UnSugar Coating Dead Salt: 8 Lessons from the Parable of Talents
- February 27, 2020
- Bible Study, Business, Christianity and Culture, Exegesis, Sermons
In Matthew 25: 14-30 we are given a reverting account of a wealthy master who entrusted a measure of his wealth (in form of talents) among three of his servants before going to a far away country. Just like it is with any parable given by Jesus, fiction looms more powerful than reality as narrative artistry gave Jesus latitude to poignantly illuminate complexes of human life in a manner that underscored His intimate proximity to the detail of human misery, wretchedness and potential under divine empowerment.
Revisit the parable: Matthew 25: 14-30 and then consider the following eight (8) cogent lessons we can draw from the account.
1. The measure of faithfulness and success is not safe keeping but increase.The productive servants were called good and faithful. Thus, to be “good and faithful” in the eyes of God has more to do with multiplication and fruitfulness that it has to do with safe keeping as exemplified by the third servant who merely buried the talent for safe keeping. God is not pleased when we aim for the bare minimum.
2. Be fruitful and multiplyThroughout the bible God employs the farming motif the basis of which is the imperative given to human beings and all creatures: “Be fruitful and Multiply”. Gen 1:28 The master declared the first two servants as good and faithful because they had achieved the very object of every created creature: to multiply and to be fruitful. The imperative is hardly exclusive to reproduction. God expects His children to multiply in all aspects of life. In John 15: 1-2 Jesus says, “I am the true vine and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He purges it and every branch in me that bears fruit He purges that it may bring forth more fruit. The object of the farming and fruit bearing motifs is aptly illumined in Galatians 5: 22. Children of God must bear fruit and in Galatians 5:22 the combo of the expected fruitage is unpacked: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.” Now the question to be raised is: what are fruits for? Fruits are food, and thus the fruit is for nourishment of the children of God. The purpose of fruit bearing is nourishment.
3. A talent is not an achievementAchievement is the outcome of a purposeful application of the “talent”. Natural endowments such as beauty, height, influence, eloquence, material belongings, etc are not an achievement as it were. Achievement is the net outcome of the productive and beneficial use of these talents or gifts.
4. God has not asked us to be successful, He Has only asked us to be faithfulMany fear failure and are reluctant to go forward at God’s charge. We forget that God has not asked us to be successful, He Has only asked us to be faithful. The determination of whether one has failed or has succeeded is not premised on the outcomes. When we obey we have succeeded, when we disobey we have failed. Take note that it is the parable of talents and not the parable of the talented. As we like to say, if it’s God’s will He will pay the bill, He has provision for every vision and all His biddings are his enablings. “As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command, may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings.” Ellen G. White. Christ’s Object Lessons, 333.
5. Laziness is the sugar with which we coat the dead salt of ungodlinessWhat we would habitually classify as laziness or mediocrity is addressed aptly by its first name. The unproductive servant is addressed as: “Thou wicked and slothful servant”.
The master did not mince his words. Laziness is the sugar with which we coat the dead salt of ungodliness. The master employed categoric descriptors to unmask the slothful servant and to succinctly “un”sugar coat the dead salt of wickedness underlying his conspicuous languor. If we consider the end of the story, the servant is not referred to some entrepreneurial development workshop or investment seminar for his up-skilling or rehabilitation. He is decisively cast into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Why such a seemingly exacting and harsh action from the
master for a “small” matter of non-performance at best and laziness at worst? Fact
of the matter is that laziness is our “acceptable” demon of wickedness. In the
thralldom of laziness and slothfulness lies the same demonic species of ungodliness
and wickedness as verily resident in the hue of rape, murder, adultery and all
other hideous forms of sin which are visibly deplorable and revolting.
6. God is the foundation of everything
The faithful servants referenced what the master had given them before enumerating their yield. This is crucial. Firstly,God is the foundation of everything. Secondly, God’s expectations are reasonable because they are predicated by provision. i.e. God does not demand an account over nothing. Life as a gift from God in itself. It is the foundation of everything and everyone who has breath in their nostrils can do something. The unfaithful servant did NOT make mention of the single talent given to him. The point of departure in his self-pitying response is to decimate the character of the master. He alleges: “I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not sown.”
While the unfaithful servant’s reportage takes off by decimating and vilifying
the character of the master, the attitude of the two faithful servants exudes
gratitude as the appropriate point of departure. You may not have everything
you have wished for and desired but just take a moment to look around you and count your blessings. Perhaps you are frustrated over unfinished business and undone tasks but hey, today is another day God has granted us, a day we did not have to pay for, a fresh new chance we do not deserve. The least we can do is to seize the opportunity thankfully with both hands and gear up to deliver. A positive attitude trumps aptitude in the general ecosystem of life.
7. There is no excuse for non-performance
The unfaithful servant attempted to contextualize and rationalize his indolent station on the basis of the alleged crudeness of the master’s character. (Matt 25:24) The master could have easily nullified his line of reasoning by simply reminding him that the task at hand had nothing to do with the hardness of master or any the imaginary traits the servant is expostulating about, the task was to
multiply the talent. But the master decided to tag along his futile and evasive
line of thinking and prove that the logical end of his own reasoning is that he
therefore should have invested the talent as his perception of the master’s
character gave him more reason to invest that not to. In a nutshell, the master
is saying to the servant “your reasons for non-performance are neither here nor
there”. The same is true for all our wafer-thin excuses for non-performance. They are neither here nor there.
8. Dissimilar Capabilities (Talents) Equal Exponentiality
Did you notice that the two faithful servants had 100% yields in their entrepreneurship? What that means is that the one with five talents did not bask in the laurels. He did not sit back and gloat over his lot for he understood that the five talents were not achievement but mere seed. He understood principle number one highlighted above that the measure of success and faithfulness is not safe keeping but increase (fruitfulness). The one with two talents did not nurse any gripe over being less endowed, He gratefully embraced what was allotted to him and similarly hit the ground running, thus both of them achieved 100% yield.
The reason people tend to worship outstandingly successful
people is because any trail blazing persona will tower like a demi-god to a
full time under achiever. The more we inch to the summit in our different
spheres the less we covet, revere and venerate genius, and in fact the more we
begin to appreciate the fact that genius is not a specialized or exclusive
endowment but the basic defining operative of persistent, resilient and diligent
Knowledge and skill are neither innate nor hardwired, they are acquired. The ability to acquire knowledge productively is developed and can be developed by anyone, it is honed in the grind of resilience and consistency.
Let me close off with a trenchant volley from an inspired
“Many whom God has qualified to do excellent work accomplish
very little, because they attempt little. Thousands pass through life as if
they had no definite object for which to live, no standard to reach. Such will
obtain a reward proportionate to their works. Remember that you will never
reach a higher standard than you yourself set. . . . Press with determination
in the right direction, and circumstances will be your helpers, not your
hindrances.” Ellen G. White Christ Object Lessons 331, 332)
Over to you. Ever spent some time on the Parable of Talents?
What stood out for you? Please share your reflections on the comments section
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A multidisciplinary thinker, speaker, writer, software engineer and ICT entrepreneur. Most important of all, a seeker of God and truth, keenly expectant of the second coming of Christ.