The Parable of the Talents: The Faithful Servants - Marks in the Sand



TalentsThe Parable of the Talents offers some powerful insights into effective investment and personal growth.

Introduction

The Parable of the Talents is a story told by Jesus to illustrate deep truths about what really matters in life. As recorded in Matthew’s gospel, it reads like this:

A Story about Three Servants

14 … A man went away and put his three servants in charge of all he owned. 15 The man knew what each servant could do. So he handed five thousand coins to the first servant, two thousand to the second, and one thousand to the third. Then he left the country.

16 As soon as the man had gone, the servant with the five thousand coins used them to earn five thousand more. 17 The servant who had two thousand coins did the same with his money and earned two thousand more. 18 But the servant with one thousand coins dug a hole and hid his master’s money in the ground.

19 Some time later the master of those servants returned. He called them in and asked what they had done with his money. 20 The servant who had been given five thousand coins brought them in with the five thousand that he had earned. He said, “Sir, you gave me five thousand coins, and I have earned five thousand more.”

21 “Wonderful!” his master replied. “You are a good and faithful servant. I left you in charge of only a little, but now I will put you in charge of much more. Come and share in my happiness!”

22 Next, the servant who had been given two thousand coins came in and said, “Sir, you gave me two thousand coins, and I have earned two thousand more.”

23 “Wonderful!” his master replied. “You are a good and faithful servant. I left you in charge of only a little, but now I will put you in charge of much more. Come and share in my happiness!”

24 The servant who had been given one thousand coins then came in and said, “Sir, I know that you are hard to get along with. You harvest what you don’t plant and gather crops where you haven’t scattered seed. 25 I was frightened and went out and hid your money in the ground. Here is every single coin!”

26 The master of the servant told him, “You are lazy and good-for-nothing! You know that I harvest what I don’t plant and gather crops where I haven’t scattered seed. 27 You could have at least put my money in the bank, so that I could have earned interest on it.”

28 Then the master said, “Now your money will be taken away and given to the servant with ten thousand coins! 29 Everyone who has something will be given more, and they will have more than enough. But everything will be taken from those who don’t have anything. 30 You are a worthless servant, and you will be thrown out into the dark where people will cry and grit their teeth in pain.”

— Matthew 25:14-30 (CEV)

Who are The Characters in the Story?

The characters in the story are:

  • The Master
  • The Faithful Servants
    • 2TS, the Servant who received 2 Talents.
    • 5TS, the Servant who received 5 Talents.
  • The Unfaithful Servant, 1TS, who received just 1 Talent.

The Faithful Servants: What is their story?

The story of these two faithful Servants is similar, so we’ll consider them together.

  1. They receive Talents from the Master
  2. While the Master was away, they invested the Talents
  3. As a result, they double the number of Talents that they have
  4. They receive a reward from the Master on his return.

What are the servants given? What are Talents?

Many illustrations imply that a Talent is a small coin. However, a Talent is actually a unit of weight. When used as a measure of money, it refers to a talent-weight of gold or of silver. It is unknown exactly what the monetary value this represents, but the important point is that this is a very large sum of money.

Just as many assume that a Biblical Talent is much smaller than it actually was, I think many of us underestimate our own talents. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

What do these Talents symbolise?

There are different views:

  • The gospel
  • The gifts of the Holy Spirit
  • Natural abilities
  • Our material possessions
Some sources insist that the parable is only about one or other of these. Despite this, the parable appears to illustrate principles that apply in all these areas.

Where did the Talents come from?

From the Master:

Every good gift… comes from heavenJames 1:17 GNB

What are Your Talents?

Exercise

  • Make a list of your Talents, big and small.
  • Highlight your main Talents in the list.

Notes

Interestingly, in a group where I asked about people’s talents, the initial reaction of some members was that they have no particular abilities or talents. However, even the things we often take for granted are important. Consider basic human abilities:

  • Body = ability to do things
  • Brain = ability to think
  • Hearing = ability to listen
  • Mouth = ability to speak

We may be a 2TS rather than a 5TS, but we all have Talents.

Compare 2TS and 5TS

What are the similarities between 2TS and 5TS?

  • They both take on responsibilities.
  • They are both faithful.

What are the differences?

  • They have different abilities.
  • They are given different starting points.
  • The gifts that they are given have different values.
  • Their potentials are different.

Why Two Faithful Servants?

The 1TS could look at the others and say, “They have more than me – I have been set up to fail!”. But the 2TS can look at 5TS and give the same argument. However, he does not do so – he is just faithful. By including both faithful servants in the story, Jesus shows that we cannot excuse ourselves by pointing to the differences between others and ourselves.

Exercise

Make a list of the people with whom you compare yourself, and how.

  • Does this impact what you do with your own Talents?
  • Is this a good thing?
  • What can you do about it?

So, Does it Matter How Much We Have?

To some extent… but how effectively we use what we have is more important.

What Did the Servants do with the Talents?

We don’t know exactly. We know they invested them.

Did the Master tell them to Invest?

The Bible does not say so.

So, how did they know what to do?

Did they know because they knew the Master, because they observed him and saw how he did business?

Has our master left us alone (as he did with these servants)?

No! We have the Holy Spirit to help us.

Exercise

Look through the list of Talents you made earlier.

  • Do you actually invest them?
  • Could you invest them more effectively?
  • Do you need help from others to develop your talents?

Exercise

Consider your Main Talents. Set SMART goals for you development and investment of these Talents.

Did they work for themselves or the Master?

They worked on behalf of the master, not for themselves. Their initial funds came from him, and always belonged to him. And the return on their investment belonged to him, as well.

But they benefited, too.

What were their Rewards?

  • Praise
  • Greater Responsibility
  • Joy

What else did they gain?

  • Continuing to work for the Master (fellowship?)
  • Abundance
  • Increased influence
  • Greater opportunity to do more of the Master’s business

What was the praise for?

The Master does not praise them for their productivity, but their faithfulness.

Exercise

Consider your responsibilities.

Make a list of the key people (or groups of people) in your life. List your main responsibilities to each of them.

  • Are you meeting your responsibilities?
  • Do these responsibilities play to your strengths? Do they fit in with your Main Talents?
  • Do you want more responsibility?
  • Could you take on more?
  • Can you shed some of the responsibilities that do not fit in with your Main Talents to focus on your strengths?

Did the Servants keep the talents?

It looks like it. In fact, they keep both the original talents and the ones that they made.

How do we develop/grow our talents?

By investing / using them.

 Acknowledgements

These notes were made following a group discussion that I led some years ago. Thanks to all who contributed.

Further Reading

Despite my misgivings about some of the things taught by LDS, I would be remiss if I didn’t reference their beautiful illustrations of this story. Note that you’ll need permission from owner if you want to use these images (not from me!).

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