On the Mount of Olives after forsaking the temple to the religious leaders who would have their spirit fill it rather than the Holy Spirit of God, Jesus has been warning His disciples of the need to be on the alert lest His coming overtake them in judgment as it was about to do to those who had rejected Him as their Messiah because He did not fulfill their expectations of a political savior to fulfill their worldly desires. Here in the Parable of the Talents, as in the Parable of the Faithful and Sensible Slave (Mat 24:45-51) He is emphasizing what it means for them to keep watch in terms of being faithful stewards to obediently fulfill the trust committed to them—again, in contrast to the religious leaders of the Jews who had buried the riches of God’s kingdom entrusted to them so that those riches became of no use to anyone, including themselves. After entrusting great quantities of His treasure to His servants (as God had done with the Jews), the Master in the parable went away, and then after a long time returned to settle accounts with them. Who does the parable say was first among the servants to come before the Master, and who was last? What does this remind us about the bold confidence that those have to appear before God who have been faithful to discharge the trust committed to them, and the fear and trepidation of those who have not? See 1Jo 2:28, 3:18-21, 4:16-18; cf. 1Ti 3:13.
What does the parable say that each of the first two servants first acknowledged as they came before the Master to settle accounts with Him? See Mat 25:20,22. How does this illustrate that the first step to becoming a faithful steward is an understanding and acknowledgement of what has been entrusted to us? As opposed to the baubles and trinkets of the world that are vain and passing away, have we come to understand the real eternal riches that are found in Christ Jesus, and how He has entrusted them to us to further His kingdom interests in the world in order that others may also come to know and experience the wealth of His kingdom? Cf. Pro 8:1-21. Do we acknowledge that we have been entrusted with such great riches, so that we are motivated by that acknowledgment to act upon it? Or do we in fact try not to think about what has been entrusted to us for fear of the responsibility that such thoughts bring? But think: do we not wish to be true citizens of God’s kingdom with all the rights and responsibilities thereof, and not slaves who must be told what to do and who can only do what they are told? Is this not what God’s kingdom is all about—being set free from the bondage of sin and even the tutelage of the law (Gal 3:23-25, 4:1-7) into the glorious liberty of the children of God, to mature, responsible sons of the kingdom and siblings of Christ upon whom God can count to manage His affairs? Cf. Eph 4:13,15. Behold how great and far-reaching is the salvation of God, and how high it exalts those who were once sunk down in sin! Is it possible for one to truly be free but to not have any responsibility? Or does the very nature of freedom also require a responsibility to use that freedom appropriately lest it degenerate back into bondage? See Joh 8:34-36, Rom 8:12-17, Gal 5:1,13, 1Pe 2:16.
In addition to their acknowledgment of what had been entrusted to them, what else did each of the first two servants say to their Master in the settling of accounts with Him? See again Mat 25:20,22. Was their account just aspiring talk about supposed gains they had made or hoped to make, or was there some substance and evidence to back up their words that they had to show Him? See Mat 25:16-17,20; cf. Jam 2:18. Did the gains they made just happen passively, or did they actively and purposefully work to attain those gains? Contrast Mat 25:27 and see Joh 14:12. What does this remind us about the nature of the gains we may make for God’s kingdom being much more than just good intentions and hopeful talk, but of a real substance that we really had a part in and can point to and say, “See what we’ve done with what you entrusted to us”? If the Lord returned right now to settle accounts with us, what could we point to as evidence for what we have done with the riches of His kingdom that He entrusted to us? At the end of our lives, what would we like to be able to point to as such evidence? What are we doing now to make those additional talents we might gain for Christ’s kingdom a reality?
Consider then what the parable teaches us about real gains for God’s kingdom that can be made by Christ’s disciples as an act of their own free will and efforts in service to their King, and the rights and responsibility He has entrusted to them to do so; does this diminish the importance of God’s grace in our salvation, as if everything good that happens must be by the direct action of God? In what way does it actually magnify the grace of God for the part He invites us to have as partners and fellow workers in the expansion of His kingdom? Cf. Mar 16:20, 1Co 3:6,9, 2Co 6:1, 2Pe 1:3-4. In what way was the servants’ acknowledgement of what had been entrusted to them an acknowledgment of that grace? Could they have accomplished anything on their own apart from what their Master had first entrusted to them? Cf. 1Jo 4:19. What do these things help us to understand about what it means to “grow up in all aspects into Him” (Eph 4:15), “to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13)? Contrast Heb 5:11-13.