In some ways, this parable doesn’t seem too hard to understand. The nobleman is Jesus himself who leaves this world to be crowned king in his ascension into heaven. The time between Jesus’ departure and his return from heaven is the age we are living in now. God’s people, including us, are the servants who are given a bag of sliver to put to work while he is gone. A key point of the story is that one day the King, namely Jesus, will return to the earth and he will want to see what we have been doing with what he left with us.
It is at this point, however, that the parable throws up some challenging questions for us to think through…
For example, how did the first servant turn one bag of silver into ten???
I’m almost half way through my working life, so I’m starting to think about retirement and having enough to live on. I want to talk to this person to find out how he multiplied his investment by ten because that is the kind of nest egg I want to retire on. Imagine multiplying what you have now by ten!
I’m thinking that this servant is either a very shrewd businessman or he is involved in some very dodgy dealings. Either way, you don’t multiply your investment by ten without taking some significant risks. Even the second servant who only multiplied his investment by five must have taken some risks to achieve that return.
Which raises the question of what the bag of silver represents. We could understand it as money or the physical things God has given us in this life. We could also understand these bags of silver to be the gifts the Holy Spirit gives us. Matthew’s version of this parable (25:14-30) talks about a unit of weight called a talent, which is why a lot of people interpret this parable as using your gifts and abilities for the Kingdom of God. Another way we can think about these bags of silver is to reflect on everything Jesus gives us: his peace, love and joy, his righteousness, forgiveness, new life, identity as God’s children, and so much more. In short, we can think about the bags of silver as the grace Jesus gives us, with each coin in that bag representing another aspect of his grace which we can pull out and marvel at.
This brings us to the parable’s big question: what are we doing with what Jesus has given us? Do we turn up to church on Sunday, but then keep his grace hidden during the rest of the week out of fear like the third servant? The warning in the parable is that if we are doing that, God’s grace can be taken from us. Or, like the first two servants, do we receive God’s grace with joy and put it to work by investing it in the people around us? That might mean taking some big risks with the grace Jesus has given us by showing grace to the people we know who need it the most but deserve it the least. If the first two servants multiplied their bags of silver by taking risks with them, are we following their example and living lives of bold, risk-taking faith by investing the grace Jesus has given us by showing grace to others?
Ultimately, like the nobleman in the parable who gambles his bags of silver by giving them away, that’s what God does with us. He takes a huge risk on us by giving us the grace of forgiveness and new life as his children. Then he asks us to put what he has given us to work by living lives of bold, confident, risk-taking grace in our relationships with others.
So who is the person you know who deserves the grace of Jesus the least, but who needs it the most? How can you put the grace Jesus has given to you to work by showing grace to that person? In the end, what’s most important is not the return we get – both the servants who achieved a five-fold and a ten-fold return were praised by the king. What is important is that we do not keep the grace Jesus has given us buried, but we are living bold, confident, risk-taking lives of grace, investing what Jesus has first given us into the lives of the people around us.
Because, when the King returns, what will we have to show for what he has given us?
More to think about:
- What is the ‘bag of silver’ that Jesus has given you – possessions, time, life, grace, forgiveness, or something else?
- How do you think the first two servants were able to multiply their investments by five and by ten? Did they do that by playing it safe or by taking some risks? Explain why you might think that.
- What does it mean to you that Jesus says to put your ‘bag of silver’ to work while he is away? Are you keeping it safe? Or are you doing something with it?
- What might be the riskiest thing you could do with what Jesus has given you? What might you lose? What might you gain?
- Who is someone in your life that is hard to love or might not deserve God’s grace? What are some ways in which you could invest Jesus’s love and grace in that person’s life this week?