Jesus is coming back! What a day that will be! But are we ready? Jesus warned his disciples to be ready for his return.
What does it take to be ready for Jesus’ Second Coming? The Lord told a parable to illustrate. A man went on a long journey. He entrusted his possessions to his servants, five talents to one, two talents to another, and a single talent to another.
After a long time, the man returned and settled accounts with his servants. The first two servants had put their master’s talents to work and doubled them. They were commended by the master.
The parable is a picture of Jesus’ Second Coming, also known as the Day of the Lord, or Judgment Day. For believers it will not be a day of condemnation. It will be a day of reward. Faithful servants will hear the most wonderful words, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
This parable raises an important question. What do the talents represent? Our English word talent comes from this parable. It means natural abilities. We say that someone has a talent for music, or baseball, or art, and so forth.
Our natural abilities certainly do come from God and God wants us to be good stewards of everything he gives us including our natural abilities, but is that all Jesus is saying in this parable? Just go out and be the best musician or baseball player or artist that you can be?
We must remember that Jesus’ parable is about the kingdom of God. Whatever the talents represent, they must benefit God’s kingdom, his benevolent rule over his people. That sounds bigger than music or baseball or art, bigger than our natural abilities.
Students of the Bible have suggested many possibilities for the talents. Perhaps they represent God’s forgiveness, God’s Spirit, God’s word, spiritual gifts, or something else. All of these things are given to us by God and can be put to use in ways that benefit God’s kingdom. But can we be more specific?
Instead of asking what God gives us, let’s ask what we give back to God. In Jesus’ parable, the servants present talents to their master when he returns to settle accounts with them. What will the Lord expect us to present to him when he settles accounts with us? Certainly we will not give our natural abilities back to God. Nor will we give back to him spiritual gifts, forgiveness, grace, or any of these things.
There is one thing that we can present to God which is of greatest value to him. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, he asked, “What is the crown in which I will glory in the presence of the Lord Jesus when he comes?” The answer? The people in the church, the Thessalonian believers.
When Jesus comes and settles accounts with us, we will not present him with songs or sermons, buildings or bank accounts, professional degrees or career successes. All these things will be left behind in this world. What we take with us and present to God will be the lives of people we have influenced with God’s truth, people we have introduced to Jesus and built up in Christ.
The last servant in Jesus’ parable received a single talent from the master. This servant buried his master’s talent in the ground and had nothing more to present when the time came for settling accounts. He thought the master was a hard man, unfair, and frightening. The third servant was unwilling to serve the master.
This unproductive servant was expelled from the presence of the master, thrown into outer darkness (representing hell). The productive servants were invited by their master to continue serving him. In fact, they were entrusted with even greater opportunities for service (representing heaven).
Fruitful service for Jesus now is a sign that we belong to him. It is a sign that we are bound for heaven, where we will enjoy even more fruitful labor for the Lord.
A lack of desire to serve Jesus now in this life is a warning that one is not right with God. Nobody should think that they are bound for eternal joyful service in heaven if they refuse to participate in heaven’s gospel work here and now.
Serving the Master’s kingdom interests is not the price we pay for a home in heaven. We cannot afford heaven, cannot earn heaven, and do not deserve God’s eternal blessings. Jesus paid the price for us to be forgiven and to be heirs of God’s kingdom. His grace awaits our response. We can accept by faith or reject by cold indifference (or hot rebellion).
Fruitful labor for God is the one sure sign that we already belong to the Master. And the Master has given his sons and daughters ‘talents’ which will multiply when faithfully put to work. The increase in souls saved by Jesus and strengthened in Christ will be our presentation to the Lord when he returns.
God has blessed us all with at least one life, our own. Our one life can be used to influence people and bring them to saving faith in Christ, teaching them to walk in the wisdom and power of God’s Spirit. Most of us have contact with many lives, many opportunities to share the gospel, to speak the truth in love, to build up the body of Christ.
Let’s be fruitful for our Lord! Let’s be ready for Jesus to return!
May God’s Spirit enable us to bear fruit that will last,
Brother Richard Foster