Jesus gave many different analogies of what the Kingdom of God is like. In Matthew 25 we read the parable of the talents. After he finishes this parable, he goes on to describe the final judgement. Earlier in chp. 25 is the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, which teaches us to always be prepared. We do not know the day and hour of his return; but he will return. The parable of the talents is a lesson to believers to take good care of what has been entrusted to them.
In the parable, a master leaves his servants in charge of his property. Some have used the idea of “talents” to encourage us to sing, play an instument, etc. so that we use whatever talent we have to glorify God. While that is a good idea, the talent here refers to a piece of money. The Bible talks a lot about money, but not in this passage. The parable is about money, but I believe the lesson to be learned is something else. When the master returns to settle his accounts, we see that 2 of the 3 servants have taken what they were given and done something with it. They are praised for their efforts, and rewarded accordingly. The last servant, however, buried his talent in the ground, only to return to the master exactly what was already his. Obviously, we the believers are the servants. God is the master. The question is “What property, what belongs to God, that we have been left to take care of?” The answer is his people.
In a general sense, all people are God’s children. All of creation belongs to God. This includes the world and everything in it. He made it, and has claim to it. All people are created in his image, and he loves them. We the believers, the adopted brothers and sisters of Christ, have a responsibility to our fellow man to do certain things. In another parable, Jesus tells of a landowner who sends his servant with a message to the vineyard workers who are leasing land from him. The wicked tenants kill his messenger. The master tries a second time to send a servant. Finally, he decides that if he sends his son the tenants will obey his word and listen to the command. The wicked tenants even kill the landlord’s son. Jesus warned the first century Jews that their forefathers had killed the Old Testament prophets, and in due time those same ones listening to his sermon would kill the Son of God. We as humanity killed the prophets and the very Son of God who came to teach us about God and his ways. We are the servants who are to watch over what is God’s and take care of business until he returns to settle our accounts. So how do we that?
We still have the words of the prophets recorded in scripture, and many of Jesus’ parables and sermons preserved in the New Testament. Colossians calls Jesus the “image of the invisible God.” He gave the example of what to do to be a faithful servant, and told his followers to continue doing those same things. Paul instructs us to have the same mind as Christ had. These are a few of the examples we’ve been given to imitate.
1) To visit the widows and the fatherless. Isaiah 1 is a stern reprimand about going through all the motions of church, but being guilty of sin. God warns the Hebrews to “cease to do evil, learn to do good.” He mentions widows and the fatherless in the same passage. James 1 teaches us that “Pure religion and undefiled before God is this, to visit orphans and widows in their affliction…” In our day, this would be things like taking grandma a bag of groceries, or even better, an old lady who is not family at all. We need to visit the hospital and nursing homes; you get the idea.
2) The rest of James 1:27 says “…and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” We must live in and interact with the world. We cannot lock ourselves in the church sanctuary and also fulfill the great commission. We must be careful to live in the world without adopting their attitude and believing the lies of the culture we live in. We are in this world, but not of this world.
3) Share the gospel. Jesus did this on every occasion. In his first sermon (Mark 1) Jesus tells his audience to repent and believe the gospel. As he hung on the cross, he prayed for those who were crucifying him, asking the Father to forgive them.
4) Jesus loved the unlovable of society. He was often eating with sinners and tax collectors, even while being chastised by the religious leaders of his day. He talked to lepers, prostitutes, and other outcasts of society. We can’t stay on the internet debating theology all day; we must get outside and get our hands dirty.
5) Jesus spent time in the scripture and in prayer. The Gospels tells us that he was regularly found in the temple and synagogues reading aloud from the scrolls. He often went out to pray early in the morning, and sometimes prayed all the way through the night. He prayed in Gethsemane until his sweat became as great drops of blood. Prayer was important to Jesus.
6) Jesus sought God’s will, not his own. In his final hours of prayer, Jesus prayed to God the Father “Let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” The cup is a reference to crucifixion. The Romans crucified criminals because they were all about the spectacle. Crucifixion was a slow, painful way to die. Jesus knew what death on the cross would be like, and was not looking forward to it. He was asking God if there was any other possible way to do that instead. What he wanted most, however, was to do God’s will, and said so in his petition. We must ask God to show us his will. We must seek after God’s will, instead of only telling him what to do for us in our lives.
These are some of the examples Christ gave, there are many others. The goal is to constantly be conformed to the image of Christ in order to do God’s will. The good and faithful servant will enter into the joys of our Lord. Let us exhort one another to do goods works, and not become slothful.