And as they heard these things, he added and spoke a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem…
I. LET US SEEK TO GIVE FULL STATEMENT TO THE PRINCIPLE HERE ANNOUNCED, BEFORE WE ATTEMPT TO SHOW ITS PRACTICAL REACH.
1. The meaning of our Lord's words is certainly clear. Consider that the pounds represent any sort of gift or endowment for usefulness — any capacity, resource, instrument, or opportunity for doing good to our fellow men. He does not really possess anything; he only "occupies" it; it is actually lent money, and belongs to his Lord.
2. The illustrations which suggest themselves in ordinary experience will make the whole matter our own. We are simply reminded once more of the working of the universal law of exercise. Our bodily members and our intelluctual faculties are skilled and invigorated by activity, and injured seriously by persistent disuse. An interesting example of cultivating alertness of observation is related in the life of Robert Houdin, the famous magician. Knowing the need of a swift mastery and a retentive memory of arbitrarily chosen objects in the great trick of second-sight, he took his son through the crowded streets, then required him to repeat the names of all the things he had seen. He often led the lad into a gentleman's library for just a passing moment, and then afterwards questioned him as to the colour and places of the books on the shelves and table. Thus he taught him to observe with amazing rapidity, and hold what he gained, till that pale child baffled the wise world that watched his performances. But, highest of all, our spiritual life comes in for an illustration. Here we find that, in what is truly the most subtle part of our human organization, we are quite as remarkable as elsewhere. Even in our intercourse with God, we bend to natural law. He prays best who is in the habit of prayer. His very fervour and spirituality, as well as his fluency, are increased by constant practice. Thus it is with studious reading of the Scriptures Thus it is with the constant and devout reference of one's life to God's overruling providence. And thus it is with preparedness for heaven. Piety altogether is as capable of growth as any possession we have. He who has, gains more; he who leaves unused what he has, loses it.
II. A FEW PLAIN APPLICATIONS OF THIS PRINCIPLE.
1. Begin with the duty of Christian beneficence. Any pastor of a Church, any leader of a difficult enterprise, is acquainted with the fact that the best persons to ask for a contribution, with a sublime faith and a most cheerful expectation of success, are those who have just been giving largely, those who all along have been giving the most. Such Christians are prospered by the exercise. Their hearts and their purses alike are distended with the grace and the gold.
2. Take also the duty of teaching God's truth to those who always need it. Does a wise man lose his learning by communicating it freely? Rather, are not those the best scholars who do hardest work in teaching the dullest pupils with the most patience?
3. Again, take our consistency of demeanour. This, if anything, would seem most personal and most incommunicable. A Christian who cares nothing for what people say of him deteriorates in fidelity. He who tries hardest to disarm criticism by a godly demeanour will grow in correctness and satisfaction. He need not become more rigid and so more unamiable.
4. Just so, once more, take into consideration all kinds of ordinary Church activity. Those efficient believers, who are generally in the lead when each charitable and energetic work is in its turn on hand, are not so prominent just because they are ambitious and officious, nor because they love conspicuousness; but because being in one sort of earnest labour, they learn to love all labour for Christ. Most naturally, they grow unconsciously zealous for Him.
III. This is going far enough now: we reach in proper order SOME OF THE MANY LESSONS WHICH ARE SUGGESTED BY THE PRINCIPLE.
1. It is high time that Christians should begin to apply business maxims to their spiritual investments.
2. Think joyously of the irresistible working of all these Divine laws of increase, if only we are found faithful.
3. Just here also we begin to understand what our Lord means when He tells us that "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke 12:15). We have no doubt that such a man as that in the parable, who hid his pound in the napkin, was far more disturbed over the care of it than either of those who had their ten or five pounds hard at work. Unemployed wealth, unimproved property, is but a perplexity, and generally enslaves the man who sits down to watch it. What we put to use — of our heart as well as of our money — is what We own; the rest owns us.
4. Finally, mark the sad reverse of all we have been dwelling upon. Observe that the pound taken away from this man was not his profit, but his capital. Hence, he had no further chance; the very opportunity of retrieval was gone.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.