In His Olivet Discourse Jesus described the end times culminating in His Second Coming. He told His disciples to look for certain signs of the approaching end, but said, “of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, but My Father only” (Matt. 25:36; NKJV), and then drew out the practical application: “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (v. 42). He said that “if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (vv. 43,44), and went on to say, “Blessed is that servant whom his Master, when He comes will find so doing” (v. 46).
To illustrate the point Jesus went on in the next chapter to tell His famous Parable of the Talents. A man who was about to travel to a far country summoned three of his servants and entrusted to each of them a certain sum of money: five talents of silver to one, two talents to another, and one talent to the third. (A “talent” was a Greek measure of weight varying anywhere from 57 to 95 lbs. Thus a talent of silver would be equivalent to 900 to 1500 silver dollars, a considerable sum of money in those days. Our English word “talent” is actually taken from this parable.)
The first two servants invested the money and each achieved a 100% return on the investment. The third servant, however, dug a hole in the ground and hid the money.
After a long time had passed the master returned and summoned his servants to settle accounts. The first two explained what they had done, and to each of them the master said, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matt. 25:21,23). But the third servant said, “Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went out an hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours” (vv. 24,25). The master responded by calling him “a wicked and lazy servant,” and pointed out that if the servant had known that the master was always looking for ways to make a profit, the obvious thing to do was what the other servants had done – invest the money and try to make a profit. The master then states the underlying principle: “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away” (v. 29).
The parable has far reaching implications for the Christian life. We today are in a position analogous to that of the three servants in the parable. Christ is our Lord and Master, but He has been away for a considerable length of time. The temptation is to forget about Him, to go about our normal business – to eat, drink and be merry. But Christ will return, and then we will have to give an account.
First of al, we must remember that we occupy the position of a servant (the Greek word used in the parable is doulos, which literally means “slave”) with Christ as our Lord and Master. The Master, in turn, has entrusted certain resources to us – in our case our time, ability and money – and He expects us to make good use of them. It must be emphasized that they have been entrusted to us – we do not possess them in our own and we do not own them outright. We, in turn, are expected to make good use of these various gifts for the benefit of the Master – His glory and the advancement of His kingdom.
In the parable the master tells each of the good servants “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” Significantly he says that they were “faithful” – they made wise and careful use of what had been entrusted to them. He tells them that “you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.” As we demonstrate our ability Christ will increase our responsibility and our relative importance in the kingdom. And finally the master tells them, “Enter into the joy of your lord.” The master is happy, and he wants his servants to share that joy as well. We find happiness and fulfillment in life by proving ourselves to be good servants of Jesus Christ.
The question is, are being indeed being faithful? Christ has given us talents and resources; but what have we done with them? Did we use them to advance His kingdom? Or did we squander them like the servant who buried his talent in the ground? And let us remember that the object is not to seek fame and fortune for ourselves, but to seek the will of God and fulfill His purpose in our lives.
As we enter the new year (the new decade, even), let us rededicate ourselves to Christ’s service, and prayerfully consider what we can do for Him, what we ought to do, with the resources as our disposal.
Count Zinzendorf, the great 18th Century leader of the Moravian Brethren, as a young man touring Europe came across a portrait of Christ hanging in a museum in Dusseldorf, Germany. The painting had the caption, That I did for you; what have you done for Me?” Zinzendorf’s biographer (Christian Gottlieb Frohberger) states, “It made se deep and unforgettable impression on his soul, that he made, on the spot, the firm and unshakable resolution to do a great deal for the Lord.” And so he did!