Parable of the talents

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The Parable of the talents, not what you thinkParable of the talents

Many of Christ’s parables are needlessly misinterpreted. The parable of the talents is one which is often misinterpreted as  speaking about investment of money and human abilities or gifts. This is not the case as can be seen by revisiting this parable.

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.  And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.”  Matthew 25:14, 15

The servants in the parable of the talents

The man who traveled to a far country in the parable of the talents,  is undisputedly the Lord Jesus Christ.  The far country is heaven, and the country that he left behind is the world.  The Lord dwelt among us physically in flesh and blood and today He does so in the spiritual realm through the Holy Spirit.  He was present with us and then traveled to a far country.  This trip refers to His ascension after the resurrection.

Before he left, he called together his own servants. Some bible teachers affirm that these servants refer to the Jews.  This is not a correct interpretation however because in the New Testament slaves and servants are those who have been bought with a price.  The Jews as a people, have never recognized Jesus as their Messiah. The Jewish prophets, kings and priests were the servants of God under the Old Testament but not in the New Testament.  The Lord possesses goods which He called talents and these He delivers to His own servants.  The Lord only delivered the goods that He possesses to His servants.  Why would He entrust His goods to the ungodly: to those who mock His name, and do not do what He commands or desires?  No, the Lord only entrusts His goods to His own servants, to those who have been born again, to His Church.  The un-saved, the ungodly are not God’s servants; they belong to Satan and are servants of Satan and sin.  This parable therefore is for and concerning God’s New Testament people: the Church.

The goods in the parable of the talents

So then, what goods was Jesus referring to in this parable?  What does the Lord have that He has delivered to us?  I believe that the answer is the ministry of discipleship or the spiritual care of souls.  Verse 15 tells us that the Lord gave talents to His servants.  A commonly mistaken interpretation is that a talent refers to possessions, position, education, intelligence, diplomas and status.  In the Word of God a talent does not represent these things.  God allows any person to possess these things.  Even the ungodly have all these things, and quite often in greater quantities than Christians.  A talent in this parable does not refer to natural things.  Talents are the possessions of the Lord. They are the privileges and responsibilities of the spiritual care of His people.

In this parable, the Lord gave five talents to one servant, two talents to another and one talent to a third: each one according to his ability (vs.15).  From what Jesus mentioned in this parable, we can arrive at several practical conclusions.

A talent is something that only believers can receive, because the talents are the goods that the Lord left for His servants, those who have been born again.  God does not give these talents indiscriminately, but according to the ability of each servant.  You may wonder how God determines the ability of each servant.  While this is an honest question, within the text there appears to be no answer.  I suppose that one’s ability would depend on several varying factors but one thing we can be sure of: God is a just God and depending upon our response will reward us accordingly.  In any case, the text of the parable implies that God considers the ability of each servant and bestowed talents to each one based on their ability to use them properly.  The ability is not the talent; rather it is that which helps us use the talent.  However, each servant must accept the responsibility and eventually give account of the multiplication of his or her talents.  In any case, God determines the ability, gives the proper amount of talents, and expects a return on His investment.

Faithfulness in the parable of the talents

We can also observe that God may increase the amount of talents that He originally gives when His servants are faithful in using and multiplying them. The servant, who received five talents, gained five more, the one who received two, gained two more.  So if any given servant is faithful in multiplying what he has been given he can hope to receive more, or in other words no servant is given a fixed amount of talents.  God gives each servant an initial amount and from then on, it depends on his faithfulness in multiplying what God has given him.  The Word clearly demonstrates that each servant should develop his talents and that the talents speak of spiritual things since they are the Lord’s goods bestowed upon His own servants.

Rewards and punishment in the parable of the talents

God can recall the talents. The parable goes on to explain that the servant who received one talent buried it, and in the end the Lord took it back and gave it to the one that had ten. Here again we can see that the talents are not natural abilities since once a person learns something they cannot suddenly lose what they have learned.  For example if I learn to play the guitar, I can’t all of the sudden lose that ability because I was somehow unfaithful in multiplying it, even less so could that ability be automatically transferred to someone else who was more faithful with their specific talent.

In this parable, the master took the talent back.  Therefore, these talents are not natural but spiritual.  One day at the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Lord will require an accounting of our use of His goods (talents).  If we have not multiplied these talents, we will have to give an account at the Judgment Seat of Christ and subsequently disciplined.  Those servants whom God deems faithful will receive even more talents as reward from the Lord.

For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. (Matthew 13:12)

Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. (Matthew 25:28)

In the parable of the talents all the servants receive talents.  These three servants represent all the servants of God.  Some receive more, some receive less, some are faithful and some are unfaithful.

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