In the Olivet Discourse Jesus has warned His disciples that they must keep watch lest they be swept away in the flood of destruction that would overtake the unbelieving Jews. They had rejected Him as their Messiah and the way of peace He came to provide, in favor of a worldly messiah who would provide them a worldly salvation. He is now expounding in a series of parables with both examples and non-examples of what it means to keep watch and be on the alert as faithful and sensible slaves of their Master. If they are to be like Jesus and serve Him they must also be about His Father’s business establishing His kingdom on earth; cf. Mat 6:10, Luk 2:49 and NAS text note. Here in the parable of the talents He likens His departure out of this world to a man who called His own slaves and entrusted to one five talents of His possessions, to another two and to another one, each according to his ability. He then “straightway” went on His journey to the Father without dilly-dallying in the affairs of the world. Likewise, the first two servants didn’t dawdle or idle away their time in the world, but immediately went to work in accordance with their Master’s wishes, for they understood that the opportunities to leverage their Master’s capital that had been entrusted to them would pass with time like the seasons of the year. Having been redeemed at great cost from an empty way of life that would end in despair, they didn’t think of their Master as a hard man; rather, they were mindful of His wishes and earnestly desirous of using their industry to further His interests in the world.
What does the manner in which the master entrusted to his slaves his possessions and then left them to their task teach us about Christ’s “management style”, and how it is different from so many of the taskmasters of this world? Does He micromanage the work of His disciples, demanding things be done in a certain way? Or does He simply provide them the broad principles of the gospel with the guidance and empowering of His Holy Spirit and grant them great freedom according to their own will and unique abilities to accomplish the task of establishing His kingdom on earth? Cf. Mat 11:28-30, 1Jo 5:3. What can we learn from His example about how to best manage others in order that both individuals and the larger organization of which they are a part can achieve their greatest potential?
What does the parable say that the first two slaves immediately did with their talents? See Mat 25:16-17. What does it mean that they traded with their talents? Notice that the word means that they set them to work and did business with them; cf. Luk 19:13. Again, Whose business were they about, and what sort of business was it? Were they in business for their own profit in the world, or for the profit of God’s kingdom? How is a tradesman with a stock of capital from a backer different from a common laborer who hires himself out to work for another? Contrast Luk 15:15, Joh 10:12-13. How does such business or trade require our own effort and the exercise of our own unique skills in addition to the capital provided by God if we are to realize a return on the investment entrusted to us for the furtherance of His kingdom? What do these things teach us about how God views those choice servants whom He has called to participate in His enterprise? Although they are slaves redeemed from another master and purchased with His own money to serve Him, does He count them as chattel to be managed after the manner of the taskmasters of this world, or more like partners, and free men—even members of His own royal family—whom He can count on to look after His interests in the world because they are bound to Him not by fear, but by their own love for Him? Cf. Joh 8:34-36, 15:13-15, Rom 8:15-17, Gal 4:5-7, Jam 2:23. Is this not what makes them choice in His sight?
In the world, what sort of time and energy and devotion is required for a person to become skilled in a trade? After learning a trade what is required to obtain an amount of capital to start a business, and then make that business successful in order to provide a living for himself as well as a profit for the one who provided him his capital? In the same way, can one be successful in the business of God’s kingdom if his interests are divided and he is lackadaisical and does not work hard and persevere, paying attention to the day-in, day-out mundane details of the business in order to overcome obstacles and become successful? Cf. 2Ti 2:4-6. In this light, what is the value of the various trades or a small business for helping people understand what is required to be successful in God’s kingdom? In what way did this ethos make America great in the past both materially and spiritually? In what way has that greatness waned as that ethos has also waned? What are the day-in, day-out mundane details of our heavenly business that we must observe in order to grow God’s kingdom?