Jesus’ Life and Ministry
The Illustration of the Talents
JESUS continues the discussion with his apostles on the Mount of Olives by telling them another illustration, the second in a series of three. A few days earlier, while he was at Jericho, he told the illustration of the minas to show that the Kingdom was yet a long time in the future. The illustration he relates now, while having a number of similar features, describes in its fulfillment activities during Christ’s presence in Kingdom power. It illustrates that his disciples must work while still on earth to increase “his belongings.”
Jesus begins: “For it [that is, circumstances connected with the Kingdom] is just as when a man, about to travel abroad, summoned slaves of his and committed to them his belongings.” Jesus is the man who, before traveling abroad to heaven, commits to his slaves—disciples in line for the heavenly Kingdom—his belongings. These belongings are not physical possessions but represent a cultivated field into which he has built a potential for bringing forth more disciples.
Jesus entrusts his belongings to his slaves shortly before ascending to heaven. How so? By instructing them to keep on working in the cultivated field by preaching the Kingdom message to the most distant parts of the earth. As Jesus says: “To one he gave five talents, to another two, to still another one, to each one according to his own ability, and he went abroad.”
The eight talents—Christ’s belongings—are thus distributed according to the abilities, or spiritual possibilities, of the slaves. The slaves stand for classes of disciples. In the first century, the class that received the five talents evidently included the apostles. Jesus goes on to relate that the slaves who received the five and the two talents both doubled them by their Kingdom preaching and making of disciples. However, the slave who received the one talent hid it in the ground.
“After a long time,” Jesus continues, “the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.” It was not until the 20th century, some 1,900 years later, that Christ returned to settle accounts, so it was, indeed, “after a long time.” Then Jesus explains:
“The one that had received five talents came forward and brought five additional talents, saying, ‘Master, you committed five talents to me; see, I gained five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’” The slave that received two talents likewise doubled his talents, and he received the same commendation and reward.
How, though, do these faithful slaves enter into the joy of their Master? Well, the joy of their Master, Jesus Christ, was that of receiving possession of the Kingdom when he went abroad to his Father in heaven. As for the faithful slaves in modern times, they have great joy in being entrusted with further Kingdom responsibilities, and as they finish their earthly course, they will have the culminating joy of being resurrected to the heavenly Kingdom. But what about the third slave?
“Master, I knew you to be an exacting man,” this slave complains. “So I grew afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” The slave deliberately refused to work in the cultivated field by preaching and making disciples. So the master calls him “wicked and sluggish” and pronounces the judgment: “Take away the talent from him . . . And throw the good-for-nothing slave out into the darkness outside. There is where his weeping and the gnashing of his teeth will be.” Those of this evil slave class, being cast outside, are deprived of any spiritual joy.
This sets forth a solemn lesson for all who profess to be followers of Christ. They must work for the increase of the belongings of their heavenly Master by having a full share in the preaching work if they are to enjoy his commendation and reward and if they are to avoid being thrown into the darkness outside and ultimate destruction. Are you diligent to use your abilities in this regard? Matthew 25:14-30.
◆ What lesson does this next illustration teach?
◆ Who are the slaves, and what are the belongings with which they are entrusted?
◆ When does the master come to settle accounts, and what does he find?
◆ What is the joy the faithful slave enters into, and what happens to the wicked slave?