For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered to them his goods.…
This, like the preceding parable, refers immediately to the professed followers of Christ. It probably has a special, though certainly not exclusive, application to ministers and those distinguished by office in the Churches. We have to consider -
I. THE TALENTS.
1. These are not the natural faculties.
(1) In the possession of these there is no difference of "one," "two," and "five." The Caucasian has no attribute that is not also possessed by the Hottentot. The premier enjoys no attribute that is not also enjoyed by the peasant.
(2) Were the talents our natural faculties, then would the privation of them amount to the extinction of our being. But the unprofitable servant survives his privation of his talent, to be punished for his slothfulness.
(3) The talents must not be confounded with the agents to whom they are entrusted for use. But the natural faculties go to constitute the agents.
2. They are the gifts of grace and providence.
(1) Foremost amongst these is the royal gift of the Holy Spirit. The lord travelling into the far country is Christ after his Passion ascending into the heavens. Thence he sent the baptism of his Spirit (see Ephesians 4:8). This great Gift is distributed into
(a) the ordinary;
(b) the extraordinary.
There is a manifestation of the Spirit given to every man to profit withal.
(2) Whatever in the order of Providence may increase our influence.
(b) Social status.
(a) Ordinances of the gospel - Bibles, sabbaths, ministers.
(b) Circumstances of Providence, or occurrences called accidents.
Every moment has its grace; every grace has its employment; every employment is for eternity. Note: A talent of silver is worth £350. All Christ's gifts are rich and valuable. They are the purchase of his precious blood.
II. THEIR CUSTODY.
1. God gives them diversely.
(1) To one he gives "five," to another "two," to another "one." This is arbitrary, of his own spontaneity, without consulting with the recipient. This he has an absolute right to do.
(2) Yet is his arbitrariness guided by wisdom. He gives "to each according to his several ability." He trusts us up to the limit of our own ability. Five talents would be too much for this man; one would be too little for this. God, who distributes, knows.
(3) Justice also is conspicuous in the distribution. No one is pressed beyond his powers. Who can say that the difference between the greatest and the least in the matter of opportunity is more than five to one? Plato, in his laws, allowed no man to possess an income of more than five times that of the poorest. This might be feasible with an adequate levelling up.
(4) No man has any right to complain that he has more or less than another. He that has much should not despise him that has little. He that has little should not envy him that has more. The man who improves his gifts, however small, will surely obtain the kingdom.
2. He gives them to be improved.
(1) Every gift and grace of God is capable of improvement.
(a) To the comfort and salvation of the recipient.
(b) For the benefit of his race.
(c) For the glory of his Maker.
(2) No talent must be buried. "Money is like manure, good for nothing in the heap; but it must be spread" (Bacon; see also Ecclesiastes 6:1, 2; James 5:3). That many Christians are too slothful to be useful is a melancholy fact. So perseveringly should we serve as not to outlive our character and our usefulness.
(3) Much more must no talent be abused. Yet to bury is to abuse. He who digs to hide his talent puts himself to more trouble to abuse God's mercy than it would cost him to improve that mercy unto his salvation.
III. THE RECKONING.
1. The diligent are rewarded.
(1) They can render their account with joy. For with the talents they had received "they went and traded." Note: A true Christian is a spiritual tradesman (see Proverbs 3:15; Matthew 3:45). Those who diligently improve their talents will have boldness in the day of judgment (see 1 John 2:28; 1 John 4:17).
(2) They receive commendation. They are praised for their goodness and faithfulness. If there be no merit, there is yet a rewardableness in our good deeds. They are promised a promotion. "I will set thee over many things." If the few things be "five talents," what must be the "many things," equivalent to "five cities," equivalent to "an hundredfold"! The servant over the few things is to be made ruler over many things. Note: Heaven is a place of order and government.
(3) They receive glory. "Enter into the joy of thy Lord." Christ, for the joy that was before him, endured the cross. That joy was the glorification of his humanity, both body and soul. It is also the glorification of the members of his Church, which is his mystical body and soul. This joy will fill the capacity of every member, whether he be a man of five talents or of two. Heightened capacity will still have perfect enjoyment. Christ's servants are all princes. The crown (2 Timothy 4:8), the throne (Revelation 3:21), the kingdom (Matthew 25:34).
2. The indolent are punished.
(1) They are reproached. "Wicked and slothful" is opposed to "good and faithful." Faithfulness rather than success is approved, and so is faithlessness rather than failure reproved. Note: The servant who had least entrusted to him is here represented as the unfaithful one, perhaps to impress upon us that we must not make the smallness of our gifts a pretext for indolence.
(2) The slothful servant, justifying himself on the ground of his master's severity, expresses the views of the Author of all good that are taken by carnal minds. How awfully depraved is he that can charge his crimes upon his Maker! Note: The parable puts a weak excuse into the mouth of the slothful servant, to show that for neglect there is no apology.
(3) Hard thoughts of God beget fear (vers. 24, 25). Note the spirit of the slave. By refraining from expressing displeasure at the injustice of the slothful servant, our Lord teaches that the duty of serving him is incumbent even on the natural man.
(4) The indolent are deprived of their gifts and graces. "Take the talent from him." From the faithless minister, from the faithless Church member. "For from him that hath not even that which he hath shall be taken away." "He who hath this or that, and makes no use of it, may not improperly be said both to have it and not to have it" (Aristotle). Only what we use well becomes crystallized into a good character.
(5) The unprofitable are relegated to wrath (ver. 30). "Unprofitableness and omission of duty is damnable; unfaithfulness in us, who are but stewards and servants. To do no harm is praise fit for a stone, not for a man" (Baxter). "Cast ye out the unprofitable servant."
(a) "Into outer darkness." All outside heaven is darkness in eternity.
(b) "There shall be weeping," etc.; misery. - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.