Understanding the Parables of the Talents and Minas

You may or may not be familiar with these two parables. The parable of the talents in found in Matthew 25:14 – 30, while the parable of the minas is located in Luke 19:11.  For years, I thought these two stories were the same.  In fact, I had received teaching from pastors and teachers which encouraged this school of thought.  Both of these accounts are teachings (red letter words) of Jesus.  Each involved a master/ruler dealing with his servants and, each parable ended with the reporting of three servants to the master concerning their stewardship of the master’s goods.  However, after a careful study and scrutiny of the Scriptures, it now becomes obvious that, not only are these two stories told by different writers, but they are directives of the Lord regarding two very distinct aspects of every Christian’s life.

Jesus, as a master story-teller, employed different types of presentations when He spoke. The first was the use of stories, using actual names and places, such as the story in Luke 16:19 – 31, regarding the rich man and Lazarus (the beggar).  These stories are actual accounts of history.  However, when Jesus spoke in parables, he was revealing spiritual truths about God’s kingdom and principles.  In speaking parables, Jesus used a more generic manner, such as:  “The Kingdom of heaven is like . . . “ or “Behold, a sower went out to sow.”  The use of parables had several purposes: 1) to make spiritual truths clearer to the hearer; 2) to make truth more easily remembered; 3) to avoid offense with hostile people who would not receive the truth; and 4) to declare judgment upon those who were willfully blind.  This is supported by the Scriptures in Matthew 13:10 – 17:

“And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; 15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’ 16 “But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; 17 for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

First of all, it is probably important to define the terms “talent” and “mina.” Both are terms that originally referred to a measure of weight, then later were used to denote amounts of currency.  In these parables, the focus is not on the amount of each measure, but rather how they were used.  According to the New Commentary on the Whole Bible, New Testament, Ed. 3, the modern day interpretation of either term is a “natural endowment” or “special aptitude,” which leads us directly into the application of spiritual/Kingdom principles.  Both, the mina and the talent, grown into greater amounts were rewarded, and in both cases, each not grown brought punishment.

So, let’s begin with a brief overview of the similarities and differences between these parables. Then we will move into the spiritual applications of what Jesus had to say.

Similarities

  1. Both show that the Kingdom of Heaven and the return of the Messiah were not immediate, but rather coming later.
  2. Servants were entrusted with the goods of the Master and were expected to use and grow these goods.
  3. Servants were made to give an account of their stewardship of the Master’s goods.
  4. Rewards and punishments were dispensed based on the stewardship of each servant.
  5. In each parable, the lazy servants each received the same punishment: “from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.”

Differences

  1. The account in Matthew’s gospel only specifies three (3) servants: the account according to Luke identifies that the Master called 10 of His servants.
  2. The setting for the parable in the book of Matthew is on the Mount of Olives, after the ‘Triumphant Entry,’ two days prior to the Passover and the arrest of Jesus. In the book of Luke, the parable is spoken while Jesus was in (or near) Jericho. It is after this when Jesus goes to Bethphage and Bethany, just before the ‘Triumphant Entry.’ This timing lines up with the verses found in Matthew 20:29 – 21:7.
  3. In Matthew, the servants are given different amounts of ‘talents,’ according to his own ability. In Luke, each servant was given exactly the same amount – one mina each with no reference to their abilities.
  4. In Matthew, the two wise stewards were given the exact same reward, even though they had different amounts of “talents.” In Luke, the two wise stewards were given quite different rewards, even though they started with the exact same amount of minas.

Analysis

First of all, since Jesus spoke these words, we need to heed them. Secondly, the author of the book of Hebrews wrote about eternal rewards and punishments as an elementary principle of Christ in Hebrews 6:1 – 3.

“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.  And this will we do, if God permit.”

So, let’s make an attempt to unveil what the Lord is saying through these parables.

According to the parable found in Matthew 25, the Lord gives different amounts of talents to each of us, based upon our abilities. Remember that talents were defined earlier in this article as “natural endowments” or “special aptitudes.” Often, people speak of having natural born talent or the ability to do certain things quite well. The Scriptures also speak of the giving of certain “talents:”

  • Ephesians 4:11  NKJV  And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and some teachers.
  • Romans 12:4 – 8  NKJV  For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them.
  • 1 Corinthians 12:4 – 11  NKJV  But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

Talents, then, refer to those giftings and talents (abilities) that we receive from the Lord according to our abilities. It makes sense that if we are faithful to use our talents, regardless of how many or how few we have, that we would receive the same reward. If He rewarded us differently because of our different abilities, that would determine that the Lord shows partiality to people, which He does not (Acts 10:34). Since He has made us all unique, it is our obedience to use the gifts, not the giftings themselves, that He notices and rewards. Thus, we receive the same reward.

Minas refer to the gifting and ability the Lord has given equally to every one of us. At the time we become ‘born-again,’ each of us are washed, redeemed, sanctified, justified, given a measure of faith, the Holy Spirit, a measure of grace, and the ministry of reconciliation. (I’m sure that I have missed some of the other gifts of God, but at this point, I think you understand what I’m meaning.) Since we are all given the same mina, we are then considered by the Lord in our growth of this gift. Because we are all given the same gift, we are, therefore, all afforded the same opportunity (a level playing field). So it makes sense the Lord would give different rewards based upon how much or how little we utilize our mina.

At the end of the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19), Jesus makes an interesting statement to him. In verse 10, which happens to be the verse immediately preceding the parable of the minas, Jesus says: “for the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost.” How interesting is it that Jesus is speaking about restoring humanity to God through His atoning death, burial and resurrection, and ascension. At this point, Jesus is definitely speaking about spiritual things. It is my assertion that He was, and is, preparing those who have ears to hear what the order of importance is for the Kingdom of Heaven while we are still on this earth! The reconciliation of man to Jehovah was the singularly most important aspect of Christ Jesus’ coming to this earth.

Like Jesus, who came to seek and save that which was lost, we too have our marching orders to understand and carry out with urgency. Jesus was ransomed for all of humanity. Now we must proclaim the Gospel of Christ and invite whosoever will to accept the invitation of God to be restored to Him for eternity. This is our ‘mina.’ How we go about this will depend upon our ‘talents.’ But the demand of the Lord is upon us all:

  • Matthew 28:18 – 20 NKJV And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
  • Acts 1:8 NKJV But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
  • 2 Corinthians 5: 17 – 20 NKJV Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.

Conclusion

In the first paragraph, I stated that these two parables are actually a revealing of two separate and distinct aspects of the Christian life. Specifically, these parables are unveiling how we, as followers of Jesus Christ, will be judged at the end of our lives.  The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:9 – 15:

“9For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

Just as Paul was trying to explain how true Christians will be judged, Christ also was giving direction to those who had ears to hear. Remember that Christ spoke in parables to reveal truth to those who were truly interested in knowing, while concealing the truth from those who had no interest in knowing. Just as the Lord makes a clear and concise statement in Revelation 1:1, “which God gave to Him to show His servants things which must shortly take place,” He has also given us clear and defined details, through these two parables, of how we can expect to be evaluated as we stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Make no mistake about it, true believers of Christ will stand at the judgment seat of Christ, but will be judged differently that those who have not submitted to the lordship of Jesus (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

  • Romans 14:10 NKJV   But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:10 NKJV For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in his body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Contextually, the parable of the talents is placed immediately after the parable of the Ten (10) Virgins in chapter 25, which illustrates the necessity of being ready at the return of Christ. Chapter 24, in its entirety, deals with the signs of the end of the age and the unexpected coming of the Son of Man. Finally, the parable immediately following the talents concerns itself with separating the sheep from the goats, which is the separating of those who believe from those who don’t after the Tribulation Period. The parable of the minas, found in Luke 19, follows the story of Zacchaeus. Between these two stories is one verse which sets the context of the minas parable. To get the complete picture, though, I have included verses 9 – 11, which say:

9And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”  11Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately.”

Because these people believed the kingdom of God would appear immediately, the Lord was faithful to instruct those who would listen to His truth about how they would be viewed when standing at the judgment seat of Christ.

The Lord has made provision for us to know exactly what we need to know regarding our right–standing with Him. If we understand correctly, and walk according to the precepts He has given us, there should be no doubt with regard to the assurance of His salvation for us.  This is just another of many proofs of God’s love for humanity.  He has given to us His requirements for eternal life with Him, the ability to live those requirements, and through these parables, explains how He will determine our destiny for eternity (judgment).