14.01.08 Mt. 25:14-30
PARABLE OF THE TALENTS (EMPHASIZING LABORING)
14 “For it is just like a man going on a journey. He called his own slaves and turned over his possessions to them. 15 To one he gave five talents; to another, two; and to another, one — to each according to his own ability. Then he went on a journey. Immediately 16 the man who had received five talents went, put them to work, and earned five more. 17 In the same way the man with two earned two more. 18 But the man who had received one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.
19 “After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five talents approached, presented five more talents, and said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. Look, I’ve earned five more talents.’
21 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!’
22 “Then the man with two talents also approached. He said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. Look, I’ve earned two more talents.’
23 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!’
24 “Then the man who had received one talent also approached and said, ‘Master, I know you. You’re a difficult man, reaping where you haven’t sown and gathering where you haven’t scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground. Look, you have what is yours.’
26 “But his master replied to him, ‘You evil, lazy slave! If you knew that I reap where I haven’t sown and gather where I haven’t scattered, 27 then you should have deposited my money with the bankers. And when I returned I would have received my money back with interest.
28 “‘So take the talent from him and give it to the one who has 10 talents. 29 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have more than enough. But from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 30 And throw this good-for-nothing slave into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
This parable is similar to Luke 19:11-27, which is a different discussion with the same theme. In Luke, the servant who kept the master’s money in a cloth (19:20) viewed his master as being less than honorable – so much so, that when an account was required, the master was very angry. It was a matter of self-fulfilling prophecy. Had he invested successfully, he would have received a similar blessing as the others.
In Matthew 25:14-30 is a similar parable with the same theme; one where an individual chose to bury his investment money rather than invest it. The Mishnah states that this method of keeping money safe was a common practice. Again the servant is described as being wicked, not only because he failed to invest the funds, but he also saw his trusting master in a negative light.
In various cultures throughout the ancient Middle East, it was common to have slaves/servants hold highly responsible positions. In modern thinking, slaves are often seen as those deprived of all dignity and human rights and required to perform demeaning and labor-intensive tasks. Failure to perform as required would result in imprisonment, scourging, or fighting the professional gladiators, who would surely kill them. Another example is of those condemned to be oarsmen in the bottom of a Roman galley ship, who were thrown overboard to the sharks when they failed to perform. While this was true for many and makes for dramatic Hollywood movies, this was hardly the case for all slaves. Many were entrusted with important responsibilities such as accountants, scribes, teachers, doctors, and business managers.
In this parable, Jesus again used a real life situation to give a teaching to which His listeners could relate. The servant in the parable was a slave who held the position of a business manager. His owner not only trusted him with his money, but did not even worry that he might run away. Why? Trusted slaves who had a professional education frequently lived very comfortably but running away could lead to poverty or have deadly consequences. The story is unique in that the master gave every slave a certain amount of money to invest – as much as he believed each slave could manage. The point is that God has given each person certain abilities, as He deemed he or she could handle, to be used in a lifelong service for Him.
“Five talents.” This was a huge sum of money entrusted to the slaves, yet not unusual for the extremely wealthy of the first century. The meaning, therefore, of the five talents is that the slave invested his entire life’s work for the benefit of his master.
“Well done, good and faithful slave!” These words ought to be the end goal for every believer. There will come a day when every person will kneel before Almighty God to be judged for a life of deeds – both good and bad. It is a great comfort to know one’s sins have been washed away by the sacrificial blood of Jesus. It behooves people then to commit their lives to His service. That commitment will lead the Blessed Savior to say these words. The purpose of the parable is not that the disciples are watchful; that was assumed, but rather, that watchfulness is to lead to working for the Kingdom of God and not become passive idleness. Furthermore, men may not be equal in talent/skill, but they are called to be equal in effort. God expects His people to apply their best efforts to whatever talent (not to be confused with the monetary term “talent”) they have. The condemnation of the man who buried his talent was based on the fact that he failed to do anything with his investment; he didn’t lose it – he didn’t even try. The essential point is that Jesus will return for a bride who is faithful, obedient, and watching for His return.
“Deposited my money with the bankers” With this statement Jesus provided clear proof that a banking system of some kind was functioning at this time. See 05.05.04 for further details.
As to the interest rate on investments, that varied throughout the empire in relation to the economic health. It appears to have been in the single digits at this time, but examples of twelve and twenty-four percent have been found. Josephus recorded that Herod Agrippa borrowed 20,000 drachmas from the Jewish aristocrat named Alabarch in Alexandria at a rate of 8 percent or 2,500 drachmas.
. Mishnah, Baba Mesi’a 3.11.
. Gilbrant, “Matthew.” 547.
. One denarius was the approximate wage for a common laborer for one day of work. One talent, on the other hand, represented about fifteen years of work and five talents was more than a lifetime of employment. See Appendix 20 for more details.
. A talent was not a coin, but a weight. It’s value was dependent upon the metal, but obviously represented a huge value. See Barclay, “Matthew.” 2:322; Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 227; See Appendix 20 for more details. Today the word “talent” is incorrectly interpreted as one’s ability or strength. While those natural attributes should be dedicated to our Lord, the original passage did not refer to those human attributes.
. Gilbrant, “Matthew.” 547.
. Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 792-94.
. Josephus, Antiquities 18.6.3. Alabarch was a Jewish leader who held Roman citizenship and had social ties with the Sadducees of Jerusalem.