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Be Faithful: The Parable of the Talents
Matthew Lesson #161
April 30, 2017
“Father, we’re thankful that we have an opportunity to study Your Word, to take time to reflect upon what You have said to us. To work our way diligently through the Scriptures verse by verse, coming to understand all that you have taught us.
That God the Holy Spirit uses this to expand our understanding of who You are, our understanding of who we are, our understanding of grace and our understanding of Your plan and purposes for human history. That this gives us a sense of meaning related to our own lives, that we are living today in light of eternity.
This is true for every believer in every dispensation, though we have certain distinctions in each dispensation, and though there are different rewards, different areas of accountability. Nevertheless, those general principles of accountability and preparation for the future kingdom are true for every dispensation.
Father, as we study this third of three parables, we pray You would help us to understand the significance and importance of what Jesus is teaching His disciples at that point and its implication for us.
We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen. “
Open your Bibles with me to Matthew 25:14-30. The focal point of this third of three parables is to be faithful. It’s the parable of the talents.
Now a couple of things just generally, is that this is one of those parables that is frequently misused and abused, and is misinterpreted in many, many ways.
We have to understand to whom Jesus is speaking when He tells this parable. We have to understand the context of this parable that Jesus is not talking to Church Age believers. He’s not talking to Church Age believers through the disciples. He’s not talking to Christians at all.
He is not talking about spiritual gifts, He’s not talking about many of these things that people go to try to relate this to us as believers today.
The emphasis is a counterpart to the parable of the 10 virgins, the parable that immediately precedes. They are emphasizing two different qualities that are important for those who are waiting, watching, and anticipating the Kingdom at the end of the Tribulation period.
Now a parable is a story that is told, and as this story is told, it is then related to some spiritual truths. One of the things that we have to remember is that parables are not teaching doctrine. You don’t want to ever build your theology or your doctrine on parables.
Parables are illustrations of doctrine that is being taught, so we have to look at the epistles, we have to look at Jesus’ specific teaching and other passages in the Gospels, we have to look at Old Testament contexts in order to get to the doctrine that’s there, but these are just parables or illustrations.
Often that is misunderstood, so I have four things that I want to review us on when it comes to interpreting parables.
1. Parables are not used to interpret other parables unless the context links them together.
For example, in Matthew 13, you have the parables related to previously unrevealed information about the kingdom: the parable of the soils, the parable of the tares that are sown among the wheat, the parable of the hidden treasure, the parable of the pearl of great price, the parable of the mustard seed, the parable of the dragnet. These are all interconnected in that original context.
We also see it here in this context. There’s a parable that is given back in Matthew 24:32-35—the parable of the fig tree—which emphasizes that the Tribulation generation could know that the arrival of the king and the kingdom was near, though there is a warning that they can’t precisely determine that, as I have taught in the past.
Some debate that because they think that especially believers will be counting down the days. However, as I’ve studied through the judgments of the Tribulation, especially the sixth seal judgment and a couple of the trumpet judgments where the sun is darkened by one third, the moon doesn’t give a third of its light.
There’s such disruption that occurs in the Tribulation period, I think people will lose track of time. It would be very difficult for people. I think electronics will be completely destroyed. You’re not going to have your cell phone, your iPhone.
None of you will have anything, we will be with the Lord. But people then won’t have those things. They won’t have any of the things that we have today that help us tell time. You say, “Wait a minute. I have a watch.” Yes, but that watch usually runs on a battery and that battery may not last, and where are you going to get a replacement?
I think all of the distribution networks that we think of, you aren’t going to be able to walk down to your HEB because that asteroid shower—the sixth judgment—is pretty much going to wipe out all distribution networks and other things, so I don’t think people are going to be able to tell time.
That’s the warning: they will be generally aware that seven years has gone by, should be pretty close, but they are not going to be able to count down to the day or the hour, which is what Matthew 24:36 says.
Then there is another parable that’s told, Matthew 24:43-44, it’s not identified as a parable, but it’s an illustration that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would’ve watched. That’s the focal point.
It builds on the parable of the fig tree to watch. You know it’s near, so you are to be watchful just like the homeowner would be watchful if he knew somebody was going to break in at night. So there’s an awareness to be prepared.
Then these three parables: the faithful and wicked servant, the wise and the foolish virgins—the sensible and the stupid virgins, if you want to have a little alliteration—and then the parable of the talents. These are all interconnected, as I pointed out last time, by the conjunctions that are used at the beginning of each one of these.
We see in Matthew 25:14, “for,” and if you’re using a New King James, it puts in “the kingdom of heaven,” which makes it accurate because it is continuing the thought of the previous parable, which is a kingdom of heaven parable.
It says, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man,” but that “for” takes us back to Matthew 25:13. Matthew 25:1, “Then shall the kingdom of heaven…” That “then” connects it back to Matthew 24:45-51.
Language, as we saw last time and this time, connects all of these together, and they all develop out of the story of the master and the thief, and also the parable of the fig tree. These are connected contextually, so they can be used to interpret each other.
But the point here is that you and I have both heard people go over to Luke 19:12 and following to the parable of the minas and use the parable of the minas to interpret the parable of the talents.
But the parable of the minas is given to the disciples of Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. That would’ve been on the previous Sunday morning, probably, and this is two, three or maybe even four days later when Jesus is answering a question of the disciples.
The context is completely different. They’re two different parables. There may be similarities in the story, but that’s typical in a lot of the stories that are told to illustrate different kinds of things.
So you don’t use Luke 19—another Gospel, another day, another story—to interpret this one. Very important.
2. The kingdom parables are all about Israel and the kingdom.
You may think that after listening to me for the last several months on this that that is painfully obvious, but it is not obvious to many people. They try to make these connect to the church.
I think this is a major flaw in a lot of free grace people taking these views. It shows a lack of consistent application of critical dispensational hermeneutics; specifically, the distinction between Israel and the church. It also betrays a confusion about the nature of the kingdom for some of them—not all of them, but some of them.
The kingdom parables are all about Jesus’ instructions about the Messianic Kingdom, which relates to a literal 1,000-year rule of Jesus Christ on the earth. It’s a geopolitical kingdom that will be centered in Jerusalem in the future.
The kingdom was offered by Jesus and His disciples at the first coming. It was rejected in Matthew 12, the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit by the Pharisees. It was postponed as a result of that.
So you have the mysteries—that is, previously unrevealed doctrine—about the parables in Matthew 13. All of these kingdom parables relate to teaching certain facets—usually previously unrevealed truth—about the nature of the kingdom.
3. Not every element within a parable has significant meaning for the interpretation.
For example, last time we talked about the parable of the ten virgins, five who were wise or sensible, and they were prepared. They were prepared because they had extra oil, and I talked about the fact that many times you and I have heard people say the oil represents the Holy Spirit, but not in this parable.
Even afterwards, I had somebody say, “Well, what does the oil represent?” Missed the point. Not everything represents something. The oil doesn’t represent anything. That’s why I didn’t say anything about what it represented. It doesn’t represent the Holy Spirit.
In the story it is the element that was necessary for the ten bridesmaids to be prepared for the sudden coming of the bridegroom. So it doesn’t speak about the Holy Spirit or anything else.
That causes a lot of misinterpretation. It’s called eisegesis, where you’re reading other things into a passage—they may be true, but that doesn’t mean it’s part of the parable.
4. Jesus usually gives the specific general principle, which the story is designed to illustrate at the end.
We have to pay attention to that. He tells us this is what it means, okay? Don’t try to read other things into it, don’t try to make it walk on all fours. Just focus on what Jesus says.
1. Review: What’s going on here?
The interconnectedness of this entire discourse that begins in Matthew24:4, going to the end of Chapter 25 is important to understand. It’s important for me to understand. I go back and I read the whole thing over and over again, and the more I do, the more connections I see.
I realize that one of the problems that has led many to misinterpret parts of this is that we either take the parables out, separate them from the context, or we don’t spend enough time looking at the minutia to get the connections. We have to look at the context.
2. What’s the connection to the previous two parables? That’s taking context a little more granular.
3. We have to identify who the slaves and servants are.
This is a parable of a man who’s traveling to a far country, and he calls his servants to him. Well, who do the servants represent?
Are the servants representatives of Church Age believers, two of whom are obedient; one is just a disobedient believer?
Is this a contrast between believers versus unbelievers?
What’s the nature of the identification of the slaves and servants?
4. What’s the distinction then between the first two and the third?
I just alluded to that; in terms of salvation: two saved; one not.
Or two who are faithful, obedient believers and one who’s just a carnal believer.
5. How do we know the salvation status of the third servant?
We need to address that; and then finally.
6. What are the implications for us?
Slides 5, 6
Going back to the context quickly, the disciples have asked two questions:
When will these things be?
What will be the sign of coming?
That is what Jesus is talking about.
Some say, “Well, Jesus is not only answering the question, He is giving additional information.” I think that’s possible, but I think after studying this, that isn’t what’s going on here. I keep coming back to the fact that this is a Jewish topic. This is a Jewish question related to a Jewish issue, and He’s talking to the disciples as representatives of the Jewish community.
This morning I was back reading through Matthew 23. I’m convinced Matthew 24 has to come out of our understanding of Matthew 23. Matthew 23 Jesus just blasts, absolutely blasts the Pharisees and the scribes, “Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Woe to you,” He says.
Seven times He is announcing judgment. The whole context of Matthew 23, 24, and 25 is going to come down to judgment. We have to understand that. Judgment for who? Judgment on Israel is at the center of this.
He concludes while He’s up in the temple area. He says in Matthew 23:37-39, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her, how often I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you are not willing. See your house is left to you desolate.”
That’s the announcement of judgment on the temple. It is not just their home; it’s not their nation; it is the temple, “For I say to you, you shall see me no more until you say ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Then He departs the temple, crosses over to the Mount of Olives, and He looks back at the buildings, and He says, Matthew 24:1-2, “Don’t you see all these things? Surely, I say to you, not one stone will be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
It’s so Jewish; it’s all about the temple. So His disciples asked these two questions: When will these things be? When’s the temple going to be destroyed? When’s this judgment coming? Second, what will be the sign of Your coming?
The word there for “coming,”—as I keep saying, it is so important—is PAROUSIA. It doesn’t just mean arrival. You know, somebody can say, “I’m going to come by the house and pick something up.” You come and you go.
PAROUSIA also has the meaning of arrival and presence. They’re asking that same question over in Acts, “When are You going to restore the kingdom? When are You going to bring the kingdom?” That is the overall context
a. He’s addressing Jews about this Jewish issue.
b. He’s answering a question related to judgment, and that foreshadows the final judgment related to the eternal disposition of those servants in Israel who either follow the scribes and Pharisees—as hypocrites who will be sent to the Lake of Fire—or they will serve the Lord in relation to the kingdom.
So the parable of the righteous and wicked servant is talking about those wicked servants who are assigned a role, assigned a place with the hypocrites who are already identified in context as the Pharisees.
Then there’s a contrast between the righteous and wicked, between the wise and foolish virgins, and the faithful and unfaithful servant. What we see is those who serve the Lord are believers, so that’s a contrast between believer and unbeliever.
c. The context is on Israel, not the church. We have to remember there are four distinct entities that must be distinguished. Jews and Gentiles are distinguished ethnically.
A Jew is a physical descendent not just of Abraham, but Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. If you don’t have Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, you’re not Jewish. If you’re a descendent of Abraham, maybe you’re a descendent of Ishmael or the sons of Keturah.
If you’re a descendent of Isaac, maybe it’s through the line of Esau. You’re not Jewish. It’s got to be Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
As an ethnic Jew, you’re under the Abrahamic Covenant, and what are you supposed to do? Genesis 12:2, you’re to be a blessing to all people. But that doesn’t guarantee eternal salvation. It just means temporal privileges and temporal blessing because you’re Jewish because of the covenant.
Gentiles are non-Jews: whether you’re French, German, Asian, Hispanic, Arab, you’re Gentile. You’re not Jewish. You have Jewish believers in the Old Testament, you have Gentile believers in the Old Testament. Like Naaman the Syrian, like the Assyrians in Nineveh that responded to Jonah. You have Gentile believers, you have Jewish believers, but only Jewish believers and the proselytes are under the Abraham Covenant.
In the Church Age you have Church Age believers. But in the Church Age ethnicity isn’t an issue. If you are Jewish in the Old Testament, you have special privileges. Only a male ethnic Jew, who’s ritually clean can go into the temple and worship God.
But in the Church Age, it’s not restricted by either gender or by ethnicity. There is neither Jew nor Greek, male or female, bond or slave, we’re all one in the body of Christ because of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. So all Church Age believers are united in the body of Christ; ethnicity is not an issue.
But after the Rapture, it is not a factor anymore; you have Tribulation saints. Tribulation saints can be Gentile, they can be Jewish, but if they’re Jewish, they’re more like the Jews of the Old Testament because they have a special role to play in the Tribulation.
In doing what? Proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom. They have the Scriptures; they are to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom. There’s going to be 144,000, 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel are saved very early in the Tribulation, and their message is “repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” The Messiah is coming back.
You also have the two witnesses, and then you have numerous people who heard the gospel but didn’t respond before the Rapture. They believe after the Rapture, they respond to the 144,000, and these Tribulation saints are going to be responsible for that message, but primarily the Jewish believers in the Tribulation.
d. The passage, therefore, is talking about Jesus’ coming, His PAROUSIA, His arrival to establish His kingdom, His presence on the earth.
All the way through, we don’t have a Rapture there, which is the fifth point:
e. The Rapture and the Second Coming are distinct events, separated by seven years.
The Rapture, Jesus comes in the clouds for His church to take them to Heaven.
In the Second Coming, He comes with the church to the earth to bring judgment and to establish His kingdom upon the earth and to inaugurate that which is a time of great celebration.
It’s depicted in the parable of the virgins as the wedding feast that lasts for a thousand years, so it’s joyful. It’s going to be pictured in the parable of the talents as entering into the joy of the master. That is entry into the kingdom.
f. The parable of the fig tree was to teach Jewish Tribulation saints to be watching, to be prepared, to be ready for the arrival of the Messiah.
That brings us to the next question which is, what’s the connection to the previous two parables? This is important. Jesus strings these together for a reason.
In the first of these three parables, the faithful and wicked servant, we read in Matthew 24:45, “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season?”
We saw in this parable that the master relates to the Lord, that it talks about the servants, and we saw also, as we’ll see again, that the servants here are not talking about Church Age servants.
Remember Paul, whenever he would begin introducing an epistle, would say, “Paul, a servant of the Lord,” or “Paul and Timothy, servants of the Lord Jesus Christ,” something like that.
If you look at the Gospels through the lens of the epistles, you’re going to think servant equals a believer, but that’s not true. In the Old Testament, Israel is the servant of Yahweh, but not everybody is a believer in Israel.
The prophets were the servants of God, but many of them were false prophets, and they weren’t believers. So in the Old Testament, a servant of God may or may not be a believer.
Whereas in the New Testament, in the Church Age, a servant of the Lord is a believer. But we can’t read Church Age doctrine back into the Olivet Discourse because the apostles, the disciples who were listening, haven’t learned that information yet. That’s an important principle.
They’re described as “a faithful and wise servant.” Two keywords are PISTOS, meaning faithful or reliable or trustworthy; and the word for wise, which is PHRONIMOS, which means wise or sensible. These are then developed:
The PHRONIMOS servant is depicted by the five wise virgins. That tells us that you have to understand the first parable to some degree to understand the parable of the ten virgins. They’re not disconnected, they’re not isolated from each other; they’re connected.
The parable of the ten virgins is designed to teach what it means to be a wise servant. They are prepared for the coming of Christ, and that means that they have trusted in Jesus to be saved. The five foolish or unprepared haven’t. As a result, they are going to go into judgment.
It shifts in the third parable to illustrating what it means to be a faithful servant. “Faithful” does not relate to being saved; it relates to what a saved person is supposed to do in serving the Lord. The focus there is on service, whereas the focus in the other one is on salvation.
So the faithful and wise servant: the wise one is illustrated by the virgins and the faithful servant is by the parable of the talents. Four times the word “faithful” is used in the parable of the talents. So these three are definitely interconnected and must be understood together.
In Matthew 24, the Master = Jesus, who’s leaving on a journey to Heaven.
(Very similar story, although we wouldn’t necessarily use “the master” to mean Jesus everywhere. How do we know that? Well, if we went back to Matthew 24:43, “Know this, that if the master of the house had known…” “Master” there is not talking about the Lord. So you have to interpret each parable to some degree autonomously; but there’s still an importance in understanding that connection.)
The slaves = Israel, God’s people.
The faithful and wise = the good leaders, the good shepherds: related to those who are fulfilling their responsibilities in the Tribulation period.
The evil servants = leaders like the Pharisees and the evil servants, and their eternal destiny will be the same.
Just as a reminder, because there’s a parallel between Matthew 24:51 and the punishment of the third servant. Matthew 24:51 says that the wicked servant “will be cut in two and his portion will be appointed with the hypocrites, and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Very clear that that describes an unbeliever. He’s with the unbelieving Pharisees.
When you come to the end of the parable of the talents, Matthew 25:30 says, “And the unprofitable servant is cast into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” In both places the commonalities is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The reason I point that out is because there’s a number of people in the free grace camp that have followed some very bad teaching from some mid-Trib people in the mid-19th century—Robert Govett and a few others—that this is sort of a millennial purgatory, and that carnal believers are going to be punished, excluded from the kingdom, maybe even put into some sort of torments punishment for a thousand years.
I think that is just a horrible thing. That is the opposite of grace, has nothing to do with grace, and they ought to be ashamed of themselves.
Toussaint, I think, nails it. He says, “Invariably throughout Matthew this phrase ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’ refers to the retribution of those who are judged before the Millennial Kingdom is established.” It always describes unbelievers.
So who did the slaves and servants represent? Let’s look at the text. Let’s understand what is going on here and see how this relates.
I want to remind you that as it begins with the word “for,” it is specifically connecting it back to the parable of the ten virgins. It is developing the same idea. Thus, if the parable of the ten virgins is a kingdom of heaven parable, and it is in Matthew 25:1, then this is also a kingdom of heaven parable.
Which is why the New King James version put in “kingdom of heaven” (it’s in italics in your New King James). They’re supplying that so that the English reader understands its connection to the previous parable, that they are both talking about the kingdom and they’re both talking about Israel.
It starts off with the word “for,” which is always an explanatory concept or emphasis developing something, but it’s not alone in the passage. It also has another word associated with it, the word in the Greek is HOSPER, and it always indicates a tight connection in a comparison between two things. So these two words together in the Greek indicate that important and tight connection.
What we see here is that in the previous parable with the ten virgins, the emphasis is on being prepared by believing in Jesus. That’s the only way to salvation, is to believe Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Over 85 times in the Gospel of John, you have the verb “believe”—believe, believe, believe, believe, believe.
It never says believe and repent, but John 20:31 concludes by saying, “these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and by believing, you will have life in His name.”
He never says by believing and having works, never says believing and repenting—although I think if you understand repenting means simply changing your mind from unbelief to belief, that’s acceptable—but that’s the emphasis: faith alone. That is all that is necessary in order to be saved
That first parable is talking about preparation in terms of faith in Christ, and the second one emphasizes the service, the life of the believer. So you see a contrast also between the believer and the unbeliever.
Second thing that we see in this verse, it talks about this man traveling to a far country, and he calls his servants together. This is the same word we have in the parable of the righteous and wicked servant. It’s the Greek word DOULOS, which can mean slave or it can mean servant.
Of course, a servant depicts somebody who is voluntarily there, working for some wage, whereas a slave is someone who has no volition. I think in our anti-slavery, Western society, we like to use the word “servant” instead of “slave,” but that’s how it would be understood at the time of Jesus.
He doesn’t have volition to go do other things, he is under the absolute authority of his master: the slave comes. Because of the Jewish context, I think we have to understand this in terms of how it’s used in the Old Testament.
Israel is referred to as God’s servant in the Old Testament. That was supposed to be their position. That doesn’t mean everybody in Israel was saved, but that they were to serve the Lord, and they were given a mission: a mission to be a blessing to all people. They were given the responsibility of receiving and recording and preserving the Scriptures; all these things.
In Isaiah, God talks about the prophets of the servant, so that relates to religious leaders in Isaiah 20:3.
He calls Isaiah his servant in Isaiah 22:20.
He calls David his servant and Isaiah 37:35.
About Israel, “you are my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen,” in passages such as Isaiah 41:8-9, in Isaiah 44:2, and Isaiah 45:4.
Then the Messiah is the Suffering Servant, the great servant of God in Isaiah 53 and throughout the last part of Isaiah.
So the servant imagery depicts Israel, and therefore, it includes both believer and unbeliever. It’s not related to Church Age servants of God, which might indicate only believers.
As servants of God, these servants in the parable are given tremendous privileges and responsibilities. The man who travels to a far country: this is a description of, really relates to the Lord and His ascension and departure, and so He calls His own servants. I think that indicates Israel again as the special servant of God in the Old Testament. It’s not a term that would describe them as believers, because all of Israel corporately was His servant in the Old Testament.
That really gets to the heart of the debate over understanding this passage:
Is the unprofitable servant a disobedient believer?
Or is the unprofitable servant an unbeliever?
What we will see is evident from his punishment that he is not a believer; we learn that from the context. The broad context, as I’ve talked about several times takes us back to an analogy with Noah.
As we first get the parable of the fig tree, and the point is to be ready, to be watchful, it’s illustrated. It is illustrated by the generation at the time of Noah when this worldwide flood is coming.
Back in Matthew 24:37, Jesus says, “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” There’s going to be a comparison and the term “coming of the Son of Man” there uses that same word that takes us back to the beginning. It is the presence of the Son of Man and His kingdom.
“For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah enter the ark and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then shall two be in the field; one shall be taken and the other left.”
As I pointed out, there are those who think that the one taken is taken in the Rapture. The vast majority—probably 75-80% of dispensationalists, futurists—take it as taken away in judgment. But for my purposes, it doesn’t matter. Because whether you’re taking it as a Rapture view or the Second Coming view, everybody believes that one of them is a believer and the other one is not a believer.
Everybody believes one’s a believer. They may switch the identification back and forth. They may be confused as to whether the one taken is the believer or the unbeliever, or the one who remains is the believer or unbeliever, but everybody believes the contrast is between believer and unbeliever, and not two different kinds of believers.
That story, that analogy, that relationship to Noah is designed to set up what comes next with the thief analogy in Matthew 24:43-44 and then the three parables.
If the contrast in the lead-in is believer versus unbeliever, then you’re not going to switch gears and start talking about contrasting believers—carnal believers and spiritual believers—in the three parables. It’s got to be consistent.
Not only that, but when you come to the end of this section, which we will get to next Sunday morning with the sheep and the goat judgments (which is not a parable—not stated to be a parable).
When we come to the conclusion of that and our Lord gives the judgment on the goats, He says in Matthew 24:41, “Then He will say to those on the left hand depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Now you can’t escape that. That’s pretty unambiguous language that that’s eternal judgment. So the opening illustration is Noah and believers versus unbelievers. The closing story is the judgment of the sheep and the goats which separates believer and unbeliever.
It makes no sense whatsoever that the three intervening parables are simply distinguishing carnal believers from spiritual believers. Yet there are a lot of people who are going with that today, so it completely misidentifies the context and abuses it to fit a theological system.
What bothers me is that the free grace theology neither stands nor falls by their interpretation of Matthew 24. It’s free grace; it has no relationship whatsoever. Yet they consistently want to read their view into this, and y’all need to be aware of that.
The servants are representing Israel. These servants in the parable are given tremendous responsibilities and privileges. This was true of Israel in the Old Testament. For example, in Romans 3:1 Paul says, “to the Jews were committed the oracles of God.”
They were given the responsibility of receiving divine revelation: writing down, recording divine revelation, and preserving divine revelation; which they did. Whether believer unbeliever, they were given that responsibility as a nation.
Second, they’re given the responsibility to be a blessing to all mankind. In Genesis 12:2, that’s a command, that they are to bless all the nations, and ultimately that’s fulfilled in the blessing of Jesus the Messiah.
Finally, it is to the Jews that were given the Messianic King. He would come through the line of David—the Savior of all mankind would come through the line of David. He would come ultimately to establish His kingdom on the earth and bring salvation to all mankind. That’s what Christmas is all about.
Slaves and servants represent Israel and the treasures given to them represent the blessings, privileges and responsibilities that God has given to Israel.
What’s the distinction then between the first two slaves and the third? This indicates the distinction of those in the future Tribulation period in how they are going to carry on those God-given responsibilities to Israel.
If they’re believers, they’re going to proclaim the Word, they’re going to proclaim the gospel, they’re going to be a blessing to all mankind. If they’re not, they won’t.
Here’s the basic story: Matthew 25:15-18, “And to one he gave five talents to another two, and to another to into another one, to each according to his own ability, and immediately he went on a journey.
Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them and made another five talents, and likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.”
What’s going on here? Well first of all, this is a lot of money. Dwight Pentecost is usually pretty sharp, says in his Words and Works of Jesus Christ he gives the first guy $5,000, the second $2,000, the last $1,000. It’s a lot more than that.
Other commentaries point out that five talents is equivalent to 20 years of wages for a common worker, for a common server—20 years of wages. So this is a rich, abundant responsibility that is given to these servants.
If we put it into today’s money, I wrote this out so I could get right, 1 pound of silver is 14 ½ troy ounces. A talent, at that time, could be gold, could be silver, but this passage in Matthew 25:18 uses, which is translated money, but it uses the Greek word ARGURION, which indicates silver.
A talent of silver would range between 58 to 75 lbs., so we will just round it off to 60 to get a low end approximation. So if we’re dealing with 60 pounds. Then you multiply 60×14 ½ troy ounces, and one talent would weigh 870 ounces.
At roughly today’s prices—I just rounded it up a little—it’s been hovering above and below $18 an ounce. At $18 an ounce that would be $15,660 per talent. For ten talents that would be $156,660. That’s a sizable chunk of change. That is a serious and significant responsibility. Could be as much a $200,000; that’s a lot of money.
The first one is given five talents. The second one’s given two, which is a little bit less than half of that, so that would be somewhere around a $65–70,000. The text says that each is given according to his ability.
Now this isn’t talking about spiritual gifts. This isn’t a financial message on stewardship. This is talking about the responsibility God gives to Jewish believers in the Tribulation to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom.
So they’re given different levels of responsibility and accountability, just as believers in every generation are, but this isn’t talking about Church Age believers or Old Testament believers. Matthew 25:15, “…each according to his ability, and immediately,” it says, “the master goes on a journey.”
“… he who received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents.” So immediately he’s gone out and is making money. He’s not wasting time, he is not procrastinating. He gets on board.
Likewise, so does the second guy. He starts investing. Understand they’re not just given these resources to just sit on them. They’re to do something with them. They are to invest them. They are to try to determine a gain, and they don’t know how much time they have. So they’re not going to waste any time, so that when their lord comes back, they will have a return on their investment.
But the third guy receives it, goes out, digs a hole in the ground, and he hides the lord’s money. So let’s talk about this just a minute. What is he doing, because this is important for understanding whether this guy is a believer not.
First of all, he digs a hole. In the ancient world this was a common way to secure money. You have a lot of money, the best place to secure it was go out and hide it from everybody—dig a hole in the ground and hide it.
But this is an act of disobedience, because it’s implicit that they are to do something in terms of investment. They’re to do something with this money to get a return on it, because they will be asked for that.
So he’s clearly expected to use and invest what he was given for the master’s benefit, so he indicates here that he’s in rebellion against the authority of his master.
Second, his actions indicate that in light of his explanation that he gives later on at the end when he says, “Oh well, I was afraid of you because you have the reputation of being such a hard man that I just hid it in the ground; and here, now you can have it back.”
His actions indicate that in light of that explanation, he really wasn’t sure if the master would return. So there’s the hint of a suggestion here that if he hides it, nobody will know that he has it, and the master doesn’t return, maybe he gets to keep it for himself. He is not being obedient at all.
Third, he hides the resources. He not only does nothing with them, he hides them. This is comparable to Romans 1:18-21 which we’ve been studying on Thursday night: it’s suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. It’s hiding it. It’s hiding the truth, holding it down.
That would indicate an unbeliever, but there’s more that would suggest that. Next, he lies about the master.
Matthew 25:19, “After a long time the lord comes back, and he comes to settle accounts with them.”
The first one comes and brings the five talents and brings five more talents and said, Matthew 25:20-21, “Lord, you gave to me five talents, I’ve gained five more besides them.” What does the lord say? “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Now the idea of “good” indicates someone who has done what they’re supposed to do. Good is a general word, just as in English, it can have more specific meanings, but in the context, it’s close to faithful. It’s that idea he’s doing what he supposed to do. He’s faithful; he is reliable; he’s dependable. Then he says, “You were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.”
This is the act of great generosity. What’s the third servant going to say? You’re a hard man, hard to please. Is this the example of a hard man? No, he’s generous. “You did well. I’m going to reward you abundantly, graciously, generously.” He praises him. He’s not exhibiting this kind of attitude at all that is depicted by the unfaithful servant.
Matthew 25:22-23, the same thing happens with the servant with the two talents, and he repeats almost the identical thing in verse 23, “good and faithful servant. You’ve been faithful over a few things, I’ll make you ruler over many things.”
He is not saying you’ve been faithful in two things, I’m going to make you ruler over two things. You’ve been faithful in five things, I will make you ruler over five things. But, you’ve been faithful in five things, I’m gonna make you ruler over many, many things. So the reward is extremely bountiful and generous. Far more than would’ve been expected.
As we go on to talk about that third servant, it really indicates his eternal status. He lies about the master.
In Matthew 25:24 he says, “Lord, I knew you’d be hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you’ve not scattered seed.” But that’s not what is indicated by what the master does with the first two servants.
So he lies about the master. This is comparable to the unbeliever who is lying about God. First there’s the suppression of truth. And then there’s replacing truth with a lie.
Then he says, Matthew 25:25, “And I was afraid.” Who was the first person to become afraid in the Bible? Adam. Why? Because the Lord showed up and he had been disobedient. At that point he’s an unbeliever, so that would argue in favor of the fact that he is an unbeliever.
Next, he is inconsistent with his own story. “Lord you’re a harsh and wicked man.” But listen to what the master says.
The master says to him, Matthew 25:26, “You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.”
This statement there doesn’t communicate well in English. It sounds like he’s saying, “Yeah you’re right. I’m a hard master and I reap where I haven’t sown, and gather where I haven’t scattered seed.”
He’s saying, “This is what you think is true.” For those of you who have been working through Thursday night apologetics: he’s saying, “This is your presupposition. It’s a lie and you can’t even live consistently with your presupposition. You’re an evolutionist who believes that everything is relative. You can’t live consistently with that presupposition.”
He’s saying, “If I’m really what you think I am, you’d have gone to put the money in the bank, and it would have at least gotten 1% interest.” See he’s exposing the reality of the lie that even the wicked servant didn’t believe it.
He’s saying, “You’re making the whole thing up, you’re lying.” He’s exposing his unbelief. He doesn’t believe ultimately that the master is going to come back. So the master is pointing out that his unbelief is ultimately inconsistent and internally inconsistent, and he’s not living on the basis of his own unbelief. This further indicates that this is not a believer.
He’s called a wicked and lazy servant. The lazy servant is a word indicating timid, troublesome, hesitating; and it’s tied with OKNEROS, which indicates evil often, and in the context of the wicked servant stated earlier, indicates unbelief.
He says you should have just put the money in the bank. Now what the lord does, he takes what he gave him, gives it to those who are the believers who have something.
States the principle, Matthew 25:29, “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.”
Now what’s interesting is this proverbial statement is used in Matthew 13:12, and it speaks of the unbelievers who rejected Jesus in Matthew 12, again indicating he is not a believer.
Finally, he’s cast into outer darkness, Matthew 25:30, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth—always used of the judgment of unbelievers. This is not just a being ashamed at the judgment seat of Christ, this is a horrible punishment that’s depicted there.
That brings us to the last question which is what are the implications for us? Just as Israel was given tremendous privileges and responsibilities by the Lord and will be held accountable for them, we as believers are given incredible blessings. We’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies.
We’ve been given an unbelievable amount of spiritual resources with the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Spirit and the completed Canon of Scripture, and we will be held accountable for how we use it.
There is an implication there for us. There is accountability in God’s Plan. Just because were saved doesn’t mean there’s not going to be accountability. So we need to use what God has given us for His glory and for the benefit of the body of Christ. We need to be good servants.
But that’s not what the message is teaching. That’s only an implication of the message. What the message is teaching is that there will be a judgment of surviving Jews at the end of the Tribulation.
Some will be believers, and they will enter the joy of the Lord. They will go into the kingdom. They will go into the wedding feast, like the five faithful virgins. They will be rewarded like the faithful servant.
There are those who are going to be like the evil servant, not a believer. Like the foolish virgins who were not believers, and like the third servant who was afraid of his master and they will be sent to eternal punishment.
The only way to avoid eternal punishment and the lake of fire is to believe Jesus died on the cross for your sins.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study through this passage, think through the difficulties of it and come to understand that it affirms the same thing as the previous two parables.
“Though it is not related to us directly, it has implications for us as believers because we too will go through an evaluation judgment at the judgment seat of Christ. Not for our eternal destiny, but in relationship to our service for You and our role and responsibilities in the kingdom.
“We pray that we will be mindful of that, taking every thought captive for Christ, redeeming the time, so that we can maximize our service to You and You will be glorified throughout eternity.
“We pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen”