Parable of the Talents – Part 1
During His earthly ministry, Jesus Christ often used parables. This was a culturally common way of communicating, one that both the average person and the religious leader could understand1. This storytelling format helped Him connect with those around Him and gave Him the position of a teacher. Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 13:11-13 even though the people hear, they will not know the full meaning unless it is revealed to them. Parables can be difficult to understand and often have several layers of meaning. The Parable of the Talents, Jesus’ 37th, is one of His best illustrations. There are many different ideas of what it represents, however there is one in particular that seems to be overlooked. The true meaning of the Parable of the Talents is that we have a limited amount of time on this earth, we need to spend it spreading the gospel, and we will be held accountable for doing so.
The Parable of the Talents appears in Matthew 24:14-30 and Luke 19:12-27. Jesus is in His final week on earth and is addressing His disciples on the Mount of Olives2. He tells them about a man who was going on a long trip. The man gave his three servants a certain number of talents; one received five, one received two, and one received just one. The servant who was given five invested his wisely and earned five more. The servant who was given two went to work and earned two more. The servant who was given one was afraid and hid his in the ground. When the man returned, he asked for an account of how his talents were used. He praised the two who invested and earned more money, but called the one who hid the money useless, wicked, and lazy.
Many people believe the Parable of the Talents refers to the natural talents and abilities God gives each individual. Some believe it has to do with entrepreneurship and the proper use of economic resources.3 There is even one theory that the parable is about exploitation, and the first two men are thieves whereas the third man is honorable.4 The idea many people fail to see is that Jesus is talking about time. Each of us has a limited amount of time on this earth. Some may have a hundred years where some many only have twenty. No one knows how long they will have or when Jesus will return. Therefore, it is imperative our time gets used wisely. Hebrews 2:10 states, “Everything belongs to God, and all things were created by His power”.5 Life was given by God when he formed man from the dust and breathed into his nostrils.6 In return, the time man gets to spend living should be fully dedicated to God. Jeremiah clearly understood this when he said, “Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps”.7
The first two servants knew their master; therefore, they knew what he wanted them to do with the gifts he gave them. Christians also must know their master to understand what their time here is supposed to be spent doing. God calls His people to evangelize. The word evangelism comes from the Greek word euangelizo, which means “to proclaim the gospel”.8 The Gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ. When Jesus was only twelve years old, He understood this. He stated in Luke 2:49, “I must be about my Father’s business”.9 When a Christian accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, he must also accept His mission. His mission was so important He repeated it five times, in five different ways, in five different books of the Bible. The most popular comes from Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”. God gave mankind a gift by sending His only beloved son to die on the cross so that they could be forgiven and live eternally with Him. To receive that gift, all one must do is believe and accept it. Romans 10:13 explains, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” but goes on in verses 14-15 to ask, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”
In the parable, the first two servants clearly knew what their master was asking, and they immediately got to work making their talents grow. This was not done because they feared their master, but out of love and gratitude for who he was and what he’d done for them. The third servant in the parable did not understand. He was afraid and hid his talent. He did nothing to help it grow. Many Christians today are happy to take the free gift of salvation but are afraid of telling anyone else about it. They are worried that others may call them names, reject them, or judge them. The parable is clear that the only one whose judgement they need to worry about is their master’s! If a Christian fully understood and truly accepted what Jesus Christ did for them, how could they not have a desire to share that news and help the Kingdom of God grow?
See more in Part 2 (coming soon)
1 Compelling Truth. “The Truth About: Jesus Christ.” Got Questions Ministries, 2018.
2 Willmington, Dr. Harold L. Willmington’s Guide to the Bible. Tynbdale House Publishers, Inc, 2007.
3 Robert A. Sirico, CSP. “The Parable of The Talents: The Bible and Entrepreneurs.” Foundation For Economic Education (Foundation For Economic Education), 1994.
4 Bible Archaeology. Bible History Daily. November 2, 2017. https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/bible-interpretation/what-does-the-parable-of-the-talents-mean/.
5 Contemporary English Version
6 Genesis 2:7
7 Jeremiah 10:23
8 Bouma, Jeremy. What Is Evangelism? HarperCollins Publishers, 2018.
9 New King James Version
10 Warren, Rick. “Evangelism: Made For A Mission.” Ministry ToolBox. n.d.