In Matthew 25:14, 15, Jesus starts a parable:
"Again, it (heaven) will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five talents, to another talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey."
I wonder what our world would be like today, if we hadn’t been given the New Testament. If we didn’t have it, then we would know nothing about the life and work of Jesus... nothing about the compassion He showed people, the hundreds of miracles He performed, or anything of the truths He taught the human race. It’s impossible to quantify the loss we would have suffered if we didn’t have the New Testament. But, thankfully, we do have it.
The story of the Talents is a great example of how rich and meaningful the parables of Jesus are. They continue to be the foundation of the Church and a great source of strength to those who live a life of service to others. Even reading the literal meaning of the parables nurtures the soul. But even more so when we realise that each parable is an earthly story with a spiritual message within it. The parable of the talents shows how the Lord provides all that we need to acquire a heavenly life, and tells us what is required from us. This becomes clear when we look beyond the literal meaning.
In the parable the master gives talents to His servants. The master represents the Lord Himself, and His servants are those who hear the truth He speaks. The first thing to note is that the talents belonged to the master, and not the servants. The servants start out with nothing of their own; just as we start out in life, with nothing of our own. What the master gives the servants seems a small amount. But just one talent was worth about 15 year’s wages. The talents represent the abundance of truths which we receive from the Lord in our lifetime. The servants are given these talents to do with them as they wish. Just as the Lord gives us truths and leaves us in freedom to use them as we wish.
The Lord's leaving us in freedom to make choices is what is signified by the master giving the talents and then going off on a journey. In reality, of course the Lord doesn’t go away, it’s we who go away from Him. We fall under the illusion that we live from ourselves, and we feel as if the Lord isn’t around. But although the talents don't belong to the servants, they are able to invest them and acquire additional talents. The Lord wants us to invest the truths He gives us, in life, so that we may gain more of what will benefit us in the next life. The Lord is asking us to use these truths to acquire something higher, something which transcend the temporary things of this world.
When a person uses the truths they know to do good, to help another human being for example, such a person acquires the Lord’s love in their hearts. It’s like an investment. We take the truths the Lord gives us, and use them to acquire love, which we can take with us into the next life. Since the Lord’s birth on earth there have been countless number of people who have did just that. Charitable acts have been done in the Lord’s name by millions of people all over the world for over 2000 years. Some on a grand scale, some by governments, some by aid agencies and others through simple deeds done, one person to another.
I would imagine that the vast majority of things done in the Lord’s name are never attributed to Him, because God doesn’t seek the credit for them. He does things only out of a love for the human race.
Of course it is good for us to give the Lord the credit. He likes it when we do, but only because it helps us when we do so. It’s an example we should follow. It’s OK to get the credit for what we do, as long as that’s not the reason we do it. For us in this world, it can be difficult not to desire the credit for what we do. Sometimes, when we do something good, we cannot help but want people to know about it. Maybe we don’t go around saying... "Oh look at this good thing I did". But in subtler ways we can be tempted to draw attention to it. "BTW, I put a donation in that box, just in case someone else takes it". Or, "Keep an eye out for wee granny Smith down the road; she usually looks really well when I pay regular visits on a Wednesday, but she’s looking very pale today". It’s tempting to draw attention to the good we do. For some of us it’s a constant struggle not to do so.
But if we do want to get better at not seeking the credit, then the Lord can help us do so. For me the only effective cure to desiring the credit for anything I do, is my faith in the Lord. I know what it feels like to desire the credit for any good that I do. But the Lord’s words help enormously in resisting seeking the credit for what we do; for example, this advice is given in the Gospel of Matthew 6:19, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, ... but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven... for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
In our parable of the talents, the master goes away and the servants are able to use the master’s wealth as they wish. It is by investing the Lord’s truths in life for His sake, even though He seems absent, that we gain something more which will serve us in the next life. Notice that the servants get varying amounts of talents. The appearance would have it that the Lord gives more to one than to another. But in reality He gives us an amount proportionate to that which we are able to receive, because we are all different and we all have a different use in life. Just as no two faces have ever been exactly the same, and never will be, so too every individual has a use which is unique to them. Some people may not have had the chance to develop this unique use in this world, but everyone has one. Everyone is born to serve a use, in this life or in the life to come. The Lord has created us for heaven and He has a very important use for us there, which only we can fulfil.
In the next life, peoples’ individual uses will emerge, especially in heaven, where everyone’s use is valued and encouraged. And furthermore each use compliments every other use. In this world our use may lie dormant, as yet undeveloped, but it is still there, waiting for the right conditions for it to emerge and flourish. As we strive to implement the truths we are given in this life, we are being readied to perform our unique use in the next life, and we will find great joy in doing it.
By living out these truths we are saving up our treasures in heaven. It is those who give up the selfish life here, and invest the talents (truths) they are given for the Lord’s sake, who will receive even more. The appearance in our parable is of the master deciding the amount of talents each receives; means we are given truths equal to what we can receive. Those who would invest their talents in this world alone can receive only the one talent. As this is merely for temporal gain. These are the talents which are buried in the earth; invested in this world. They gain nothing for our eternal life. The one talent was therefore taken from that servant and given to the one with ten. The one with ten represent one who uses truths for good uses. The one who had one talent represents those who would use truth to gain for themselves. They will have no truth to take with them and the one with ten will have more.
So if we want to invest in eternal life then we ought to do good for goods sake and that means we don’t look to gain from this world. We don’t need to seek credit from this temporary world. As the Lord says in Matthew 6:4, “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you”.
And so the Lord also said:
.. ‘it (heaven) will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.
Rev. Jack Dunion