Parable of the Talents

For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

~Matthew 25:14-30

Today’s Gospel reading — the Parable of the Talents—is found Matthew 25, where it is placed between two others: the Parable of the Ten Virgins and the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. All three involve how we live our lives as we await the return of Jesus.

 In this parable, “talent” does not mean a skill or ability. The word “talent” in the Bible is a unit of measurement, equivalent to seventyfive pounds. The first mention of the talent was in the book of Exodus, in the inventory of materials used for the construction of the tabernacle. 2 Samuel tells us that King David’s crown weighed a talent, and it was also the weight of the hailstones mentioned in Revelation 16. 

In this parable, the master went on a journey, and his three slaves were entrusted with five talents, two talents, and one talent respectively. To put it into context, one talent of gold was the equivalent of twenty years’ wages, so he showed a great deal of trust in the them. The three slaves were entrusted with different values because they had different abilities. The first two slaves invested the gold; the third slave was afraid of the master and thought him to be harsh and cruel. This fear lead to him making unwise choices. While the other two doubled their investments, he buried the talent and incurred the anger of the master. 

Today, we use the word “talent” to describe an ability that God has given to us. 

The master in this parable is Jesus, leaving the servants (us) in charge of His world. How a person sees Jesus — as loving or as unfair — will affect their choices. If you know God and love Him, you will look forward to the future when Jesus comes again, and you will be like the first two servants who invested what their master entrusted to them in anticipation of his return. If you feel fear and suspicion or even disbelief, you will be like the third servant, who distrusted the master and buried the talent.

God expects us to do the best with what He has given to us. If the master can entrust slaves with what is his, think of how much more God trusts us. The two slaves who invested the money had no need to compare themselves with each other. Both had doubled the value, and the master was equally pleased with both. He invited them to share in his happiness. The servant who received one talent was not condemned by the master for failing to produce ten, or four; he would have received the same praise if he had produced two. He was condemned because he failed to invest at all.

Just as the slaves invested what their master had entrusted to them, so must we invest what God has given to us.  Like the three, our abilities may be great or small. But no matter how great or small our talents, abilities and wealth, we are required to put them to good use.

Jesus has gone to make a home for us; we might still be alive when He returns, or we may have already died.  But while we are here on this earth waiting for His perfect plan to unfold we are not to be lazy and bury what he has entrusted to us. We are merely stewards of what He has given to us, for nothing is ever really ours. Think of your bedroom when you were younger. You considered it to be your own private domain, yet it was part of the home your parents owned. We will see our talents and abilities differently if we realize that they are merely borrowed and when Jesus returns He will want to see how we have used them.

Which servant are you? Or I? We each have the choice of which kind of servant we will be.  We may use our skills and abilities to further God’s Kingdom on earth, or we can be like the third servant, who fearfully buried the talent given to him

We are not given equal abilities, and our earthly incomes may not show that we are rewarded equally for using them, but we are equally pleasing to God. Our gifts are not ours alone. God expects us to use them in ways that glorify Him. 

We see around us examples of those who invest their abilities wisely: those who volunteer in the areas in which they excel, for the sole purpose of helping others. The teachers who give extra help to their struggling students. The employers who give bonuses to their workers so that they can better provide for their families. Those who use their abilities in the medical field to ease the suffering of mankind. Those who go the extra mile for their families and loved ones. 

So, invest your talents daily: make a donation to charity. Offer to babysit for a neighbour. Volunteer at your church. Pray for those who need it. Or, simply share a smile. By investing in this way you multiply your talents; you just might inspire others to do the same.

It is literally that easy, and yet what better reward than hearing these words: “You have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”

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