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.…
There are three parables which illustrate the relation of work and wages in the kingdom of heaven - the labourers in the vineyard, the pounds, and the talents. What this parable chiefly illustrates is that men are rewarded, not solely in proportion to the quantity of work produced, but that their ability and the means at their disposal are taken into account. And in order that this life be a fair field for the test of fidelity, two or three things are requisite, and these are noted in the parable.
I. What is committed to our trust is no trifle, but the goods of our Lord - all he has on earth - whatever can produce on earth the fruit he himself wrought for and died for. There is no interest of his carried forward without the labour of men; if his servants cease to work, his cause on earth is at an end.
II. The Master distributes his goods "according to the several ability" of his servants. Each gets what each can conveniently and effectively handle, and no one is expected to produce results out of proportion to his ability and his means.
III. It is only "after a long time that the Lord of those servants cometh and reckoneth with them." They are not summoned to a reckoning while yet embarrassed by the novelty of their position; they have time to consider, to wait opportunities, to try experiments. The wise have time to lay up great gains, and even the foolish to have learnt wisdom. It is not without significance that the servant who did nothing at all for his master was he who had received but one talent. This is the peculiar temptation of the man who has little ability. By showing no interest in that situation in life that God has seen fit he should fill, he would have us believe he is qualified for a higher. You are in the same condemnation when you refuse to do anything because you cannot do a great deal; when you refuse to help where you cannot lead; when you hesitate about aiding in some work because those with whom you would be associated in it do it better and show better in the doing of it than yourself. This miserable fear of being mediocre, how many a good work has it prevented or crippled! The insolence of this man's words is not intentional. He reads off correctly his own state of mind, and fancies that his conduct is appropriate and innocent. All wrongness of conduct is at bottom based on a wrong view of God. Nothing so conduces to right action as right thoughts about God. If we think, with this servant, that God is hard, grudging to give, never really delighting in our efforts after good, and that whatever we attempt in our life he will coldly weigh and scorn, then manifestly we have no heart to labour for him. But this view of God is unpardonably wrong, for the very heartiness with which the other servants were greeted refutes it. Moreover, the action flowing from it is inconsistent. If the Master is so slow to recognize sincere effort, so oppressive in his exactions, why did you not at least put your money into the hands of men who would have found a use for it and paid you a good interest? There are numberless ways in which the most slenderly equipped among us can fulfil the suggestion here given. There is no lack of great works going on for our Lord to which we may safely attach ourselves, and in which our talent is rather invested for us than left to our o/on discretion. The parable does not acknowledge any servants who have absolutely nothing. There is something to be done which precisely you can do, something by doing which you will please him whose pleasure in you will fill your nature with gladness; it is given to you to increase your Lord's goods. See, then, that you be not burying your talent. Money is made for circulation; so is grace. Yet some men might as well have no grace for all the good it does; it is carefully wrapped up, as if encounter with the world would fret its edges and lower its value. What, then, is the result of this? The great law is enforced, "To him that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." And in the kingdom of Christ this law is self-acting, as it is also in our own bodies and in all matters physical. The muscle that is unused dwindles and disappears; no one needs to come and remove it; want of use removes it. So it is with every faculty - bodily, mental, or spiritual. Yet how many think they can retain just so much godliness and no more! How many think they are hitting the right mean between over-righteousness and worldliness! This is proof that there is something radically wrong in their notion of the kingdom and work of Christ. You cannot possibly have just so much grace and no more; it must grow, or it will die. The reward is as certain, and provided for by the same great law, as the punishment. Beginning with such grace as you have, there lies before you the possibility of indefinite increase, if you do what you have power to do - resolutely crush out what you know to be your weaknesses and faults, and seek to have your whole life gathered up into some ascertained and intelligible connection with Christ. This increase of grace is itself the reward, or at any rate the essential part of it. The talents gained are left in the hands that gained them, and wider opportunities for their use afforded. The faithful servant of Christ is always entering upon his reward, and entrance into heaven only marks the point at which his Lord expresses his approval, and raises him to a position of acknowledged trustworthiness, the position of one who has acquired an interest in the work, whose joy is his Lord's joy - joy in advancing man's best interests, joy in the sight of others made righteously happy. There can be no reward more certain, for it begins here. No one need tell you there is no heaven; the kingdom of heaven is within you. It is also the best you could picture to yourself. The reward a person in sickness receives for careful attention to every prescription of his physician is that he becomes healthy. If you ask - What is it that makes life worth living, which we can set before us as our sufficient reward and aim? the answer can only be that we have the hope of becoming satisfactory persons, of becoming perfect as our Father is perfect, who needs no reward, but delights in being and doing good, who loves, and is therefore blessed. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.