Parable of the Talents

by | Nov 15, 2012 | 01 Podcasts, Parables of Jesus

While the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) is one of the most difficult parables, there is surprising unity among commentators on what it means.  This “majority view can be explained as follows:

(The parable) teaches three distinct if not equally important truths concerning work for the kingdom of God: 1) The consummation of the kingdom will be long enough deferred to leave ample time for work.  2) The kingdom imperatively demands work from all its citizens.  3) The work done will be valued and rewarded according to the principle above enunciated: equal diligence in the use of unequal endowment receiving an equal reward.” — From The Parabolic Teaching of Christ: A Systematic and Critical Study of the Parables of our Lord, by A.B. Bruce, pg. 201ff.

The theme of ‘being ready’, which dominated the last section, is still at the centre of this parable, which again portrays a ‘coming’ and its consequences for those who should have been preparing for it.  But this parable takes up the question which that of the bridesmaids left unanswered:  what is ‘readiness’?  It is not a matter of passively ‘waiting’, but of responsible activity, producing results which the coming ‘master’ can see and approve.  For the period of waiting was not intended to be an empty, meaningless ‘delay’, but a period of opportunity to put to good use the ‘talents’ entrusted to his ‘slaves’ . . . In verse 30 . . . the story has been ‘invaded’ by its application, and the traditional description of the fate of the wicked makes explicit that the parable is to be understood in terms of the ultimate basis of salvation or condemnation  — From The Gospel According to Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary, by R.T. France in the Tyndale New Testament Commentary series pg 352-354

I disagree with the majority view.

While I wholeheartedly agree that Scripture teaches God gives gifts to all His children; we all have a spiritual vocation and we are expected to faithfully and diligently serve in that calling; waiting for the kingdom is not to be an idle, passive affair, but we are to serve our Lord and — to borrow Paul’s phrase in Ephesians 4 — to “walk in a manner worthy of our calling.”

My problem with the majority view is what if we aren’t diligent?  Is salvation itself at stake?  And if it is, doesn’t that mean we are back under law?

Instead of asking what the talents represent and what the slaves did with them, we should look at the difference between the three slaves and their relationship to the master.  The talents (which are an ancient unit of money and completely unrelated to our English word) are there to help the dynamic of the story.  They have no special significance in themselves; they are there to illustrate the difference between the three slaves using a common denominator.  That common denominator is how we meet the master’s expectations.

Please listen to the podcast for more detail and explanation.

Next: The Friend at Midnight, Luke 11:5-8

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Series: Parables of Jesus

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