All of us are accountable and responsible for our actions—or inactions— whether that’s to our spouse, parents, boss, teachers, friends, or someone else. Unfortunately, most people forget that they are also accountable to the ultimate authority: God our Creator.
The rich man in this story was going away on a long journey. He called his servants and gave them each final instructions and some money, telling them to stay and work while he was away.
The Bible says the master gave his servants talents. This term was first used for a unit of weight (75 pounds) and later for a unit of money. One talent was worth 60 minas, and two minas was 100 drachmas. Today the word “talent” refers to an ability. In other words, he asked his servants to run the business…and he intended to come back.
The master gave each servant their talents according to their ability (verse 15), just as the talents (gifts) God gives us are personalized. It is usually pride and selfishness that make people desire and envy the talents of others.
There are four things in this story that I would like us to look at:
- The master’s kindness
The servants (also considered slaves) had nothing. Slaves did not even own their bodies let alone material riches. They had no claim on their master; their master owed them nothing. Yet this master, in his kindness, gave his servants his riches to use and produce with.
- The servants who multiplied their talents
The productive servants got down to work right away (verse 16). Their work was faithfully carried on, and they did not slack off or slow down in using their talents just because their master was not around.
These servants were very successful. In fact, they doubled the talents that had been given to them. And they were ready to give an account. When their master returned, they were both rewarded generously. They received praise: “Well done.” They received promises: “I will put you in charge of many things.” They received glory: “Come and share your master’s happiness.”
- The servant who buried his talent
The servant who had received one talent went off and buried it (verse 18). He just dug a hole and buried it! There are at least five things that characterize this unfaithful servant:
- Ungratefulness — Although he was living on and consuming his master’s riches, this servant did nothing to improve his personal account.
- Indifference — He showed no interest in his master’s wishes and the talent that had been entrusted to him.
- Idleness — He did nothing!
- Neglect of duty — While the other servants used their talents, this servant was probably having much fun doing his own thing. The Bible says: “Anyone, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:17)
- Foolish reasoning — He complained: “I knew you are a hard man.” He was looking for excuses. People today are no better. I have heard things like, “Who can ever please God? Who am I to even try? God can use someone else.”
There were rewards for the faithful servants, but awful punishment to the unfaithful one. Romans 14:12 says, “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” And in 1 Peter 4:5, we read, “But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”
The response of the master makes it clear that, regardless of the amount the servants received, the rewards were equal. Both faithful servants were told: “I will put you in charge of many things.”
God gives us talents to use. All of us without exception have talents. Some have obvious talents, others have hidden talents. Some have many gifts, some few…but we all have talents to use. The rewards are based on our faithfulness— not on how big or impressive our gifts seem to be.
To the unfaithful servant, the master said: “You wicked, lazy servant!… Take away the talent from him” (vss. 26, 28). And he stripped all the privileges and talents given to him. But that was not the end. The servant also had to pay the price of being unfaithful. “And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
What a terrible ending! If this man had earned just one talent, he would have received the same reward as the others. Instead, all he had to show for his life was a hole in the ground.
I am sure there are many lessons to be learned from this story, but I believe the main reason Jesus told it was to make his listeners—and us—understand that there are only two kinds of servants: faithful or unfaithful, and that “no one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24).
Let’s listen to what Joshua said to Israel’s leaders and people: “Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness…But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14-15)
The Holy Spirit cannot dwell in an unfaithful and unprofitable Christian. Being a Christian involves more than playing it safe and doing little or nothing. It demands service that produces results.
God does not want us to be successful by the world’s standards, but He does want us to be faithful.
Are you faithful? Am I faithful? May I leave you with the Apostle Paul’s words: “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.” (Ephesians 6:7)
Pastor Joseph Hovsepian