- Mike Kern, CPA
The Parable of the Talents
Updated: Sep 2, 2019
This parable is the foundation of Talent Financial. Everything we strive to be comes from this teaching. Every parable Jesus shared always had two meanings: a literal meaning and a spiritual meaning. The literal meaning is often obvious, while the spiritual meaning is harder to decipher. The lessons learned from both meanings provide insight into how we should live, and the parable of the talents is no exception!
What is a Talent?
A talent is a unit of measurement, typically used for weighing gold or silver. It is not known for certain whether the talents in this parable were gold or silver but it is safe to assume that a talent was worth a lot of money.
1 Talent = 60-80 lbs
Gold = ~ $1200 per troy ounce
12 troy ounces = 1 troy pound
1 Talent = up to $1,152,000
That's a lot of cash! We know the first servant received five talents ($5,760,000), the second received two ($2,304,000), and the third received one ($1,152,000). We also know that the first and second servant doubled their talents, while the third did not. Both the literal and spiritual meanings are found in how the servants handled their talents.
At first glance...
We see three servants who are given varying amounts of talents by their master. The master leaves for a period of time and, upon his return, finds that two of the servants were good stewards with their talents but one was not. The master is happy with the two servants and upset with the third.
The Literal Meaning
The first and second servant went to work immediately. The parable says they "went at once and traded with them," the key phrase being "at once." Have you heard the saying, "It takes money to make money?" Money is a tool, and with hard work and proper decision making it can be used to make more money. While the parable only gives a small detail about how they made more money, we can be sure they didn't make poor or unwise decisions.
On the other hand, the third servant hid his one talent ($1,152,000) with no intention to increase it. He didn't even invest it with the bankers to earn minimal interest. In fact, with inflation, he probably lost his master some money by hiding it in a hole. Based on the actions of the three servants, the questions I ask myself are:
Am I the first/second servant or am I the third?
Do I make good decisions or poor decisions with my money?
Am I working tirelessly to increase the money I have or am I apathetic?
On the surface, some of these questions seem greedy. You're probably thinking, "The purpose of life is not to make more money, Mike!" True, it is not! John Wesley says it best in a sermon he gave about the use of money. His three points were: Gain All You Can. Save All You Can. Give All You Can. Sound familiar (Earn it. Track it. Give it.)? In this sermon, he notes that if the third point does not follow, then the first two are pointless. How can we give more unless we save more? And how can we save more unless we earn more? Money only has value if we use it to help others and glorify God. We cannot miss this point!
“Money only has value if we use it to help others and glorify God.”
I digress. The servants were entrusted with their master's money. The master was pleased when his money was doubled and not pleased when nothing was done with it. His two servants proved to be trustworthy so the master gave them more responsibility. The third did not, so the master took what he had and gave it to the trustworthy servant. "Duh Mike, that's what the passage says!" Yep. That's why it's the LITERAL meaning. However, the main reason Jesus told this parable was not for the literal but the spiritual meaning.
The Spiritual Meaning
It is believed that the meaning of the word talent (skill or ability) has its origin from this exact parable. The Greek word used here is tálanton, which our word talent is derived from. The transformation of the word "talent" over time allows us to easily see the spiritual meaning in this parable.
Jesus chose to use finances as the medium to express his point; however, this can apply to so much more than finances. "What else, Mike?" Uhhh hello... our talents! Our skills and abilities given to us by God. Using our talents pleases God, our Master. The spiritual meaning of this story is to use your gifts given by God. If you have the talent of leadership, be a leader. If you are good at teaching, be a teacher. If you have a passion for caring for children, be a foster parent. God gave you your talents and passions for a reason and he expects you to use them. Not only are we called to be a good steward of our finances but also our abilities. Everything we have comes from God, and just like the master in this story, Jesus will return again some day. We will be held accountable for how we've used our gifts from God whether to his pleasure or displeasure. So, the same question applies:
Am I the first/second servant or am I the third?
Let's make clear two things that are easily missed. First, the master gave to each servant "according to his ability." He had expectations of his servants but these were very realistic expectations. They all had the ability to reach his expectations, but it would take effort. The first and second servant put the effort in; the third did not. He made excuses and offered insults at his master; rather than taking action, he blamed his master for his laziness. Likewise, God has high expectations for us but he doesn't leave us high and dry. He gives us the ability to meet His expectations so that we are without excuse.
Second, what did the master say to the first and second servant after he returned? He said, "...You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much." Notice neither the talents they were given nor their abilities were the same, but because they were faithful with what they were given, their master bestowed upon them the same responsibility. It doesn't matter what you've been given, whether it's the brain to be the next Einstein or the cooking skills to feed a family of five. If you are faithful with your ability, God will be pleased.
Talent Financial [now KORE Talents]
We get asked, "Why did you name your company Talent Financial?" We felt that this parable perfectly depicts what we want our company to be about. We are always striving to be good stewards with our finances and abilities, but it doesn't stop there. We exist to help you make informed financial decisions by providing tools to: 1) earn more money, 2) track and budget the money you earn, and 3) give that money back to make the world a better place. Join us in our quest to "Earn it. Track it. Give it."
Mike Kern, CPA