Parable of the Talents

In 2003, Mitch Albom released a popular book called Five People You Will Meet in Heaven. This emotional-psychological puff piece has helped many people release their emotions and confusion with the difficulty of life without really providing an answers – it’s chicken soup for the soul, but entirely fictional and not really grounded in any biblical reality.

But Jesus once told an interesting story right before his death about what the Kingdom of God was like. You see, in the first century, there were high expectations among the Jews that the promised messiah might be coming to deliver them from the oppression of the Romans. Jesus’ disciples believed Jesus to be the messiah, and so they thought they were on the brink of taking over by the power of God! But Jesus knew differently. He knew that instead of a glorious rise to power, he would be killed, and it would be some time before He returned to consummate the age. So he told them this parable.

What is interesting are the three types of people mentioned and their ends:

  1. The faithful servant
  2. The unfaithful servant
  3. The hateful citizens

The Parable of the Ten Minas (Luke 19:11-27)

  1. While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.
  2. He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return.
  3. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. a ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’
  4. “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’
  5. “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.
  6. “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’
  7. “ ‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’
  8. “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’
  9. “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’
  10. “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth.
  11. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’
  12. “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow?
  13. Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’
  14. “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’
  15. “ ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’
  16. “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away.
  17. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’ ”

So Who Got What?

The servant who invested what he had been given and did the King’s work while he was gone was amply rewarded. When the king returned, he was given authority over 10 cities! That is, he was given honor and responsibility.

The servant who failed to invest, but who believed that the King was a harsh man, fearfully hid the money, not even giving it to a banker. Why woulud he do that? Perhaps fear of losing the money, or fear of being seen as doing the King’s work – don’t forget, many in the populace hated the King. This servant was not ejected from the kingdom, but he recieved no honor or reward, and even the little he had been entrusted with was taken back.

And those who hated the King? Their time was up too, and the day or reckoning was theirs also. Their persistent hatred for the king earned them a death sentence.

What This Meant to the Disciples and the Jewish Leaders

Jesus had two audiences – the disciples, and the religious leaders who hated him. He was the King who would go away and return. To the disciples, this was another way that Jesus was preparing them not to lose heart, that things were going to get worse before they got better, and that there would be a delay in the replacement of the kingdoms of this world with God’s eventual reign and day of judgment.

To the religious leaders who plotted against Jesus, this was an open warning, if not a veiled threat. Like the parable of the vineyard owner (Matthew 21:33-46), those who hated the king (and killed his son) were deservedly executed.

What This Means for Us

Surprisingly, there is a rebuke for both believers and unbelievers in this parable. For believers, we should not hold on to the idea that God is harsh, since God will sometimes reward us according to such wicked faith. Not taking chances for the Kingdom of God is a mistake, and it is better for us to fail trying than to not try. (Strangely, none of the faithful servants lost money, which seems unrealistic, so perhaps I am reading in the admonition to try and fail rather than not try).

But to those who hated the king and fought against his claim to rule, their end was execution. This is no soft gospel Jesus is preaching here. In the story, it is clear that those who hated the king were wicked and rejected his generosity and claim to rule. And when he came to rule, he rewarded their unjust hatred with judgment.

Note that the king did not put them in jail or torture them (an analog to eternal conscious torment). He had them killed (as Conditional Immortality teaches). We should not read too much into this parable on this point, but it is worth noting.

Conclusion

God is a god of love, but he is not a softie grandpa in heaven. Jesus clearly taught on many occaisions that, although God was more like a father than a distant judge, He would not tolerate persistent bad attitudes, lies, and rejection of His rigtheousness. To those who choose to be his enemies, he should be greatly feared!

“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

I do not think any of my atheist friends will be moved by this parable, but I can always hope.