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The Meaning of the Parable of the Talents

parable of the talents
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Matthew’s gospel devotes two full chapters to the subject of the second coming of Christ. How does Jesus prepare his followers for the day of his return? He tells them stories. We can read Jesus’ words regarding his return in Matthew, chapters 24 and 25. In this discourse he gives solemn warnings about the last days. They will be perilous times. The days before his return will be without precedent, filled with danger and woe. But as he continues teaching about the second coming Jesus changes his tone and begins to relate one parable after another. These are the parables of the last days. These stories are well known: the parable of the wise and foolish virgins; the parable of the sheep and the goats; and the parable of the talents. However, in our familiarity with these stories we might miss the importance of their setting. Each story is told in the context of his second coming. Jesus is teaching us how to prepare for his return.

The Parable of the Talents

Listen to the familiar parable of the talents: a man going on a journey gives portions of his estate to three servants, who each make choices regarding what to do with the Master’s money. They do so with the knowledge that they will someday give an account of their management. After a long time the Master returns and the accounts are settled. What does this parable teach us about living our lives today as we await his coming?

First, the story begins with these simple words, “It will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them.” (Matthew 25: 14) Even as he sets the stage, Jesus is telling us something important: we have an entrustment. Everything we have is given to us by God. Do we see ourselves as stewards or owners? The answer makes all the difference.

A steward lives for the day he will return the Master’s goods to Him. An owner believes his possessions are his to spend in any way he sees fit. All we have–our material goods, our abilities, and even our very lives–belong to someone else. We are merely holding them for the day of reckoning.