Mat 25:30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Rush Limbaugh is fond of saying that he has “Talent on loan from God!” I suppose there’s no doubt that the man has talent. Even his adversaries will admit that he has a unique talent for making them angry, stirring the pot, or being a lightning rod for controversy.
I happen to believe that I have a talent for writing. My Grandma Jones always praised me for having a “good imagination.” At the same time, she wanted me to become a lawyer when I grew up. Come to think of it, lawyers often have pretty good imaginations, so I can kind of see the logic there.
I firmly believe that we all have talents. Humans are remarkably talented! We’re always looking for ways to do something more efficiently. Our creativity and aptitude is seemingly unstoppable at times. What was once science fiction has become science fact!
And so, I think about the parable Jesus taught in Matthew 25, The Parable of the Talents. The common interpretation is that God gives talents to people and he expects them to use them for Him.
No argument there, really. I certainly don’t advocate using talents for evil purposes.
It’s also good to note that the parable actually refers to currency. A talent was a wage, or money. In fact, in the story, Jesus tells how the two worthy servants invest the talents and they grow.
It’s further good to notice the context of the parable. The one before it is about the virgins awaiting the groom’s arrival. The one after it deals with the final judgment on the world. In the parable about the virgins, they are given lamps. Five take along oil, while the other five do not. During their watch for the groom’s arrival, the five foolish ones run out of oil and their lamps go out. They’re not ready for the arrival of the groom. They ask for oil from the five wise virgins, but they cannot give them any oil. The foolish women rush to the vendors to buy more oil. Then, while they’re trying to buy the oil for their lamps, they miss the groom’s arrival and are not allowed in to the wedding feast.
The final judgment is portrayed as God separating His people from among all the nations of the world:
Mat 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.
Mat 25:32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
In Jesus’ words, God will note that when He was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, sick and in prison, the righteous fed Him, gave Him water, welcomed Him and visited Him. On the other hand, the unrighteous didn’t feed Him, give Him water, welcome Him or visit Him.
While the righteous are welcomed in to His Kingdom, the unrighteous are banished to eternal punishment.
But there, in the middle of those two parables sits the Parable of the Talents!
So, what does it mean? Is it about cash that God gives us? Is it supposed to be about the talents that we’re given, like running, writing, preaching, fixing things, etc.?
I was thinking about this in the car on the way to work this week. And it hit me like a revelation: God’s not going to throw someone into “outer darkness” if we don’t use our individual talents. Can you picture it? Someone was gifted in writing, but never seeks publication or retains that talent to a personal journal. Then, “You are banished to outer darkness, you worthless steward!!”
I don’t think so.
So, what does it mean? How do we apply this parable in the context of the chapter?
The talents represent the Gospel, just like the oil represented God’s gift of salvation and repentance to those who accepted His Lordship. God has given the world the Gospel. He communicated it to the world through Adam, through Enoch, through Noah, through Abraham, through Isaac, Jacob and Moses. The world has been given His wealth of mercy and grace.
Each one of us is given the currency of God’s grace through Jesus’ sacrifice. Some seem to be given more understanding of it than others. Some may only get a very basic understanding of their sin and God’s grace.
But each one of us will be responsible for what we’ve done with that talent, or talents.
Maybe you think you haven’t been given much from God. But if you take the Gospel, then bury it, fearing God as some evil master to despise, then you’re, in fact, rejecting His love. You will be held responsible for mistreating the gift of God’s love and will be justly judged as a worthless steward of what God has given to you.
We all have talent on loan from God. It’s His love. But if we don’t esteem its value, we’ll find that we’re going to be judged with a righteous and harsh judgment.