"I remind you that you should stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands." (2Ti 1:6)
All Christians shall be acquainted with the fact that Jesus Christ employed them in the service of the saints in the same manner as a hypothetical ruler who on a certain occasion put in charge his servants to the office of treasure bearers and traders while he was on a journey. However, some of us may not be certain or might be taught differently of the rule of divine employment. “And now, dear children, continue in union with Him; so that, if He re-appears, we may have perfect confidence, and may not shrink away in shame from His presence at His Coming,” (1Joh2:28). The will of God is that we shall not stumble in disobedience but walk in conformity with the truth which He has called us; otherwise we drift away.
It is very likely that right before the Passion Week the Lord had laid emphasis on the teaching of the “Last Things” that includes the Parable of the Talents – our primary agenda in this morning. The parable challenges us to live daily in preparation for the great judgment of the living and the dead with a focus on faithful obedience to Christ, our Lord and King. The nearness of the time for the fulfillment of the Divine purposes can be observed with many evidences. Today we detected the smell of burning sulphur accompanying with the innumerable clouds of demons as the Doomsday Clock three minutes left until the midnight. The certainty of the court proceedings over the living and the dead should be taken for granted by all men as a thing about which there could be no doubt. On the other hand, we were called not for condemnation but as heirs of eternal bliss being instructed by Word of how to succeed the use of the spiritual treasure with the help of the Holy Spirit through our effort. And the foremost purpose of this presentation is that we would be watchful, good motivated, and faithful followers for the Master‘return!
It is reasonable to begin a lesson with reciting the Parable of the Talents; and so we are prone to do. It says that the kingdom of heaven is like a master who has gone away on a long journey. In his farewell, he had dispensed the silver of his storehouse to the servants respecting their personal aptitudes. The master had hoped that his people would run the hole show as best they could in his interest. So, he left, but when the work of his trade completed, he returned and immediately settled an inquiry of how well the servants employed his treasury. It turned out that one who had received five talents of silver doubled it. The master praised him, “Come and join in your master’s happiness!” he said. The one who received two talents also doubled them, and he was praised. At last the one who had received one talent came forward and said, ‘I knew you were a hard man. You harvest where you didn’t plant and gather where you didn’t sow seed. I was afraid, so I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here! Take what belongs to you!’ ‘You wicked, lazy servant!’ said the master, ‘So you knew, did you, that I harvest where I haven’t planted and that I gather where I didn’t sow seed? Then you should have deposited my silver with the bankers, so that when I returned, I would at least have gotten back interest with my capital! Then the ruler gave order to strip that servant of his dignity including the talent. At the end, the fearful announcement was made that the useless servant was about to be cast into the darkest valley of wailing and grinding teeth. What a wrecked end of a man whose faith was not accompanied by obedience to the Word of God! (Jam 2:26). Then, shall we escape the same doom if we consciously neglect the warning spoken through our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ? (Heb 2:3). Must we, like useless servant, go through holocaust before we will listen to God’s words? Consider what God tells us today, and let us obey Him before time runs out.
At first glance, the identity of the master of the parable leaves no doubt with respect to our Lord Jesus Christ. Regarding the servants of the household, they are substitute for the believers who were received into God’s family by baptism. Concerning the ‘talents‘, they are something very valuable in God’s sight; but they are not stacks of bills for the reason that money is not a part of the heavenly treasure. To proof this statement we recall Jesus’ saying, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” (Mat 22:21). And here it is what Peter said to the lame beggar who asked him for alms, ” … I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”( Act 3:6). Another misinterpretation considers the talents as a mixture of spiritual, intellectual and physical abilities. Is that so? how did it come about that even among ignorant we saw people who can play a guitar or criticize? In the meantime, the master of the parable gave his treasure exclusively to his servants; and secondly, according to their abilities. In the case of servants’ abilities, we even do not need an interpreter for its literal meaning that is skills or natural talents of men. The next object of interpretation is the master’s return; it relates to a judicial proceeding of the second Advent, (Mt 25:31,32). This proceeding is a figurative imagery of the final Judgment reaffirmed also in (Rev 20:11-14). The show of Event disproves the false conception of the universal bliss of eternal life for all human races and plays in one accord with the teaching of the parable where rewards and punishments are the only two options in life. That is a reward for servants who make good use of the master’s treasure, or a punishment for servants as a result of their habitual guilt to make the use of given talents by personal efforts.
We believe that the dispensation of the ‘talents’ began in AD 33 signified with the signs of descending of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Jesus Christ, (Acts 2:1-4); yet, predicted through the prophet Joel, (Joe 2:28-32). On that Pentecostal Day many Jews in the temple had responded to the gospel message proclaimed by inspired Peter. They repented in tears and crying of distress and have been baptized into Christ with water. ” …. There were added that day about three thousand souls,” ” … and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles,” (Act 2:41, 43). The following wonders were not less than demonstration of the use of the spiritual gift received by the apostles and other believers after them. Here we list shortly a number of wonders pertaining to the movement. It says that the new baptized joyfully followed the teaching of righteousness and had fellowship with the saints. They separated themselves from the world that crucified the Messiah Jesus. They wished to have all things in common. Therefore, the owners and the rich among the believers began selling their possessions and properties offering the prize to the apostles who distributed to all who had needed. They participated in the breaking of bread and prayers. The new disciples praised and worship God in Christ Jesus together; they had broken bread in their homes receiving their food with glad and generous hearts. These all together is the wonderful picture of use of the spiritual gift in cooperation with divine grace.
At this moment, let us puzzle out a factor of bringing people together and cardinal changing of their posture. For this study, we look at Act 2:38 that says, ” …. Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” With focus on the original word ‘δωρεαν’ translated in English as a ‘gift’ the lexicon emphasizes the notion of giving something for free of charge, out of any men’s merits, or work of self-righteousness. Another grasp of the word ‘gift’ is, that ‘gift’ is the Holy Spirit Himself. In this instance, it embodied the conception of the divine ‘Counselor’ and ‘Helper,’ in Greek “παράκλητος” (Joh 14: 16,17,26) according to what Jesus Christ said about the Holy Spirit. Those of us who are aware of appearing before Christ as the good servants, the ‘gift’ of the Holy Spirit is seemed absolutely vital, for apart from Him we can do nothing, (Joh 15:5). Therefore, the Holy Spirit is the key point for realization of our efforts.
1Co 12:4 says that there are diversities of gifts (sub-gifts) in the Church, but the same Spirit who is a ‘Gift’ Himself. Within (1Co 12:8-10) there is a list of sub-gifts: the word of wisdom; the word of knowledge; faith; gift of healing; working of miracles; prophecy; discerning of spirits; different kinds of languages; the interpretation of languages. The ‘talents’ of the parable can be ascribed with certainty to the sub-gifts of the Holy Spirit listed above. From the parable, it is clear that by means of given talents (the sub-gifts of the Holy Spirit) the servants have to bring forth profits – the additional ‘ talents’. The additional ‘ talents’ of the parable we prescribe to ‘fruits of righteousness’ or ‘fruits of the Holy Spirit.’ Please don’t mess up the ‘gift of the Holy Spirit’ with the ‘fruits of the Holy Spirit.’
Now we lunch out into an illustration based on Act 9:36-43 that helps see better the wood for the trees. The passage narrates the resurrection of a Christian woman known to us as Tabitha. Once the community of widows supplicated the apostle Peter to come to them urgently on the occasion of death their sister in Christ. As the apostle arrived, he went up into the room where the dead body of Tabitha was prepared for a burial. There Peter knelt down and prayed. Then, turning to the dead, he said her as she would be sleeping, “Tabitha, get up!” The woman opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up.”
The provided miracle displays one of the highest points of use the ‘gift of healing‘ carried out by the apostle. In fact, the resurrection of the woman has produced the unending joy of hearts, strengthening of faith, prayers of thanksgiving, inflaming of holy love within, and so on. These dignities correspond to the fruits of the Holy Spirit according to (Gal 5:22,23), – the distinguishing characteristic of God’s kingdom among Christians, (Rom 14:17). Therefore, where the parable says of ‘talents’ made due to servants’ trade, the meaning has to be the implementation of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, – the Peter’s case in point.
But what about Tabitha, who was the ordinary Christian, did her trade make a profit in contrast to the useless servant of the parable? Unlike the trade of the unfaithful servant who did not care how to help or benefit his brothers in Christ, woman’s ability of making coats and garments for the people of her community made her day. The result of her trade produced love of those to whom she served. The (v. 39) says that the widows of that community were weeping on occasion of Tabitha’s death; they had sent urgently for Peter; definitely they prayed and hoped that the Lord could do miracle through their brother Peter. Therefore, even with much less effort than Peter’s, the woman’s acts of mercy and good works (v.36) had produced love of hearts that is the foremost fruit of the Holy Spirit. Tabitha is seemed such a good helper that with entire confidence we can identify her ‘talent’ or ‘sub-gift’ of the Holy Spirit as a ‘helper’, (1Co 12:28-31 ). The Lord has entrusted Tabitha the care for the poor just as she was. We conclude that the woman had cheerfully employed her talent such as ‘helper’ according to her ability, and by this talent she put in motion her natural skill making profit on her own account.
Now, get a hint of how Christians of old used their talents/sub-gifts to make Christendom at large. With this in mind, we looked for a Christian who would be well worth of imitation; and on the other hand, who can be a suitable figure for this discourse. While reading “The Prayer Book of the Early Christians,” we encountered the prayer ascribed to the apostle Barnabas, the closest coworker of the apostle Paul. And, by fixing our eye on this character, we found the best description of it in Act 4:36 that is “The son of exhortation.” In other words, “the son of the Holy Spirit,” for ‘ exhortation ‘ is very nature of the Holy Spirit who brings peace and comfort to worried consciences. So Barnabas did, the evangelist Luke described him as “a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and of faith,” (Act 11:24).
The book of Acts and Tradition keep a record of Barnabas as the good servant of Christ holding in high regard by the apostolic Church. For example, his name is placed first in the list of prophets and teachers belonging to the Church at Antioch, (Act 13:1). For now we just provide his prayer that well reflects on the teaching of “the parable of the Talents.” Here it is, “O Lord God Almighty, who hast built Thy Church upon the foundation of the Apostles, under Christ the head corner-stone, and to this end didst endue Thy holy apostle St. Barnabas with the singular gift of the Holy Ghost; leave me not destitute, I humbly beseech Thee, of Thy manifold gifts and talents, nor yet of grace to make a right use of them always without any sordid self-ends, to Thy honor and glory; that, making a due improvement of all those gifts Thou graciously entrust me with, I may be able to give a good account of my stewardship when the great Judge shall appear, the Lord Jesus Christ, who reigns with Thee and the Eternal Spirit, one God, blessed forever. Amen.
At this prayer Barnabas praised the Lord for the singular gift of the Holy Spirit. His recognition of the Gift sounds in one accord with (Act 2:38) where it says that all who have believed and baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit. The practical application to this point is that all Christians become accountable to Christ for the Holy Spirit given them in their baptism or on some other occasion. Also at his prayer Barnabas expresses his concern of the rightly use of the manifold gifts and talents, adding – “without any sordid self-ends.” That is to serve fairly to the spiritual and physical needs of God’s people. So we are, to be willing to follow the characters like Peter, Paul, Barnabas, Tabitha and clouds of other saints, may become heirs of the promises through faith in Christ Jesus.
As it was mentioned already, the very nature of the Holy Spirit is to counsel and help. Those of us who serve God’s people by their sub-gifts / talents also have guidance and support from the Holy Spirit. He instructs and opens our mind to understand how to make a right use of the gifts; by wonderful ways He helps us to perform a duty of God’s stewards with profit, since apart of Him we cannot act wisely and successfully, (Joh 15:5). But let us keep in mind a short rule, “do faithfully what you can and trust God to do the rest.” Finally, the only way to escape the dreadful sentence of all the wicked and slothful servants is to put in good use our talents according to our ability and work by them diligently as the day of Master’s return is nearing. (Jam 2:26).
Grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all the faithful.