The Tale Talents Tell
Old Testament Reading- Proverbs 6:6-11
New Testament Reading- Matthew 25:14-30
By Henry J. Rafferty CP -August 29, 2021
During Jesus’ last time in Jerusalem, before His betrayal, He had been in the temple and when He came out His disciples marveled about the beauty and grandeur of the temple buildings. This is the point where Jesus tells His disciples that all they see will be torn down, prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans some seventy years in the future. Jesus also follows this with the statement that He will rebuild it in three days, speaking not of a physical rebuilding of the brick-and-mortar temple, but a foretelling of His death and resurrection on the third day, rebuilding the temple of the body or the church.
Jesus and His disciples retire for the evening to the Mount of Olives that is just outside the city on a hill filled with Olive trees and a press. They often came to this place when visiting Jerusalem, Jesus must have had His reasons for going there, maybe it just felt good to be surrounded by these old, gnarled trees; I know it would feel good to me. When they had settled down and were listening, Jesus continued in preparing the disciples for their futures and for the ministries that they would face as believers once Jesus was gone, at least gone in His current state.
First, Jesus tells His disciples of the end times, of how it will look and how terrible it will become before Christ returns in power. He tells them to be prepared as no one knows the day and year when the end will come except God alone. Second, He preaches about how to be prepared for an event when you don’t know when it will happen. Jesus uses parables, as he often does, to illustrate how to do these things or how not to do them. The main message is this, because no one knows when the end will come, be prepared always, it is that important.
Jesus tells them the ‘Parable of the Talents.’ 14 “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. 16 Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them and gained five more talents. 17 In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. 18 But he who received the one talent went away and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now, let’s flesh that out. First, know that talents are a sum of money. At the time of this story in Jerusalem you would have seen all kinds of money there. Greek, Roman, and money used by the Israelites. The standard unit of currency was the silver denarius of Rome, which is the same value of the Greek drachma. This coin was equivalent to a day’s wage for a laborer, for our purpose, let’s say it is the equivalent to a United States one-hundred-dollar bill and that would be about the average pay for most laborers today. On the other hand, talents were not a coin, but a weight of money and it was used by royalty. A talent is roughly the equivalent of 20 years of daily labor wages in a six-day work week. So, at today’s currency of $100 per day for 6 days that would equal $600 per week. Multiply by 52 weeks in a year, you get $31,200. Multiply that by 20 years and you get $624,000 dollars, so a talent had a modern worth of $624,000.
Let’s read the parable again, but with modern dollars and their worth. “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave $3,120,000, to another, $1,250,000, and to another, $625,000, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. Immediately the one who had received the $3,120,000 went and traded with them and gained $3,120,000 more. In the same manner the one who had received the $1,250,000 gained $1,250,000 more. But he who received $624,000 went away and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
“Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. The one who had received the $3,120,000 came up and brought $3,120,000 more, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted $3,120,000 to me. See, I give you back $6,240,000.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
“Also, the one who had received $1,250,000 came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted $1,250,000 to me. See, I give you back $2,500,000.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
“And the one also who had received $625,000 came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid and went away and hid your $625.000 in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’
“But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival, I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore, take away the $625,000 from him, and give it to the one who has $6,240,000.’
“For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
As you can now see, the man going on a journey was a very wealthy man. This wealthy man leaves his slaves with the responsibility of amounts of money that most of us couldn’t even fathom, let alone be responsible for it. Imagine that your employer left you with that much money to oversee and to account for when they returned, and you didn’t know when they would return. I can imagine some doing very well and others not so much, but I can imagine some doing nothing at all, in fact, I could imagine some that would not have anything to give back when their employer returned because they spent what they were given, even though it wasn’t theirs to spend. In Jesus’ story the wealthy man was very pleased with two of his slaves but angered by the one that returned the exact amount. The slave is labeled wicked and lazy because he did nothing to even try to make more, not even just put it in the bank to collect interest.
How does this parable speak to us today? We have already placed the money into today’s value so what else does it say? First, the man going away is Jesus, He is leaving this place and going into heaven to claim His crown and will return at the final judgment. Second, we are the slaves, believers, and servants to the king-Jesus. We await His promised return and are commissioned to spread the gospel, the good news of God’s grace and the saving power of the blood of Christ. Christ leaves to each of us many tools for our task: money, talents both gifted at birth and learned, relationships, fellowship, and the Holy Spirit to live within us and to guide us. Jesus gives these things out to each according to the ability that God has given us. Just as in the story, Jesus is no more pleased with the man that had five talents than the one that had two talents, both had done well with the ability they had, and He was happy with both equally. But some just don’t ever put much into their faith. They are given a mighty gift, yet they are too lazy to do anything with it. I liken it to what Jesus said to the Pharisees in Luke 11:52, “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” Jesus has no time for believers such as these and warns us that those that are like this have no place in God’s presence and are thrown into the outer darkness.
"...some just don’t ever put much into their faith. They are given a mighty gift, yet they are too lazy to do anything with it," ~ Pastor Henry
What will you do with the gifts God has given you? What will we, Eastminster do with the gifts God has given us? What will all of us, as Christians of every denomination, all who share the bread and the cup with Christ, what will we do with God’s gifts? I think that is the question we all should be asking ourselves. Jesus tells us that He is coming again, and He expects us to make good on the gifts He has entrusted to us to further the kingdom of God. I’m not just talking about more seats filled in the pews on Sundays or for Bible Study to be better attended, the kingdom of God is not limited to inside the walls of our church buildings or our homes. The kingdom of God is everywhere, and all people are His children that He loves so much. We, as believers, are partnered with God to share His message and His love, let’s start acting like it. Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian lawyer and pacifist, said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Is he wrong? When someone says that about us, how does that make you feel? I know that we all like to hear a feel-good message on Sunday, but sometimes we need to face hard facts if real change will take place.
I don’t know about you, but outer darkness and weeping and gnashing of teeth doesn’t sound like a place I want to be, and I know you don’t either. Let us begin to get our priorities straight, I am not asking you to stop living your lives and spend as much time at the church as I do, but I am telling you to live each day of your life knowing that you are a representative of God and specifically Jesus Christ. I am telling you to be more patient, kind, gracious, courteous, and hospitable with others. Be slow to anger and quick to forgive when dealing with people. Think more of others and their welfare and how you might share what God has given you with them. Worry less about what you perceive others are thinking and doing and think more about how you could help them up than to beat them down. If we all could just learn to live like Christ has shown us, wouldn’t the world be a better place? Wouldn’t more people want to be a Christian? It is much easier to love than to hate, hate requires so much effort in the end. Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34
This has been a weighty topic today and we have much to think about this week and beyond. It is time my fellow Christians to go big or go home, now is the time, can you feel it? It is time to let our light shine out in the darkness. To show the world that Christianity is not dead and that the Church of Jesus Christ is still viable. In a world that will often let you down, we need to show the world that Jesus still cares for and loves each of us and that we worship a God that will never let you down. So, what tale will your talents tell? God has equipped us richly; it is time to put our talents to work. Thanks be to Almighty God. Amen.