“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Understanding And Applying the Text
The analogies in this parable are clear and simple. The Master is Christ. The servants are His disciples.
The first thing we notice is that not everyone has the same talents or abilities. They received according to their abilities. It was not according to what each deserved. It was according to ability. So each had different responsibilities. The one who had greater ability had greater responsibilities.
“Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.”(Luke 12:48)
But here is good news. It is God who gives us our abilities. And it is God who gives us our responsibilities. We are never given more responsibility than we are capable of fulfilling. Paul echoes this in 1 Corinthians 10:13. God gives us all we need to serve Him.
How much money did the Master give the servants? Scholars vary on the exact worth of a talent. But anyone who had a talent was considered rich. So even the servant with only one talent had a lot of money.
As Christians, God has given each of us a great gift. We have received much. So God expects much from us.
It is easy to look at this parable and sympathize with the wicked servant. First, he had fewer abilities than the other two. Second, if he engaged in commerce there was a risk. He could have lost it all. After all, he did not have the abilities of the other two. Third, what would have happened if he lost the money? If the servant lost the talent the punishment would be harsh. At least he preserved the money. And he returned it all.
But that ignores what the parable actually says. The servant had the ability to manage that one talent. He chose not to. The two wise servants went out right away and engaged in commerce. They earned enough to double the money. The keyword in the previous sentence is “earned.” They worked. They toiled. And they worked for benefit of their master.
The wicked servant did not work. He did not engage in commerce. He was lazy. He buried the money. He was slothful. The only effort he exerted was to dig a hole. It was not fear of loss that motivated him. It was laziness.
What about the first two? They toiled. They worked and earned. And then they gave it all to their master. That is what we are to do. We have nothing God has not given us. God gives us our talents and resources. All that we have come from Him. God calls us to toil. God calls us to work and give it all to Christ. We tend to think, “I earned this. I worked for it. It is mine.” In doing so we fail to understand all we are, have, and do is a gift from God. Christ calls us to work for Him. And we are to give Him all we earn.
The harshness of the master has nothing to do with the substance of the parable. In fact, notice it is only the slothful servant who calls the master harsh. The Master’s action was just. We often perceive a just judgment as harsh. This parable does not speak to the harshness of God. It speaks to God’s justice.
The master told the worthless servant he should have at least put it with the banker and earned interest. In other words, there was no excuse to mismanage the master’s resources.
The disciples would have understood the metaphor of outer darkness better than we. Christ contrasts the outer darkness with the light. That is the light within the house. The ancients, for the most part, held banquets at night. They illuminated the areas with many torches and lamps. Those who are banished from the kingdom of God, Christ said, are cast into darkness. They are expelled from the house of God.