1. The investment strategy of the first two servants: risky or conservative?
A “talent” was the annual salary of a skilled worker, $50,000 in today’s money. The master gave the first servant $250,000 to invest; the second got $100,000.
How much time did they have to work with? How long did it take for them to double their money? The parable says that the master took a “long trip abroad.” Maybe a couple years. Probably not seventy years.
I bring up seventy years because: At today’s interest rates, and adjusting for inflation, it would take seventy years to double your money by putting it into a safe savings account. The first and second servants doubled their money much more quickly than that. They took big risks. They could have lost everything their master gave them. He could have returned from his trip to find those first two servants penniless. But he didn’t. Their risks paid off.
Meanwhile the third servant got intimidated by all the big numbers and risk taking. He thought to himself, “I don’t belong with these high rollers.” The master had given him $50,000. Not as much as the first two, but still a lot of money. He played it safe. He protected himself from potential catastrophe. He hid everything he had, in a secret place, away from prying eyes.
In sports, if you have a lead and then just play defense and try to run out the clock, what happens? You almost always lose.
Point 2. At the beginning of the parable, the Lord Jesus said that it explains the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. In other words, He was not talking Wall Street in this parable; it’s not really about money. The talents in the parable represent something else. What do they represent?
What chapter of the Bible is this? Matthew 25. What comes at the end of that chapter? We will read it next Sunday. The separation of the sheep from the goats. The king tells the sheep, “Come inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, because you loved Me when I needed it. You welcomed, fed, clothed, comforted, and healed Me.” They say, “When did we see you, Lord?” He answers: “When you did it for these least brethren of Mine, you did it for Me.”
The cash in the Parable of the Talents represents love and kindness, openness and understanding, patience and gentleness. The first two servants received a lot of “money”—that is, the Lord gave them big, devout hearts. They proceeded to love dangerously with them. They loved without holding back. They risked everything—they risked themselves. They gave themselves over completely to the work of loving God and neighbor. They had faith; they trusted in God. They feared nothing.
Meanwhile, the third servant received a pretty big heart also. He could have used it to love God and his neighbor, but he didn’t bother. He feared potential dire consequences. He did not consider himself an adventuresome person, when it came to caring about anything. “That’s for heroes, and people like that, not me,” he thought to himself. “I just need to make sure that no one gets mad at me. I don’t want to get hurt.”
We cannot serve both God and mammon. We have to choose one. We have to choose God and despise all the pomp and circumstance of this passing world. But we serve God well in the same way that worldly people make a lot of money: by risking everything. By fearlessness. By jumping out into some unknown situation because I believe I have something good to offer that no one else does.
The point of the Parable of the Talents is: No one ever made it to heaven by loving God and neighbor timidly. Half-hearted devotion to Jesus Christ never did anyone any good. God gave us everything, and, as the parable has it, He is a “demanding man.” He expects us to risk ourselves completely for His glory. We owe Him nothing less than that.
What do we imagine the master in the parable did during his long journey abroad? Did he play it safe? Did he go somewhere comfortable, some place he had visited before? Where do we figure he got the $400,000 he gave his servants in the first place?
He obtained his fortune by going on adventures. He traveled in dangerous places, in order to give the world something new and good. His creativity, confidence, and energy provided the servants with something to work with themselves.
We do not have to come up with zeal and love out of nothing. God gives us what we need to work with, in order to do something good—namely, ourselves. We just have to risk ourselves fearlessly, so that the good thing He has begun in us can come to fruition.
God is undying, infinite love. That’s what we believe. That’s what Christ crucified teaches us. If we believe that, then we have no excuse for being afraid to love Him back, and love our neighbors, with everything we have.