Talents and Virgins: Matthew 25
Matthew 25 continues the teachings of Jesus about His return. His focus is on the unknown nature of the timetable. First, He uses parable about the arrival of a bridegroom. Revelation 21 and Ephesians 5 both highlight that Jesus is the Bridegroom and the Church is His bride, and this parable suggests that the Bridegroom will come after a delay.
The next parable is the Parable of the Talents, showing a man on a journey who entrusted his servants with a portion of his wealth. They were to take care of his property while he was gone. Some did. At least one did not. The master returned and rebuked the one who did nothing.
After these parables, Jesus comes straight out and talks about what will happen when He returns. This is the judgment where the ‘sheep and goats’ are separated (Matthew 25:32). The deciding factor is not appearance or opinion, but action.
Take a look at Matthew 25:21 and 23. Notice the statement of reward has two aspects. The first is that the faithful servant is permitted “to enter into the joy of your master.” One should note that the joy belongs, still, to the master. In this case, the master should be seen as the Master of All, the Lord Jesus Christ. Joy is His to command, and His to share. Throughout this chapter, the idea repeats: at a wedding, the joy is the groom’s. And the end warning is the same: some will join in His joy. That joy will be everlasting, just as God is everlasting.
The second reward is this: more work. The one who has been faithful with a few things, the Master will entrust with many things. Now, an important side note: a “talent,” per the NASB footnote, was worth about 15 years’ wages for the average worker. So, for the first servant, his “few things” amounted to about 75 years’ worth of income.
That’s a Biblical concept of “few.” Keep that part in mind. The second side of this is that the faithful ones are rewarded with more work to do. The difference being that this is joyful work at the side of the Master Himself, rather than alone.
Practically, first of all, there is this: again, we see a warning not to slack off with obedience as we wait on the return of Jesus. That alone is worthwhile. Do not be foolish in thinking that He is not coming. Or in thinking that you can plan your life around a date you have determined.
Second, there is this: whatever opportunities God gives you, be faithful with them. Been trusted with a house? Use it faithfully for Christ. Been given a job? Use it faithfully for Christ. And no matter how “big” your stuff here is, remember that 75 years’ wages was a little thing for the parable. How much more is anything else we have than that?
A running debate can be had in the final section of this chapter. When Jesus commands care for the poor, needy, etc., does He do so for all those in need or specifically for those who are believers in Him? Some take the “these brothers of Mine” to refer the command to the church for the church. Others suggest the universal brotherhood of humanity.
I would suggest that the need to provide “within the family” does not exclude reaching outward as well. The two groups are not exclusive, especially given that the family of faith grows through our proclamation of Christ as Lord.
The second question from this passage…can someone be saved and not know it, for their good works reveals it to Christ and not them, and can someone think they are saved by their faith but their lack of works revokes it?
This is where understanding all of Scripture matters. Works do not save—the grace of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus saves. Works, though, reveal faith. That is what we see in James. Some will be surprised by God’s rewards in eternity, not realizing that He counts doing for others as doing for Him.
Others will realize that having opposed God’s people, He has taken personally as well. And that should be terrifying.