In the last post, we saw why it is important to determine whether a parable is a salvation parable or a reward parable. One parable that covers both is the parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30).
"For it is like a man, going into another country, who called his own servants, and entrusted his goods to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one; to each according to his own ability. Then he went on his journey.
THIS is an example of grace. The man who has servants is God. He has entrusted a value to each servant out of His own supply. This is the same as God FIRST divinely influencing the hearts of everyone and it happens to different degrees because it is according to the ability of the individual.
The second half of charis is its reflection in the life…what the individual does with the influence. Let’s see what each individual does with it…
Immediately he who received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. In like manner he also who got the two gained another two. But he who received the one went away and dug in the earth, and hid his lord's money.
Two of the servants interacted with others to generate more value. One servant interacted with no one. Notice, the parable says the servant “hid his lord’s money”. The money is still the property of the master.
The servants can’t take credit for the money because it was given to them and ultimately is not theirs. Likewise, we can’t take credit for grace because it is given to us and ultimately is not ours.
"Now after a long time the lord of those servants came, and reconciled accounts with them. He who received the five talents came and brought another five talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents. Behold, I have gained another five talents besides them.' "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'
"He also who got the two talents came and said, 'Lord, you delivered to me two talents. Behold, I have gained another two talents besides them.' "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'
Two of the servants created more and were called “good” and “faithful”. The master then did two things.
First, he set them over many things. This is the reward judgment. People are getting different amounts of value based on what they did.
Second, the master told them to enter into the joy of your lord. This is the salvation judgment. Both entered into the same joy. People are getting the same benefit regardless of how much they did.
"He also who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you that you are a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter. I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the earth. Behold, you have what is yours.'
"But his lord answered him, 'You wicked and slothful servant. You knew that I reap where I didn't sow, and gather where I didn't scatter. You ought therefore to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received back my own with interest.
First of all, what the servant says about the master is NOT true. The master very clearly is reaping where he has sown. This servant has a poor attitude about his master. However, the master doesn’t argue this; he essentially lets the servant testify against himself.
The master says if this were true, then the servant ought to have at the very least maintained the value of what he had been given. The talent given before is worth less today. The only way to maintain the value is to get interest.
Notice, getting interest would have required this servant to interact with ONE person. By hiding the money, the servant interacted with NO ONE. (This is a densely layered parable that has wide applications. We will revisit this point in the future.)
Second, the servant is called “wicked” and “slothful”. Whether he returns the same value or less, the point is this servant has not created anything. Let’s see how he does with his reward and salvation judgments…
Take away therefore the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will be given, and he will have abundance, but from him who doesn't have, even that which he has will be taken away. Throw out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
The value is taken from him and he is sent to hell. It looks as if he would have been able to go to heaven if he had generated ANY value. In fact, he is called an “unprofitable” servant just before he sent to outer darkness. Notice also the value he had is not wasted. It is given to the one who has the most.
This parable does a great job of demonstrating salvation AND reward. The “work” is rewarded. It is an effect. However, the work doesn’t save us.
We are given a value through grace that we are responsible for reflecting in our life and interacting with others in order to become more profitable. THIS cause results in salvation. The work isn’t the cause of salvation.
What specifically was the cause of salvation in this parable? What caused the servant to go to hell? The servant’s attitude towards his master was the cause and the effects were his actions.
Salvation is based on an internal cause: loving God with all your heart, mind, and soul.
Reward is based on an external effect: loving your neighbor.