The Parable of the Talents, also known as the Parable of the Pounds, is one of the most popular, and perhaps confusing parables of Jesus. It appears in the Gospel of Matthew in the Bible. The Gospel of Luke also has a synonymous parable known as the Parable of the Minas. SpiritualRay explains the meaning and summary of the Parable of the Talents, thereby clarifying the unclear aspects of this crucial teaching of Christ Jesus.
What is a Talent?
The word ‘Talent’ usually refers to an ability, but in this parable, it is used as a measure for money. The word is derived from an Ancient Greek word τάλαντον. Some sources state that one talent was equivalent to the money worth twenty years of labor done by an ordinary man.
The Parable of the Talents appears in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, in chapter 25, verses 14 to 30. The theme and message of this parable is quite similar to the ‘Parable of the Minas’, written in the Gospel of Saint Luke. In both the parables, the storyline and the teachings are synonymous, irrespective of the substantial differences in the details, characters, and plots.
This parable discusses the trusting nature of a master towards his servant and the responsibility of a servant towards his master. It highlights the need for faithfulness and obedience, not only when the master is around, but also when he isn’t. Indirectly, Jesus conveys what is actually expected of us all while He is gone away. Like the servants weren’t aware of their master’s return, we too are unaware when He shall come again to us. However, when He does return, we must be like the good and faithful servants, who did their best with the responsibilities that were entrusted to them and proved worthy of their master’s trust.
Parable of the Talents Explained
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”
― Matthew 25:14-30, English Standard Version
As always, Jesus remarkably shares a crucial message to every follower through ordinary, everyday characters in the parable. In reference to this particular story, Jesus takes the example of a wealthy master, who entrusts three of his able servants, huge amount of wealth, so that they may take its responsibility efficaciously. Note that the amount given to each servant varied according to his ability, which means that the master knew of what each one is capable of.
As the master went away to a long journey, the first servant who was given five talents, immediately traded them and gained five more. Which means, he didn’t waste any time and started working towards the benefit of his master. Likewise, the second servant too, doubled the amount of talents that were given to him. However, the third servant was not only lazy but also fearful of his master. He was reluctant to take risk with what was given to him and therefore, didn’t make use of the talent that was entrusted upon him. Instead of putting it into some good use, he dug it in the ground to hide it from the world.
As we had mentioned previously, one talent was worth 20 years of earnings for a common man. This implies that not only had the master given the servants ample amount of property, but as he was out on a long journey, the servants also had an ample amount of time to put that money in good use to increase its worth. Had the master not had any intention to multiply its worth, he would have dug the talents himself and not entrusted them to his servants. Finally, the day came when the master returned and summoned the three to give him the accountability of what they had done with his property while he was gone.
As anticipated, he was pleased with the first two servants, who doubled the value of the money, and rewarded them for their faithfulness. However, when the third servant was asked of the one talent given to him, he, stating the fear he holds towards his master, gave him the one talent that he dug in the ground. Angered by the servant’s stance on the talent, his master angrily accuses him of not giving it to the bankers and gain interest on the amount, as that was the least that he could have done, and ideally, should have done. The laziness of not making good use of the money even to the bare minimum angered the master furthermore, and he gave the one talent of the third servant to the first, and ordered the servant to be cast in outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth―symbolizing punishment in hell.
Meaning and Interpretation
After having gone through the explanation of the story, let us now understand the message that Jesus wished to convey through this parable. Invariably, He speaks of the time when He would be away from us all, after He ascends into heaven with a promise to come back again―the time which is currently going on. The man who takes the journey is no one else but Christ Himself, who is now away from us. We are His servants to whom He has entrusted His valuable talents, and will come back to take account of the same. The entrusted talents are symbolic of the gifts He has given to us, the gift of the word of God, which we must share with others and multiply, so that when He comes back, He would have more treasure (in the form of faith and belief), as compared to what He had left.
Though it seems to be a simple story, certain statements made by Jesus in this parable seem to be confusing enough for some readers. For instance, the part where the master says, “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” To those who read this statement without any deeper understanding of the parable, this would seem quite a harsh statement, taking away the little that a servant possesses, and giving it away to the one who already has in abundance. However, we must remember that the connotation of this statement is in reference to the judgment that will be made by our Lord when He returns. And it is not some means or money that He speaks of, but the ultimate reward of Salvation that is only worthy to be held by the faithful.
This statement also substantiates the fact that the Lord gives the talent (Word of God) to one and all, although, they receive it based on their own capabilities, but no one is empty. However, a mere receiving of the talent isn’t enough to be worthy of reward. In failure of the fulfillment of the given responsibilities, the bestowed talent would be given to him who is truly worthy, and the unfaithful would be sent to hell. This could be said in reference to the mention of “weeping and gnashing of teeth”, which explains the state of those in hell.
An Alternate Interpretation
While the aforementioned summary explains the widely accepted interpretation of this parable, there are some experts who believe that Jesus, through this parable, aimed at the scribes and pharisees of His time, giving them the position of the third servant. Just as the third servant hid his talent from the rest of the world, similarly, the scribes withheld the gift of God among themselves while they were supposed to share it with their fellow men and increase its worth. They feared the wrath of God so much that they failed to understand the true nature of God and what He expected them to do for Him. Therefore, eventually, they started playing safe, unwilling to go out of their way to the potential believers who would glorify the Lord along with them. They preferred sticking to what they already had, not working towards more. They had excuses for not doing what they didn’t do, excuses, that were no more than mere excuses―something unfruitful and wasteful in the eyes of the Lord.
The Parable of the Talents extraordinarily throws light on varied elements of being faithful towards the Lord. It efficaciously teaches us believers that the waiting period is the time where we must make the most of the talents He has bestowed upon us, and multiply the same to as much as we can. For the time is near when Lord Jesus Christ shall return, and on the day of judgment, take account of the fact if we were the good and faithful servants, or the wicked and slothful ones.