Joke of the week
This one is for all our college students who have just completed final exams.
At Duke University, there were four sophomores taking Organic Chemistry. They were doing so well on all the quizzes, midterms and labs, etc., that each had an “A” so far for the semester.
These four friends were so confident that the weekend before finals, they decided to go up to the University of Virginia and party with some friends there. They had a great time, but after all the hearty partying, they slept all day Sunday and didn’t make it back to Duke until early Monday morning.
Rather than taking the final then, they decided to find their professor after the final and explain to him why they missed it. They explained that they had gone to UVA for the weekend with the plan to come back in time to study, but, unfortunately, they had a flat tire on the way back, didn’t have a spare, and couldn’t get help for a long time. As a result, they missed the final.
The professor thought it over and then agreed they could make up the final the following day. The guys were elated and relieved. They studied that night and went in the next day at the time the professor had told them. He placed them in separate rooms and handed each of them a test booklet, and told them to begin.
They looked at the first problem, worth five points. It was something simple about free radical formation. “Cool,” they thought at the same time, each one in his separate room, “this is going to be easy.” Each finished the problem and then turned the page.
On the second page was written: (For 95 points): Which tire?
As we anticipate a new year
Those who are not utter pessimists look forward to the new year with the hope that it will be better than the last and with a resolve to make it so, as much as in them lies. Here are two four-line quatrains from the Persian poet Omar Khayyam, who died almost exactly a thousand years ago. The first reminds us of words from Psalm 90 and the book of Ecclesiastes, the second reminds us of the life of Esau, twin brother of Jacob.
The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon, Turns Ashes–or it prospers; and anon, Like Snow upon the Desert’s dusty Face, Lighting a Little Hour or two–is gone.
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on; nor all thy Piety nor Wit, Shall lure it back to cancel half a line, Nor all thy Tears wish out a Word of it.
Two take aways from these verses: first, the things we strive for in this world, even if we achieve them, are too soon gone. Second, we can’t go back and undo the foolish and evil things we have done and said, no matter how bitterly we regret them. Omar Khayyam was a nominal Muslim but really believed in nothing beyond the grave; we know better. With reference to the first quatrain, we know that we can seek the kingdom of God, which does not light a little hour or two and then is gone; it is an eternal reward for those who are in Christ. With reference to the second quatrain, we know that while there may be temporal consequences to our foolish and sinful actions that will not be undone, God will forgive us whatever we have done for Christ’s sake and remember those sins no more.
A holiday break
This week I am not posting a special ad for the books I have for sale, since most of you will be spent out after Christmas. On the other hand, if you got some money for Christmas, go to the top of this page to Buying My Books and peruse what Saluda Press has to offer.
Parable of the Talents: Matt. 25:14-30
- Who does the man going on a journey represent?
- Who do the servants represent?
- What do the talents represent?
- What prompted the first two servants to invest the money entrusted to them?
- Why did the third servant not do what the first two did?
- What does the return of the man from his journey represent?
- What did the master praise about the first two servants?
- How does the master describe the third servant?
- What is meant by the unfaithful servant being cast into outer darkness?
Exposition of the Parable
Having studied over dozen parables of the kingdom up to this point, by now we should be able to recognize the man going on a journey as the Lord Jesus Christ, who ascended into heaven forty days after his resurrection. Also, we should have no trouble identifying the servants as members of the Visible Church. Considering the miserable end of the unfaithful servant, we cannot identify him as a member of the Invisible Church, one who has a living faith and is born again. But we have seen in several other parables that at the present time the kingdom of heaven contains both true and false Christians.
The master’s return represents the Second Coming of Christ, followed by the Last Judgment.
It is the identity of the talents that gives commentators difficulty; at least, they differ widely in their view of what the talents represent. Most believe they represent the gifts and abilities self-confessed Christians possess.
We should reject that interpretation. The Achilles heel of that view lies in the fact that the word talent did not mean the same thing in first-century Greek that is does in twenty-first century English. The Greek word talanton referred to a large sum of money, about 75 pounds worth of silver or gold. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the English word talent as “a special ability that allows someone to do something well.” Those who know only the English word will be prone to identify the talents received by the servants as gifts and abilities. That is not what the Greek word meant. The Greek word referred to something extremely valuable.
Other commentators believe the talents represent the Word of God or the gospel. I agree with the second interpretation. I believe Jesus told this parable to show the difference between saving faith and faith that does not save. The garment in the Parable of the Wedding Feast (see last week’s blog) represents faith in the gospel, and the oil in the Parable of the Ten Virgins represents persevering faith; in both cases, faith is what makes the difference between those whom Christ welcomes into his kingdom when he returns and those who are shut out.
So it is with the talents. They represent the Word of God, the gospel message, which we must believe to be saved. The Word of God is worth much more than 75 pounds of gold!
The Parable of the Talents brings out an aspect of faith that previous parables did not. Faith that proves itself in action is saving faith. The way the talents were handled by those who had them showed whose faith was genuine and whose was not.
The master praises the first two servants by calling them faithful. Faithfulness requires faith in its object, a faith that inspires loyalty and obedience. The first two servants had faith in their master’s fairness and put the talents to work for him.
On the other hand, if one doesn’t have faith or confidence in a person, is or her loyalty can’t be depended on. That person looks out for his or her own interests— if one doesn’t trust the master’s fairness, how can he or she be sure loyalty and obedience will be rewarded? If you don’t have faith or confidence in a person, obedience is reluctant. If present at all, it is motivated by fear rather than love. The fear of the third servant stemmed from unbelief.
The Letter or Book of James speaks of faith that shows itself by works. Consider this familiar passage:
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[a] is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. James 2:14-14-24
The works James refers to are not the use of our God-given talents or abilities, nor are they good works of charity and mercy and self-sacrifice. They are the works that show our faith and trust in our God and Savior. It is the faith that shows itself in action which is represented by the talents invested by the faithful servants.
The servants did not all receive the same number of talents. Presumably the master knew how much faith each one had. Some are given more faith than others, and God calls on them to exercise that greater faith (Romans 12:6, 1 Corinthians 12:9). Some have no real faith at all. The servant who received only one talent had no faith in his master’s goodness. He represents one who has been given the essentials of the gospel, but has no faith in its promises. That servant saw the master only as a hard man. He represents a person who fears God but does not trust him. His or her faith is the kind of faith the devils have (see above)! Such faith is not saving faith. Lack of saving faith is shown by fear and cowardice as well as by immorality:
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. Revelation 21:8
We have seen others whose faith was not saving faith in the Parable of the Wedding Feast and the Parable of the Ten Virgins. The kingdom of heaven contains both those who have saving faith and those whose faith is not genuine trust in Christ. What kind of faith do you have?