The Parable of the Talents

I am reading Robert Capon’s The Parables of Judgment and I want to share some ideas.

The parable of minas also called the parable of the talents can be found in Luke 19:11-28 and Matthew 25:14-30. I am going to recount the version from Luke. I am leaving out the part that Matthew also leaves out, as not to confuse the issue.

Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’ …

“And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ Likewise he said to him, ‘You also be over five cities.’

“Then another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief. For I feared you, because you are an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ And he said to him, ‘Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow. Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’

“And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to him who has ten minas.’ … ‘For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.

This parable has always struck me as harsh, but I want to share some thoughts to put it in context.

So the nobleman asks of the servants to do business. Business might be risky, but ultimately business is the point of money. It is show of confidence in his servants. Ten minas is more than two year’s salary. The nobleman is giving his servants a wonderful opportunity! He is not interested in profit. Notice, he does not take profit and even the money he takes from the one servant he gives away again.

The wicked servant missed the point completely. He thinks the nobleman is after profit. In fear of the nobleman he does nothing with his opportunity. I can imagine how this infuriates the nobleman. “I give you this wonderful gift, I show you that I trust you and you do nothing! And your excuse is that you think I am unreasonable?! You think I am selfish after I gave you money? Does my goodness make you suspicious of me?”

The nobleman then punishes the servant according to the servant’s idea of him. Effectively saying “Well, since my goodness could not persuade you, I will judge you in the way you want to be judged. You think I am interested in a profit, then why didn’t you try to make a profit? If my goodness only feeds your suspicion, I am more than willing to take it back.”

When we believe God is angry at us, we will fear judgment and be preoccupied with sin management. We miss the point of the love and life we have been entrusted with. We forget God gave us freedom and as Paul Young puts it “wasteful grace”. Don’t waste it, by being passive.

Robert Capon says “But all the while, there was one thing we most needed even from the start, … : the ability to take our freedom seriously and act on it, to live not in fear of mistakes but in the knowledge that no mistake can hold a candle to the love that draws us home. My repentance, accordingly, is not so much for my failings but for the two-bit attitude toward them by which I made them more sovereign than grace. Grace – the imperative to hear the music, not just listen for errors – makes all infirmities occasions of glory.”

If God gives you a bike, He wants you to ride. If He gives you life, He wants you to live. It is actually quite simple.

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