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The Parable of the Talents

Matthew 25:14-30 Matthew S. Ward Setting This parable is the third and final of a series of parables teaching "watchfulness," although the parable of the Talents takes a slightly different flavor than the two that precede it. It is followed by a graphic depiction of the final judgment. Matthew places Jesus' telling of the parable in the so-called "eschatological discourse" occurring in Jerusalem during Passion Week (Matthew 24--25; Mark 13; Luke 21). The parable of the pounds in Luke has many parallels (Luke 19:12-27), but the details are very different. The differences are likely explained by the formulation of the story in an oral tradition. It seems likely that Matthew and Luke did not receive this parable from a single written source, but they received it from their own respective oral tradition. Exegetical Analysis A talent is an undoubtedly large sum of money. Hultgren and Hagner agree that a talent is 6,000 dearii, and one denarius was a day's wage. Boring says that a talent is the equivalent of fifteen years worth of wages for a day laborer. The exact sum is unimportant, especially as Luke's version uses a single pound per servant which is much less. Matthew may have inflated the numbers for the sake of making the point. The modern use of the term "talent" to refer to gifts and abilities opens up interpretation of the parable to apply to the use of God-given skills. While this understanding is useful and well applied, it may be to narrow. The thrust of the parable remains that each is accountable to God for what he has done with what he has been given. As Luke 12:48

Comment [SM1]: or Jesus

says, "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded." (version?) The first servant was given five talents, and he returned with ten. The second was given two talents and returned with four. These servants received the exact same blessing from the master, "Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master." The two "good" slaves doubled their money, but they did not earn the same amount, and yet they received the same reward. This is because they were judged according to what they had been given. The third servant came before the master and simply returned the one talent he had been given. He gave an excuse and explained that he buried the talent out of fear of the master. He ignorantly presents his talent as if he had done well by not losing anything. The master responds harshly by having the onetalent man stripped of his gift and thrown out into the darkness. The one talent is given to the servant that already has ten. Message The Parable of the Talents teaches that each Christian has been given gifts by God, in different areas and different amounts. The talents given to the slaves in the story still belong to the master all along, just like the gifts that God entrusts to us. All will be called before the master to give an account for what he or she has done with the "talents" that God has bestowed. It is important that we think of the talents as all the gifts of God, whether they be skills, money, influence, or whatever. Application

Comment [SM4]: Perhaps the word loans, trusts, investments, or stewardship would enforce the point that the so-called gifts of God are not really ours at all. He lets us use them. But we do not own them. We are charged with caring for them for his benefit. Comment [SM3]: who Comment [SM2]: Why the tense shift from past (he came . . . returned .. . gave . . . explained) to the present (presents)?

What then shall we do with the abundant blessings of the Master? We should multiply and advance them. We should be willing to take risks and not live in fear as the wicked servant did. Fear is crippling and does not allow for growth in the life of a believer. We should be about the Master's business. When the Master comes to take account what will I have to show for His investment in me?

Bibliography Boring, Eugene M. "Matthew." The New Interpreters Bible. Volume VIII. Ed. Leander E. Keck. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 2000. 451-453. Childers, Charles. "Luke." Beacon Bible Commentary. Volume VI. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill, 1964. 583-586. Culpepper, R. Alan. "Luke." The New Interpreter's Bible. Volume IX. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1995. 360-364. Earle, Ralph. "Matthew." Beacon Bible Commentary. Volume VI. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill, 1964. 226-228. Gowler, David B. "What are They Saying about the Parables?" New York, NY: Paulist, 2000. Hagner, Donald A. "Matthew 14-28." Word Biblical Commentary. Volume 33b. Dallas, TX, 1995. 730-737. Hultgren, Arland J. "The Parables of Jesus." Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdman's Publishing, 2000. Nolland, John. Luke 18:35-24:53." Word Biblical Commentary. Volume 35c. Dallas, TX, 1993. 908-919. Scott, Bernard Brandon. "Hear then the Parable." Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1989. The Access Bible. (New Revised Standard Version). New York, New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. 1999. A credible treatment, but not as engaging as some of your other treatments. Grade: B+


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