“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. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ “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? Well 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. “‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For 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. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:24-30)
The Bible teaches us very clearly that we cannot work our way into heaven. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Salvation is totally by God’s grace.
Yet in the Parable of the Talents, we see that our good works are very important. How do good works and grace go together? Consider what James tells us in James 2.
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” (James 2:14, 17)
Good works is not the reason for our salvation. They are the result of our salvation. The Apostle Paul wrote – “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) Part of being a new creation in Christ is our ability to perform good works.
The man in Christ’s parable did not lose his salvation because he did not produce fruit. His lack of fruit was evidence that he was not a genuine believer. According to James, a profession of faith that fails to give evidence of a changed life is questionable.
Consider what Jesus taught in another parable; the Parable of the Vine.
John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Not all branches will bear the same amount of fruit. According to Christ, the Master often has to prune even the fruitful branches in order to help them produce more fruit. (see John 15:2) Yet in every true branch there should be the evidence of spiritual fruit. The question each of us should ask ourselves is – “When the Master returns, what kind of fruit will He find in my life?