Parable of the Talents: Matthew 25:14-30
Parable of the Pounds: Luke 19:12-27
Jesus tells the parable of the talents and pounds in order to communicate the seriousness of serving God while waiting for Jesus' return.
The parable of the talents and the parable of the pounds are found in two different contexts, and the story in each varies enough that it appears Jesus told these stories at least two different times. However, what these parables do share in common is that they make a similar point.
In order to understand these parables of the talents and pounds, it is best to focus on two aspects of the parables: (1) how the master responds to the servants, and (2) the Meaning of the Talents and Pounds.
In the context of Matthew, Jesus has been telling his disciples about a number of subjects regarding the end times and his return. He has also just discussed the seriousness of serving God while he is gone, by telling the Parable of the Faithful and Wise Servant.
After having discussed all of this in Matthew 24, Jesus continues in Matthew 25 to talk about what the kingdom of heaven is like. He thus tells the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids as well as this parable of the talents.
In Luke, although the context is different (and the story is also slightly different) the message is still the same. However, there are certain points of the story that are more heavily emphasized.
For the parable of the pounds in Luke, some suggest that the reason the details have changed is because Jesus modified his parable to match an actual event that had happened close to the geographical location where Jesus was telling the parable, which his audience would be familiar with and could relate to better.
According to Jesus, the kingdom of heaven is like a man who is going on a journey, and thus gives his servants part of his property to care for while he is gone.
The man gives to one servant five talents, which is a lot of money considering it is more than 75 years of wages for an average worker.
To another servant, the man give two talents, and to another he gives one. The man then leaves, and the servant who was give five talents immediately begins trading and makes five more. Likewise, the servant given two talents makes two more. However, the servant who was given one talent hides it in the ground.
When the master returns, he requests his money that he has given his servants. The servants with five and two talents each give his master back double, and so the master is very pleased and he rewards them. However, the servant with one talent only gives back the original one he received.
The master is very angry with this servant, calling him lazy and saying, "Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest." (Matthew 25:27) The servant wasn't just hiding his master's money. Rather, he was neglecting the responsibility his master had given him. The first two servants accepted the responsibility given to them and immediately went to work with it, whereas the last servant was lazy.
Jesus then concludes by saying, "For 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." (Matthew 25:29)
In Luke 19:11-27, the man giving out his money to his servants is a nobleman who is going away to obtain royal power. However, there are citizens who don't want this nobleman to receive royal power and rule over them.
The man gives ten of his servants each a pound and says, "Do business with these until I come back." (Luke 19:13) One servant makes 10 more pounds from the one, and another servant makes five pounds more from the one he was given.
When the nobleman (now a king) has returned, he gives these two slaves each 10 and 5 cities, respectively, to be in charge of as a reward. However, another servant gives back only the original one, because he wrapped it up in cloth, so the king has the pound taken away, and it is given to the one with 10 pounds.
The nobleman then says, "I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away." (Luke 19:26) The man then has the people killed who didn't want him to be king over them.
Interestingly, all of these extra details, in the parable of the pounds, closely mirror an actual event that happened in this region Jesus was in.
As can be seen in Matthew 25 and Luke 19, although the contexts and some details are different, Jesus still concludes with the same statement: "To all those who have, more will be given...but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away." (Matthew 25:29; Luke 19:26)
This statement is further discussed in the Meaning of the Talents and Pounds.
However, it is also important to examine how the master responds to his servants in the parables, which is the main point that Jesus is trying to communicate by telling this parable of the talents and pounds.
In the parable of the talents, in Matthew 25, the servants who work for their master while he is away are rewarded appropriately based on their efforts. Likewise, Jesus will reward those who are working for him and his kingdom while he is away. However, those who claim that Jesus is their master, but who are not working for him while he is away, will receive severe consequence.
"But his master replied, 'You wicked and lazy slave!'" (Matthew 25:26)
"As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 25:30)
The parable of the pounds in Luke 19 makes an even more extreme point by saying that those who do not work for the king while he is away are actually saying with their actions that they don't want him to be king.
"Then the other came, saying, "Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth." (Luke 19:20)
"But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence." (Luke 19:27)
It is as Paul says in Titus 1:16, "They profess to know God, but they deny him by their actions."
Now, since Jesus is the master, we need to understand what his work is in order to apply this parable to life and understand what Jesus intends to teach. Jesus' work is to be a witness to the world, spreading his message of salvation through him for all who repent of their sins (Matthew 28:18-20), as well as loving God above all and loving people as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39), which includes serving people.
"If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,' and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." (James 2:15-17)
Those who do his work will be rewarded accordingly, whereas those who do not will receive severe consequence, because we show what we truly believe by what we do. This idea is what both the parable of the talents and parable of the pounds teach. This teaching is difficult to accept unless we understand both the loving AND righteous nature of God.
"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God's wrath." (John 3:36)
For more information on this subject, read about the Meaning of Repentance and Salvation.
Visit the Meaning of the Talents and Pounds page, to read about this second aspect of the parable.
What is love? It's a call to action. Guest post by Ben Byrum.
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