Dr. Derek Morris, Senior Pastor, Calimesa SDA Church, Calimesa, California

Summary: In this fresh look at the parable of the talents, this author helps us to focus on more than the investment of these funds, but on the relationship each investor had with the master. The lesson is not so much in trying harder, but in drawing closer.

Trash analysis

You can learn a great deal about people by studying how they spend their money, their time, and their energy. Read the entries in their checkbook ledger. Review the charges on their monthly charge card statement. Scan through their daily planner. Look at the appointments that are there, and those that are not.

There is even a new science of trash analysis! But make sure you wear thick rubber gloves and put a clothespin on your nose! Trash analysis students take a bag of household trash and do an analysis of the family’s lifestyle and spending habits! Any analysis of how we use our resources would reveal that some of us use them more wisely than others.

Jesus understood that you can learn a great deal about people by analyzing the way they use their resources. In fact, he told a parable that addresses this very issue. The parable of the talents is familiar to us, but I believe there is a vital truth embedded in the parable that many of us have not noticed (See Mt 25:14-28).

There are four main characters in the parable: the master and three of his servants. The master plans to travel abroad for some time, so he calls the three servants and entrusts them with his assets. To one he gives five talents, to another he gives two talents, and to a third servant, he gives one talent. With this introduction, there are at least two questions that come to our minds. First, what is a talent?

Drachmas and talents

When I was a young boy, I thought the parable of the talents was telling us that some people are more talented than others! But, as you may know, a talent was an amount of money. The common Greek coin used during the time of Jesus was called a drachma. It was the equivalent of the Roman denarius. A drachma was a day’s wages for a laboring man. A talent was 6,000 drachmas. Like the mina, which was worth 100 drachmas, the talent was not a coin, but a monetary weight equal to the weight of 6000 drachmas.

Now, a drachma weighed approximately 3.8 grams of silver. So a talent would weigh about 75 pounds. That’s a lot of silver! And that talent was all silver. A talent was worth 6000 days’ wages, 20 years of wages for a laboring man. That was a considerable amount of money to entrust into anyone’s care. And the master entrusts five talents to one servant, 100 years’ wages, two talents to another servant, 40 years’ wages, and one talent to a third servant, 20 years’ wages.


Use of power

This raises a second question in our minds. Why did the master give a varied amount to each servant? Did he like one servant more than another? No. The text tells us the reason. The answer is found in Matthew 25:15. ?To each according to his own ability.? The Greek word translated as ?ability? is more commonly translated as ?power.? Apparently the master assessed the capability of each servant, and depending on his assessment of their ability, he entrusted to them a portion of his assets.

Let’s look at how each one of the three servants responded to the master’s trust. Remember. We are looking for an important truth embedded in this parable that is often missed. How does the servant who is entrusted with five talents or 100 years’ wages respond? Does he say, ?Hallelujah! Let’s have a party?? No. Does he settle down for a long winter’s nap? The master is not there to look over his shoulder. What does this servant do who has been entrusted with the equivalent of $2,000,000?

What made the difference

Let’s look at Matthew 25:16. ?The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more.? What does that tell you about this servant? The master had certainly not misjudged his character. Doubling assets doesn’t happen overnight. And why was this servant so diligent? It wasn’t his money! The five talents had been placed in his care by the master. Why was he so diligent in immediately putting those resources to work? It must have had something to do with his relationship with the master.

How does the servant who was entrusted with two talents or 40 years wages respond? ?... the one with two talents gained two more? (Mt 25:17). Again, this didn’t happen overnight. He didn’t go to the gaming table and roll the dice. It took diligence and industriousness to double his master’s assets. Why did this servant invest so much of his energy into working with his master’s assets? It must have had something to do with his relationship with the master.

Let me explain

What about the third servant? Some people feel sorry for this fellow. After all, he only received one talent. But remember, one talent was equal to 20 years wages! The problem in this situation is not the amount entrusted to the servant’s care. It goes much deeper than that. Notice how the third servant responds. ?But the man who had received one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money? (Mt 25:18).

Why did he do that? Let’s listen to his own explanation. When the master re-turned from his journey, the servant said: ?Master, I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground? (Mt 25:24-25). Why did the servant act the way he did? It had something to do with his relationship with his master. Do you see a pattern emerging here? The way that each servant responds depends upon his relationship with his master!

This parable is not just about three servants back then. It is about us, right here today. And the truth embedded in this parable is still the same. The way you use the resources God has entrusted to you is an indicator of your relationship with Him. The Bible tells us that everything belongs to God. The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it? (Ps 24:1). But He does entrust us with some resources to use wisely.

What are some of these resources? Our earth. Our health. Our minds. Our abilities and natural talents. Our financial resources. Our time. The truth God has revealed to us. These are some resources God has entrusted to us. The way we use His resources is an indicator of our relationship with Him.

Wesleyan strategy

I have always admired the great English preacher, John Wesley. Though I have read his journal and many of his sermons, I did not know much about his stewardship until recently. What I learned confirmed the truth that we have discovered today from God’s Word.

When Wesley began his ministry, he earned £30 per year. He lived on £27 and gave away £3 as a tithe. Some years later, he was earning £90 per year, but he still chose to live on £27 and give the rest away.

Toward the close of his ministry John Wesley’s income reached £1,400 or the equivalent of about $160,000 today. He still chose to live simply on £30 per year, and gave the rest away. Wesley’s life practice may startle some of us, but I’m sure you would agree—the way he used the resources God entrusted to him was an indicator of his relationship with the Lord.

Lord of all?

Our resources include more than money. If someone were to study your day planner, what conclusion would she come to? What does your use of time tell about your relationship with God? I’m not just talking about Sabbath but all of your time. Seven days a week. Twenty-four hours a day.

When Jesus was here, there were four men who used the resources God gave them to bless the life of their friend. They were not physicians or healers, but they had strong arms and legs and determination. They were willing to tear up a roof. They had the creativity to use their belts to lower their friend to the feet of Jesus. The way they used the resources the Lord entrusted to them was an indicator of their relationship with Him.

Don’t try harder

Do a careful assessment of how you use the resources the Lord has entrusted to you. Do you recognize that everything you have comes from God? Remember: The way we use these resources is an indicator of our relationship with Him.

If something doesn’t look right, don’t just try harder. Draw closer. Spend time in communion with Jesus. Be attentive to His word. Let Him direct you as you use the resources He has placed in your hands, and your life will be a living demonstration that you are experiencing Jesus Christ as Lord of all.

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July–September, 2004

Lordship