“And I was afraid, and went, and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed.”
It would afford us pleasure to be able to explain all difficult passages on which we are called upon to give our views, if we were in possession of the requisite knowledge and aptness to teach, and if we were confident that what we write would be for the edification of the saints, and the glory of God. We have often had occasion to acknowledge that we feel more embarrassment in writing our views on the parables and metaphors used, than on other portions of the Scriptures, not because we have no views, but principally because the same metaphor or the same parable may illustrate more than one subject, and therefore brethren may apply them differently, and it is hard sometimes to determine which, if either of us, has the primary design of them.
This parable of the talents has been variously understood and interpreted by different commentators, and that, too, in some cases where there is unison of sentiment in the doctrine of the Bible, generally. To our mind there appears to be a connection, or continuation of the subject embraced in the twenty-fourth chapter, extended through the twenty-fifth.
The discourse of our Lord to his disciples, of which the parable under consideration is a part, took place in the vicinity of the temple at Jerusalem, immediately after the disciples had been showing him the buildings of the temple, and Jesus had predicted the final overthrow and utter ruin of all these splendid buildings, whereupon they asked him to tell them, “When shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming? and of the end of the world?” In connection with his answers to these three questions, our Lord gave some most solemn and impressive admonitions to the disciples, which he enforced by the use of a number of parables, all of which were calculated to show the propriety and necessity of their faithful attention to the charge which he had given them, and vigilant watchfulness in regard to the signs which were to indicate his coming. Their Lord was soon to go away for a season and then return again, and it was needful for them that he should go away, for he was going to his Father and to their Father; and when he should thus personally be absent, they would be exposed to strong temptations, both from enemies without, and fears arising from their own carnal and unrenewed natures. “Take heed,” said he, “that no man deceive you; for many shall come in my name saying, I am christ, and shall deceive many.” They would also be tempted to say within themselves, “My Lord delayeth his coming,” and to begin to smite their fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken. To warn them against these deceptions of the enemy, and corruptions of their flesh, he made use of the parables. “Two shall be in the field, the one shall be taken, the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill, the one shall be taken and the other left. Watch therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.” From all these parables, it is clearly seen, that the disciples were admonished to watch for the coming of the Son of Man; that is, the coming of which they had inquired, and which is more clearly indicated by the parables of the virgins, the talents, and of the sheep and goats, in the following chapter; when he should come as the bridegroom long expected, to receive the bride and consummate the marriage; as the Lord to reckon with his servants; and as the crowned king to divide the nations of the earth as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.
“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins.” Then, at that time, when the Son of Man, as a Bridegroom, should thus suddenly be announced, then those faithful servants or disciples, like the wise virgins, should be manifestly distinguished from the foolish virgins. And why? The reason is thus given in the following parable: “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants.” As Christ was now about to go away, he had called his own servants, or disciples, and taught them privately on this subject. “And delivered unto them his goods. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.” Here, if we rightly understand the application of the parable, is described the manner in which God has set the members in the mystical body of Christ, even as it hath pleased him, and bestowed a measure of the Spirit to qualify each member for usefulness in the body, and all the gifts for the benefit of all the members, to profit with all, or for the profit of all “He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry.” “But to every one is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” These gifts in the church are not bestowed to suit the ambitious feelings or desires of the servants, but they are distributed according to the wisdom of the Lord, and according to the several ability of the disciples. In all this arrangement the Lord, and not the servant is magnified. It is the province of our Lord Jesus Christ to call, qualify and command the service of all his servants, and to furnish each servant with the exact amount of gift or talent that he pleases. And Timothy has not the right to say, Because I am not endowed with apostolic gifts and authority, my Lord is austere and unjust, or that he claims the right to reap where he has not sown, for the Lord does not require of Timothy a harvest of apostolic labors. Each disciple is required to be diligent in the exercise of such gifts as the Lord has bestowed on him.
Although Timothy cannot sit on one of the twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel, still he can be equally useful, according to the measure of the gift of Christ, in holding fast to the form of sound words, in committing the same that he had heard of the apostle, to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also, and in warring a good warfare. And so even in the present day, though some of us, as ministers of Jesus, may not have as great gifts as some others, or as our proud natures would desire, we are under the same obligation to improve such as we have, as though we were apostles or prophets. The same may be said of all the children of God, whether called to labor in the public administration of the word, to speak in exhortation, in prayer, in attending to the discipline and order of the church, or in whatever way God has graciously qualified us to be useful in the house of God. And still further we will say, that the child of God, though but a very child, weak and trembling, has no just cause to say, Because my Lord has not given me the amount of assurance that I think others possess, because he has not enabled me to triumph over all my fears and doubts, in regard to my hope in Christ, he is therefore an austere Master if he requires me to own his name in the ordinance of baptism, in taking a seat with his people in the church of God, and I shall be excused if I wrap up carefully in a napkin what little hope I have, and bury it in the earth. For every one who is born of God, in whose heart God has shed abroad his love, has a measure of the gift of Christ, and a capacity to be, to some extent, useful in the body. The hand cannot say to the foot, I have no need of thee, nor can the foot say, Because I am not the hand, therefore I am not of the body. The language of the slothful servant, it is to be feared is found in too many mouths at the present day. Preachers excuse themselves from devoting their time to their calling, on the plea that their gifts are so small when compared with the gifts of others, saying, We will hardly be missed if we apply ourselves to our farms, our shops or our worldly business, and thus hide what gift we have, in the earth; if God designed us for usefulness in the ministry, he would give us greater gifts, and not reap where he has not sown. To carry this short, simple, plain but emphatic message, “Yet forty days and Nineveh should be destroyed,” seemed quite unpleasant to the fretful prophet. But it was, nevertheless, a message from God, and quite as important that he should bear it, as any message that was ever sent to Israel by Isaiah or Jeremiah.
“I was afraid,” said the slothful servant. Afraid of what? Had not his Lord said, Occupy till I come? But he lacked confidence in his Lord; feared that he would require a greater amount of harvest than in proportion to what he had sown. And being afraid, he went and hid the talent in the earth. Will this be the language of any of us? Will the tardy convert say in extenuation of his disobedience to the commands of Christ, I was afraid thy grace would not be equal to my day, and so I declined to own thee in thy ordinances? Will the reluctant minister say, I was afraid that I should fail to make a creditable appearance, and my pride would be mortified, so I buried my gift in the earth? May the Lord deliver his dear children from such slothfulness, and constrain them all to obey him.
“His Lord answered and said, Thou wicked and slothful servant!” The excuse is insulting to the Master or Lord who supplied the talent. “Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.” Thus in the use of money, if it be not invested as capital for business, it may be so applied as at least to gain ordinary usury. But in regard to the gifts bestowed on the saints, we cannot let them out on usury; but still the figure is well calculated to admonish the slothful servants of Christ, that they are amenable to their divine Lord for their disobedience to his commands, and for their neglect of such gifts as he has bestowed on them.
The order given to take from him the one talent, and give it to him that has the ten, shows that the church of God must be supplied with edifying gifts; and if some, through sloth and disobedience, wickedly withhold their share of the service, those who are more faithful, shall supply the lack, and in doing so they shall learn That the willing and the obedient shall eat the good of the land, while the slothful and disobedient shall be cast into outer darkness, where many a disobedient child of God has been, and where they have found weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is strong language, but we believe it to be applicable to God’s children, who are delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (1 Cor. v. 5.)
Middletown, N. Y.
September 15, 1857.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 25 - 30