Faithful and unfaithful servants
The talents represent opportunities to use our abilities. If five talents were given to a person with minimal ability, he would be destroyed by the heavy responsibility. But if only one talent were given to a man of great ability, he would be disgraced and degraded. God assigns work and opportunity according to ability. We are living in the period of time between Matthew 25:18 and 19. We have been assigned our ministries according to the abilities and gifts God has given us. It is our privilege to serve the Lord and multiply His goods.
The three servants fell into two categories: faithful and unfaithful. The faithful servants took their talents and put them to work for their Lord. The unfaithful servant hid his talent in the earth. Instead of using his opportunities, he buried them! He did not purposely do evil. But by doing nothing, he was committing sin and robbing his Lord of service and increase.
The two men who put their money to work each received the same commendation (Matt. 25:21, 23). It was not the portion but the proportion that made the difference. They started as servants, but their Lord promoted them to rulers. They were faithful with a few things, so the Lord trusted them with many things. They had worked and toiled, and now they entered into joy. Their faithfulness gave each of them a capacity for greater service and responsibility.
The different sums of money point out how God recognizes each person as a unique individual with varied circumstances and personality. What he “gives” to each person is exactly what that person can handle. For these servants, if any of them failed in the assignment, his excuse could not be that he was overwhelmed. We can only
The numbers of talents given to the slaves have no significance in themselves but simply illustrate a wide range of responsibilities, from the very high and demanding to the relatively low and easy. It is significant, however, that the responsibilities were given to each according to his own ability. The owner knew his slaves intimately, and he entrusted each one only with the responsibility he reasonably could be expected to handle.
The issue of the parable pertains to what each slave does with the fairly assessed responsibility he has been given. The noblest motive in the heart of a faithful servant would be to accomplish as much as possible for the sake of his master during the master’s absence. That was also the master’s desire: not equal return from each of his slaves but relatively equal effort according to ability.
It is significant that, although the slaves with the five and the two talents did not produce equal profits, they produced equal percentages of profit, doubling what they had been given. In the same way Christians with different capabilities and opportunities may produce differing results while working with equal faithfulness and devotion. The Lord therefore assures His servants that “each will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Cor. 3:8).