The brilliant parables of Jesus were often confusing to even the Disciples. Here’s one that is often misconstrued in its application for then and now. ♦
Like many things in the Bible, the teaching goes deeper than the surface story.
Recall this is the parable in which a rich master leaves on a journey and entrusts his substantial wealth to 3 servants. To one he gives five talents (a measurement of money), to another two, and to another one, only one talent. The first two servants double their money and share the invested principle plus a hefty return with the owner when he returns. The third servant feared loss and so buried the money for safekeeping. The master is pleased with the first two servants and reprimands and rebukes the third. He divides the money originally given to the third servant and awards it to the first servant who produced ten talents.
This parable is often confusing because of the different meanings of the word talent. Our modern interpretation refers talents to gifts and skills; the New Testament use of the word (in Greece, Rome and Middle East) refers to a significant monetary amount – more than 15 years’ wages of a laborer, or potentially in excess of $1 million dollars in modern value.
The true meaning is compounded and muddied by the sheer size of the monetary amounts being dealt out and rewarded. This master who leaves on a journey is extremely wealthy, and the amount entrusted and rewarded to the 3 servants is extraordinary, even astounding.
But what was Jesus really saying here and what does it mean to us today?
Parables in Context
This parable is actually rich in meaning at various levels. As with all good Bible study, one must first view the text in historical and Scriptural context. This story is told only to the 12 disciples on the heels of the Olivet Discourse (on Mount of Olives) in which Jesus boldly spoke of the coming destruction of the temple of Jerusalem and “great tribulation” (see Matthew 24). Jesus’ prediction, which came true 40 years later, is laden with Old Testament references from the prophet Daniel and describes the “coming [returning] of the Son of Man” in judgment “with power and great glory.”
He then tells his disciples the Parable of the Fig Tree (Matthew 24:32-35, Mark 13:28-31, Luke 21:29-33) which highlights predictive certainty. Jesus then cautions them to stay watchful and be wise, faithful servants for their master who may return “at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:44) He notes the unprepared “wicked servant” who will be punished and experience “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
He follows with the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-15), also about watchfulness and preparation, and finally with the Parable of the Talents. In this latter parable, the “worthless servant is cast into the outer darkness where men will weep and gnash their teeth.” (Matthew 25:30)
Meaning for 1st and 21st Century Disciples
The Parable of the Talents was a warning to His disciples to not fear and waste time, capacity, and opportunity to magnify the untold value bestowed upon them. They would be be richly rewarded even many times over based on the rich expectations uniquely presented to each according to his ability.
And yes, we are all given differing abilities and capacities, represented by the extraordinary wealth lavished on lowly but trusted servants in the parable.
While the rewards are beyond imagination, the expectations from the master are large and extreme. We are not to fool around with the assignment.
It is a Big Miss to underestimate the Master and the expectations He has for His disciples awaiting His final return in judgment, and to misuse or under-utilize the talent bestowed, even lavished, on us all. And yes, all of mankind has received the Word of God and are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-21)
Moreover, we the Church have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, which surpasses all power on this earth and gives us dominion and authority to be “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37-39)
So, how are we doing with this? Are we the servant who takes the overwhelming gifts uniquely bestowed on us by the Living God and multiplies them many times over in watchful, faithful and proactive obedience? Or are we like the third servant who tarries and dithers in fear and questioning self-justification for our lacking in faith, belief, and ultimate authority of the Loving Master?
Are you avoiding the Big Miss in life?
For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why we utter the Amen through Him, to the glory of God. – 2 Corinthians 1:20