What do you really think you would do, if you had super-powers? Why do you think people who like comic books can suspend their belief long enough to believe that Captain America (a man with slightly above average strength) can take on Iron Man (a human tank)? Or why do we believe Batman (a normal man) can take on Superman? Why do you think nerds love Spiderman and believe he can take on alien monsters, when his only ability is to be like a bug (I guess I technically should say arachnid)? I want you to ponder these questions as we examine the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 & Luke 19.
In the book of Matthew, the story Jesus tells is as follows:
For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Luke has Jesus narrate the same story as such:
As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. 12 He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 13 Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ 14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ 15 When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. 16 The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ 20 Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ 24 And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ 25 And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ 26 ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’
As you can see, the differences in the stories lie in the details. Matthew states that this slave owner is going on an adventure; Luke states that the man is going to get a kingdom. Matthew tells the parable as if the man in the parable represents Jesus; Luke is painting a picture of Archelaus, the son of Herod. This is because Matthew is telling the stories to the Jewish peoples to help them better understand faithfulness; however, Luke is writing this story to a roman guard named Theophilus, explaining the theme of generosity and how we cannot let fear prevent us from investing into others.
The reason we know Matthew is speaking about faithfulness is because, in that narration, Jesus just told the story of the ten virgins, explaining salvation; in Luke, Jesus tells this parable from the comfort of Zaccheus’ house. Zaccheus was a tax collector whom Jesus called out to and went into his home to eat with. In doing so, Zaccheus changed his entire lifestyle by making amends to anyone he may have stolen from and he gave over and beyond that back to them, as well. Luke is showing the change in a man’s heart that is caused by Christ. Matthew is writing to the Jews who already know faith; Luke is writing to a Roman who is an outsider to the faith. Theophilus, the man Luke wrote to, knew the story of Archelaus. The story of the man who went to get the local kingdom from his father, and Theophilus knew that this man was indeed harsh. Luke showed that the servant with one talent had just cause to fear the master, but that is still no excuse for complacency. Both writers are showing the evils of laziness – whether it is because contempt is an enemy of faith or because fear is an enemy of the freedom we have in Christ.
Both writers are showing the evils of laziness – whether it is because contempt is an enemy of faith or because fear is an enemy of the freedom we have in Christ.
“The servant allowed his fear (justified on the basis of experience) of the noble-man’s anger to prevent him from fulfilling his responsibility of putting to work the money given to him.”
“Disciples must risk all for the Kingdom and not let its gifts come to nothing either by acquiescing in the present or by despairing of its future.”
The reason we believe Captain America could take on Iron Man is because Captain America practiced with what he had and invested into himself so that he could be good enough to fight a human tank! We suspend our disbelief to believe Batman can take on Superman because Batman invested and practiced his gifts until he was just as good as a superhero, without any powers of his own. We believe in Spider-Man because he has no fear with his talents and he uses them to invest into others. This is what Jesus has called us all to do with this parable! God created us all with special gifts and when we are saved we are given the super-powers of love, generosity, joy, and more! These are powers that we can use to make someone’s day and help the people hurting around us, but many times we do not use these abilities.
I believe that many of us would not use super-powers for good either. We would use flying as an excuse not to walk. We would use the force as an excuse not to get up to get a soda out of the fridge. If we had the force, the new movie would be called “The Force Hits The Snooze Button,” as opposed to being called “The Force Awakens”.
If we do not practice the gifts that God allowed us to be born with, then we are being contempt and will face judgement for doing so. We often waste intelligence, kindness, artistic natures, and much more. If we keep ourselves from being contempt and practice our gifts and give to others, then we can be like Batman or Spiderman or Captain America! But if we do not invest, then we are like the man who let fear keep him from his potential. I challenge us all to go practice the super-power of generosity this season, for that is one super-power that we all have! If we start practicing this common gift, then we will find it easier to practice and invest our other gifts into others. This is what Christ expects from us all, both in our faithfulness and in our generosity.
The point is: We must practice and invest our gifts in order to better ourselves and avoid being contempt (and ultimately avoid judgment).
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 Longman, Tremper. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Revised ed. Vol. 9 & 10. Print.
 Barton, John. The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001. Print.