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Matthew 25:14-30 – The Parable of the Talents

Summary

Jesus' Parable of the Talents calls the disciple community to trustful obedience in its imaginative and confident use of the master's resources while it waits for the return of the Son of Man.

Analysis

The parable of the talents reinforces the message of responsible waiting for the return of the master. Again in somewhat allegorical fashion, the "master" (described as such nine times in this parable) "goes away" and "hands over" his property to his slaves (25:14), entrusting to them five, two, and one talent respectively While the master is away the first two slaves use their talents to double the original amount. The third slave, however, just buries the talent in the ground. When the master returns he commends the first two for being "good" and "trustworthy" (25:21, 23) and with words of joy rewards them accordingly. The third slave admits his inactivity but turns it into an accusation about the character of the master: one who is harsh and reaps where he does not sow. The concluding statement of the parable confirms this judgment of the "worthless" slave, since even the one talent is taken from him and he is thrown out in judgment.

The images of the parable's conclusion are indeed harsh and full of judgment and accountability. The emphasis on the "master" in the parable and the contrasting responses of the slaves invites reflection on how this disciple community will regard this time of waiting. Will it wait in confidence and obedience that leads to responsible and imaginative action with the master's resources, or will it wait in fear and dread of a harsh master and with a careful and non-risk-taking existence that simply hoards what it sees as a puny trust.

Matthew 25:14-30

The Parable of the Talents

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. 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.” 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.” 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.” 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. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

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10 February 2011

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