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Archive for January, 2013

Who are the people of the talents?  Matthew chapter 25 (verses 14 to 30) contains the ‘parable of the talents’, and I would like to share some thoughts as to the possible identity of these people.  Jesus often spoke in parables, which are every day stories that contain a spiritual meaning.  In this particular parable Jesus spoke of a man going on a journey who called in his servants and gives them each some money to look after while he is away.  The money is in amounts known as ‘talents’.  Each talent was around 6000 drachmas which would be about twenty year’s wages for a labourer.  One servant was given five, another three and the last was given one.  The first and second doubled their investments, while the final servant simply hid his, so he still had one at the end of the story.  His master was not pleased with this and the parable ends with these words: “So take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents.  For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance.  But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness.  In that place their will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (taken from the ESV Bible).  The ending of this particular parable is a little different to many as, it makes it quite clear that the meaning is spiritual.  After all, the servants wouldn’t be expecting to keep the money they made, it was for their master, and the punishment is greater than we would expect for unwise investment decisions.  The people in this parable represent believers (with one important exception), and the talents are how they have used their abilities during their time in this life.  Interestingly the word used to describe the money – talents, is actually very close to the real meaning in our language.  Its all about our talents, or abilities, although money would also be part of this, as would time, opportunities and other things we possess.  The believer who used their opportunities in this life wisely was rewarded greatly.  The one with less was equally rewarded.  We can take these people to be Christians who make use of the opportunities that the Lord presents them with.  Interestingly the final example, the one with a single talent is probably not a believer as they are cast into hell as represented commonly by the terms in the final verse.  The issue we often have is translating this into our everyday lives.  What on earth does it mean to make use of our talents?!  This is the 21st century and we are all super busy, so is it just to be taken for granted that we are?  I would like to give three real life examples, not because these are exhaustive, but rather to get us thinking about how we can take the lessons from this parable on board for our own lives.

Our own opinions of ourselves are notoriously unreliable.  I would like to present a woman, Marianne Adlard   who lived in 19th century London, United Kingdom with her sister.  She was permanently bedridden but for years had used her time to pray that the evangelist D.L. Moody would come and preach at her church in London.  On hearing from her sister that Moody had come she exclaimed “I know what that means! God has answered my prayers!” 1  I would like to suggest that Marianne represents a five talent believer.  To the outsider she may not be a hero of the faith; she had few abilities and little to interest this world.  But she used what God gave her and He blessed her work with hundreds of people coming to know Jesus at that church.  In fact it was one of the most remarkable works that Moody had ever been involved in.  I would imagine that she will be richly rewarded in Heaven.  Now the three talent believer.  I would like to think this could be the faithful minister or missionary who has served God with their life, and will likewise be rewarded.  But let us not think that God’s heroes are full time Christian workers.  There are two reasons for this, God judges us by our hearts, and we all have equal opportunity to faithfully serve God where He has placed us.  Finally and most interestingly is the one talent person.  This past summer I have been watching and enjoying the Olympics.  There have been some pretty remarkable and talented people in there, but I doubt that many will be believers in the Lord Jesus.  I pray that they will of course come to know Jesus, but if they don’t they will not be in Heaven.  This is the sad reality.  All their amazing abilities will be lost and all they gave the world, their one talent, will have achieved nothing.  You see God does not see things the same way we do.  The gold medal is worth very little in comparison with the prayers of the saint.  I would like to leave this now with one startling message that many miss in this parable.  Notice what happens to the one talent: it is given to the one with five.  I would not be surprised if the formerly bedridden Marianne is in times to come known as one of the fastest, strongest athletes in the Kingdom of our Lord.  She never had those opportunities or physical abilities, but one day her works will be rewarded and it is quite possible that someone else’s talent will be given to her.

Let us take a couple of lessons from this parable.  As believers we are to use everything that the Lord has given us in this life to further his interests.  What we consider important is not important to God.  It is what God considers important that we should be concentrating our efforts on.  Interestingly we should not worry about opportunities to do fun things, or to advance our own interests. As a friend of mine often says ‘there is time enough for that in Heaven’, right now there is work to be done.  And finally let us reach out to everyone who wants to hear the Gospel.  I have been guilty of praying especially for people who I would like to see in Heaven.  But God knows best.  He will give to all the saints who have missed out in this life the blessings and abilities they missed out on.  There will be no boring people in Heaven because God creates interesting people.  Many of those we admire most in this life will simply have their talents given to someone else when they do not enter the Kingdom.  So let us reach out to the least of them recognising that God is creating a wonderful Kingdom people.

1  From John Pollocks excellent biography ‘Moody without Sandey’.

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