For more on the principles relating to giving to the Lord, please see Part I in an earlier post.
Parable of the Talents
Looking at the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) in context, the main theme is that we are accountable to God (“the master of those servants returned and settled accounts”). We are accountable to God for what he has entrusted to us: our lives, our time, our resources, our abilities, and the earth.
We should understand that the term “talent” as used in this parable refers to a unit of measure, not an ability or gift. A talent was a unit of weight, like a pound, kilogram, or shekel; in this case referring to a weight of silver (the Greek word translated as “money” in the passage means silver money). A talent represented a large weight, so five talents of silver was worth a small fortune. We read in verse 15:
To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability.
I want to briefly discuss four main points in this parable that are relevant for us today:
1. Proportional Giving
The first point in the parable is that each servant was given an amount of money to manage “each according to his ability”. In tithing we have proportional giving – you are expected to give 10% of what you earn, not some arbitrary fixed amount that wouldn’t make any sense. In terms of giving, more is expected of Donald Trump, let’s say, than of us, as Jesus indicated in Luke 12:48b:
From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded. NRSV
Do you just tip God, or give God a decent percentage of your income?
2. Didn’t Honor His Master
The second point in this parable is that the third servant, the one who buried his talent of silver, didn’t care about his master, so he did nothing with the money. The other two servants worked diligently to earn their master a good return, while the third servant didn’t even bother to place the money in the bank. The third servant wasted an opportunity to honor his master and probably receive a little praise for himself. Do you honor God by giving of your time, talents, and money? Do you equate giving with praising and honoring God?
3. Taking a Risk
The third point of this parable is that the third servant was unwilling to take any kind of risk for the sake of his master. The other servants did take risks – they could have made a bad investment and lost their master’s money. But they cared for the master so that they were willing to take the risk. I think that’s our problem today – we aren’t willing to take a risk and give more money to God through his church. Why? Because we’re afraid we won’t have enough money left to pay the bills, or to buy some of the things we want, or we might have to sacrifice something. Are you willing to step out in faith, trusting in God’s provision?
The last point in this parable of the talents, after proportional giving, honoring the master, and risk-taking, is the element of sacrifice. The two diligent servants must have made some sacrifice and incurred some cost in getting a good return on their investments. I don’t know what all would have been involved, but I’m sure it took a lot of time and effort to double the money entrusted to them. The master’s rebuke of the third servant who simply dug a hole says it all: “You wicked, lazy servant!” (Matthew 25:26a, NIV)