The Parable of the Talents
Matthew 25: 14 — 30
We have almost reached the conclusion of our Lord's teaching ministry. This parable is part of the previous lesson: be ready, and be doing what is within your reach, now!
J. C. Ryle makes this observation:
For an overview of this passage read the section from The Gospel Story, by R. Cox.
Some Notes On the Text
Actually, the parable begins abruptly with the words, in Greek, "For just like a man going on a journey…"
Thus it is to be read in association with the parable of the ten bridesmaids, and so it is for all true members of the Church. Verse 14 establishes that the master, going away for an unspecified time, entrusts his property to chosen (trusted) servants. The next verse tells how much property he gave to each.
Notice the text does not say the master handed out abilities or skills; but rather different volumes of money. Ronald Cox suggests the talent, being the largest unit of money, was equal to about 16 years of wages. The master was not handing out talents in the modern sense of the word: they already had ability, in varying degrees, as verse 15 implies.
Our Lord is, in fact, talking about his teaching, his word. This is his great legacy to us.
Verses 16 — 18
The five talent man and the two talent man both acted with alacrity. They had a duty to perform and they did it "at once". The one talent man chose not to perform the duty he was assigned. Professor Samuel Tobias Lachs writes, "Burying money or valuables or any entrusted property in the ground was considered the safest way of keeping a bailment (a delivery of property on trust) and hence being free of responsibility."
Verse 19 — 23
This sub-set of verses opens with the familiar ring of Jesus echoing the return of the Messiah.
The five talent man reported first, and presented his master with double the amount of money he was originally given. His master is ecstatic, and affirms him with the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" Then comes an amazing statement, which could be paraphrased as, "You have been faithful with such minor property as 80 years wages; I will put you in charge of much much more!" Our Lord is hinting that his disciples should be ready to prove their loyalty to his cause. Rabbinic literature helps us understand the model he is using:
Samuel Tobias Lachs
Our Lord repeats the same procedure with the two talent man. Though this person was entrusted with less than half of the first, he receives the same reward! He shares in the master's happiness! The Greek word (chara) can mean a feast or holiday celebration (Lachs) suggesting a warm welcome and a full sharing in the festivities, according to the person's capacity.
Verses 24 and 25
So, finally we get to the one talent man. He had made a decision that with only one talent, it was not worth the risk to put it to work. Besides, it was much easier to hide it on the pretext of keeping it safe.
When called to account, this man quickly "gets in first" and annihilates the character of the master to his face. He betrays himself, however, by making out that he was afraid of such a hard and greedy master. This is obviously a sham, since if he really believed his master was a hard grasping man exploiting the hard work of others; he would have tried to increase the one talent entrusted to him. Instead he projects on to his master his own mean and ungracious character; a common but futile practice of a devious and unfaithful person.
Verses 26 and 27
The master sees through his servant's pathetic excuse for doing nothing and rightly condemns him as evil and lazy. He will not accept any excuse for lack of willingness (if not enthusiasm) to carry out one's duties and obligations.
Verses 28 — 30
The master's sentence is the irrevocable severance of the relationship between himself and his servant!
Before drawing our conclusions to this dramatic yet uncomplicated parable, we pause to read from the notes of the great Archbishop Gore who wrote:
In many ways, the lessons are obvious. The parable is a total reversal of worldly views.
Jesus was never clearer than when he said that what has been entrusted to each will one day be seen as miniscule compared with the superabundance of spiritual blessings when each hears the call"
"Come and share your master's happiness!"
Our Lord has truly proven himself the fulfilment of all the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament. But his work is unfinished until we have completed our assignments!
"Son of man, take into your heart all my words
Ezechiel 3: 10
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