Parable of Talents

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It is difficult to comment on the gospel story of the people who were entrusted with the talents, that difficulty is only enhanced by shows such as America’s got talent. In talent shows such as America’s got talent, the emphasis is on highlighting the unique talent of an individual such as song or dance. Those who advance “got talent”, the ones that fail simply don’t. I don’t know if the English word talent has any connection to the word in the gospel, but I suspect that when most people read the gospel describing that use of talents entrusted to those individuals; they interpret it as using ones abilities to their fullest. As the gospel implies people should make use of their talents. I would also assume that when people read the gospel passage, they would also picture a talent as some form of coin likely of gold or silver. Investing in ones abilities, should follow the same path as investing money. One should hone ones talents to bring out their fullest potential. It’s a nice lesson, but it seems so casual and pedestrian. Somehow, with Jesus skill at using parables there must be something more to the story. Where would one start in finding any additional nuisances to that story?

For a start, what exactly is a talent and how much is it worth? A talent, as it turns out is not simply a coin. It is not a unit of currency, but instead is a unit of weight. One talent is equal to seventy five pounds. A talent can be converted to currency. One talent is equal to 3,000 shekels. The first person got five talents, the second two, and the third one. If those talents were indeed gold or silver, all three were entrusted with an enormous amount. Might that first lesson be that the person who gave out these talents possessed an enormous amount? Might one also pay attention to the trust he had in his servants. Perhaps it is important to realize exactly how much these people were entrusted with. On the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus blessed those people. In those tough times it was so easy for them to forget that God had chosen them as his blessed people. In those difficult times they also might have forgotten of the enormous bounty they possessed? It sometimes is easy to forget all God has given us, especially when things are not going our way. With Jesus telling his disciples the large amount the master gave his servants that just might have reminded them of all they received from their God. That is a reminder they might have desperately needed.Life was tough and they were an oppressed people.

The next part details the blessing given to those who invested their talents wisely, and the curse to the one who buried theirs. I would guess that in the first century Jerusalem if any of Jesus followers were given even one talent of Gold, their instinct would be precisely to bury it. At that time there were no banks, or vaults to safeguard that money. Burying it would be a logical way to protect it. Jesus parable then would have cautioned his audience to go against their instinct, and to look for another approach.

Most likely Jesus disciples had that habit of hoarding their treasures for themselves, and perhaps they needed to be persuaded to use their wealth in a more egalitarian manner. Certainly they did not have that wealth in gold; but their God given talents were at least equal to the wealth of all the talents that parable master handed out. Had they took inventory of their talents and developed them to the fullest, they too could prosper. Their talents aren’t a solitary ability that an individual might possess, but instead their talents are their entire being. It is not their wealth, or social stature, but their intellect, their conscience, their vision, their knowledge, their reasoning, their dexterity, and the list goes on. For those ancient Israelites, perhaps their greatest wealth was that covenantal relationship with God. That is a talent of enormous wealth. Might Jesus wanted them to get creative with their “talents?” Might he wanted them to change their thinking? Imagine for instance if those three servants of the parable pooled their resources, imagine then the return on their investment.

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