The Parable of the Talents—A Biblical Interpretation

The Parable of the Talents—A Biblical Interpretation

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Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.

ENGAGED: The Call to Be Disciples

Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  Matthew 28:19-20

Stewardship: Giving to God What Belongs to God—Part Five

The Lord said this parable: “For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.  Then he went away.  He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more.  So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more.  But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.  Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.  And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’  And he also who had the two talents came forward saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.;  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’  He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.  Here you have what is yours.’  But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.  So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents.  For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  And cast that worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’”  Matthew 25:14-30

Good morning Prayer Team!

The parable of today’s prayer team message happens to be my favorite passage of the entire Bible.  It also forms the basis of this unit on Christian stewardship.  We will be spending several days dissecting it, because not only will it help us better understand Christian stewardship but will give us some direction how to look at our lives in entirety.  Today we will discuss the Biblical interpretation of the parable and tomorrow we will begin to look at its nuances.

First of all, a parable is a story that has a hidden meaning but with a life application.  In this parable, a man about to depart to another country calls three of his servants and entrusts them his property.  He gives out to each an amount of talents.  A “talent” in this parable represents the amount of money that one would be able to earn in a ten year period.  So, two talents represents twenty years’ worth of salary.  And therefore five talents represents fifty years’ worth of salary.  Imagine someone gave you fifty years’ worth of your salary today.  Back at the time this parable was written, people didn’t live fifty years, much less work fifty years, so five talents was more money that someone could expect to earn in his lifetime.  And even one talent was a lot of money. 

The three men took the talents given them and two invested with what they were given and doubled what had been given to them.  The third took his talent—still a lot of money—and buried it in the ground.  When the master of the servants came back, he settled up accounts with them.  The man who had received five talents (or a lifetime of money) brought back five additional talents for a total of ten.  The man who had received the two talents brought back two additional talents for a total of four.  The master was equally happy with both of these servants.  The man who had received the one talent dug a hole in the ground and hid the money.  His excuse was that he was afraid.  We are not told what he was afraid of—was he afraid of the master, of disappointing him, of failing, of trying?  We don’t know.  All we know is that he was seized with fear and it paralyzed his ability to make something out of what he had been given. 

The master was angry with this servant, because he had gotten nothing in return for what had been given to him by the master.  He didn’t even get interest he would have gotten from putting it in the bank at least that would have been something.  He ordered the talent to be taken from him and given to the man with the ten talents. 

The lesson of this parable, at least the one that is stated in the passage is:  “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”  (Matthew 25: 29)  This means that we are expected to use what we have been given, and if we do not, what we have will be taken away from us. 

Because the word “talent” in reference to money is foreign to most of us, many interpret this word to refer to an ability we have, rather than a sum of money received.  The same lesson holds true for “talent” as an ability.  Interpreting the Gospel in this way, the master gave five abilities (or talents) to one of his servants, two to another and one to another.  Again, if we interpret talents as abilities, rather than money, the man with the five talents and the two talents went and did significant things with what they had been given.  The one with the one talent did nothing with the talents and abilities that were entrusted to him. 

As we study this parable more in depth over the next couple of weeks, you will see that the above interpretation of the passage barely scratches the surface.  This parable, above the others in the Bible, for me anyway, has a depth and richness worth exploring, which is what we will be doing over the next few days. 

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to Thy name, o Most High; to declare Thy steadfast love in the morning, and Thy faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre.  For Thou, O Lord, has made me glad by Thy work; at the works of Thy hands I sing for joy.  How great are Thy works, O Lord! Thy thoughts are very deep!  The dull man cannot know, the stupid cannot understand this: that, though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever, but Thou, O Lord, are on high forever. For lo, thy enemies, O Lord, for lo, Thy enemies shall perish; all evildoers shall be scattered.  But Thou hast exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; Thou hast poured over me fresh oil.  My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies, my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.  The righteous flourish like a palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.  They are planted in the house of the Lord, they flourish in the courts of our God.  They still bring forth fruit in old age, they are ever full of sap and green, to show that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.  Psalm 92

Make the most out of today and come back tomorrow with an open mind and heart.  One key to loving God is a desire to love God.  So, come back tomorrow to learn how to build love in you and in turn, to be the good steward and the good Christians wants and expects us to be.

 

+Fr. Stavros

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Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”