Matthew 25:14
For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered to them his goods.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) For the kingdom of heaven.—The italicised words are introduced for the sake of grammatical completeness. The Greek runs simply, “For as a man . . . called his own servants,” with no formal close to the comparison. The parable thus introduced has obviously many points in common with that of the Pounds recorded by St. Luke (Luke 19:12-27), but the distinctive features of each are also so characteristic that it will be well to deal with each separately, and to reserve a comparison of the two till both have been interpreted.

The outward framework of the parable lies in the Eastern way of dealing with property in the absence of the owner. Two courses were open as an approximation to what we call investment. The more primitive and patriarchal way was for the absentee to make his slaves his agents. They were to till his land and sell the produce, or to use the money which he left with them as capital in trading. In such cases there was, of course, often an understanding that they should receive part of the profits, but being their master’s slaves, there was no formal contract. The other course was to take advantage of the banking, money-changing, money-lending system, of which the Phœnicians were the inventors, and which at the time was in full operation throughout the Roman empire The bankers received money on deposit and paid interest on it, and then lent it at a higher percentage, or employed it in trade, or (as did the publicani at Rome) in farming the revenues of a province. This was therefore the natural resource, as investment in stocks or companies is with us, for those who had not energy to engage in business.

Matthew 25:14-15. For, &c. — To show us more clearly the nature and duty of Christian watchfulness, to which he exhorts us in the preceding verse, our Saviour immediately subjoins another parable, wherein he represents to us the different characters of a faithful and slothful servant, and the difference of their future acceptation. Like the former, the present parable is intended to stir us up to a zealous preparation for the coming of our Lord, by diligence in the discharge of our duty, and by a proper employment and a careful improvement of our talents: as well as to unmask still more fully the vain pretences of hypocrites, and to demonstrate that fair speeches and outward forms, without the power of godliness, will stand us in no stead at the last day. The kingdom of heaven is as a man, &c. — The words kingdom of heaven are improperly supplied here. The sentence should rather run thus: For he (namely, the Son of man, mentioned in the preceding verse) is as a man travelling into a far country — Alluding to Christ’s withdrawing his bodily presence from his church when he ascended into heaven, or to that long-suffering by which he waits for the fruit of our works: who called his own servants Τους ιδιους, his own, because created by his power, preserved by his providence, and purchased by his blood; and delivered unto them his goods — The goods of which he was the sole proprietor. Unto one he gave five talents — As being able to traffic with them; to another two — As not being sufficient to manage more; and to another one, as being still more infirm. So Origen. A talent being in value about 187l. 10s., he who was intrusted with five, received 937l. 10s.; and he who had two, 375l. sterling. And who knows whether, all circumstances considered, there be a greater disproportion than this in the talents of those who receive the most and those who receive the fewest? By the talents here we are to understand gifts or endowments conferred for a spiritual end, powers of body and mind, abilities natural and acquired, health, strength, long life, understanding, judgment, memory, learning, knowledge, eloquence, influence, and authority over others, wealth, privileges, or offices, civil or religious, and indeed every power and advantage of which a good or bad use may be made. To every man according to his several ability Εκαστω κατα την ιδιαν δυναμιν, to each according to his individual or respective capacity, namely, to manage the sum, and according to the prospect there might reasonably be of his improving it. Or, according to the prudence, ability, and activity which he knew each to be possessed of.25:14-30 Christ keeps no servants to be idle: they have received their all from him, and have nothing they can call their own but sin. Our receiving from Christ is in order to our working for him. The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. The day of account comes at last. We must all be reckoned with as to what good we have got to our own souls, and have done to others, by the advantages we have enjoyed. It is not meant that the improving of natural powers can entitle a man to Divine grace. It is the real Christian's liberty and privilege to be employed as his Redeemer's servant, in promoting his glory, and the good of his people: the love of Christ constrains him to live no longer to himself, but to Him that died for him, and rose again. Those who think it impossible to please God, and in vain to serve him, will do nothing to purpose in religion. They complain that He requires of them more than they are capable of, and punishes them for what they cannot help. Whatever they may pretend, the fact is, they dislike the character and work of the Lord. The slothful servant is sentenced to be deprived of his talent. This may be applied to the blessings of this life; but rather to the means of grace. Those who know not the day of their visitation, shall have the things that belong to their peace hid from their eyes. His doom is, to be cast into outer darkness. It is a usual way of expressing the miseries of the damned in hell. Here, as in what was said to the faithful servants, our Saviour goes out of the parable into the thing intended by it, and this serves as a key to the whole. Let us not envy sinners, or covet any of their perishing possessions.For the kingdom of heaven ... - The "parable of the talents" was spoken still further to illustrate the manner in which he would deal with people at his return to judgment. The words "the kingdom, of heaven" are not in the original, but are very properly inserted by the translators. The design of the parable is to teach that those who improve their talents or faculties in the cause of religion who improve them to their own salvation and in doing good to others shall be proportionally rewarded; but they who neglect their talents, and who neither secure their own salvation nor do good to others, will be punished. The kingdom of heaven is like such a man - that is, "God deals with people in his government as such a man did."

His own servants - That is, such of them as he judged to be worthy of such a trust. These represent the apostles, Christian ministers, professing Christians, and perhaps all people. The going into a far country may represent the Lord Jesus going into heaven. He has given to all talents to improve, Ephesians 4:8; Ephesians 2:12.

His goods - His property representing the offices, abilities, and opportunities for doing good, which he has given to his professed followers.

Mt 25:14-30. Parable of the Talents.

This parable, while closely resembling it, is yet a different one from that of The Pounds, in Lu 19:11-27; though Calvin, Olshausen, Meyer, and others identify them—but not De Wette and Neander. For the difference between the two parables, see the [1356]opening remarks on that of The Pounds. While, as Trench observes with his usual felicity, "the virgins were represented as waiting for their Lord, we have the servants working for Him; there the inward spiritual life of the faithful was described; here his external activity. It is not, therefore, without good reason that they appear in their actual order—that of the Virgins first, and of the Talents following—since it is the sole condition of a profitable outward activity for the kingdom of God, that the life of God be diligently maintained within the heart."

14. For the kingdom of heaven is as a man—The ellipsis is better supplied by our translators in the corresponding passage of Mark (Mr 13:34), "[For the Son of man is] as a man," &c.,

travelling into a far country—or more simply, "going abroad." The idea of long "tarrying" is certainly implied here, since it is expressed in Mt 25:19.

who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods—Between master and slaves this was not uncommon in ancient times. Christ's "servants" here mean all who, by their Christian profession, stand in the relation to Him of entire subjection. His "goods" mean all their gifts and endowments, whether original or acquired, natural or spiritual. As all that slaves have belongs to their master, so Christ has a claim to everything which belongs to His people, everything which, may be turned to good, and He demands its appropriation to His service, or, viewing it otherwise, they first offer it up to Him; as being "not their own, but bought with a price" (1Co 6:19, 20), and He "delivers it to them" again to be put to use in His service.

See Poole on "Matthew 25:15". For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling,.... Our Lord adds another parable to illustrate the Gospel dispensation, or its visible church state; or the state of things respecting the church of Christ, before, and at his second coming, and during the interval between his ascension and that: for by the man here, is meant Christ, who in the everlasting covenant agreed to become man, was prophesied of as such, frequently appeared in human form, under the Old Testament dispensation; and in the fulness of time, really became man; though he was not a mere man, but was God as well as man; having all the perfections and fulness of the Godhead dwelling bodily in him: this man is said to travel

into a far country; by which heaven is designed, and is so called, not only because of its great distance from the earth, and which is very great indeed; but because the better country and land afar off, is out of sight; and what views we have of it, are very distant ones; and is afar off, in respect of our state of pilgrimage in this world, in which, whilst Christ was here, he was a pilgrim and a stranger too; who might be said to be as a "man travelling", whilst he was in it, and when going out of it, and ascending to heaven: he came from thence, and stayed here a while, walking up and down, and doing good; and when he had finished what he came about, he ascended on high, went to his God and Father, entered into heaven, where he is received until the times of the restitution of all things:

who called his own servants; before he took his journey, to commit some things to their trust and management; and to give them some instructions how to behave during his absence: for, according to the Jewish (u) canons,

"a master that had a mind to go out of the land (of Israel) could not take his servant with him, unless he pleased; and this is a rule at all times, even at this time, that the land is in the hand of the Gentiles.''

And here no mention is made of any going with him, only how they were to be employed whilst he was gone: by "his own servants" are meant, not all mankind; for though they are all in some sense his servants, or ought to be, yet they are not so called in Scripture, much less with such an emphasis, his own servants; and besides, more than what are in the kingdom of heaven, or Gospel church state, cannot be intended; since the parable reaches to, and concerns no other: nor all the elect of God only, or all are not the elect of God that are designed; for though these are the servants of Christ, and his own peculiarly, yet all intrusted with talents, are not such; one of these was wicked, slothful, graceless, and at last was eternally lost, and perished; which is not true of anyone of the elect: but ministers of the word are here meant, who are eminently the servants of Christ, his own, whom he has called, qualified, commissioned, and sent forth; for the ministers of the word, whether faithful or slothful, good or bad, are in a very lively manner described in this parable, which is a distinct one from the former; for whereas that gives an account of the different members of the visible church, this describes the several ministers of it: nor can it be any objection to this sense of it, that these servants are all of them said to be his own servants, and called, commissioned, and gifted by him; since Judas, as well as the rest, was called, ordained, qualified, and sent forth by Christ, as an apostle.

And delivered unto them his goods; the Gospel, that rich treasure of divine truths, the dispensation of it, and gifts to preach it; all which are Christ's goods and his gifts, and not man's; and which was in a very eminent manner done, when Christ ascended on high, and received gifts for, and gave them unto men. Just before it, as he was ready to go, he gathered his disciples together; he renewed and enlarged their commission to preach the Gospel; and quickly after it, gave them greater and larger gifts of the Spirit than before; and has been ever since giving ministerial gifts to men, to some more, others less, and which are signified by the talents following.

(u) Maimon. Hilch. Abadim, c. 8. sect. 9.

{2} For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.

(2) Christ witnesses that there will be a long time between his departure to his Father and his coming again to us, but yet notwithstanding that, he will at that day take an account not only of the rebellious and obstinate, how they have made use of that which they received from him, but also of his household servants, who have because of slothfulness not employed those gifts which he bestowed upon them.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 25:14. The parable of the talents, extending to Matthew 25:30,[20] is introduced as an additional ground for the γρηγορεῖτε, and that by viewing it as a question of work and responsibility. The parable in Luke 19:12 ff., which, notwithstanding the differences in regard to individual features, resembles the present in its leading thoughts and illustrations, is to be regarded as a modification, arising in the course of the Gospel tradition, of the more original and simpler one before us (in opposition to Calvin, Olshausen, Neander, Holtzmann, Volkmar), and which Luke also represents as having been spoken at a different time; comp. Weizsäcker, p. 181. In this latter Gospel we have what was originally an independent parable (that of the rebellious subjects) blended with that of the talents (Strauss, I. p. 636 f.; Ewald, p. 419 f.; Bleek, Keim, Weiss, 1864, p. 128 ff.). If it be maintained, as Kern, Lange, Cremer, are disposed to do, that in Matthew and Luke we have two distinct parables, spoken by Jesus on two different occasions, then there is no alternative but either to accept the unnatural view that the simpler (Matthew’s) is the later form, or to suppose, in opposition to what is recorded, that Jesus spoke the parable in Matthew, where, however, the connection is perfectly apposite, somewhat earlier than that in Luke (Schleiermacher, Neander). The one view as well as the other would be all the more questionable, that the interval during which Christ “intentionally employs the same parabolic materials for the purpose of illustrating different subjects” (Auberlen) would thus comprise only a few days. Mark 13:34 is extracted from what Matthew has taken from the collection of our Lord’s sayings.

ὥσπερ, κ.τ.λ.] a case of anantapodosis similar to that of Mark 13:34, and doubtless reproducing what already appeared in the collection of sayings from which the passage is taken. Comp. Romans 5:12. Fritzsche on Matthew 25:30. At the outset of the discourse it would be the intention to connect the whole parable with ὥσπερ, and, at the conclusion, to annex an apodosis by means of ΟὝΤΩς (probably ΟὝΤΩ ΚΑῚ Ὁ ΥἹῸς Τ. ἈΝΘΡΏΠΟΥ ΠΟΙΉΣΕΙ, or ΟὝΤΩς ἜΣΤΑΙ ΚΑῚ Ἡ ΠΑΡΟΥΣΊΑ Τ. ΥἹΟῦ Τ. ἈΝΘΡ).; but, considering the somewhat lengthened character of the parable, this had to be omitted.

ἈΠΟΔΗΜ.] on the point of going abroad (Matthew 21:33).

ΤΟῪς ἸΔΊΙΟΥς ΔΟΎΛΟΥς] not strangers, such as exchangers, but his own servants, of whom, therefore, he had a right to expect that they would do their best to lay out for his advantage the money entrusted to them.

[20] In connection with this parable, compare the following traditional sayings attributed to Christ: γίνεσθε τραπεζῖται δόκιμοι (Hom. Clem. ii. 51, iii. 50, xviii. 20, etc.; Clement of Alexandria, Origen; Apostolical Constitutions); and ἑν οἷς ἂν ὑμᾶς καταλάβω, ἑν τούτοις καὶ κρινῶ (Justin, c. Tr. 47). Eusebius gives a kindred parable from the Gospel of the Hebrews, and for which see Mai’s Nova patrum biblioth. IV. p. 155.Matthew 25:14-30. Parable of the Talents (cf. Luke 19:11-28), according to Weiss (Mt.-Ev., 535) and Wendt (L. J., i., 145) not a Parusia-parable originally, but spoken at some other time, and inculcating, like the parable of the unjust steward, skill and fidelity in the use of earthly goods.14. into a far country] These words do not occur in the original, the word translated “travelling into a far country,” is rendered in the next verse “took his journey.”

delivered unto them his goods] Cp. Mark 13:34. “A man taking a far journey, who left his house and gave authority (rather, his authority) to his servants, and to every man his work.” Christ in His absence gives to each a portion of His own authority and of His own work on earth.

A great deal of the commerce of antiquity was managed by slaves, who were thus often entrusted with responsible functions (cp. ch. Matthew 24:45). In this case they are expected to use their Master’s money in trade or in cultivation of the soil, and to make as large an increase as possible.

14–30. The Parable of the Talents, in this Gospel only

The parable of the Pounds, Luke 19:12-27, is similar, but there are important points of distinction; (1) in regard to the occasions on which the two parables are given; (2) in the special incidents of each.

The lesson is still partly of watchfulness, it is still in the first instance for the apostles. But fresh thoughts enter into this parable: (1) There is work to be done in the time of waiting; the watching must not be idle or unemployed; (2) Even the least talented is responsible.Matthew 25:14.—Ὑπάρχοντα, goods) For the distribution of them, see the next verse.[1089]

[1089] There are intimated by these, spiritual gifts, temporal resources, time itself, and finally opportunities of every kind.—V. g.Verses 14-30. - Parable of the talents. (Peculiar to St. Matthew.) Following on the lesson of watchfulness and inward personal preparation just given, this parable enforces the necessity of external work and man's accountability to God for the due use of the special endowments which he has received. The former was concerned chiefly with the contemplative life, the waiting virgins; this chiefly with the active, the working servant; though, in fact, both states combine more or less in the good Christian, and the perfect disciple will unite in himself the characteristics of John and Peter, Mary and Martha. St. Luke (Luke 19:11-27) has recorded a somewhat analogous parable spoken by Christ on leaving the house of Zacchaeus, known as the parable of the pounds; and some critics have deemed that the two accounts relate to the same saying altered in some details, which are to be accounted for on the hypothesis that St. Luke has combined with our parable another on the rebellious citizens. That there are great resemblances between the two cannot be disputed, but the discrepancies are too marked to allow us to assume the unity of the two utterances. Christ often repeats himself, using the same figure, or illustration, or expression to enforce different truths or different phases of the same truth, as here he may have desired more emphatically to impress on the disciples their special responsibilities. The variations in the two parables are briefly these: The scene and occasion are different; this was spoken to the disciples, that to the multitude; in one the lord is a noble who was to receive a kingdom, in the other he is simply a landowner; here his absence is a matter of local space, there it is a matter of time; the servants are ten in the one case, and three in the other; ill one we have pounds spoken of, in the other talents; in St. Luke each servant has the same sum delivered to him, in St. Matthew the amount is divided into talents, five, two, and one; in the "pounds" the servants show differing faithfulness with the same gifts, in the "talents" two of them display the same faithfulness with differing gifts; here the idle servant hides his money in a napkin, there he buries it in the earth; the conclusions also of the parables vary. Their object is not identical: the parable in our text illustrates the truth that we shall be judged according to that which we have received; the parable in St. Luke shows, to use Trench's words, that "as men differ in fidelity, in zeal, in labour, so will they differ in the amount of their spiritual gain." The latter treats of the use of gifts common to all, whether bodily, mental, or spiritual, such as one faith, one baptism, reason, conscience, sacraments, the Word of God; the former is concerned with the exercise of endowments which have been bestowed according to the recipient's capacity and his ability to make use of them, - the question being, how he has employed his powers, opportunities, and circumstances, the particular advantages, examples, and means of grace given to him. Verse 14. - For the kingdom of heaven is as a man The opening sentence in the original is anacoluthic, and our translators have supplied what they supposed to be wanting. The Greek has only, For just as a man, etc.; Vulgate, sicut enim homo. The other member of the comparison is not expressed. The Revised Version gives," It is as when a man." They who receive the possible interpolation at the end of ver. 13 would simply render, "For he (the Son of man) is as a man." The Authorized Version plainly affords the intended meaning in the words of the usual preface to such parables (ver. 1; Matthew 13:24, 31, etc.). The conjunction "for" carries us back to the Lord's solemn injunction, introducing a new illustration of the necessity of watchfulness. Travelling into a far country (ἀποδημῶν, leaving home). Here our Lord, being about to withdraw his bodily presence from the earth and to ascend into heaven, represents himself as a man going into another country, and first putting his affairs in order and issuing instructions to his servants (comp. Matthew 21:3; 5). Who called his own (τοὺς ἰδίους) servants. The sentence literally is, As a man... called his own bond servants. Those who specially belonged to him - a figure of all Christians, members of Christ, doing him service as their Master. Delivered unto them his goods (τὰ ὑπάρχοντα αὐτοῦ, his possessions). This was not an absolute gift, as we see from subsequent proceedings, and from the well known relation of master and slave. The latter, generally speaking, could possess no property, but he was often employed to administer his master's property for his lord's advantage, or was set up in business on capital advanced by his owner, paying him all or a certain share of the profits. The money still was not the slave's, and legally all that a slave acquired by whatsoever means belonged to his master, though custom had sanctioned a more equitable distribution. The "goods" delivered unto the lord's servants represent the special privileges accorded to them - differences of character, opportunities, education, etc., which they do not share in common with all men. This is one point, as above remarked, in which this parable varies from that of the "pounds." In both cases the gifts are figured by money - a medium current and intelligible everywhere on earth. Travelling (ἀποδμηῶν)

The sense is more nearly about to travel, like our going abroad.

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