In Bible Study tonight, we studied Matthew 25:14-30. Here it is in the NIV:

14″Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15To one he gave five talents[1] of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19″After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’
21″His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
22″The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’
23″His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
24″Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26″His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
28″ ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

First, one historical note. We get the modern usage of the word “talent” from this passage of the Bible.

We had an interesting discussion tonight. Several said this passage is reflective of a Jesus they don’t know — a harsh and unforgiving master. Some said that salvation is through faith, not good works, but this passage suggests works gets you the reward.

Here is my thought. When I was growing up, I thought the same thing. “How horrible,” I thought. “The one guy who makes sure to return to his master the money, is thrown out. What would have happened if the other guys had lost the investment?!”

After praying about it and discussing it tonight, I have another thought — a different thought.

Instead of talents, think “faithful responsibilities.” As the master entrusted his talents in the hands of his servants, God has given us responsibilities we are to carry out by placing our faith in God. When we start out on our faith journey, we have one responsibility — accept Christ as our Lord and Savior.

The third servant, the wicked one, he was given that one responsibility and did nothing with that responsibility. He buried it away out of sight, but not out of mind. He knew that responsibility existed; yet, he did not truly know his master and he did not know the rewards his master gives. This third servant is the unsaved.

The two other servants are saved. The one with the five talents — given the most to be responsible for — is the strong Christian, the minister responsible for growing the church, etc. God gives the strong Christian many talents and, through faith, the Christian is to harness those talents and lead others to God and take on the responsibilities of a Christian. The servant with the fewer talents is saved, but a weaker Christian who cannot yet be entrusted with so much responsibility. Still, that Christian, having accepted the Lord, will be rewarded.

Others may disagree, but this all makes sense to me now.

Something else that makes sense to me is this disturbed feeling I’ve had these past few days — all related to my friend who has lost his way. Tonight I wondered if he ever was on the right path. Being a Presbyterian, I am a firm believer in the concept of “once saved always saved.” This friend might not be saved. But, more than that, through the comments of others, is the sinking feeling that while God intends to do some good through me, there is a struggle waging even within me — particularly the thought that I’m a sinner so how can I help a sinner. False guilt and false shame.

Please continue to pray for my friend. This is harsh, but my prayer tonight was very simple. “Lord, you know the friend for whom I pray and whose name I will not say. He has turned his back on you. He has lost his way. He is consumed by evil. Return him to you and to the path of rigtheousness. If it is that he has never known you, reveal yourself to him that he might know you. If he does not take what you give, if it is your will that he not accept you or return to you, then I pray that you cast him out and away from his friends that the evil that consumes him does not also attempt to consume us, his friends.

“In all these things and in all these days, fill me that you might work through me to do your will for my friend.”

Soon after praying this, while others were still praying and still even now thoughts continue to build in me that the opportunity will soon visit my friend and me and I can tell him that the Good Lord makes me think my friend thinks he has finally found his way, but in fact he is now lost, though not yet too lost to never find his way back away from the coming storm. I also have a strong conviction that I should make it clear I am his friend through thick and thin, but I will only help him divert from the storm. Once he has decided to fully be lost, I will not get lost with him.