The Amazing Parable Of The Talents
Always keep in mind when reading Matthew that his purpose is to show that Jesus is the Christ (Matthew 1:1). His evidence is cumulative and abundant, and among his many proofs is his documentation of Jesus as a master teacher. He often taught in parables, and his Parable of the Talents is one of the best known. It is an apt demonstration of his authority, his knowledge of the future and of spiritual realities, his ethics, morals, and judgment, and his ability to communicate profound, fundamental, necessary truths in simple stories that dwell in the conscience of those who will hear long after they are told. The parables of Jesus are astounding, amazing, and everything we would expect of the Christ of God.
In the King James Version (and several modern translations), the parable begins “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling to a far country...” (Matthew 25:14), but the words “the kingdom of heaven” are supplied (as indicated by italics in the KJV.) Arguments are made from the context to justify the insertion, but here is an instance where the supplied words would have been best left out. In the previous verse Jesus said, “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 25:13). Leaving out the insertion, it is clear that the “Son of man” in Matthew 25:13 is the “man traveling to a far country” in Matthew 25:14. In this parable Jesus is telling us about himself.
It is often asserted that the apostles taught that Jesus is coming soon. But in this parable the country to which the lord travels is “far” (Matthew 25:14), and he does not return until “after a long time” (Matthew 25:19), and so it is with the previous parable wherein it is said, “the bridegroom tarried” (Matthew 25:5). Nevertheless, his coming is sure, and until he comes we are to be prepared, watchful, and working.
The word “talents” is a common synonym for “abilities,” and they are easily confused in this parable, but Jesus made a distinction between them when he said, “Unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; every man according to his several ability” (Matthew 25:15). The term translated “talent” is actually a unit of weight, about seventy-five pounds, and in silver or gold, this is a substantial amount. Remember this when you think of the one talent man; he was not deprived; even with one talent he was entrusted with a large amount. Rather than “abilities,” we should think of “talents” as resources and opportunities. It is true, we shall be judged by how we use our abilities, but we are accountable for how we use everything entrusted to us, and we should always remember that all of it is “the lord’s,” for the wicked and slothful servant digged in the earth to hide “his lord’s money” (Matthew 25:18).
The one talent man was not condemned because he squandered the money like the unrighteous steward (Luke 16:1). He did not waste it in ungodly living like the prodigal son (Luke 15:13). He did not incur massive debt like the unjust steward (Matthew 18:24). He did not do anything; that was the problem. He buried the talent. He took what he thought was the easy way out. He said, “I was afraid” (Matthew 25:25). When the Lord listed those who would be cast into the lake of fire he began with “the fearful” (Revelation 21:8). The wicked servant tried to shift the blame to his lord, “I knew thee that thou are a hard man” (Matthew 25:24). Many yet try to blame their spiritual failures on God.
The lord took the talent from the wicked man and gave it to him that had ten talents. Look at this from the lord’s point of view; any wise investor would have done the same. He trusted the most trustworthy and the one who had demonstrated the most competence. The lord was not a socialist seeking even distribution of resources and outcomes, neither should he have been, for that itself is both unjust and irresponsible. Not only so, the unprofitable servant was cast into “outer darkness” where there was “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30). Here Jesus abandoned the earthly story for the spiritual reality. What a severe warning! Far better for us to risk everything for our Lord, to be diligent and active in his service, and to hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant... enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21, 23). We if truly knew our Lord we would not fear; his expectations are not grievous (1 John 5:3), he knows our abilities (Matthew 25:15), and it saith also in another place, “Your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Surely, this was the Son of God!