Parable of the Talents

The purpose of this parable is not to provide instructions on attaining salvation, but rather to illustrate why salvation can only be achieved through faith in Christ.

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During Jesus' teaching of the parable of the talents, it was still within the context of the Old Covenant, before His crucifixion and the establishment of the New Covenant. His teachings aimed to demonstrate to humanity that their sole hope rested in the cross. The purpose of the law and its commandments was to reveal to people that salvation could not be attained through strict adherence to it. In a similar vein, Jesus utilized the parable of the talents to convey the same message, emphasizing that: "No one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:20)

Parable of the talents

14 “For it is like a man going on a journey, who summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The one who had received five talents went off right away and put his money to work and gained five more. 17 In the same way, the one who had two gained two more. 18 But the one who had received one talent went out and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money in it. 19 After a long time, the master of those slaves came and settled his accounts with them. 20 The one who had received the five talents came and brought five more, saying, ‘Sir, you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ 21 His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 The one with the two talents also came and said, ‘Sir, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more.’ 23 His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Sir, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered, ‘Evil and lazy slave! So you knew that I harvest where I didn’t sow and gather where I didn’t scatter? 27 Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received my money back with interest! 28 Therefore take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten. 29 For the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30 And throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:14-30)

The inclusion of the phrase “throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness” in this parable indicates that its purpose is not to instruct on godly living or provide exhortation, but rather to establish a condition for salvation. However, a Christian who comprehends the gospel understands that under the New Covenant, salvation is solely based on faith in Christ and His finished work on the cross.

Let us explore other teachings of Jesus that align with this parable.

In Matthew 19:16-22, we encounter the story of a wealthy young man who approached Jesus, seeking guidance on attaining eternal life. Jesus responded by saying, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Now, let us suppose that you somehow possess certain knowledge about the number of talents God has entrusted to you, and you were able to double the talents you were given. Would you be able to pass the test that the young man faced?

In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus issued a command for us to wholeheartedly love God with all our heart, mind, and strength, as well as to love others as we love ourselves. Let us now compare this command with the parable of the talents to determine which one presents a greater challenge. Once again, assuming that you pass the test related to talents, can you also pass this commandment?

How many talents do you have?

Is it possible for anyone to accurately determine the exact number of talents given to them by God? Can you truly rely on your own assessment of the talents you possess, considering they originate from God? Is there an objective standard to gauge this, or is it a subjective matter?

Without an objective standard, no one can definitively determine the number or nature of talents they thought bestowed upon them by God. This is separate from the standard required to fulfill God’s expectations regarding the utilization of these talents.

It is important to note that the parable of the talents should not be employed as a means to ascertain one’s salvation, as that is not its intended purpose. Rather, it serves as a temporary guide until the arrival of Christ.

24Thus the law had become our guardian until Christ, so that we could be declared righteous by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian (Galatians 3:24-25).”

The parable of the talents, along with other guardians, cannot grant us salvation. It is solely through Christ that salvation can be obtained.

Nghi Nguyen

- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen

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