I always have trouble whenever I’m asked to speak on a topic like a parable that I feel people have heard many many times before. I live in fear of that. Because I can’t for the life of me imagine what I could tell you that you don’t already know or have already heard about the 10 talents. The only exception to that rule is if I believe that I can throw a twist into it that you’ve never thought of before and thus make it interesting for you. Maybe that’s why I’m such an ardent Calvinist, because that’s such a great wrench to throw into the mix of any discussion. Maybe I’m just a trouble-maker at heart.

Anyway, I hope I can cause a bit of trouble today and to do that we aren’t going to just read the parable on its own. Anytime you approach the Word of God, it serves us well to read what’s before and after the passage that we are interested in as well as the passage itself of course. But before we do that I want you to remember a very important phrase. Here’s the phrase: Lack of sufficient interest.

Can we say that together: Lack of sufficient interest.

OK, the parable of the 10 talents is found in Matthew chapter 25 vs 14 onwards. But if you look at it carefully you’ll realize that this parable is stuck in the middle of some real important teachings that Jesus gives us. So let’s read some of the chapter before it as well.

Turn to Matt 24 verse 1.

    1. Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings.
    2. “Do you see all these things?” Jesus asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
    3. Later as Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
    4. Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you.
    5. For many will come in my name, claiming, `I am the Christ, and will deceive many.
    6. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
    7. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
    8. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

Now I know that some of you are thinking ooooh, this is rapidly become a Y2K sermon. Not at all, and don’t even think that Y2K has anything to do with this passage, ’cause it doesn’t. But back to the passage skipping to verse 17

    1. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house.
    2. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak.
    3. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!
    4. Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.
    5. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again.
    6. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.
    7. At that time if anyone says to you, `Look, here is the Christ!’ or, `There he is!’ do not believe it.
    8. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect–if that were possible….

    1. “Immediately after the distress of those days “`the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
    2. “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.
    3. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

    1. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
    2. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
    3. “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

{Then he give this warning}

  1. “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household, to give them their food at the proper time?
  2. It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.
  3. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
  4. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, `My master is staying away a long time,’
  5. and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards.
  6. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of.
  7. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Jesus finishes saying that and then He tells us the parable of the Ten Virgins where those who were not prepared missed out, then he goes right into the parable of the Ten Talents. So it’s not like the parable was this light story that Jesus was telling. No, he’d just finished one of the most toughest and most debated and one of the most heaviest passages of the Bible, talking extensively about judgement and destruction and how those who are not diligent will miss out, and at this heavy point he goes into the Parable of the ten talents:

Matt 25:14 “Again, it (that is the Kingdom of God that he introduced in the parable of the 10 Virgins) will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15 To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.

Now the word Talent here refers to a very large sum of money, however if you ask me, it is an appropriate use of the word, for in our application today we will apply the parable to our actual talents, not money, but the talents that we have, things we are good at. Anyway back to our text:

16 The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17 So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18 But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. `Master,’ he said, `you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22 “The man with the two talents also came. `Master,’ he said, `you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ 23 “His master replied, `Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24 “Then the man who had received the one talent came. `Master,’ he said, `I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26 “His master replied, `You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28 “`Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29 For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.

30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

And then Jesus ends the Parable but isn’t done speaking for he says: 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.

And then Jesus goes right into something that is NOT a parable but the prophecy of the judgement of the Sheep and the Goats.

So what is Jesus saying in this parable? If you ask me it’s a sort of scary parable, don’t you think? First of all we have to understand that the Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t mean Heaven as in Paradise where we will be in when we die, but it more accurately describes the Church period both now and here and in Heaven. Think of it as a Period of time, I have come to believe from my research on the topic that Jesus is saying that in this period of the Kingdom of Heaven, this period now, the Church period, God will give us certain talents and gifts and then he’ll watch us and judge us on how we use those talents. And he’ll reward us based on that. Kinda worrisome don’t you think? It is worrisome for me at times.

Now I must admit some people may initially have the tendency to say “Oh, it’s just a parable, but remember what sandwiches these two parables: Remember what Jesus had just prefaced that story with: A warning, a warning specifically of what? Of a servant, not a fictitious parabelite servant but a real potential servant:

Flip back to Matt 24 vs 48

48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, `My master is staying away a long time,’

49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards.

50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of.

51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

And what’s on the other side of the parable: A prophecy: Judgement of the sheep and goats.

All of a sudden this passage has a lot more significance doesn’t it. It’s not just a parable anymore. It’s a scary parable. Scary to me, scary to us. Isn’t it?

But you see you have to understand: Our Lord is a loving Lord, and he has saved us from damnation, but you know what, he will judge us on what he has given us. Not judge us as to our salvation, for if you believe in the blood of Jesus Christ, if you believe that he is the one that saves you and accept him as your Savior then you are saved. But now having been saved by Grace, for nothing you can do, Christ will judge what you have done with what He gave you. This judging will result in great joy or diminished joy for you on the day of judgement. And that is what we are talking about here. Not the judgement of salvation or damnation, but the judgement as to whether Christ will say: Well done Good and faithful servant or ……………..not.

Let me repeat that, especially if you are not are here today and are not a Christ Follower. Jesus has saved us and will save you. And you can rest in that. But now that you are saved? Do you understand the riches of his mercy that he can bestow upon you if you obey him?

It’s a scary parable if you think you are a slacker. But you know what it’s a great parable if you have a desire to live for God. It’s a great parable if you want to grow in His ways. It’s a great parable if you want to use your skills and your talents to bring about His glory.

So the 2 questions today are: if you love the Lord

  1. Are you using the talents you have for God?
  2. Are you developing more talents for Him?

Those are indeed serious questions aren’t they?

But you see God has given all of us talents and gifts. But really they are a way for him to bless us. Not a way for him to punish us. The parable shows us more the incredible joy’s of being obedient to God than anything else. And if you love the Lord so dearly, on that day you want to please Him and you will regret what you have NOT done for His greater glory.

Now I know that some of you will be sitting there and saying: That’s easy for you to say Neil, you have all these talents, but what talents do I have? You may be saying: I wish I had a talent. I have no talents, none whatsoever. I’m not good at anything. Maybe you Neil were born a natural ham, but I wasn’t born able to do anything.

And therein is the first dilemma that we find ourselves in as a result of this parable. I just said that the Bible seems to indicate that God will judge you for the talents you did or did not use for His glory. And bless you greatly when you do use them. But most of us aren’t certain that we have all those talents that the parabilites have (a parabilite according to the Neil Mammen Concise International Dictionary is a person who lives in a parable).

The second excuse/dilemma that we have is that we would love to do great things for God ………if we knew what to do or how to do it, because we see all these people in the Bible that God used who were very good at what they did and we know we aren’t that good. For instance, how many people here think they could go out and bean a Goliath with a slingshot before they got their heads chopped off for their efforts? Hmm, not too many. Or how many of us here think we could leading a life as a shepherd like David and then suddenly become a great King. Or how many of us here think we could be a good leader of the lost slaves and lead a few million Israelites to the promised land? Or how many here think they could be like Paul and go out and win the world for God using their natural talents.

After all we say: If we look around ourselves we can see all these great leaders and speakers and actors and musicians who were born great orators, great leaders, great lawyers, great debaters, great musicians. And we think that there is no way for us to ever be that good or that successful.

But the reality of it is that nobody was born a good anything. No seriously, the first thing to ask yourself, is would you like a natural born surgeon who just had the talent to be a doctor and never went to Med school adlib his way through your abdomen. Obviously not! You want that person to have spend 4 years in premed, 7 years in Med School, 2 years in an internship and at least 10 more years practicing on someone else abdomen before he even touches yours.

But there is more to this. A lot of you say that you aren’t musically inclined. Did you know that the gift of music is an acquired one, not a genetic one? Sure if you are tone deaf, you could say you have a genetic impediment to being musically inclined, but if not you really have only 1 excuse. I gave you the excuse before. Remember: Lack of sufficient interest.

Lack of sufficient interest is usually why one person does not have a talent and another does.

How can I say that? I’ll tell you why I can say that. It’s because of a man name Suzuki who invented a ……..music method. It’s called coincidentally “The Suzuki method.”

How does it work. First a couple decides they want their baby to be a musician. Then while the mother is pregnant, Suzuki starts playing music to the baby in the womb. Not nursery rhymes and simple tunes, but complex orchestral pieces. When the baby is born it’s given a tiny toy violin. And the same music is played in its room. By the time the child is 8 months old, Mom starts taking music lessons while the child watches. At the age of 1 and a half the child starts taking lessons. By the age of three, they have a concert. {Show all slides}And it’s not Mary had a little lamb, but Mozart, Bach, Chopin, Stryper, Tchaikovsky, Rachmanikov. And these kids go on to be excellent music players.

And you know what the failure rate for the Suzuki method is? It’s almost zero. In fact most of the time the parents quit before the child does. Every child in the Suzuki method learns to play music and to do it well.

Is music a talent you are born with? Don’t try to tell that to Suzuki with almost zero dropouts. Don’t try to tell that to the band who have to practice for hours every week. I bet they wish it was a natural talent that they didn’t have to work on.

What is required? Sufficient interest and one more thing. Hard Work.

You see, God doesn’t expect you to have a fully developed talent that you use for him. Remember the parable, what is the key lesson here that you must have heard the last 20 times you heard this parable given? The people took the few talents they had and they multiplied them. They developed them. And as a result they got more. And the lesson you can’t have failed to have been told is that you have to develop your talents, you have to invest in them, take care of them, grow them, enhance them. And then you will get more.

But what you ask about all those miraculous Bible Characters who came naturally to those great feats. Well that’s just not true. They were not born with those great talents. Never forget, they had to develop them. Take David and Goliath, was David born with the talent to knock Goliath silly?
Or had he developed it over years of hard maybe even boring work taking care of the sheep and protecting them. Choosing to learn to protect them rather than running away when a bear attacked him, when a lion attacked him. What was God doing for David in those years? Preparing him? What was David doing? Letting God prepare him. Are you letting God prepare you? What skill or talent in ministry or service are you developing for God today? What glimmer of a talent do you have that you should be working on?

And then did this shepherd boy David have the natural talent to rule over all of Israel automatically or rather what was he doing for years before that? Do you remember David’s job for many years? He was musician to King Saul, sitting next Saul’s throne in his palace watching Saul daily deal with the issues of running a kingdom, listening to the people, taking care of them. David was learning and waiting. David was in training whether he knew it or not, for what? to become king one day. And he allowed God to put him in that place. What are you in training for today? What is that talent that you should be developing today for tomorrow? Are you investing in tomorrow? Or are you investing in TV sitcoms?

How about another Bible Great: Moses. Do you think he was born with all those talents? Not at all, in fact do you remember what Moses said when God told him to go to Pharaoh and the people of Israel. He said: They won’t listen to me. I can’t talk, I have a speech impediment. Send someone else. So God give him Aaron his older brother to help him. It took Moses years to become that effective leader that we see him as.

Paul, I found out a few weeks ago from another speaker at this very podium, was apparently described as small, bowlegged and we are told that his eyebrows met. Paul wasn’t even that dynamic a speaker (remember the story of the guy who was listening to Paul and fell asleep and fell from the second story and killed himself). If you read the New Testament, Paul spends years with another man Barnabas, the son of Encouragement, learning, watching, being trained and years later Paul develops into this great speaker. Years of training, years of doing what God commanded: Years of making interest on those few talents that you have so that when God returns, those talents have developed into many many many more.

You see God will hold you responsible for the talents He has given you. God will hold you responsible for the gifts He has given you. God will hold you responsible for the opportunities He has given you. Yes, God is sovereign. Meaning he is in total control. But man, man is responsible, and God will hold you responsible. He will ask you: What have you done with the talents I gave you? Can you sing? Can you pray? Can you lead a group discussion? Can you help with hospitality? Can you help with activities, can you help organize things in the morning? Can you welcome people who are new. Can you call people who are new and invite them to activities. Can you do name tags in the morning, can you help with the multimedia stuff? Can you learn to teach. There are many many things that need to be done. And if you can’t do any of that, can you LEARN to do something? You don’t have to have 5 or 10 talents. You just need to have sufficient interest in one. Because if you sit and compare your abilities to the person who has many many abilities, and then don’t do anything with it, you are doing exactly what the servant with the 1 talent did! And God will hold you responsible. Do you have 1 talent? How did you use that one for the glory of God. And in fact you may start with 1 talent but God will give you more talents as you use them. It will multiply. It has in my life. As you develop those glimmers of interest in your life, you will find that you have many many talents. And God will bless you.

Neil Mammen

San Jose 1999