Summary: We all have divinely endowed gifts for use in ministry. Is yours being multiplied, or buried?
Let’s begin today, just looking at some definitions so certain information can be established in your mind, to consider as we progress.
Talent: 1. An ancient weight and money unit. The talent contained 60 minas of 60 0r 50 shekels each, but its estimated money value varied greatly according to time and place.
The Hebrew gold talent would be equivalent to $32,640.00. A silver talent would be equivalent to $2,176.00
2. The abilities, powers and gifts bestowed upon a man; natural endowments; thought of as a divine trust.
Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary – fifth edition, 1947
I found this definition in an earlier edition of Webster’s Dictionary:
4. Intellectual ability, natural or acquired; mental endowment or capacity; skill in accomplishing; a special gift, particularly in business, art, or the like; faculty; a use of the word probably originating in the Scripture parable of the talents (Matt. xxv. 14-30).
Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, 1913
In the 1913 dictionary and the 1947 edition, there is reference to scripture and the divine endowment of talent upon men. I researched no less than 5 modern dictionaries, one of them in my home and the others on the web, and none older than 1980, and all references to the divine endowment of talent or the use of the word in Scripture were conspicuously absent. All of them simply said that a talent is a special ability that one is born with. In the United Kingdom, one use of the word ‘talent’ is slang for a person who is sexually attractive. Eg., “There was a lot of talent at the party last night.”
As we approach this parable in Matthew 25, we should not let it escape our notice that Jesus is facing imminent arrest and crucifixion. After He is done with this lengthy and solemn discourse, He speaks to His disciples and tells them that the Passover is coming in two days, and He is to be delivered up.
So it is certainly not that these parables of the ten virgins, and the talents, and then His declarations concerning the final judgment don’t carry enough weight of their own to cause a wise person to do some serious soul-searching. But when we consider that they are the words of someone who knows He will not be with them much longer and is saying the things He deems most important to say, that should only bolster our determination to sit up and take careful notice.
I want our focus to be primarily on the parable of the talents today, but for the full picture, let’s glance briefly at what precedes it.
Jesus has been talking about His second coming. Jesus had a lot to say about His second coming. He spoke of it more than any other single topic during His earthly ministry. He is coming back.
This is a subject we should be sharing, unashamed, wherever we go. Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead. The grave couldn’t keep Him. He ascended into Heaven bodily as witnesses watched, and He will come back to claim His own and rule on this world. People need to hear that.
What the church needs to hear, especially, I think, in our present day, is that He left after issuing some very solemn warnings to those who claim to be His. In fact, in this entire discourse which includes these parables of the virgins and the talents and a final warning about judgment, the single theme running through them all is that in the end there will be people who thought they were ready and had all their ducks in a row, nevertheless they will hear Him say to them, “I do not know you” (vs 12).
Church, He will be saying that to church folks. If that doesn’t make your stomach wriggle just a little bit, you haven’t thought it through.
Jesus gave this same warning during the Sermon on the Mount in chapter seven of this same gospel, then He reiterates it in three different ways here, and as I said, this is very near the end of His earthly ministry and He knows it. So it must have been an extremely important issue in His thinking, that among those who are His there would always be those who are self-deceived, and not really belonging to Him at all.
It therefore becomes a vitally important issue for the preachers of His Word to address, and to make every attempt imaginable to wake people to the danger they are in.
Now if what is going through your mind is that you don’t know if you are one of those to whom He will say, “I do not know you”, or if you’re thinking, “well, how can I know for sure that I’m not one of those”, that alone is indicative of a problem. It either means you are not truly a Christian, or it means that your discipleship has been neglected, and someone who should have been your mentor failed to teach you the most fundamental truths about your faith.