The One-Talent Man

We love to preach about the five-talent man of Matthew 25: 14-30. Better yet, we like to preach about the two-talent man. The two-talent man is someone we like to identify with. Perhaps many who are actually five-talent people like to identify themselves with the two-talent man because doing so excuses our laziness. If we admit we are five-talent people, it means we have to use our talents! Let us be careful with our estimation of what God has invested in each of us, because (1) God is the master investor and (2) He is the master accountant--He knows where He left his money. Those of us who are five-talent people must be careful of underestimating God's investment in us. His evaluation will be the one that ultimately matters.

Much less seems to be said in pulpits about the one-talent man than the other two. Perhaps this is because he was not considered to be successful. But Jesus included the description of his work (or the lack of it) because it had instructive value.

Mat 25:24 - 30 "And he also that had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou didst not sow, and gathering where thou didst not scatter; and I was afraid, and went away and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, thou hast thine own. But his lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I did not scatter; thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the bankers, and at my coming I should have received back mine own with interest. Take ye away therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him that hath the ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away. And cast ye out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth."

The one-talent man spent three times as many words making excuses for his laziness and ineptitude than either the five-talent man or two-talent man. In the King James Bible, the one-talent man uses 48 words as compared to the 16 of the five-talent and 16 of the two-talent man. In the Revised Standard Bible, it is 42 words, 14 words, and 14 words. Successful people are usually short and to the bottom line in their reporting. Failures and liars spawn words by the tens of thousands.

The psychology of the one-talent man is unfortunately well and alive today. Man uses absolutes to find excuses to not work in His Kingdom, as in "Well, since I can't earn my way to Heaven in fee simple, I just think I won't do anything. Let God take care of my salvation!" This whole parable was told by Jesus to discourage this kind of stewardship. The person who uses this kind of reasoning might as well be saying "Lord, I know you were a hard man . . . " and hoping for a more favorable result than the one-talent man got. Unfortunately, the same kind of performance is likely to get the same kind of reward. Others pervert the teachings about God's grace to make excuses for their doing nothing in the Lord's kingdom, twisting passages such as Ephesians 2: 8-10, which speaks about grace. 2Co 9:6 "But this I say, He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully," said Paul by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit, the ultimate author of the Scriptures (IIPeter 1: 21) does not contradict Himself.

The two-talent and five-talent men were saved not because they met God's expectations in the absolute sense, but rather in the relative sense. Relative to their talents, they put forth a realistic, good-faith effort. The same is expected of us today. This parable was told in Matthew 25: 14-30 and in similarity in Luke 19: 12-27 (parable of the pounds).Both illustrations are about good stewardship. The one-talent man got nowhere trying to blame his boss or in characterizing Him as being demanding or unfair. There are lessons to be learned from the one-talent man.


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