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The 521 Profile: The One Talent Man



Matthew 25:24-25

"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.'

Matthew 25:26-27

"You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed 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."

Matthew 25:28-29

"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."

The man given the one talent... the smallest amount of gifts. Even so, the one talent man is (like the others) trusted, valued, and counted on to do something exceptional with what his master had given him. Like the five and two-talent men, the one talent-man is also capable and possesses abilities and skills that have put him in unique place of opportunity. Unfortunately the master sees more in the one-talent man than he more than likely saw in himself. This really was his moment! This was his moment to finally prove to the master and to everyone who still doubted him that he was more than they thought. He had been given the same opportunity that the others had been given. Sure it wasn't the same amount - that stings a bit. And of course, the master still had some concerns - but, all truth told, it was with good cause. But, in spite of that... the master still chose trust him, and to give him the opportunity of a lifetime. He too could multiply or double what he had been given just like the other two had, and he and his family would be set for life. He had the ability, he had the skill-set, he had the talent, and now he had been given the one thing he had always wanted - the chance. He could now control his own outcome. So, what was really going on inside the mind and heart of the one-talent man?

This is where the 521 gets twisted and goes sideways within the mind and heart of the one-talent man. Instead of going quickly and using the momentum of the moment he does the unthinkable - he goes out into his backyard and buries what the master gave him. This no longer about the master; this has become completely about the one-talent man. Who is he really? Though the master had some doubts and concerns, he still thought enough of him to give him the same opportunity as he had given the five and two-talent men. Somewhere in the ups and downs of the one-talent man's life, he had allowed himself to become bitter and broken. In his cynical and bitter brokenness, the one-talent-man could not see himself in the way that his master saw him. The master saw something good in the one-talent man that he no longer saw in himself. Yet he passive aggressively continued on serving as if his heart and mind were ok - they weren't, and he wasn't. When it comes his turn to report and to celebrate the fruit of his efforts (what he had done, with what he had been given) he quickly and falsely attempted to excuse and justify his inactivity, unexplainable behavior, and lack of faithfulness. He wrongly and dishonestly made the moment about the master - when in reality it was only about him.

Matthew 25:24-25

"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.'

Clearly his sarcastic and passive aggressive innuendo reveals who the one-talent man really had become - bitter, broken, and unbelieving. And now, we also know why he was the one-talent man.

He describes his master as a very controlling, difficult, shrewd businessman. He tells him that he is the kind of a man who reaps where he has not sown, and gathers where he has not spread. This was not true. In those days, boundaries sometimes were rather indefinite and they did not always bother to plow a field. They would just scatter the grain and it would grow. When it came to reaping, they were not above taking a little of the seed that had fallen on the neighbor’s property. The one talent man insinuated that his master was the kind of person that got everything he could from anyone he could. He implied that the master was not completely ethical or honest - he calls the master "a crook." Again, this was not true.

The master of the one-talent servant does not bother responding to the charge, but does not accept the one-talent man's accusation that he is a “hard” or difficult man. If the one-talent servant really believed his master was as shrewd and difficult as he tried portray him he would have been much more diligent and mindful to please him. Regardless, his response was no excuse. As I said a few weeks ago, "whenever a person fails to meet reasonable expectations or to do his or her own duty, the default is always to find some excuse or someone else to blame." That is exactly what the one-talent man was doing. The painting of his master as a hard money-making Jew, who made himself rich at the expense of others, and profiting off of money that was not his, were all untrue accusations. The self-deceived one-talent man should have been thankful and motivated to have another opportunity to turn his life's disappointments and frustrations into a new life. This could have gone so much differently than it did. It is probably reasonable to assume that the one talent man had full knowledge of what the other two servants had done with the talents they had been given.

So, the master answers him directly:

Matt 25:26-27

"You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed 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."

The master's expectations, evaluation, and judgment of the servant is pointed and painful. Why didn't this man simply put his money into the market at interest? This minimal effort would have been safe to do, and he would have had at least some income to report on what he had been given. He very easily could have done something, but instead, the one talent man went in the backyard and dug a hole and put the money in the hole and buried it. Hmmm...

Even in our modern day when people bury money in the backyard, it usually indicates something bad, or at the very least, that something's not right. Perhaps they are trying to avoid tax, or maybe the money was illegally acquired somehow, because the normal, responsible thing is to put it into a bank, retirement, or investment opportunity. Why didn't the one-talent servant put it in the bank? Opinions usually vary on this point. Listen how his master now speaks of him... lazy, slothful, deceitful, and wicked. In our world today the strong-voiced agenda driven minority would demand to know what was there that was wicked and deceitful about this? But is this the real question to be asked?

How about this? In his bitterness and brokenness the one-talent man gives in to some twisted scheme and dishonest reasoning. It is much like the thinking of Judas when he sold out Jesus. Judas reasoned, if Jesus is really the Messiah, my betrayal will not hurt anything, and I will get my money from the High Priest. If He is not the Messiah, then at least I get paid and don't come out of the whole thing empty handed. I believe the one-talent man reasoned in somewhat the same way. His master was going on a far journey. If the servant puts the money in the bank, he would have to register it in his master’s name. If his master did not come back (which often times happened), then the master's family could claim it. So, he likely thought if he buried it in the backyard, there would be no record of the money. If his master did not come back, the servant would have it. If he does come back, he could not accuse him of any dishonesty because he could produce or even return the talent. For the condition of the heart and mind of the one-talent man this scenario is more than just a sketchy theory. To be given so much, and then to do so little, was a faithless and thankless reality. He just did not believe that his master was coming back - in fact by burying the talent, he was counting on it. If he wasn't, then he would have done something entirely different with what he had been given. And this is what the master meant when be said that he was a wicked servant. It is also why the one-talent man was judged harshly and decisively, justly, not just fairly. Verse 29 has always been the subject of some controversy and debate - usually by one-talent people, passive aggressively justifying wrong and unfaithful behavior. When it says, “for to everyone who has, more will be given,” the reasonable question is, “to everyone who has what?” Does it refer to everyone who has works, or to everyone who has faithful and moral character?

Although no one really wants to - we all must make a connection to the one-talent man. That connection does not mean that we are him. It only means that maybe we have been him, or are in danger of becoming him. It also means we do not have to remain as him, or better yet, never even become him. We have this moment to see the one-talent man for who he was, and what he did with what he had been given. The most significant thing about the one-talent man is this.

we can see him - we can come to understand him - we can learn from him -

we can move forward away from him - we do not have to become him

By doing this we can live in a way that the master has given us the opportunity to live. We can live in the 521, and actually become the 1042!

In the final analysis, who is, and what are the differences between the one-talent man and the five and two-talent men? I think we all know the answer to this now. I also believe that we all want to be five and two talent men/women? We should not second guess that, nor should we apologize for it. This is God's plan and desire for us, and that is why He has given each of us not His greatest gift but also the gifts and opportunities needed to flourish in life and prepare for His return! Next week we will make our final search through the 521 to receive God's purest truth regarding what we do with what we have been given.


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