The Meaning Behind the Parable of the Talents
Published Oct 12, 2020
During his ministry, Jesus used parables to teach people a lesson or introduce them to the kingdom of God. They’re basically stories about real-life scenarios that contain a hidden message. One such story is the parable of the talents.
A master was set to travel to distant lands. But before his trip, he called three of his servants and gave each of them a talent according to their abilities. To the first servant, he gave five talents; to the second, two, and just one for the last servant. Then he went on his journey.
The first two servants went and put their money to work. While the last one dug a hole in the ground and hid what he received.
When the master came back, he asked the servants what became of the talents he gave them. The first one proudly replied that he gained 5 talents more with what the master had given him. The second servant also earned two talents more from the initial two he received. When the third servant came forward, he told his master what he did claiming that he did it out of fear.
Obviously, the master was very happy with the first two servants. As a reward for what they did, he put them in charge of more things and invited them to share his happiness. As for the third servant, he took the talent from him and banished him from his house.
The parable concluded with Jesus saying that those who have will be given more while those who have nothing, everything will be taken away from them.
Like any parable, this seems like an ordinary story about a master and his servants. But what message does Jesus want to tell us through this parable? Let’s look at the meaning behind the parable of the talents.
Decoding the Parable
For centuries, the parable of the talents has been interpreted in varying ways. Most of the time, the perspective changes depending on who’s doing the interpretation. But to get to the bottom of the parable, we need to decode its details.
What is a Talent?
In Jesus’ time, talent is used as a unit of weight equivalent to about 80 pounds. But when used as a currency, one talent is about 6,000 denarii – a standard Roman coin which is the usual payment for a day’s labor. So during those times, one talent is equivalent to 16 years’ worth of labor. With this, we can understand why the master was outraged when the servant didn’t make use of something that he can probably only have once in his life.
Details to Note
Throughout the parable, Jesus gives us details that give us a clue on what he wants us to take away from it. Here are some of the interpretations of several of the parables’ notable details:
The Master’s Journey
If it isn’t obvious by now, the master represents Jesus. He talks about him going on a journey which clearly is an allusion to his impending return to his father’s side. His return, obviously, refers to his second coming. The master asking his servants about what became of the talents is Jesus telling us that when he comes again, we will all have to account for what we did with what he has given us.
The Master-Servant Relationship
In Jesus’ time, it’s not uncommon for masters to entrust their servants with large sums of money. But as we’ve learned, one talent is 16 years’ worth of pay. That amounts to more than a million dollars in today’s money. With this, we can see how much trust the master has for his servants to give them such a huge sum.
On the part of the servants, they could have run away with the money. Or do what the third servant did to save them the hassle of investing the money. But they didn’t. They remained faithful to their master even when he was away and made good use of what he was given.
What We Can Learn From the Parable of the Talents
This parable may have been written thousands of years ago but that doesn’t mean it’s not relevant anymore. Yes, the concept of master and servant may have been outdated as well as most of the details in the story. But the lessons remain true no matter how many centuries have passed.
Here are some of the main takeaways we can get from the parable of the talents:
Success Is Not Possible Without Taking Risks
The third servant is a basic example of what would happen when we are too afraid to take risks. Yes, we won’t lose anything. But we will also gain nothing. In short, we can’t attain success without taking risks along the way.
In Everything That We Do, We Must Seek to Glorify God
The faithfulness of the two servants despite their master’s absence is a testament to their commitment to glorify their master. Even if he isn’t physically present, they used his given talents to do what he would have wanted them to do. The same goes for us. In everything that we do, we must seek to glorify God. We must use what he has given us according to his purpose.
Each of Us Have God-Given Talents
Just as how each servant received a different amount of talent, we too are given diverse skills and abilities. You may not be a born singer or dancer but surely there’s something you’re good at. After all, we can’t all be singers and dancers. Being good at reading other people’s emotions is a talent. Even having nice, neat handwriting is a talent. It’s up to us how to make use of that god-given talent to suit his purpose.
God’s Reward Depends on Our Effort
In the parable, the master rewarded the two servants but punished the last one. The same is true for us too. We get rewarded for the good things we do and punished for every bad action. That’s why when we do good to other people and use God’s given talent to make life better for others, we receive more blessings.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a professional writer and devoted Christian. She has a passion for writing about topics related to morality and helping the poor and homeless. She is the lead author for the Our Father’s House Soup Kitchen blog.
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