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Understanding the parable of the talents

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

For any church, in any place, that schedules their “Stewardship Drive” for pledges to fund the budget for the coming year, based on the parable of the talents …

please give


In my opinion, the parable of the talents is greatly important and must be fully grasped by all want-to-be Christians.  It has nothing to do with money, and anyone who points out that a “talent” represented a “year’s wages” in ancient Judea, is not capable of preaching about spiritual matters.

A “parable,” to use the most appropriate definition, is “a statement or comment that conveys a meaning indirectly by the use of comparison, analogy, or the like.”

It is, therefore, a metaphor, such that being like something means a reference to another thing entirely.

Thus, if the parable of the talents is telling of something like a year’s wages (like five year’s wages, or like ten year’s wages), the metaphor is NOT on money, but on spiritual value.

So, by all means, sign a card and promise to give 100% of your spiritual value to a church.  Commit to give 100% of your spiritual value to God and Christ.

But, if no one ever preaches about the meaning of the metaphor in the parable of the talents, then no one ever realizes it is about spiritual value and not about money.  Thus, priests and ministers will always be begging church-goers to give money out of guilt, rather than spiritual enlightenment.

God is like the master who goes away, leaving his slaves, who are like us, in charge of various degrees of spiritual value, which is like lots of money.  CHRIST is like the talent, as the advocate for the Holy Spirit of God to the faithful.  Christ is (like the commercials say) so valuable he is priceless.

Now, with that basic understanding, and keeping in mind that everything in the world requires funds to keep everything working to some degree of fluidity, let’s move on from the filthiness of money and address the theme of today’s readings.

Every year the prophetess Deborah gets completely lost in the efforts to misrepresent the parable of the talents.  What does a judge of Israel have to do with that story told by Jesus?

In these modern ages, since “equality” took on such importance and women have sought to be recognized as worthy of holding down work positions, worthy of being elected officials, and worthy of being priests in churches, Deborah has been trivialized as some kind of “Women’s Lib activist,” and not seen as she actually was.

Seeing this image is getting the wrong impression.

Seeing this image is getting the wrong impression.

Even if you read the translation that says, “Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth … used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim” (which is confusing at best and ridiculously meaningless at worst), you still come away thinking she was a judge of Israel.

You can see how Deborah heard the pleas of the children of Israel (those in the upper regions – Naphtali and Zebulun) and she heard God’s commandment to save his children, which she passed along (presumably while still sitting under a tree).  Therefore, everyone who reads these verses comes away with the idea that Deborah prophesied and led the children of Israel back to God’s protection.

As a “prophetess,” she was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Deborah had a God-given talent.  That is the link to the parable of the talents, told by Jesus.

Now, being a prophet or a prophetess is not a talent most people possess.  If we have any prophets or prophetesses here today, please raise your hands.

<look for raised hands>

Being a prophet, according to Paul’s list of the “gifts” of the Holy Spirit, is one of the seven he named.  A “gift” is like a “talent” of a spiritual value, and ability to prophesy is an important ability.  In that list of Paul’s, which he wrote of more than once (in differing explanatory words but with the same seven listed), there are differing “talents” than can be possessed.  Some, one or all, can be put in one’s care by the master, God.

Thus, one slave can be given “five talents,” with “another two,” and still another one.  This means some true Apostles of Jesus Christ could conceivably receive the following abilities: to heal, to prophesy, to understand prophecy, to minister, and to give heartfelt care to others.  Other Apostles may only have these abilities: to understand prophecy and to minister.  Still, some may only be given one power of the Holy Spirit: to understand prophecy.  That is the meaning of five, two, and one “talents” left to slaves.

Do you think Edgar Cayce had a talent for understanding?

Do you think Edgar Cayce had a talent for understanding?

Notice how I listed all of these three fictional Apostles (slaves to the Master) as having the ability to understand prophecy.  You have to realize that everything in the Holy Bible is prophecy, so through the talent of God, the Holy Spirit, with the gift of the Mind of Christ, the words of the books of the Holy Bible are realized by those with this gift – the talent of understanding.

In the case of Deborah, ALL of the children making up ALL of the tribes of Israel were responsible for learning the Torah – the books of Moses, and the Law.  That is not a gift, as a recognized talent of God.  Simply because you have a big brain and spend the time to memorize what it is you say you believe, if you do not understand what you believe, then you end up like the people crying out to a judge to save them.  Knowing what you believe in and believing what you understand are two different things.

Knowing things, as possessing intelligence, is available to any normal human beings in a public school, and to anyone who can gain entrance into a college or university.  Knowing is even available to children in Sunday school, and as children grow up their knowledge grows in Adult Bible Studies.  The talent of understanding is available to everyone too, but only through Jesus Christ.  You have to welcome God into your heart, who then replaces your ego with the Mind of His Son, and then you become the reproduction of Jesus, capable of knowing without having been taught.  However, like the tribes of Israel, most people were not ready, willing, or able to make that commitment to receive the wisdom of God.

So, most people have no true God-given talents to waste.  They depended then, just as now, on those who had talents, like Deborah.  Deborah saved the Israelites because Deborah did not bury her talent in the ground and do nothing to help anyone but herself.

That is the message today, and that is why it is so important to understand.  The parable of the talents is about helping others, through being filled with the Holy Spirit.  That talent awaits your actions – that of going to God requesting to receive it, and then using it to help others do the same.  God is not impressed with those who ask for personal gratification.  However, ask for the ability to help other and God answers.

True heroes are blessed by God.

                True heroes are blessed by God.

The problem is then how few people there are who are willing to lift a finger to help anyone who will not help them in return, twofold.  How many read the parable of the talents and dream of being given a gift of money that multiples, making one richer than their wildest dreams?

We miss the point of how five abilities given by the Master means that one needs to then report back to God how five others also got abilities of the Holy Spirit from their help.  Or, it may be where the one with two gifts from God has seen the need to pass those gifts on to two others, so they too were filled with the spirit.

Imagine how easily that can happen to you, if you seek and receive the talent to understand the books of the Holy Bible.  Look at the potential you then have of passing that knowledge onto to others through Bible Studies, Lectionary classes, or simply not being afraid of discussing your religious understanding with anyone who poses a religious question.  Your willingness to share your gift can lead to others also being inspired to receive the Holy Spirit of understanding.

But we get selfish.  We get lazy.  We get apathetic.

Then, when our time in life is up and the Master comes for our soul, He asks, “What did you do with the talent I left you to use?”

At that time there will be no lies, no cover-ups, no excuses allowed in response.  Only the truth can be told then.

To tell the LORD, “I never used it.  I left it untouched, buried where no one could ever know it was there” is an admission of failure, of selfishness, of a lack of caring for anyone other than yourself.  Then you can expect to hear God reply, “You are a worthless slave.  You will not enter into my realm of Heaven.  Your soul will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

None of us wants that future, if we think about it.  But, how many people put off using their brains to come to a realization of sacrifice for the benefit of others?  So many put off that commitment for as long as they can … until it is too late.

That makes Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians important to understand, as he warns about that end to those who decide to live in darkness, without the light of Christ leading their actions.  Paul wrote, “For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!”

Paul (according to the New International Version) ended that last statement with an exclamation point.  He emphasized that statement of doom, where there will be no more time left to put off.

Christians filled with talents of understanding know not to let the light of Christ go out.  Being filled with the Holy Spirit is NEVER about you having a wonderful life on planet earth, so you can retire early and live long, with more than your neighbor.

It is ALL about passing what the Lord gives to you on to others, and making God’s investment in you pay dividends through others.  Your reward will be based on how well you sacrificed of yourself, so that others could be saved.

When you know that, then you see how ridiculous it is to beg people to give some small percentage of their money to keep the church alive for another year.  A true Christian church does not beg for earthly comforts, depending on the talent of human generosity, as measured in currency and monetary notes.  It is about being ALL-IN spiritually, with faith in the LORD and actions led by the mind of Christ.  All true churches survive because God and Christ know their works.



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