By Pastor Krista Givens
November 19, 2017
We begin today with a little self-affirmation. What is your talent? What is something you are good at that you don’t really have to work on? (my ability to take old veggies and fruit and make them into something…)
14 ‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
So as we begin this parable, we need to ask ourselves, “WHAT’S A TALENT?”
Our modern idea, is that the word “talent” refers to one’s abilities, gifts and natural skills (and we will address that idea later…). But the word in this text refers to a very large sum of money — between 75-96 pounds of silver. To give you an example of how much money a talent is…
- The basic pay for one day’s work was one denarius.
- It would take nearly 20 years of work at the basic wage of 1 denarius a day to equal 1 talent.
- So, to use today’s figures…. With the average yearly income of $53,891.00 per year (This was the median household income for the American Family in June of 2014, according to Seniter Research, reported in CNN Money) one talent would be the equivalent of $1,077,820.00 – 1 million, 77 thousand, 820 dollars! (1)
- 2 talents = 2.15 million dollars
- 5 talents = 5.4 million!
- The master was very, very generous to all the slaves — even the one who received only one talent: One talent = wages for 20 years; two talents = wages for 40 years; five talents = wages for 100 years. (3)
The ancient world did not have our complex finance markets, but it knew about investments and profit. Many of Jesus’ parables reflect economic practices of the day and how they affected people. People would know what you could do with such a sum. Money was powerful then, too. (2)
19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.”
He was given 5.4 million dollars, invested it and doubled it. “And look at what I’ve done: 10.8 million!” Who would be unhappy with that?!
21His master said to him, “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.” 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.”
Given 2.15 million, the man with 2 talents also doubled his money, making the equivalent of over 4.3 million! Nice!
23His master said to him, “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.” 24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.”
So, faced with the fear of his master, the fear that he would do something stupid and lose the money, the third slave hid the talent and retained only the original talent. And his master was not happy.
26But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.
This has been one of the parables that infuriated me in the past, because I can identify with the slave who hides his talent in the ground, not risking it on the stock market or gambling it away, but carefully saving it for his master’s return…. But that reading of the parable assumes that the talents are “on loan” to the slaves, as verse 14 says “entrusted” to them. So does the master GIVE the money to them, or is it a test, to see what they will do with HIS money?
Author Brian Stoffregen, notes that Matthew uses the Greek verb paradidomi and this verb usually means, “to give or hand over” and seems to imply, “giving up control of.” He says, “I don’t think that “entrusted” in the NRSV is the best way to translate this word. The slaves don’t appear to give back any of the money to their master when he has returned. The one talent of the third slave is given to the first, not kept by the master. In contrast to this view, the third slave obviously considered the one talent as always belonging to the master (v. 25) and something he had to protect.” (3)
So is this a story of how to care for OTHERS’ money (a stewardship parable – you have been entrusted with these gifts and you should respect them) or a story about the graciousness of the master and our response to that? What is Jesus’ point?
It is my opinion, that Jesus, here, is speaking not on the subject of money, but using money to discuss the subject of God’s grace. God gives abundantly – like the master in the story – and our response to God’s generosity is to multiply his gifts, to emulate the generosity he shows us, to take what we’ve been given and make good use out of it….
How does this affect our understanding of our gifts and talents, those things we are just good at? Those abilities that are God given…Do we hide those talents, keep them safely “under the radar”, never exposing ourselves to critique or criticism? Do we double them by showing them once in a while, giving a little of ourselves – but not too much. OR do we show everyone and use those gifts to better the world and bring glory to God???
What would it mean to utilize our talents to praise God for his many blessings, as a testimony to God’s generosity, as a way to say ‘thank you to that great Giver.’?
To deny those gifts we’ve been given, to ‘hide them under a bushel’ , is to dismiss their value. “This little light of mine,” the children sang,” I’m gonna let it shine.” May we – who have been given so much – continue to shine our lights brightly into this dark world, shining the light so everyone knows our gracious and generous God. Amen.
- William Loader, found on http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/MtPentecost27.htm
- Brian Stoffregen, found on http://www.crossmarks.com/brian/matt25x14.htm