In the parable of the talents Jesus is warning His disciples what it means to keep watch as faithful stewards of the manifold riches of His grace entrusted to them, lest they too be swept away to destruction as was about to happen to the unbelieving Jews who proved unfaithful stewards of God’s heavenly treasures. As in the parables of the vineyard (Isa 5:1-7, Mat 21:33-45), the Master in this parable provided His servants a situation by which they could participate in His enterprise and share in the reward of His venture. And similar to the fullness of time in which Jesus appeared to the Jews at His first coming (Gal 4:4), in this parable Jesus says that after a long time He will return to settle accounts with those servants to whom He entrusted His gospel treasures. At that time, those good servants who faithfully fulfilled His charge will come, and for their faithfulness in a few things (relative to even greater heavenly things, for even a talent is a great amount) He will put them in charge of many things. In this way those servants will also share in the richness of His own joy as fellow participants in His creative acts in the world to establish a kingdom of righteousness, similar to the way that men may share in the joy of God’s original creation by being fruitful and multiplying and tending the garden of His delight.
Who does the parable say came last to settle accounts, and what did he report? See Mat 25:24-25. With what same title did this servant address the man, as did the first two servants? Cf. Mat 25:20,22. Although he called him Master, in what way was the man not his master in the same sense that he was the master of the first two servants? See Luk 6:46 and notice also that the NAS master is the same word translated elsewhere as Lord; cf. Mat 7:21-22, 25:11-12. Whereas the first two servants had come to know their master as gracious and generous so that their relationship with him was one of love and gratitude for which they willingly served Him and entered into His joy as a result, how had this servant come to know him, and what was his resulting relationship to him? What did he mean that he knew him to be a hard man? Cf. the similar parable of the Ten Minas in Luk 19:21 where a different word is used that is translated exacting or austere, and means severe in the sense of being strict or rigid. The word used here is even more negative and means harsh or even cruel; it is the word used in the LXX for the hard labor and cruel bondage with which the Egyptians harshly treated the Israelites (cf. Exo 1:14, 6:9, Deut 26:6). It is also the word used to describe Nabal in 1Sa 25:3.
What is the significance that hard is also the word used to describe how Joseph spoke to his brothers who had sold him into slavery when they appeared before him in Egypt to buy grain (Gen 42:7,30)? Although as a consequence of their sins they at first supposed him to be harsh, how had God ordained for him to become their savior? Cf. Gen 45:5 where Joseph in the LXX uses the same word to say, “Now then be not grieved, and let it not seem hard to you that ye sold me hither, for God sent me before you for life.” I.e., although they perceived him as such, it wasn’t actually Joseph who was hard, but their own hearts, which hardness prevented them from seeing the salvation that God had provided for them through him; cf. Gen 37:6-8,19-20. How was that like the Pharisees and unbelieving Jews in their relationship to Jesus? Cf. Jdg 2:19 and Isa 48:4 where the same word is translated as stubborn or obstinate, as well as Joh 6:60, Act 26:14, and Jud 1:15 for the same word in the New Testament. See also Mat 23:37, Rom 10:21, and how Jesus pictured this hardness among His people in the prodigal son’s older brother, Luk 15:25-30. Consider then the irony that this servant in the parable perceived his master to be a hard man, when in fact it was his own heart that was hard. As a result, he could not see the great reward which the master had set before him and the joy into which he had invited him, so that he refused to come and be a participant in His Master’s venture. How is that like many today in their relationship to God? What does this remind us about the terrible, deceitful nature of sin, and why sin is so sinful?
For what reasons did the third servant say that he knew his master to be a hard man? See Mat 25:24, and notice that the NAS “gathering where you scattered no seed” is perhaps misleading; it supplies the word seed to make the statement parallel “reaping where you did not sow”, but the word scatter is not that used for scattering seed when planting, but for scattering chaff to the wind at the time of harvest when the grain is winnowed and then gathered into the barn; cf. Mat 3:12. Hence the word is used throughout the LXX for the Jews being scattered in judgment among the nations; see Eze 5:2,10,12 and Luk 15:13, 16:1 where wealth and possessions were being scattered to the wind and it is translated as squandered; cf. the KJV strawed in Mat 25:24.
In what sense do God’s true servants sow in order that their Master may reap? Cf. 1Pe 1:23, Mat 28:19-20, 1Co 3:6, 4:15, etc. In what sense do they straw as with a winnowing fork, sifting the hearts of men, separating the wheat from the chaff, so that the chaff are scattered to the wind, in order that the Lord may gather the wheat into His barn? See Mat 23:34-35 and the effect of Stephen’s example on the unbelieving Jews and especially Paul in Acts 7-9. How does such sowing and winnowing only happen through speaking the truth?