Dig Up Your Talents
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 25:18 (Holman) But the man who had received one talent went
off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.
Thus enters, on a sour note, the star of the show, the slave who holds center stage in this parable. The story was primarily told for this slave.
In Greek theater, a tragedy was a drama in which the main character was to blame for his or her own demise. Needless self-destruction was the tragedy-component. Thus, our parable could certainly be called a tragedy.
In an age of no bank vaults and no safe desposit boxes, burying valuables was done often in an effort to keep them safe. Museums are filled with treasures that were hidden away, but for some reason never retrieved.
This third slave prompts a question; have we buried a talent? If so, dig it up. May it never be said we might as well have had no talents in light of the little good we accomplished for the Kingdom with what talent(s) we had.
At this point, a helpful reminder is; this parable says nothing of any slave receiving zero talents. Never believe we have no talent to use for Jesus.
Each and every one of us must be actively contributing to God’s work. A huge danger of our faith is; we can be tempted to deliberate, discuss, and debate without doing. Following Christ entails contemplation plus conduct.
This is no minor observation. This third slave was a big-time loser, though by our standards he committed no huge sin. He was not a profligate. He merely squandered opportunity. He neglected the duty to be productive.
The main lesson of the parable is the tragedy of wasted opportunities. I made this mistake when my children were preschoolers. A workaholic, I was gone from home too much, and way too tense and irritable if present.
For years after this, I felt tremendous guilt. I am grateful to Dr. James Dobson, whose words on one of his radio spots gave me a second chance.
He said to parents; if you failed to spend enough quality time with your preschooler, you have one more chance to make a difference, their preteen years. I did not waste that opportunity. For example, taking them to and from school every day became a precious time of bonding for us.
Matt. 25:19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and
settled accounts with them.
Don’t miss the implication: “After a long time”; how long? Twenty centuries thus far. The phrase indicated Jesus would long delay His return.
The master “settled accounts with them”. Reckonings can be tough and uncomfortable. “Adam, where are you?” “Cain, where is your brother Abel?” Elijah, sulking under a juniper tree, heard God ask, “What are you doing here?” Jesus told the rich young ruler, “Go sell all you have.”
Blessed are they who build accountability into their lives here and now. Repeated daily reckonings, from our own selves and from others, can help make our final reckoning, the day when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ to be judged (2 Cor. 5:10), less painful and embarrassing.
Matt. 25:20 The man who had received five talents approached,
presented five more talents, and said, “Master, you gave me five talents. Look, I’ve earned five more talents.”
This successful slave did not speak first of his achievement. He began with a thankful acknowledgement; emphasizing the fact everything he had, even from before the very first transaction, was given to him by the master.
In Bible times, slaves owned nothing. They knew all their time, energy, and earnings belonged to the master. We believers need to grasp what this truth implies for us when the Bible describes us as slaves of Jesus.
The only thing we ever really own is our sin. All else belongs to God. If we disregard the Giver, we will resent giving back to Him all we have. Do we realize all our time, strength, and possessions are His and from Him?
We know little about Christian living until we see it as a stewardship. Knowing this one vital truth lets our lives for Him spring from thankfulness and gladness. When He asks for our everything, He is not robbing us. No!
We gladly give everything back to Him because He gave it to us. This gives purpose, privilege, and meaning to life. It lets life live, lifts it above the humdrum and ho-hum, and makes duty delight rather than drudgery.
This slave felt no burden. “Look,” he said. We almost hear the thrill in his voice. He was ecstatic, as if biting at the bit, “Master, start weighing.”
Matt. 25:21 His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful slave!
You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!”
“Well done”—Spurgeon said the music of these two words will have heaven in them for us. Be encouraged that the slave was commended as “good and faithful”, not brilliant or extraordinary. He was totally reliable.
“Share your master’s joy!” Some translate it “Enter into your master’s joy!” Augustine liked the latter. He said it was better for us to enter the joy than for it to enter us. The latter measures God’s joy by our small capacity to receive it; the former shows joy’s ability to absorb us. Someday God’s joy will envelope us as an atmosphere we can’t escape. We can now obtain little joy, drops here and there, but then we’ll launch into an ocean of happiness.
We serve a kind God. He gives us gifts, gives us power to use them, and rewards us for what He gave and what He did. He lets us drink from His river of pleasures (PS 36:8), and lets us share His palace as His companions.
Matt. 25:22-23 Then the man with two talents also approached. He said,
“Master, you gave me two talents. Look, I’ve earned two more
talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful
slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge
of many things. Share your master’s joy!”
The first two slaves presented identical balance sheets, and received identical rewards. The emphasis was not the number of talents but faithfully doing what needed to be done. Lay out all we have for God, including our failures; even in them we were trying, and our motives may have been good.
Give Him everything, including your faults. Do what you can. Jesus bragged on the lady anointing Him; “She did what she could” (MK 14:8).
I reiterate, this slave may be our real hero in this story. As the guy in the middle, he represents the largest class of people, folks like you and me.
Financially, few of us will be filthy rich; few dirt poor. Emotionally, few of us will be happy all the time; few always sad. Intellectually, few of us will be highly intelligent; few very unintelligent. Regarding fame, few will be as well known as Queen Elizabeth; few will be as totally unknown as was Teruo Nakamura, who was lonely and forgotten until, 29 years after WW2 ended, became the last Japanese soldier to surrender. Religiously, few become radicals; most people live somewhere between opposite extremes.
Like this second slave, most of us are quiet, unobtrusive, and often unnoticed, living without fanfare. Like this slave with two talents, we have tasks laid out for us, and wonderful rewards we can earn. Labor for them.
A faithful Christian is a trader. The spiritual life is a barter requiring discernment on our part. We must accurately determine what things are of less value in order to part with them to gain in return things of higher value.
We sacrifice time to pray and study the Bible to gain knowledge and find God’s will. We deny self and obey to win God’s smile, and self-control.