The parable of the talents, Matthew 25:14-30, ends with “And
cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there
shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
It may seem that Jesus is being unduly harsh on the servant
who hid the talent. After all, this servant was motivated
by the altogether proper attitude of fear and respect for
his master. He knew something valuable had been entrusted
to him, and he made sure that no one stole it, and thereby
exercised foresight and care to protect the master's property
He was not irresponsible or profligate as others might have
been. He did not spend, steal, or borrow, any of the money.
The story never actually says the master told him to invest
what he had been given. Is it then fair that the master expected
more in return than he gave?
Consider the description of the master: “a hard man
who reaped where he did not sow.” In other words, a
man who seeks to profit without earning those profits himself.
Does it not seem that the master was the one who should have
Bible commentators and teachers usually address questions
such as this by trying to explain them away. Anything that
does not make sense in the Bible is a problem for them. They
operate on the principle that the Bible should make logical
sense. Therefore they assume more information than the passage
supplies. This additional information can then be used to
construct a sensible explanation. In the case of this parable,
they assume that the servant knew that he was expected to
invest the money.
This misses the entire point of the story, which is that
we are supposed to feel that the servant was treated unfairly.
This story, like many others in the Bible, is intended to
force us to deal with the seemingly unfair dealings of God
with us. What Jesus is really forcing us to see in this parable
is that God, although He is loving and just, sometimes operates
in seemingly unfair ways.
In this parable, Jesus is answering the most important question
that man has: “What is the purpose for which God has
created us?” In the traditional theology of commentators,
God expects from us no more than He gives us, since everything
comes to us as a gift from God.
However, this parable teaches us that God is not fair, as
He expects more from us than he gave to us. In this way, He
can be said to “invest” in us. He sends us into
the world as a self-centered being who seeks their own satisfaction.
But He expects us to leave with much more. He desires us back
We cannot simply consider salvation as the “extra”
that God expects us to return to Him with. After our salvation,
our life becomes an ongoing process of daily “becoming”
more than we were.
If we were addicted to one or more of the things that flesh
can become addicted to, the Lord is waiting to see if we will
become more than that pitifully addicted body. If we fear
sickness or operations, we may be given the opportunity, through
the threat or experience of such things, to become something
more than that fearful person. If we are in pain or distress,
through faith and trust in the Lord, we can become someone
more than the unhappy person we were, and not necessarily
by having the source of distress vanish.
This principle of “becoming” more than we are
is connected to what the Book of Revelation calls “overcoming.”
We “become,” as we overcome our nature and circumstances.
This principle is illustrated by the thieves who were crucified
with Jesus. A thief’s nature is to live for his own
interests, even if it is to the detriment of our possessions.
Both thieves in this situation were in extreme pain and distress.
The only satisfaction that one thief could find was to taunt
Jesus, a man he no doubt saw as a self-appointed Messiah who
had received his comeuppance. This behavior is not surprising
since it was, after all, his nature.
What is remarkable is the behavior of the other thief. In
some wonderful way, his nature changed on that cross and he
became more than a self-interested thief. He became one who
could offer words of comfort to Jesus. He did not perform
any works after this, yet he found himself in Paradise. At
the very end of his life, he finally responded to the interests
of the “Investor,” and returned to God having
become more than he came into this world as.
It is often said that this thief had only salvation. But
in his moment of salvation we see a model of the entire Christian
life, no matter what its length. His faith saved and changed
him. He became more than he was before, as he overcame his
nature and circumstances. His opportunities for future change
were cut off by his death, as ours will be. If he had more
time, his life would have been an opportunity for “becoming”
Each remaining day of our lives is an opportunity for us
to “become” more than we are. This is why Jesus
often likened us to seeds; as he compared our destiny to a
harvest. A farmer is an investor; he sows a tiny seed and
waits to reap a bounty.
It is the farmer’s responsibility to sow, it is the
seed’s to grow. This is the challenge and adventure
that makes us truly alive, and will one day reveal our eternal