Settling accounts (part 1)
One of the last topics Jesus addressed with His disciples before He went to the cross was how they were going to live after He returned to the Father. Since the exact time of His return to earth had not been revealed, Jesus told three stories to help them understand their need to be ready at all times.
In the first parable, Jesus contrasted the two paths before a servant who was put in charge of other servants. When the master returned at an unannounced time, he would find that either the servant continued to be faithful, or he would find that the servant had been derelict in his duties. The appropriate reward or punishment would then follow.
In the second parable, Jesus contrasted two groups of virgins who were waiting for the groom to return. When the groom took longer than expected, it became clear that some of the virgins had prepared for a long wait and some of them had not. When the groom finally did arrive, those that were prepared were welcomed into the wedding feast, while those who were not prepared were excluded from the event.
From these two parables, Jesus teaches that being prepared for His return will lead to significant rewards and opportunities. The next logical question the disciples must have been wondering is How do I get ready? What must I do?
Fortunately for them (and for us) Jesus’ next parable answers that question. Continuing to talk about the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus said:
Matthew 25:14-15, 19
For it is just like a man going on a journey. He called his own slaves and turned over his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; and to another, one – to each according to his own ability. Then he went on a journey…After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.
Notice that elements from the previous parables are here also – namely that the servants had responsibility over a portion of the master’s property, and that the master took a long time before returning.
Now a talent was a very large sum of money, worth about 6,000 denarii. That monetary unit doesn’t mean much to us, but a denarii was the equivalent of a day’s wage. Using today’s median income, a talent would be worth about $720,000. This wasn’t some dinky gift from the master. This was a serious investment of resources.
Interestingly, the servants did not receive an equal share…but they did receive an appropriate share, to each according to his own ability. The master was wise enough to know that some servants could handle more, and some should to be in charge of less. To give a someone more responsibility than they are capable of handling would be setting them up for failure, and the master didn’t do that.
Just imagine the scene when they received the master’s possessions. The first servant received $3.6 million, the second received $1.44 million, and the third received $720,000. That moment when the master looked the servant in the eye and said “I’m entrusting you with my money. I’ll be back to see how you’ve managed it.” How would you feel?
Jealous that someone else got more?
Worried that the master entrusted you with too much?
Very few of us will ever receive a full talent of money as a lump sum in our lifetime. However, if we look at how much we typically make over our entire lifetime…we’ve been entrusted with a lot of the master’s resources. Now factor in other talents and abilities each of us have, think about how those could be invested…and if you’re like me, I’m starting to feel like the servants must have felt.
Jesus has entrusted us with a lot. And when He comes back, He’s going to settle accounts with us.