Exploring the Wisdom Embedded in Biblical Parables: The Parable of the Talents

Matthew 6:19-20: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

 

 

Summary:

The Parable of the Talents, narrated in Matthew 25:14-30, describes a master who entrusts his property to three servants before embarking on a journey, distributing talents based on their abilities: five, two, and one talent, respectively. The servants with five and two talents invest and double their master’s money, earning praise and greater responsibilities upon his return. Conversely, the servant who received one talent hides it out of fear, returning only what was given. His master condemns him as “wicked and slothful,” seizing his talent and casts him into outer darkness. The analysis juxtaposes this parable with the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, illustrating equal salvation as God’s sovereign gift while emphasizing the differing rewards and responsibilities in Heaven based on earthly faithfulness. It addresses that believers are rewarded by how they use God’s gifts, while non-believers who reject Christ face judgment and damnation. The parable underscores the importance of faithful stewardship and service, promising that those who diligently use their divine gifts will rule and reign with Christ in eternity. With these two parables, then, Christ answers the two biggest misconceptions: how one achieves eternal salvation and what one does when in heaven.

 

 

 

Parable of the Talents

Matthew 25:14-30: “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 sowed 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.'”

 

 

Analysis of the Parable

Two, possibly, of the most commonly misunderstood spiritual issues are: one, what must one do to obtain eternal life, and two, what will we do in Heaven?

The world generally believes that salvation is earned through a combination of good works, avoidance of evil deeds, and adherence to religious ceremonies,  rules, and regulations. The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard dispels this idea. What Christ shows effectively is that salvation is a sovereign work of God the Father, as 2 Timothy 1:9  states succinctly, “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.

We should accept that salvation is a gift that involves the sovereignty of God the Father, choosing believers before the foundation of the earth. Ephesians 1:4-5 makes this abundantly clear: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will.”

 

Along comes the Parable of the Talents. On the surface, it might even be perceived as conflicting with the Parable of the Vinyard. Yet they are very different. The Parable of the Vineyard illustrates that all believers receive the same full measure of salvation. The very same eternal grant, even if gifted a minute before one’s demise like the Thief on the Cross. The Parable of the Talents demonstrates what they will do in Heaven, their rewards and responsibilities, and, in turn, their joy and fulfillment, which will be based on their earthly faithfulness. This is the same as what Matthew 6:19-20 states, “…lay[ing] up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 3:14-15 discusses the evaluation of these rewards, If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

It should be emphasized that earthly good works are not a means to salvation but rather an outgrowth of salvation from love, appreciation, and obedience.

In the parable, God entrusts two individuals with five and two talents who, in turn, develop them into five and two more. God underscores stewardship and the responsibility of using the gifts and opportunities He has provided. He commends them with “Well done, good and faithful servant” and rewards them by stating, “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” God emphasizes differing responsibilities and rewards based on one’s faithfulness in service; they are to be “set over much.” In other words, these believers will reign with Christ during the Millennium and then in New Heaven and New Earth. This concept encompasses various rewards, roles, and responsibilities and, in turn, degrees of joy and fulfillment in the eternal kingdom.

But this parable also addresses those who deny salvation from their own free will, the servant entrusted with only one talent and does nothing to enhance that talent. Here, he refers to God as “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…” The charge against the Lord is insulting. It states the position of those who deny Christ and refuse to employ their talents in Christ’s service because they think it makes unreasonable demands of self-denial, self-control, and self-sacrifice.

An example of this is in Revelations 9:20-21 which states, “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.” It is clear that the servant in this parable who refused to be used for good was such a nonbeliever whom the Lord judged because He “cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Why do some reject Christ with such rigidity? John 3:19-20 addresses this directly when it states, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”

Many miss another contrast here: salvation is a sovereign choice of a holy God, while rejection of Christ, with resulting eternal damnation, is the free will choice of all nonbelievers.

The Parable of the Talents masterfully illustrates a loving God who encourages all believers to walk worthy of their calling. When glorified, they will receive not only a full measure of salvation but will rule and reign commensurate with the faithfulness of their service relative to the gifts that the Lord has blessed them with during the tenure of their earthly sanctification.

Note: In Luke 19:11-27, Christ relates the Parable of the Ten Minas. Minas, like Talents, were both units of currency, and this Luke parable relates the same concept of laying up treasures in Heaven by faithful service on earth as the Parable of the Talents. For the Bible to have multiple parables teaching the same concept, in itself, shows the significance Christ places on earthly faithfulness.

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