My husband has a hang-up with the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25:14-30. There’s this part at the end when the guy who buried his talent brings it forward, and the master gives it to the one who invested his five talents and now has ten. And that’s when my husband always objects, saying, “Why him? Why not the guy who started with two?”
It’s been an ongoing conversation between us for at least a decade. So Sunday, when our pastor said that he’d be preaching on this parable, Ken leaned over to whisper, “I wonder if I’ll get an answer my question.”
Finding Myself in the Story
There’s a reason my husband doesn’t think that part of the story seems fair. It’s because—like we’re meant to—he’s finding himself in the story. He identifies with the two talent guy, not the five. And I’d have to say the same.
Like Ken, I’ve been blessed with gifts and resources and health and a stable background. But also like him, I see others who have been entrusted with far more. Quite often, I’m tempted to say, Why her?
You might be thinking, Wait. Don’t you write books and speak to audiences about Jesus? It’s true, and even now, you’re reading my words—which I count a great privilege. Yet I can’t speak like Priscilla Shirer. I can’t sell books like Lysa TerKeurst. And I have no idea how to rally women for discipleship like Jennie Allen at the IF Gathering. So does it make me “less than” because I’ve been given “less than”?Does it make me less than because I've been given less than? Click To Tweet
No. And I think that’s one of the points Jesus makes in his story about the talents. Let me show you why.
This parable from Jesus was prompted by a question from the disciples. He had told them he was leaving (he would soon die on a cross) and they wondered how to watch for him and when he was coming back (Matt. 24:3). So he told them the story about the master who entrusted his property to three servants, giving them five talents, two talents, and one. (Matt. 25:14) The master returns and finds that two have doubled theirs and one buried his in fear.
Here’s what interests me. If Jesus just wanted the twelve (and us) to know the difference between a disciple who is faithful until his return and one who isn’t, he could have told a simpler story—with two servants, not three.
If the story had one guy who doubled his five talents and another who buried his one, that would get the job done, right? So why include the guy with the two talents? I can’t speak for Jesus, but it seems to me that his purpose had something to do with comparison.
Picture the twelve disciples listening to the story. Don’t you think some (maybe most) saw themselves as the two talent guy? And like my husband, I’ll bet they also wondered, “Now why’d the master give the bonus talent to the five talent guy?”
In other words, Why him, and not me?
Perhaps you’ve had similar wonderings. Why does the wealthiest family in the school have the kid who gets the full ride scholarship? Why does the most beautiful woman in church also have the most beautiful voice on the worship team? Why, when a new position opens up at work or church, does the one who was chosen the last three times get chosen again?
There’s greater temptation for two talent servants to ask “Why her?” sort of questions. When you’re the one who’s been given less, there’s more temptation to measure and become jealous or discouraged; to glance sideways and compare. And I think this is exactly why Jesus put the two talent guy in the story. Because, consider this:
The two talent guy got exactly the same reward as the five talent guy. Word for word, the story reads,
“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.’” (Matt. 25:21 and 23).
These first two servants were given different amounts and produced different results, yet both received the same, incredibly generous, rewards. That’s what we’re supposed to notice.
As a servant of the Lord, don’t you long to hear, “Well, done!”? And wouldn’t you be so honored if God entrusted you with greater responsibility, both on earth and in heaven? And don’t you ache to enter the joy of heaven—where Jesus is King, and all is made right?
When Jesus returns, it won’t be the conclusion of our story; it will be just the beginning! On the new earth under Jesus’s reign, we’ll have more opportunities, more responsibilities, and endless days to multiply the gifts and talents we’ve been given that we might give ever increasing glory to the Lamb! Truly, we will enter our master’s joy.
When we get stuck in our “Why her?” measuring, we’re setting our minds on the things of this measure-up world. But in this story, Jesus invites us to set our minds and our hopes on heaven (Col. 3:2). His encouragement to the us two-talent servants is: You have no less opportunity to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
But there’s one more thing in the story which corrects our Why her? thinking.
A Misconstrued View of the Master
Put yourself in the sandals of the two talent servant in Jesus’s story. You’ve just been rewarded for your faithfulness, and now it’s the one-talent guy’s turn. He didn’t double his talent; he buried it. And why? Because he thought the master was a cruel taker, not a generous giver (Matt. 25:24-25), which means he was tragically misinformed.
In his dread of the master and fear of not measuring up, the one talent guy has missed out on the master’s joy completely. Glance sideways and watch the deep, agonizing regret and anger spread up his neck as he learns that he is to be banished from the kingdom. Watch him resist and call out, as guards forcefully take him away to the place of outer darkness, and gnashing of teeth.
Yet you, dear servant, get to stay! You get to reap all the rewards, and enjoy endless tomorrows filled with purpose. And why? What sets you apart from the two talent guy?
With your feet still in the two-talent guy’s shoes, consider your answer carefully. Yes it’s true that you were industrious conscientiousness. But if you, like this unfortunate fellow, had a misconstrued view of the master, isn’t there a chance you might have buried your talents, too? In which case, you’d also be being shown the door!
You faithfully turned your two talents into four because you knew the master to be trustworthy and generous. But here’s the question: Is the master any less so, when he gives the bonus talent to the other guy?
If you object or grumble at the master, saying, Why him?, it’s clear that you haven’t adequately considered that outer darkness. Instead of being sent there, you’re being ushered to to a seat of honor in the banquet hall, right next to the five talent guy. A more appropriate response would be a delighted, “Really? Why me?!”
When the master gives something to someone else, that doesn’t make him a taker; It makes him a generous master, who gets to choose.When the master gives something to someone else, that doesn't make him a taker; It makes him a generous master, who gets to choose. Click To Tweet
The Sideways Energy of Comparison
Okay, step out of the two-talent guy’s sandals and let’s bring the story into 2021.You and I don’t know when Jesus will return, but we do know that he’ll call us to account. Take a moment and inventory what you’ve been entrusted with. Some of us have been given five talents; others have been given two. But for all of us the question is: Have I stewarded well? Have I faithfully invested my resources, gifts, and time for the sake of the Master?
I’ve noticed that one of the greatest faithfulness deterrents, for me, is comparison. On the days I start glancing sideways—wondering why God has given more to some five talent servant, I become distracted and discouraged. I get bogged down with jealousy or shame. I become preoccupied with either trying to be seen or trying to not be seen. On those days, I am far less productive for the kingdom.
I spend so much sideways energy on comparing my ministry or my service to the Lord with someone else’s.
If this rings true for you as well, join me in asking this question: Do I truly see God as generous?
Make no mistake. God is not a harsh taker; He is a generous giver. And whether we’ve been given two talents or five, our faithfulness will be rewarded with extravagant generosity. And those of us who are convinced of this are free to happily get back to work—stewarding whatever God has put in our hands.
The Two Talent Resolution
I’m happy to report that as my husband and I processed the sermon over lunch and talked through some of the things I’ve shared here, I believe we’ve finally settled the matter of the two talent guy getting “passed over” for the bonus talent. Just because he was given less doesn’t mean that he is less. Because look how the master bestows honor on both!
And when we’re objecting and saying, Why him? or Why her?, chances are we’ve lost sight of the generosity of our God. Because of our sin, we each deserve to be cast out, away from him, forever. But because our eyes have been opened to God’s worthiness, we have the potential of becoming honorable servants who one day hear, “Well done.”When we're objecting and saying, Why him? or Why her?, chances are we've lost sight of the generosity of our God. Click To Tweet
Some of these thoughts are echoed in my Comparison Girl teaching session for chapter five: “Comparing Wealth”. You can pre-order the Leader’s Kit (releasing March 30), which includes both DVD’s and digital downloads for all six sessions:
The Journaling Workbook is officially releasing February 23, but I received a box early! Check my shop for more info.
This trailer video has some clips from the Leader Kit Video Sessions.