Oswald Chambers talks about the parable of the talents in this way:
Jesus told the parable of the talents recorded in Matthew 25 as a warning that it is possible for us to misjudge our capacity. This parable has not to do with natural gifts, but with the Pentecostal gift of the Holy Ghost. We must not measure our spiritual capacity by education or by intellect; our capacity in spiritual things is measured by the promises of God. If we get less than God wants us to have, before long we will slander Him as the servant slandered his master: “You expect more than You give me power to do; You demand too much of me, I cannot stand true to You where I am placed.” When it is a question of God’s Almighty Spirit, never say “I can’t.” Never let the limitation of natural ability come in. If we have received the Holy Spirit, God expects the work of the Holy Spirit to be manifested in us.
While reading Matthew 13 the other morning, I came across the following in Jesus’ explanation of the parable of the sower (v.11-12):
He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.
There’s a concept in discipleship which suggests that God entrusts His promises, blessings and ‘talents’ to those that He can trust. I picture it this way: imagine you’re an artisan and are crafting a fine vase. You place a slab of clay on the wheel and begin to form and mold it. As the vase inside of your head begins to take form in front of your eyes, you carefully mold and shape it. You’re careful to ensure that the vase will be able to hold its intended contents. If you detect the potential for a crack, or a hole, or some other defect which will render the piece useless, you make the necessary corrections including starting over if necessary.
In the same way, God shapes us as we submit to Him on ‘the pottery wheel of life‘ – we allow Him to form and mold us as He sees fit, so we will be useful for our intended purpose! As we’re being formed, He begins to fill us with the appropriate contents with which we are to accomplish His purpose for our life. If He sees that we can’t hold those contents, then He takes the necessary corrective actions!
Now back to the talents… I believe that in the parable of the talents that’s recorded in Matthew 25, the servants are given talents according to their capacity! The first servant has proven to the master that he’s trustworthy, and thusly receives 5 talents. It’s recorded in verse 15 that they were given talents “each according to his ability”. The last servant was given only 1 talent. Why? Was he a new servant? Did he not have a proven track record? Or did the master know something about this servant? We don’t know the answer, but it doesn’t matter much because the principle is still at work: the master gave talents according to the servant’s ability!
What about your ability? Have you proven trustworthy to God? Have you carefully doled out the contents that God has placed in “your clay vase”? Or have you, like that last servant, misunderstood and mis-characterized your Lord and God?
“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. ” ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. (Matt. 25:24-29)
Our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, is not an impossible task-master! He has given us all we need to accomplish His purposes in our lives (2 Peter 1:3). He is simply asking us to make choices in our step-by-step walk with Him that put Him first and deny ourselves. The talents that He’s given to us are for His purposes (Proverbs 19:21), not to be used on our own selfish desires.
Back to Matthew 13: note that Christ’s words in verse 12 echo the same words He used when telling the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:29, “For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”!! Christ is telling us that we will be given ‘talents’ according to our own ability!
How much can God trust us with His resources? That’s the question for us today! If it’s been a while since God’s given us any ‘talents’, then we need to examine our recent history to see how we used the last ones He gave us! We will only receive more when we’ve correctly ‘spent’ the ones He has already given us! Examine your attitude toward your Master. How do you see Him today? As an impossible task-master? Or as a loving Father who desires the best for His creation? Immediately obey when you receive the next ‘talent’ from God and see if He doesn’t give more later….