For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money.
Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, "Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more."
His master said to him, "Well done, good and faithful servant.You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master."
And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, "Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more."
His master said to him, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master."
He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, "Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours."
But his master answered him, "You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." - Matthew 25:14-30
This parable used to really bother me. I was always upset that the master gave the servants different amounts to work with. What bothered me even more was the fact that the master, upon his return, seemed to add talents and rewards proportionate to the gain that the servant made on the money, regardless of the fact that they didn't start with the same amount (Don't believe me? See the parallel passage in Luke 19).
Now I don't consider myself a financial guru by any stretch of the imagination, but I do know that it's easier to make five of something back if you start with five rather than two. So when the master seemingly rewards in proportion to the profit, that seemed extremely unjust.
I say "seemingly" because I noticed something recently I had not noticed before. I had been confusing exactly what the reward was.
I realized that when the master rewards the servant with the pronouncement "I will set you over much" (in the Luke passage this is authority over cities), he is not giving the servant a reward. He is adding to his responsibility. The master is not giving money to the servant for making him money. The money, the cities, the "much" all still belongs to the master.
What then is the reward for the servant? "The joy of your master". With this short phrase, all of my materialistic categories of life are crushed.
I am guilty of using the gifts and abilities that God has given me for the motive of gaining more. I want more stuff, status, prestige, in this life and the next. How foolish! How could I have missed for so long that it all belongs to the master!
Nothing that is given to me belongs to me. Nothing that I add to what has been given to me belongs to me. And nothing that is placed under my care because I have been productive in the past belongs to me.
If I am working for anything but the joy of the master, I am working foolishly. So to those of you who are constantly jealous of the gifts or possessions or status that someone else has, consider what you have and work for the joy of the master. To those of you who have said gifts and possessions and status, work for the joy of the master. And remember, to whom much is given, much is required.
And above all, work for the joy of the master.