of these talents. There is no true servant of Christ who is left without a gift. The absent Lord has given to each according to their ability.
Another great principle which this parable teaches is that the gift can be enlarged and increased. The two trafficked with the talents and doubled them. Exercise of any gift, no matter how small it is, will increase that gift and there will be gain, which of necessity is gain first of all for the Lord Himself. It will be for Him, as these servants laid before Him what they had received and what they had gained.
However, the distinction between the parable of the prudent servant and the evil servant at the close of chapter xxiv must also be maintained. The sphere of the prudent servant was narrower. He had to give meat in season to the household. The talents here are to be used in a wider sphere. Just as the merchant who trafficks and wishes to gain goes outside, the servant of Christ is to use that the Lord has given to him according to his natural ability and as he uses it, whether it is the preaching of the Gospel or labor among God's people, it will increase.
And then the Coming of the Lord and how He dealt with the good and faithful servants brings out another principle. Each receives a reward. To each the Lord saith, "Well, good and faithful bondman, thou wast faithful over few a things, I will set thee over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." He does not speak a higher and better word of approval to the one who had the five talents and brought him five other talents. Both hear the same word of approval. It is therefore not the question of how much we have received of the Lord, but how we use that which He has given to us. Faithful service, even in the smallest matter, though there be but one talent, will bring approval.
To fully understand "the setting over many things," and what it is "to enter into the joy of the Lord" we shall have to wait until we stand in His own glorious presence and see Him face to face.
May this parable, like the preceding ones, urge us on as true believers to be faithful to the Lord. Soon He will come. Soon we shall appear before His judgment seat to give an account. May we all use what He has given and use it with confidence in Him and with Love for Him.
The faithful and the evil servant: pt. 1
The ten virgins and the midnight cry: pt. 2

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