"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 of money, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey." [Mt 25:14-15]
When I was younger, I never quite understood what Jesus was teaching in The Parable of the Talents. This is because I was confusing the word talent as it was used in ancient times with the way the word is used today. In ancient times, a talent was a unit of money, but in modern times, the word means a natural ability in doing something.
Because I was confusing the two meanings, I always interpreted this parable to mean that people who didn’t use the natural abilities given to them by God, whether it be teaching, singing, leadership, organization, painting, writing, etc., would end up in hell. If they wanted to avoid the fate of the last man in the parable, whose stewardship greatly displeased the Lord, they had better get busy working for God.
But the Parable of the Talents is the story of three individuals who received the blessing of God’s grace upon their lives. Two men immediately acted on that grace and allowed their lives to be changed by it. The more they were transformed by God’s grace, the more fruitful in Him they became. The more fruitful they became, the more others were blessed by that fruit. These two individuals were able to reach their full potential in Christ, fulfilling God’s destiny for their lives.
The third man also received the blessing of God’s grace upon his life. He heard the Gospel message, and by the grace of God, he was able to understand and believe in it. But that’s as far as he would allow God’s grace to take effect in his life. At the end of the day, he simply would not commit himself to true discipleship in Christ. He was too weak, afraid, and unwilling to go all the way with God’s grace. He didn’t want to suffer, take up his cross, or live a life of self-denial. He didn’t want to cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit in his life so that his life could be transformed by God. He refused to give up his wrong priorities in order to embrace proper priorities. He wasn’t interested in a life of prayer and time spent studying God’s Word. He was afraid of persecution, and he refused to break away from his life of self-centeredness in order to live a Christ-centered life. For him, the cost of true discipleship was just too high, so he gave up altogether and refused to go any further with the grace that had been poured out upon his life. In the end, he received God’s grace in vain.
Whether we want to accept this sobering statement or not, the truth is that our church pews are filled with thousands like this poor man, who continue to receive God’s grace in vain. They hear the Word of God each week at Mass. They celebrate the Eucharist with the entire Church community. But as soon as the priest says, "The Mass is ended, let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord," they head out the door and return to living lives that are completely devoid of God.
Is it possible for someone to receive God’s grace in vain? Absolutely! The Sacred Scriptures are filled with warnings concerning this very thing. In his letter to the Corinthian Church, Saint Paul instructed the people as follows: "We urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain." [2 Co 6:1].
The book of Hebrews contains one of the strongest warnings against receiving God’s grace in vain. In it, we read as follows: "Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned." [Heb 6:7-8]. The first two men in the Parable of the Talents are the land that drinks in the rain of God’s grace often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to the Master for Whom it is farmed. In the end, they received the blessing of eternal life with God because they acted on His grace, which was continually being poured out upon their lives, and they were willing to go all the way with that grace. Their transformed lives reflected the Lord Jesus Christ, and the fruit of the Spirit was produced in their lives. Of them, the Lord said, "Well done, good and faithful servant....Come and share your Master’s happiness!" [Mt 25;21;23].
But what about the land that continued to produce thorns and thistles, remaining unchanged and utterly worthless to the Farmer in spite of the rain of God’s grace which continually fell upon it? Who is this individual? Is it not the final man in the Parable of the Talents? Instead of acting on God’s grace and going all the way with it, he simply buried it and walked away unchanged. Of him, Jesus uttered the following words, which should strike a holy fear in all of our hearts as we read them: "Throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." [Mt 25:30].
Brothers and sisters in Christ, while salvation is a free gift from God, the cost of true discipleship is high. True discipleship in Christ involves a whole lot more than many care to realize. Too many individuals who identify themselves as Christians are in danger of suffering the fate of the final man in Jesus’ Parable of the Talents, and they don’t even know it. Because they attend Mass on a weekly basis, they feel religiously comfortable and secure. Sitting in a church pew makes them feel like God matters a little in their lives, and if He matters a little, then that makes them good for Heaven. But Christ isn’t looking for pew-warmers; He’s looking for genuine disciples.
If we truly believe the things which Jesus is teaching in the Parable of the Talents, then there are millions of professing Christians who urgently need to repent. God is looking for sons and daughters who are willing to go all the way with the grace that is being poured out upon their lives. He’s looking for men, women, and young people who are willing to be completely transformed by Him so that they can achieve their full potential in Him.
Too many of our churches today are filled with men and woman whose lives are not being transformed in spite of the grace of God falling down all around them. They hear the Word of God, but don’t live according to it. They go up for Holy Communion without ever truly realizing the awesome price that was paid on Calvary for their sin. They sit in church pews and stare at Christ hanging from the cross, without ever realizing that they, too, are called to die on a cross.
We, who are no longer under the Mosaic Law, but under grace, need to examine our lives before God. What have we done with His grace, as it has been poured out upon our lives in its various forms? Is God truly the center of our daily lives? To what extent do we spend time with Him each day in prayer and study of the Scriptures? How are we dying daily to the desires of our flesh in order to live lives that are led by the Spirit? How are we becoming more like Christ? To what degree are we yielding to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives so that our lives are producing the fruit of the Spirit? How are we using our time, talent, and treasure for the Kingdom of God?
The tragedy plaguing our churches today is one of deception. Thousands of men, women, and young people profess to be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ when their lives are completely devoid of the fruits of genuine discipleship. They have been deceived by the evil one regarding the high cost of discipleship as well as the part they must play when it comes to cooperating with the grace of God in their lives. God pours out His grace upon us, but it is up to us to do something with that grace.
The man who buried what was entrusted to him didn’t even give God the minimum. By the grace of Almighty God, he heard the Word of Truth, understood it, and even believed in it, but that’s as far as his ‘commitment’ went. He didn’t act on that grace. He didn’t go any further with it. He wasn’t willing to go all the way with God’s grace to see where it would lead. It was much easier to simply ‘believe’ yet remain unchanged. In the end, the gates of Heaven were closed to him because he proved to be a poor steward of the measure of grace that was entrusted to him.
Our Master has gone on a long journey. We’ve been waiting for His return for over 2,000 years now, but we do not despair because we know that He will come. When He returns, He will call each of us before Him in order to settle accounts. In the day we stand before Him, the subject will not be our Mass attendance or intellectual belief in Him. The subject of discussion in that day will be our stewardship of the measure of God’s grace that was poured out upon our lives. What did we do with that grace in the few days we lived on the earth? How did we act upon it? In what way did God’s grace increase in our lives because we were willing to go all the way with it and weren’t afraid to see where it would lead?
If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, then God’s grace has been poured out upon your life. No one has been skipped over. God doesn’t give grace to some who are in Christ while passing over others who are equally in Christ. We cannot blame a poor harvest in our lives on the erroneous belief that God holds back on some while generously giving to others, for it is written: "To each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it." [Eph 4:7].
How can we know if God’s grace is taking effect in our lives? By simply examining our lives. To the extent that we are living obediently to the Word of God, becoming more and more like Jesus, and living lives that are producing the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 is to the extent God’s grace is taking effect in our lives. To the extent that we are dying to this world, living Christ-centered lives, and using our time, talent, and treasure for Christ and His Kingdom is to the extent we are going all the way with God’s grace and putting it to work in our lives. Anything less than this is sheer deception. We cannot allow ourselves to be deceived by the prince of darkness into believing that as long as we attend Mass and give back to God nothing more, all is well with our soul.
Truth be told, Satan is wreaking havoc in the Lord’s churches today because many have fallen for his lies and have allowed themselves to be duped. He whom Christ has called the father of lies has convinced many that as long as they attend Mass on Sunday, it matters not to God what they do with themselves or how they live during the rest of the week. By distracting and weighing men down with the cares, worries, anxieties, pursuits and pleasures of this life, he works relentlessly to keep them from grasping the knowledge that they’ve been entrusted with a measure of God’s grace and should be spending their days building upon that grace and working with it instead of worrying about insignificant earthly things that have no eternal value.
It’s time to wake up and listen to what Christ is saying to the Church in the Parable of the Talents. It is a sobering message that must not be taken lightly, for to do so, will result in eternal consequences. Let us heed the message in this parable, repenting if necessary, so that God’s grace upon our lives will not be received in vain. The time to settle accounts will soon be upon us. To the extent that we are working with God’s grace in our lives and going all the way with it is to the extent we will be ready to stand before the Lord in order to give him a worthy accounting.
He who has a listening ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.
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