Sometimes, you read a parable years after you first encountered it and find that you vastly underestimated its significance. This is true for many of us when we reread the parable of the talents. At the story’s start, we meet a faithful servant entrusted with his master’s property, as the master goes on a trip. Read the account in Matthew 25:14–30.
This parable initially might seem like a call to stewardship: Invest your money well to God’s glory, and you may well see great results! In reality, there’s much more at work in this account than just a call to invest wisely. The parable of the talents teaches us to recognize a fundamental truth of the faith: Christianity is not about safety; it is about risk.
So it was for the servant who was given five talents. He went “at once” and made five more (v. 16). He sought to honor his departed master by taking what was given to him and boldly seeking a return on it. His efforts proved successful, and he went straight to his leader when it was time to settle accounts.
The parable of the talents exhorts us to do the same. We are called, as gospel-gripped people, to be salt and light wherever we find ourselves: the home, the office, the playground, the Little League diamond, the book club, and everywhere in between. Our Master, Jesus Christ, is temporarily away. When He returns, we want more than anything to show Him lives that have borne fruit for His glory (v. 17).
This means that we cannot play it safe, as the third servant untrustingly does in the parable (vv. 18, 24–30). He is condemned for fearing the master and being afraid to risk his life for his master’s renown.
Of course, we are not all called to go to far-flung countries as cross-cultural missionaries. But if we are going to be a part of the advancement of the kingdom of Christ, we must put our comfort, free time, and security on the line in order to promote the gospel of grace. We must face down our fears as we share the good news with a friend or family member. We must give sacrificially to kingdom work. We must build up our churches and lend our energy to Christian work of varying kinds.
Christianity is not about safety. It is about risk. The men and women who are currently endangering themselves in closed countries to share Christ are not doing different work than non-missionaries are. We have the same mission, if a different position. In a secularizing age, let us go “at once” to God to give more glory, knowing that if we are tired or uncertain, that soon, we will hear the Master say to us what He said before: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (vv. 21, 23).