Matthew 25:14-18 (NIV) “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.”
This is one of Jesus’ best-known parables, but it contains many gems about the kingdom of God, and what is expected of those who claim to be the people of God.
Obviously, the man going on a journey in the parable is Jesus, and the servants to whom He entrusts His wealth are His followers. The description of the wealth that he leaves with them would have taken Jesus’ disciples’ breath away; a talent was about seventy pounds of either silver or gold. A single talent of silver at today’s prices is worth over $15,000; a talent of gold over $1.5 million!
Each servant was known by the master, and was given an amount to be responsible for “according to his ability.” Obviously, the “five-talent servant” had great potential. But even the “one-talent servant” had the potential to capably handle the amount with which he had been entrusted.
Both the five-talent and the two-talent servants took their responsibility seriously and immediately went out and invested the master’s resources in order to be able to return to him more than he left with them when he came back from his journey. And their wisdom and diligence paid off well: each was able to double the money with which they had been charged.
But the one-talent servant showed that his master’s assessment of his abilities was not too low. If anything, it seems to have been overly hopeful. Instead of investing the master’s money and be able to return to him an increase, he settled for merely trying to conserve the money by hiding it in a hole. Then he went on with his life without giving it any further thought until the master returned.
It is important to remember that what the master left with the servants was not a gift, nor a test; it was a trust. He entrusted his own riches to them, expecting them to put them to such good use that he would receive back more than he had left with them.
Jesus’ meaning here is clear: He will be going away soon leaving His followers in charge of the riches of the kingdom of God – a trust that is so valuable, so massive, that it should take their breath away at the mere idea. And He is leaving them with these astounding riches, fully expecting them to put them to work immediately to grow the kingdom so that when he returns He will receive much more than He left. It is also important to note that each person is given responsibility for multiplying a share of the kingdom according to his or her ability as Jesus sees their ability, not as they see their own ability. The master saw some potential in the one-talent servant, even though that servant saw none in himself.
The riches of the kingdom have been passed down through successive generations of the people of the kingdom to the present day. Some have done well upholding the trust and growing the kingdom, while some have simply hidden away what they have received, simply focusing on holding onto it, and oblivious to the Master’s expectation of their growing His riches to the utmost of their ability.
Father, when I pause to think about it, the riches of Your kingdom with which I have been entrusted really do take my breath away. And it’s clear to see that Your expectations for me as one of Your people, is to take my responsibility as seriously as You do, not to hide those riches away in a hole, merely hoping to retain it for You. You want Your kingdom to grow, and that is a trust that I must keep with all my life. Amen.