& The Parable of the Talents
Let me set the scene for this parable…
Jesus was with His disciples in the last days of His life, and coming from Jericho, where a large crowd had been following. At Jericho Jesus healed a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, and had also gone to the house of Zacchaeus, a rich tax collector who climbed up in a tree to see Him as He passed by.
Luke says that Jesus told the parable of the minas when He was “near Jerusalem.” Matthew has this parable as part of the “Olivet Discourse” given to His disciples on the Mount of Olives.
Looking at the map below we can see exactly where Jesus was. Mark 11 says Jesus and his disciples were near Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, when two disciples were sent to retrieve a colt for Jesus’ Triumphal Entry, so we know the timing was Jesus last week of life on this earth.
We celebrate the Triumphal Entry as Palm Sunday, and the next Sunday of course is Easter. So, the events coming soon after this moment on the timeline were…
the Triumphal Entry,
the cleansing of the temple,
the Last Supper,
the prayer in the garden of Gethsemane,
the trial, scourging, and crucifixion.
All of this would happen in the coming few days.
As Jesus went through Bethany, Matthew and Mark tell us He shared a meal with Simon the leper (who was the father of Judas Escariot), and John tells us that Lazarus was there, and that Martha served (perhaps they were relatives or close neighbors?). This is the supper where a woman (John 12:3 says she was Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus) came and poured an alabaster flask of costly perfume on His head, worth almost a year’s wages. John also tells us that Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son protested the waste. Judas, you might remember was the treasurer of the Twelve, and according to John 12:6, “was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag, he used to help himself to what was put in it”.
On the timeline of events, John says this was 6 days before the Passover, but Luke and Matthew say it was 2 days before. I’m not a Bible scholar, but perhaps it was 2 days before the Passover meal that Jesus shared with his disciples (The Last Supper), but 6 days before the actual Passover, when Jesus was crucified. Or that it was 2 days before preparations for Passover begin (inspecting lambs for blemishes, collecting wood for the cooking of the lambs, etc.), but 6 days before the actual sit-down celebration. At any rate, it was very near to “Palm Sunday.”
According to the notes in my Bible, a mina was about three months’ worth of wages, and a talent was worth about $1,000 in that day.
The Parable of the Minas
Luke 19:11-27 New King James Version (NKJV)
11 Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. 12 Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return.13 So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas,[a] and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’ 14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’
*Jesus was of course trying to help His audience comprehend a vision of heaven, and His kingdom, by relating it to something tangible they could personally relate to, something that would be gererally familiar to them on earth. In this instance Jesus may have been drawing upon Herod the Great’s son Archelaus’ journey to Rome to bring His spiritual lesson to life. (Several sources, including a footnote in my Bible confirm this).
15 “And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. 16 Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’18 And the second came, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ 19 Likewise he said to him, ‘You also be over five cities.’
20 “Then another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief. 21 For I feared you, because you are an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 And he said to him, ‘Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow. 23 Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’
24 “And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to him who has ten minas.’ 25 (But they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas.’) 26 ‘For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 27 But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.’”
The Parable of the Talents
Matthew 25:14-30 New King James Version (NKJV)
14 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
20 “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ 21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’22 He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ 23 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’
26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28 Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.
29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Scripture taken from the New King James Version (NKJV)®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. permission. All rights reserved.
We know that Jesus told this parable as He was on His way to receive His kingdom, but by very different means than any earthly king of any time in history, and very differently than His disciples were expecting. Jesus would pay a very high price, by our standards, for His kingdom – with His life. His disciples expected Him to establish His kingdom in the flesh, soon. Jesus wanted them (and us) to know that His kingdom is a spiritual kingdom, and it is coming. He wanted them to know that he was going away, but would come back, and was leaving them (and us) with a job to do. I see the mina or talent to be like the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. These are what Jesus left for us to use to do the work (or use in “trade”) until He returns.
In this parable, the wicked servant said he “feared” the king, but God’s word says that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” It wasn’t a reverent and trembling fear this servant had, but the same disease the Jewish leaders had at the time of Christ – greed and jealousy. Satan dreads for Christ to rule over him; he wants to be the boss.
And I don’t know if Jesus meant to draw this parallel, but it’s interesting to me that there are three who give account in this parable and that one of the three is wicked, because when Satan (who’s name means “accuser”) fell from grace he took 1/3 of the angels with him. Isaiah 14:12-17; Ezekiel 28:12-19; Luke 10:18-20; and Revelation 12:3-9. He also was judged by his own accusations. And in the end shall be cast into the bottomless pit (Rev. 20:3) and then into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10), where there is eternal torment and weeping and gnashing of teeth.
* * *
I can relate to this parable as both a rebellious teenager and a protective parent. When I became a parent I’d had enough life experiences to see the troubles my kids were headed for, and tried my level best to steer them away (because I loved them dearly) from making a big mistake or a bad decision. Many times they accused me of being mean or harsh, as a means to manipulate me into letting them do what they wanted. Many times that’s exactly who I became to them, mean and harsh. Those teenage years were the hardest, but I am thankful for them, because they helped me see and appreciate the patience of God with us. To show me both the wretch that I was and the loving parent that He is. And for giving me that small glimpse of His mercy, and what He deals with every day. And honestly, to call God hard or austere is more a confession of who we are, our own selfishness, and shows that we don’t really know Him, or want to know Him. We just want our own way.
I can’t say or claim to know God the way we know people, Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out (Romans 11:33), but I do get to know Him every time I read and study and search out His word. And I am humbled that He wanted me to be part of His kingdom by sending a courageous lady to preach the gospel to me when I was a young and foolish mother. That lady led me in a prayer of salvation that changed my life. Certainly changed the course of my life. I shall never know what the Lord saved me from that day, but I know what He saved me to, and it blesses my heart so much that He was not willing that I should perish, but that I should come to repentance. He waited all these years for me to be born, and to choose Him. The Jesus that I know is merciful, caring, sacrificing, and loving…no greater love has any man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. He purchased a kingdom for me that I didn’t deserve. And even more importantly, He sent me to invite YOU with these words today!
So I ask you…what’s in YOUR WALLET?
Do you know Jesus as Savior? Do you have His minas and talents in you? How will you invest them in His kingdom, or trade them on the stock exchange of heaven? Don’t worry, I am not asking you to really tell me, or even keep a record for yourself. I just think we need to ask our selves this question every day in order to put our schedules in right order. Truly there is so much work to do. We can do the work ourselves, or donate to causes that will do the work in our place. I believe this parable tells us that it all counts. But, whatever we do, let’s do it out of love, not out of obligation, for anything not done out of love is, well, not done. (1 Cor. 13)
The commandments are summed up in this, that we Love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and spirits, and that we love our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27; Matthew 22:37; Deut. 6:5; Mark 12:30-31). Let us love like the Good Samaritan – which just so happened also on that same Jericho road.
Let us love when we see love is needed. Love is what causes our giving to earn interest. Let us help when we see help is needed. Give when we see giving is needed. And then let us forget what we’ve done.
And let us keep our eyes on the skies, for our King is coming! Amen?
PRAYER: Oh Lord, help me to have eyes to see the needs around me, and the unselfishness to meet them. Lord forgive my selfishness. Lord forgive my fearfulness. Help me to have the courage to share this gospel of yours in the best way to honor You and tell Your story. Let those who have ears to hear, hear Your message and believe, and be saved. May those who love You be encouraged and strengthened. May those who don’t know You, find You. May Your kingdom come and Your will be done. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by your name, O Lord God of hosts.”
Jeremiah 15:16 NKJV