Now we come to the parable of the talents. As genuine Christians we have two aspects in our relationship with the Lord. The first aspect is the relationship of life, and the second is that of our work or function with the Lord. We have both a life and a work relationship with the Lord. On the one hand we are the virgins waiting for the Lord’s coming back. This is the side of life. On the other hand we are also the Lord’s servants, serving Him with the talents He has given us. This is the side of work. With the virgins the matter of love is a very important part. With the servants the matter of functioning and serving is the important part. We have to take care of these two aspects. In life we must be like virgins—wise to get our vessel filled up with the Triune God. As to the matter of work and ministry, we must be the faithful servants who are exercising and using all the talents we have received from the Lord.
As virgins we need oil in our vessel; as servants we need to use our talents. Oil signifies the Spirit that fills up our spirit and eventually our whole inward being. The talents signify the gifts and functions of the Spirit. All real Christians have some gifts and functions given by the Lord. These functions are of the Spirit. If we would be those who love the Lord and who are waiting for His coming back, we need the infilling of the Spirit for the maturity of life. Furthermore, we need to use the gifts or the talents given to us by the Spirit to serve the Lord.
In the parable of the talents, the Christians were in three categories. Those in the first category received five talents, those in the second received two talents, and those in the third received one talent. According to the parable, the problem was not with the first or second category, but only with the third. There was no problem with those who had received five talents or with those who had received two, but the problem was with those who had received only one talent. The five-talented ones represent the stronger believers who have more gifts and more functions. It seems somewhat easy for the five-talented ones and the two-talented ones to function and serve the Lord. But it seems more difficult for the less talented members to serve. Why? It is because they consider that they have received so little. They consider that their function, their service, and their work mean nothing. Because they do not have a large portion, they tend to let the more gifted ones replace them in their function. The danger is for the one-talented members to give up their function. But there is no excuse. All must serve. To the consideration of the one-talented members, the Lord is a hard master. He gathers where He does not scatter, and He reaps where He has not sown.
One day the Lord will come back, and when He comes back He will reckon with all His servants. All His servants will have to settle their accounts with Him. At the Lord’s coming back the problem will not be with the five-talented or the two-talented believers. The problem will be with the one-talented ones. They will excuse themselves saying that the Lord is too hard. And the Lord will not deny that He is hard. In a sense the Lord is really hard. He does reap where He didn’t sow, and He does gather where He didn’t scatter. So in a sense, it is right to say that the Lord is hard. If you have ever been in the Lord’s service, you do have the experience that, in a sense, the Lord is hard. For example, concerning the church meetings, do not consider that you can function because you feel the Lord has given you something. Many times it is not like this. Rather, when you come in, your sensation may be that you have nothing, but the Lord still requires you to function. You may excuse yourself saying that the Lord has given you nothing. This means the Lord has not scattered anything to you or sown anything into you, but now He requires some reaping, some harvesting. Many times this is the principle in God’s economy. This is the way of the Lord. This is because, on the one hand we all have to learn to be diligent, and on the other hand we all have to be those who serve by faith.
(The Kingdom, Chapter 36, by Witness Lee)