Use It or Lose It: The Parable of the Talents

The Parable of the Talents is the third parable about the kingdom of God in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 25:14-30). The parable focuses on the responsibility of disciples to serve the kingdom productively while the Lord is away. That is the main point of the parable—to serve the Lord with the resources he has given us before he comes.

14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The kingdom of God is about a man who entrusted his property to his servants while going on a journey. He expected his servants to grow his investments with them while he is away. It is not about the number of talents per servant. Rather, it is about how they made his money grow while he is out.

Again, the characters in the parable are figurative. The master going on a trip is the Lord Jesus Christ. The two servants with five and two talents are faithful disciples. The one servant with one talent refers to faithless or fake disciples. Faithless disciples are people who oppose God’s will. Fake disciples are people who claim to follow Christ but their lives don’t show it.

The talents represent God-given abilities and capabilities. The coming back of the master is the coming of Christ. The settling of accounts refers to Christ’s judgment of everyone at his coming. The reward of the master refers to the reward of Christ for faithful disciples. The judgment of the master refers to the judgment of Christ for fake disciples.

I’ve outlined the parable into five main points. Let us dig deeper into this parable and take note of its lessons.


It was a Historic Day

“For unto you is born this day” (Lk. 2:11). Jesus’ birth happened on a day in history. [1] It did not happen “once upon a time” in a fairy tale. It did not happen “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

Jesus’ birth happened when Cesar Augustus emperor of Rome issued a decree that everyone should be registered. It happened when Joseph went home to his hometown in Bethlehem. It happened “while they were there” in Bethlehem (v. 6).

It was a day that God had planned long before time began. It was a day that God had ordained in the eternal past. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law” (Gal. 4:4). It happened in the fullness of time.

“For unto us is born this day.”

[1] I have adopted and added to the general outline of the sermon of John Piper, “A Savior is Born. Glory to God, Peace to Man!” Cited December 16, 2017. Online:

Pondering Christmas

In the first Christmas, the angel of the Lord announced the good news of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds. In turn, the shepherds shared the news to Joseph and Mary. Luke wrote, “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk. 2:19). The verb “pondered” (sumballo) means “think about seriously (LU 2.19).” (Friberg) Today, we will ponder the first Christmas. I hope that you will think seriously about the first Christmas.

I’d like to us to ponder nine things about the first Christmas in Luke 2:8-20.

  1. It is unto You

“For unto you” (v. 11). The angel didn’t say, “For unto Mary was born this day.” He said, “for unto you.” Christmas, the birth of Jesus, is for you and me. It was for the shepherds and for every sinner in the world.

The angel didn’t announce Jesus’ birth to the High Priest in Jerusalem. He didn’t announce it to the politicians of Jerusalem. He didn’t announce Jesus’ birth to the high and mighty in society. Instead, he announced it to the lowly, the shepherds.

The shepherds were poor and uneducated.  They were the unimportant and irrelevant outcasts of society. It means that Jesus came for the poor and the powerless. “Jesus said, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor’” (Lk. 4:18).

Are you poor and powerless? There’s a church in Cebu that wants to disciple the “influencers” only. They do not plant churches among the poor and the “non-influencers.” But Jesus came to the poor and the powerless.

In GGCF, we do not discriminate between the influencers and the non-influencers. We disciple both rich and poor, educated and uneducated, and powerful and the powerless. There is no rich or poor in Christ Jesus.

Do you lack influence in society today? Are you poor and powerless like the shepherds? Jesus came first for people like you!

“For unto you.”

The Problem of Thanklessness

Luke added, “Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner’” (Lk. 17:17-18)? Jesus was asking, “Was no one of the nine Jews found to praise God except this Samaritan, this foreigner?” The word “foreigner” is used in the sign in the Temple in Jerusalem that disallowed the entry of foreigners. (J. Nolland) A foreigner is an outsider. He is outside of the covenant of God with Israel and outside of the community of God.

The nine Jews should have turned back to Jesus. But only this foreigner turned back. The nine Jews should have praised the Lord their God. But only this foreigner praised God. The nine Jews should have worshiped God. But only this foreigner worshiped God. The nine Jews should have thanked Jesus. But only this foreigner thanked Jesus.

This is the problem of thanklessness. More people are not grateful to God. Sometimes, church people do not thank Jesus gratefully. It takes a foreigner, an outsider, a new follower of Christ, to praise God loudly, to worship Jesus fervently and to thank Him gratefully.

If Israel will not give thanks to her God, God will seek the thanksgiving of those outside of Israel. In Acts, we see the conversion of Samaritans to Jesus. We see the work of the Spirit in reaching various peoples with the Gospel. Our God is a missionary God. He seeks and saves people from every tribe and tongue. He is concerned with the Samaritan, the Somalian, and the South African. In Revelation, John saw people from every tribe, tongue, and nation who stood before the throne and worshiped the Lamb (Rev. 7:9).

Let us overcome the problem of thanklessness by making new disciples who will worship God. Let us join God in His work of bringing people from every nation to Christ.

A Pronouncement of Physical Healing

Luke wrote, “When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed’” (Lk. 17:14). Earlier, a leper was healed before Jesus told him to go to the priest (Lk. 5:14). Here, the 10 lepers were healed after Jesus told them to go to the priests. Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests. After the priests check them and declare them to be healed, they can go back to society.

The 10 lepers obeyed Jesus’ command. Their obedience to Jesus shows their faith in Jesus. They took Jesus at His word. When they went off to the priests, they were not yet healed. Hence, they went on the assumption that they will be healed when they face the priests. It was an assumption of faith.

Luke writes that “as they went, they were cleansed” (v. 14). The verb “cleansed” refers to the cleansing of healing. As they went, they were healed of their scaly skin. They were cleansed of their skin inflammation. It happened as they went, as they acted on Jesus’ command.

That is what happens when we act on Jesus’ word by faith. When Jesus tells us to do something, we must act on it. We must obey Jesus’ word by faith. When Jesus says, be baptized, you should obey His command and be baptized. When Jesus leads you to go and tell someone the Gospel, you should go and do it. When Jesus commands us to go and make disciples of all nations, we should go and do it by faith.

As we act on Jesus’ word, we must expect Jesus’ power. Expect Jesus to do something powerful along the way.

William Carey wrote, “Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God.”

Buying an apartment building for the church is a great thing to do. The cost is Php 23,000 monthly for 10 years. Six years, ago, we decided to buy the apartment. It was an act of faith. We trusted God for the pledges to help pay it. Now, we only have 4 years to go to pay for it.

Starting GGCF Bacolod and Toledo is a great thing to do. It means supporting 3 pastors and starting 17 small groups. Now we have 4 worship times, 19 small groups, and 80 worshipers in Bacolod and Toledo. Yesterday, Pastor Julius told me that he was teaching 8 small groups weekly in Toledo, ministering to 72 people. That is happening right now in Toledo because of your support.

Despite paying for 1 apartment building and supporting a total of 5 pastors and 4 congregations, we do not have a deficit in 2017. God has supplied our needs. Glory to God!

When we act on Jesus’ word by faith, we must expect Jesus to show His power in the process.

A Word of Thanksgiving and Salvation

Today, we celebrate Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving every November is an American tradition. Yet we celebrate Thanksgiving because it is good to give thanks to the Lord. “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever” (1 Chron. 16:34)!

As I thought about a Thanksgiving sermon, I always remember the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers. Do you know that whenever you remember someone or something several times, the Lord might be telling you something? I believe the Lord has been leading me to preach the story in Luke 17:11-19.

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

The healing of the ten lepers is “Christo-centric.” It demonstrates the power of Jesus to heal the sick. It is also “salvific.” It is a wonderful story of thanksgiving and salvation. Luke tells us how someone’s faith in Jesus has saved him.

We learn five words of pronouncement in this story.

A Plea for Mercy (vv. 11-13)

The word for “lepers” (lepros) means “scaly, scabby.” (Friberg) It is a kind of skin disease like psoriasis, causing scaly skin. (R. Stein) Leprosy was a horrible disease in biblical times. It was horrible because it makes them look ugly and undesirable. It was terrible because of how people treat them. People feared, snubbed, and avoided lepers. In turn, lepers felt pain and rejection. They had no family, no home, no job, and no village.

The Law requires lepers to stay away from people (Num. 5:2-3). To get back to the community of Israel, an Israelite priest must declare them clean (Lev. 14:1-32).

So these lepers “stood at a distance” (v. 12). They were asking Jesus to have mercy on them, to heal them.

Have you experienced that with Jesus? You were carrying a heavy load of problems. You didn’t know what to do and who to turn to. You were so desperate that you called on the Lord. You said, “Lord, have mercy on me.”

Faithlessness Betrays Unbelief and Brings Punishment

Jesus said, “The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites” (Matt. 24:50-51). The master will come at an unexpected time. If the bad servant is unfaithful to his master, he will be unprepared for his master’s coming. When his master finds him living a self-serving life, he will judge him.

The master will “cut him in pieces” (dichotomeo), literally means, “cut in two.” (Gingrich) The Greek is where we get our English word “dichotomy.” Don’t forget that this is a parable, having no literal fulfillment. The point is that the master will punish him greatly.

Then his master will put him with the “hypocrites.” In Matthew, the hypocrites are religious people who do not practice what they preach. Jesus said,

They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues  7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. (Matt. 23:4-7).

 Why would the master put the bad servant with the hypocrites? The reason is that faithlessness is hypocrisy. By being faithless, the bad servant has become a hypocrite himself.

Then Jesus said, “In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v. 51). That place is hell. In hell, there will be plenty of hypocrites. There, people will be weeping and gnashing their teeth. It may be due to their anger for their punishment (Davies and Allison). Even in hell, people may blame God. Most likely, however, I think they will weep and gnash their teeth out of remorse. They will blame themselves for their hypocrisy. (Schwank) In hell, people will regret deeply how they have rejected Christ. They will bemoan how many times they did not obey God’s Word. They will bewail how many times they rejected the kingdom of God.


The unfaithful servant proves that he is not a follower of Christ. But the faithful servant proves that he is a Christ-follower. Those who trust and serve Christ will receive their reward. However, those who reject Christ and serve themselves will be thrown into hell.

How then can we get ready for Jesus’ coming? Jesus said,

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”  (Lk. 21:34-36)

Since Jesus will come unexpectedly, you must be ready. Readiness is doing your assigned job now. Readiness is living for Christ and not for yourself now. So that when He comes, He will find us faithful.

Unreadiness Means Serving Yourself While Not Expecting His Coming

Then Jesus said, “But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed’” (Matt. 24:48). The adjective “wicked” (kakos) means “bad . . . morally, of persons characterized by godlessness evil, bad (MT 24.48).” (Friberg)

What makes him a bad servant? He is faithless in his heart. In v. 48, “to himself” (en te kardia autou) literally reads, “in his heart.” The bad servant says in his heart that his master is delayed. So he engages in bad behavior. Bad behavior stems from a bad heart.

He “begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards” (Matt. 24:49). He maltreats his fellow servants. By maltreating his servants, he disobeys his master’s commands. He eats and drinks with drunkards. By eating and drinking with drunkards, he is being irresponsible. By being drunk, he is not alert to the coming of the master.

Paul uses the picture of drunkenness vs. alertness in waiting for the coming of the Lord.

6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. (1 Thess. 5:6-8)

We are children of the day. Therefore, we should not sleep but be awake and be sober. Those who get drunk belong to the night. But we do not belong to the night. Thus, we should not get drunk but be alert for the coming of the Lord.

In effect, the bad servant is unfaithful to the master; but the good servant is faithful. The bad servant does not do his assigned job diligently; but the good servant does it well. The bad servant is unmindful of the coming of his master; but the good servant is vigilant.

Faithfulness Brings Happiness and Reward

Jesus said, “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes” (Matt. 24:46). The word “blessed” (makarios) means “happy, with the implication of enjoying favorable circumstances.” (Louw-Nida) The faithful servant will experience happiness when his master comes and finds him faithful. The master will commend and reward him.

When Jesus comes, He will bless those who have served Him well. He will cause all happiness in their hearts. He will make them experience joy unspeakable.

Jesus added, “Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions” (Matt. 24:47). The reward of responsibility is greater responsibility. At first, the master gave the servant charge over his household. Now, the master gave the servant charge over all his possessions.

Since Jesus is talking about His coming, then the reward will be bigger responsibilities in the coming kingdom age. I can imagine that Christ will give faithful servants the bigger job of handling a city, province, or even a whole country. Some of you may be assigned to do bigger jobs in the millennial kingdom of Christ.

If you are faithful in little, you will be faithful in much. If you are diligent with the little things, God will reward you with greater responsibility over greater things.

Readiness Means Serving Christ While Expecting His Coming

As in the days of Noah, people will be unaware of Christ’s coming. One of two men will be taken from the field; and one of the two women, from the mill. As the thief in the night is unexpected, so will be the coming of Christ. Therefore, we should stay awake and be ready for His coming (Matt. 24:36-44).

To illustrate the need to prepare for His coming, Jesus told the Parable of the Faithful Servant vs. the Faithless Servant (vv. 45-51). In the parable, we see also the characteristics and consequences of faithfulness vs. faithlessness.

Readiness is Faithfulness.

Jesus said, “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time” (Matt. 24:45)? The master is Christ Himself. The master assigns his faithful and wise servant a job. Likewise, Christ has assigned each of us believers a job to do for Him. The master will come to his household unexpectedly. Similarly, Christ will come again unexpectedly.

The servant’s job is to supervise the master’s household. The master has other servants in the household. The servant’s job is to give them their food at the proper time. He is to provide for their needs.

Since the master’s coming is unknown and unexpected, the servant prepares for His coming. He performs on his job diligently. He feeds the other servants under his care. He provides for them at the proper time. He expects his master to come at any moment. He is busy doing his job when his master comes.

Who then is the faithful and wise servant, Jesus asks. The faithful and wise servant is every Christ-follower whom Christ the master has assigned a job. The faithful servant is one who performs his job faithfully while expecting His coming.

Have you trusted Christ as your Savior? Are you following Christ today? Then Christ has called you to serve Him.

Has Christ called you to teach? Then you should teach faithfully. Has Christ called you to encourage others? Then encourage others passionately. Has Christ called you to tell the Gospel to others? Then tell the Gospel diligently.

That is how we prepare for Christ’s coming. Readiness for the coming of Christ means faithfulness to Christ.