By Colleen Donahue

Jesus has been using stories to illustrate what it means for us to watch and wait for Him. In the first story he compares faithful with unfaithful believers. In the second story of the ten virgins Jesus illustrates wise vs. unwise believers waiting. It's a story that shows the necessity of attending to our inward character. Now, in this third story called the Parable of the Talents, we see a distinction between diligent and lazy believers. Inward character must be accompanied by outward exertion in the duty of work. While "looking for the Lord's return we must labor in the light of it." H. Lockyer
In the Lord's absence we are to provide for him faithful service.


Watching and Waiting For the Lord - Part 3
(The Parable of the Talents)

Study from Matthew 25:14-30


Day 1- As with most parables there is a great deal of symbolism used in this story. As we study it these will unfold. Read the parable in its entirety to get an overview.
Matthew 25:14-30

Starting in verse 14 we see the characters. The wealthy master is Jesus Christ and his journey to a far country is his departure to Heaven after his ascension. In this immediate story Jesus is talking with his twelve disciples but in a broader sense He is speaking to all believers that have committed their lives to His service. Jesus entrusts his property to those who are in a committed relationship with him and not to just anyone. This parable is for Christians.

Servanthood is not a concept we know much about today, especially in the West. So let's take some time to examine what it means to all who believe in Jesus Christ.

Day 2- We see first of all that there is a clear relationship involved with the one we serve. What is it?
1 Kings 18:36 / Ezra 5:11

When Jesus came how did this relationship change?
John 15:15

How often are we to be in service to Jesus?
Daniel 6:20

In this verse we see the three elements of servanthood.
Acts 27:23

A. We belong to God
B. We serve Him and
C. We stand with Him

A true servant of God accepts servanthood as his identity. Notice how James describes himself.
James 1:1

How does accepting our place as servants cause us to live?
1 Peter 2:16b

So if you are a Christian you are a servant and friend of God and this story is directed to you!

Day 3- Stewardship is a concept of being a manager of someone else's property. When the Lord left the earth he entrusted the earth and all that is in it to those of us in relationship with Him. We do not look after our own time, our money, family members, or business. ALL of it belongs to Him! We manage HIS time, His money, His family, and His business.
Psalm 24:1 / Psalm 50:10 / Haggai 2:8 / 1 Corinthians 10:26

Even our own body does not belong to us!
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

The question to ask ourselves is, "Do we live as a steward or as owners?" If we live as good stewards we care for everything as though we owned it. If we live as owners we are not stewards at all and will not give the Lord's will in "our" matters much of a thought.

Day 4- From these verses write down how a steward or servant of God is to operate.
1 Corinthians 4:2 / Ephesians 6:5-7 / 1 Timothy 6:20 / 1 Peter 4:10

Why will operating or living in this way be important?
Romans 14:12

Day 5- Notice that in some things all of God's servants have been given the same , such as in this story.
Luke 19:13

One example is that all of us have been given twenty four hours in a day to use wisely for our Lord.

Or all of us have the same resources in Christ to draw upon and use for others.

Day 6- But in this parable what do we find?
Matthew 25:15 / Romans 12:6

This story is the other side of stewardship. While in some things we have the same, in other things we have different. The question here is what do those talents represent? A superficial meaning would be to put our natural abilities to work for God.

It is clear that the disciples thought of a talent as a definite amount of money (not natural ability) because the Greek word for talent was a unit of weight used as a medium of exchange throughout Greece. I have read many commentaries as to the meaning of talents. Here are some of the meanings attributed to this word in our story.
- endowments conferred on people
-natural capacities and opportunities
-differing responsibilities to be exercised in accord with our capacity
-spiritual gifts dispersed by Jesus to his followers.

There is one commentator that I believe comes most near to the meaning of this word and what it represents in our own life. It is Ray Stedman in his book called, "What On Earth is Happening?" (Discover House Publications - Grand Rapids Michigan). Here is his logic to help us find the meaning.

Day 7- Ray Stedman starts by asking this question. What do these talents represent in our own life? The first clue is found in Matthew 25:14.

It says that the master entrusts "his property". This is another term for talents. It's something belonging entirely to the Lord. They are not freely distributed to all people like natural gifts. They are given only to those who have some relationship with God - the relationship of a servant.

The second clue is found in:
Matthew 25:15

The talents were distributed "each according to his ability". So they are distributed based on natural ability.

The third clue is not stated but clearly implied. The Lord expected these servants to invest these talents to produce a return on investment.

The fourth clue is that the investment must be made wholly for the benefit of the absent Lord. It is not given the servant for his own use and there is no promise that he'll share in the profits.

So, looking at the clues what do we as professed Christians have that is God's own property, received on the basis of natural ability, requires a risk on our part, and that will have an investment that benefits only the Lord?

The answer is that the talents represent golden moments of opportunity. Time and opportunity belong to God and are His to bestow or withhold according to his own sovereign will. Opportunities that bring gain to Jesus Christ come only to professed Christians. We can "play it safe" OR risk reputation, possessions, and life itself so that God can have what he wants.
Matthew 16: 24-27

Day 8- God's servants differ in capacity and so the Holy Spirit bestows His gifts to each servant as He pleases.
1 Corinthians 12:11

Each of the Lord's servants receives for his serving just what he needs and can use.
Romans 12: 4-8

Day 9- To the servants with the five talents and two talents there are three similarities.
Matthew 25: 16-17

1- There was urgency. They went at once to use what they were given.
2- They both took the talents and traded with them.
3- They both doubled what was given to them.

Day 10- Whatever God has given us to trade with he expects that we use it and do so immediately. What is the connecting thread in all of these verses?
Mark 1:18 / Luke 4:39 / Acts 9:20 / Acts 16:10

Day 11- Depending on the version of Bible you are reading, when you look at Matthew 25:16 you may see the following phrases .....
-"he went and traded"
-"he began immediately to buy and sell."
-"he began immediately to invest the money."
-"he went at once to put his money to work."
-"he began to invest."

As you read these verses what quality stands out that a servant needs to be able to go out and trade?
Proverbs 10:4 / Proverbs 12:11 / Proverbs 13:4

A diligent servant is characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort. It's diligence that we need to invest what God gives us.

Day 12- Notice that two of the servants doubled what they were given. When we take what God gives us and begin to do something with it, we are stepping out in true faith. As you read this important passage what enables our faith to prove genuine?
James 2: 14-26

Day 13- Now here is a secret for all of God's servants. When we take anything God gives us and begin to "trade with it" (so that others can be blessed and God is glorified) then God begins to work FOR US! Who gives success in our trading?
Genesis 39:3 / 2 Chronicles 26:5 / 2 Chronicles 31:21 / Nehemiah 2:20a

We look after His concerns and he looks after ours.
Matthew 6:33

If this scares you to step out in faith on the water when you can't see the bottom, then ask yourself this question. Who is more likely to fail in the bargain - you or God?

Day 14- So, the first and second servants made full use of their opportunities for Christ. They placed all of their God given opportunities at Christ's service and made a 100% return on investment. Both servants performed to the limit of their ability. They put forth maximum effort and received maximum return. What was their reward?
Matthew 25: 21,23

Although having different opportunities, these servants were rewarded the same. First there is praise for a job well done. Second there is a promise that they would be put in charge of even more and third they are invited to share in their master's happiness.

Day 15- Scripture tells us that those who have honored Jesus in this life will have ...
a. A Crown - 2 Timothy 4:8
b. A throne - Revelations 3:21
c. A kingdom - Matthew 25:34

The end result of those who are God's servants -- attending faithfully to their master's business is that they too will be satisfied.
Isaiah 3:10

The Third Servant

Day 16- The third servant represents most of us that have one opportunity to give ourselves wholly to God for His purposes. What does this servant do with his one talent?
Matthew 25:18

Day 17- God is in the investment business. A Christian who is given anything from God (and we all have the full riches of Christ) is expected to use it. James in his epistle asks us a question that is exactly what we need to answer.
James 2:14

What is it called when we know what is right to do and neglect to do it because of indifference, slothfulness, laziness or fear?
James 4:17

Day 18- With his one opportunity buried this servant was free to be able to forget it and go about his life. He took no risks for Christ and therefore had no spiritual influence - no impact for eternal good.
[Note: This servant represents many Christians -- in name only -- who have all the outward privileges of the gospel but never think of using their privileges to help others. They show little desire for spiritual things, for the word of God or for witnessing.]

But upon reckoning face to face with the master he had one excuse for not using his opportunity.
Matthew 25:24-25

"An excuse is a reason stuffed with a life". This servant decided he could never do well enough to meet the master's high expectations and therefore decided not to try. By returning at least what was given him he reasoned he would still be in the master's good graces. But to return only what has been given is actually a loss because over time there is always inflation.

From this verse what do we learn about the value of land that only produces thorns and thistles -- i.e. no fruit.
Hebrews 6:8

Day 19- The main purpose of life is growth, increase, and return. To fail in this purpose is to be unprofitable and the master has no use for servants that just maintain the status quo. What will happen to a tree (Christian) that has no fruit?
Matthew 3:10

Day 20- In the master's rebuke to this servant there are first words, and then action is taken. What does the master call this servant?
Matthew 25: 26a

We can understand this servant being called lazy, but isn't wicked a bit harsh? In the second part of the verse we are given the clue for why the master addresses the servant as wicked first.
Matthew 25: 26b-27

This servant KNEW that he would be held accountable for the master's property -- both to take care of it, and to increase it. He did neither. Therefore he was walking in sin. Read again this verse in James.
James 4:17

Sin is not just being blatantly bad. Sin is knowing what is right to do, and then not doing it. We ought to do at least the minimum work to be able to give the Lord an increase.

Day 21- He was also wicked because he was lazy. Read this verse in Proverbs.
Proverbs 18:9

Who does it say a lazy or slothful person is a brother to?

And like our servant in this story a lazy person (sluggard) is full of excuses as to why they couldn't do something.
Proverbs 22: 13

Day 22- After the master rebukes the servant with the words wicked and lazy, he then takes action.
Matthew 25: 28

First we see that the one talent he was given, has been taken away. It is taken away for one main reason.
Luke 16: 11-12

Faithfulness in business is a requirement for all servants.
1 Corinthians 4:2

But it clearly was not met with this third servant.

Day 23- Then we see that the talent is redistributed to a faithful servant. In the Lord's economy someone who doesn't use it will lose it, and that loss will be someone else's gain.
Matthew 25:28-29

Day 24- But the third action seems so harsh!
Matthew 25:30
What does this mean?

The real problem here is that we have a hypocrite pretending to be a servant. A true servant would have acted according to his master's expectation, but this servant has been exposed for who he really is - a phony. People will be judged not only for "doing wrong, but for neglecting to do right". (Barnes Notes - Copyright 1997 by Bible soft)

What word does Jesus use to describe this servant?
Matthew 25: 30

Day 25- Where does he end up? Walking in darkness becomes the experience of the wicked. From these verses what do we learn happens to those walking in darkness?
Deuteronomy 28:29 / Psalm 82:5 / Proverbs 4:19 / Isaiah 59:9

Day 26- The weeping and gnashing of teeth symbolize eternal punishment. Look back over these verses in Matthew and notice what the "weeping and gnashing of teeth" is associated with.
Matthew 8:12 / Matthew 13:41-42 / Matthew 22:11-13 / Matthew 24:5

A Summary

To those of us who call ourselves Christian, these last three stories told by the Lord are our wake up call. We are to walk in wisdom and faithfulness, redeeming the time, and filled with the Holy Spirit. With whatever we have been given we are to risk it all so that God can have his increase and be glorified by our work. All the while that we work, we are to watch and wait for the return of our Lord, who will surely be coming at an hour that we least expect.

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