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Eternity 139 - The Parable Of The Talents

(Matthew 25:14-30 NKJV) "For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. {15} "And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. {16} "Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. {17} "And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. {18} "But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money. {19} "After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. {20} "So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.' {21} "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' {22} "He also who had received two talents came and said, 'Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.' {23} "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' {24} "Then he who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. {25} 'And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.' {26} "But his lord answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. {27} 'So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. {28} 'Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. {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. {30} 'And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

Here is another crisis parable about a time of reckoning when the foolish and unprofitable are punished. The "one talent" servant is not particularly bad by conventional morality. He does not appear to be a murderer , adulterer or criminal. He is just lazy, foolish, incompetent and unprofitable. He is a "time-server", a person who whiles the hours and days of his life, who does " little here and a little there", who lacks any industry or ambition and whose work ethic is "as little effort as possible for as long as possible". This servant ends up in outer darkness for having a lousy work ethic.

Industry, ambition and a good work ethic are sure signs that a person cares about their life and wants it to count. God has made us to be contributors, to give more than we take, to make a difference according to the level of our ability. He has not made us to play safe, cruise along forever and accomplish little or nothing. The Holy Spirit that give wisdom also gives strength, industry and capability. The Holy Spirit is creative, life-giving and productive and those qualities will find expression in the life of the diligent and godly believer.

Here are two Proverbs that show God's opinion of slackness:

(Proverbs 10:4 NKJV) He who has a slack hand becomes poor, But the hand of the diligent makes rich.

(Proverbs 18:9 NKJV) He who is slothful in his work Is a brother to him who is a great destroyer.

The second Proverb needs a little explanation. How is a slack person a "brother to him who is a great destroyer". Think of a slack person who wires a house incorrectly so a fire breaks out and people are burned to death or another who leaves a farm gate open so that all the animals escape and are lost or another who is careless in washing their hands before an operation so patients get septicemia or in the recent war in Iraq the "friendly fire" that comes from a "mistake". Slackness causes death and destruction every day, all around us. People with a lousy work ethic cause problems in banks, hospitals, armies, farms - and even churches. If you have ever tried to correct a bank error or a social security mistake you will know how much pain human slackness can inflict. God wants responsibility, drive, diligence and proper accomplishment in His servants - not destructive slackness.

God rewards diligence according to the result we achieve with the means and ability that we have. Both the five talent and two talent servants were pleasing to God and each was given responsibility According to his ability" (verse 14) and reward according to their "return on investment" (verses 20-24). What then is God's "investment" in your life and your clear responsibility before Him? Has he given you children? Are you therefore a diligent parent giving goldy instruction? Has He given you a ministry? Are you carrying it out faithfully according to His Word?

Your "spirit" will show in your work. If you have a wise and diligent spirit and a "spirit of excellence" as Bezalel had (Exodus 30:1-3)- you will produce excellent work. If you have slothful and craven spirit your work will be inferior. To not produce "after a long while" (verse 19) is to have failed in who you are. A few pastors sit in their study and dream their life away, doing "just enough" to stay employed but without practical vision and implementation and without much spiritual fruit. Some churches like such pastors because they seldom rock the boat. There are missionaries in remote areas who drift along day by day, stuck in a slow and easy rhythm and without accountability to man. There are evangelists who give the same six sermons from town to town and pay more attention to the offering than the fruit of conversion. These servants use up the time and resources and opportunities in the Kingdom of God and squander them. Their neighborhoods slide into sin and they do not travail in prayer. Their very idleness ensures victory for the forces of darkness. Now they are in the minority! (After all this parable has the slack as one-third and the diligent as two-thirds).

We must discharge our ministry with due diligence, industry and thought. We must put our mind, heart and energy into what we do for God. This is no time to be slack, there is much to do and the Lord deserves our very best.