By J.R. Miller
"Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 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."
The particular teaching of this parable is not the same as that of the parable of the virgins. That was the duty of preparation; this is the duty of working--using one's powers and capacities. Every one of us has received a talent or talents, some portion of our Lord's goods. The Master has gone away, leaving us to use whatever of His, He has entrusted to us until He returns. Then we shall have to give account to Him. It is not a voluntary matter with us, nor is it a matter of indifference, whether we will be Christ's servants or not. Christ is the rightful Lord of every man. Declining to accept Him and to enter His service--does not exempt anyone from the responsibility.
"Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them." Perhaps we do not realize how entirely Christ has entrusted His affairs and His interests in this world, to His followers. This puts a serious responsibility on us. If the gospel is to get to men--then we must proclaim it. If the work of the Church is to be done--then we must do it. The only hands Christ has for work in this world--are our hands. If the sorrowing are to receive comfort--then we must give it. If the world is to see the beauty, the gentleness, the patience, the compassion, the helpfulness of God--then we must be the interpreters of these Divine affections. Christ has delivered His goods to us.
We notice also that in the distribution of talents the same is not given to all. "To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability." Each person received what he was able to care for. This principle is observed in all Divine endowments. No one has duties allotted to him, which he has not the ability to perform. Nothing impossible is ever asked of any person. Men differ in their ability to manage their Lord's affairs, and the talents given into their hands vary accordingly. The merchant does not take the man with capacity only for lifting heavy bales--and put him in the counting-room. When a woman wants a fine dress made, she does not give the costly materials to a washer woman, a hairdresser, or to a teacher of German or music--but to a skillful dressmaker. Our Master gives each particular disciple, the duties he has ability to do. We need never say, therefore, that we cannot do the things that seem to be required of us. We can do whatever we are given by our Master to do. He makes no mistakes in the allotment of tasks.
The story then tells what the servants did with their share of their master's goods. "The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more." This man used faithfully what had been put into his hands, and the result was that it was doubled--his five talents became ten. He used his gifts--traded with them, and in the trading came the increase.
This is the Divine law in all life. God gives one a gift of music--but it is only in its possibilities as yet. It must be cultivated, developed, disciplined, or it never will become of any practical value. Love must be exercised, if it is to grow. It is only a capacity at first. The same is true of all human powers, whether of body, mind or heart. The trouble with too many people, is that they are indolent and do nothing with their natural gifts, and then these gifts never increase. Talents that are exercised, put to work, traded with--always multiply. "The hand of the diligent makes rich" (Proverbs 10:4). The boy who is so shy and diffident that he can scarcely speak a work in public, by using his small abilities, becomes a great orator, able to sway a vast multitude. The girl, whose voice is sweet but undeveloped, puts her talents to use, and by and by sings so as to thrill countless hearts.
The man with the two talents was faithful, too. "So also, the one with the two talents gained two more." Not many of us would claim, that we have five talents. This is the distinction of only a few. And many of us would not be quite willing to say we have only one talent. That would seem to put us low in the scale. Perhaps, however, some of us would admit that we have about two talents. It is the great middle class that does most for the world.
It would not do for all to be great--to be five-talented. If all the soldiers were fit for generals, who would make up the rank and file? If all Church members were eloquent preachers, who would do the countless little, quite services that need to be done? If all men and women were great poets, who would write the prose? There is need for far more common people than great brilliant ones. One Niagara is enough for a continent--but there is need for thousands of little springs and rivulets. A few great men are enough for a generation--but there is work for millions of common folks. So this diversity of gifts, is part of the Divine plan. The world needs more people of average ability, than it needs of the extraordinary sort, and so we are sure always of being in good company. Lincoln said God must love the common people, for He made so many of them. People who are very great must feel lonesome, for there are so very few of them.
In the case of this two-talented servant, as with that of the five-talented, it was diligent work that redeemed the mediocre man from the obscurity of the commonplace, and gave him distinction. Presently he had four talents. The practical lesson in all the parable, is the using of our gifts, that, if we really have only two talents, we should not vex ourselves--but should go to work with what we have, and it will grow by and by into something worthy. William Dawson speaks in one of his sermons, of the commonness and pitiableness of "contented insignificance."
The talents were not given to the servants; they were only committed to them to be used. Then there would be an accounting. "After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them." There is an important suggestion in this "long time." We are given plenty of time to make use of our talents. It takes time to learn to work well and to develop and train our faculties to their best. Even if we have buried our talents for a season, there is ample time to dig them up and try to put them to better use. We owe far more than we can tell, to God's patience in waiting so long for us. But we must never forget that the Lord will come--and we shall have to reckon with Him for whatever of His we have.
The character of the reward should be noticed. The successful man was not give a year's vacation that he might take a long rest. He was not given an easier position where he would have less care and less work. The reward for doing his work well--was more work! Because he had done well with the little that had been entrusted to him--more was put into his hands. That is the way of honorable promotion among men--not rest and luxury--but a higher position with harder work, increased burden. "Joy" is promised, too, "the joy of your Lord," the joy which comes of serving, of doing the Lord's work. The deepest joy experienced in this world--is the joy which comes of serving.
But one of the servants had failed to do his best with his talent. "Then the man who had received the one talent came." The story of the one-talented man is pathetic, and yet it has its startling lesson. If only he, too, had been faithful, doing his best with his little gift--he also would have multiplied his talent. Many who have done the most for the world--had only one talent to begin with. The discovery that we have only one talent, never should discourage us. We should accept what we have, however small it may be, and set about making the most of it and doing the most with it. The last thing to do with our gift or ability--is to despair about it and then hide it away.
The gifts that are not used--are lost. "Take therefore the talent away from him." In all life it is the same--faculties unused are lost, become extinct. Natural eyes would lose the power of sight--if one lived in darkness continually, and never used them. The eye that is never turned toward God, by and by loses even the power to look toward God. The capacity for believing, which never believes, at length ceases to be able to believe. "Capacity is extirpated by disuse." The lesson comes with tremendous force to the young. If they will not use the abilities which God has bestowed upon them--these powers will be taken away from them.