The Parable of the Talents
by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut
THE SECOND of the three parables with which Jesus closed his long talk to his disciples on the Mount of Olives was "The Parable of the Talents." In some parts it was like "The Parable of the Pounds," given to the crowd at Jericho only a week before, but in other parts it was different.
In that parable, there was a king, going to a distant city to have a kingdom given to him. In this parable, it was a rich man going on a long journey. In the parable of the Pounds, all the servants began with the same amount of money; in this parable, they received different amounts, one of them five times as much as another received. In the parable of the Pounds, one gained ten times, the other five times what had been given to him; and they obtained different rewards, one the ruler over ten cities, another over five.
But in the parable of the Talents, each faithful servant doubled what he had received, and both had the same reward. But we will give the parable of the Talents, and you can see how it differs from the parable of the Pounds. Jesus said:
"When the Son of Man comes, it will be as when a man returned from his journey into a far country. Before starting out upon his journey, this man called together his servants and gave his money into their charge. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one. Each talent was worth about two thousand dollars, so that the first servant had ten thousand dollars, the second four thousand dollars, and the third two thousand dollars. To each man was given as much as his master thought that he was able to take care of. They were to use the money and gain with it until their master should come home again; and then bring it with their gains to him. After dividing his money, the man went away.
"At once the servant who had the five talents or ten thousand dollars, went to trade with his money, and made with it ten thousand dollars more, or twenty thousand dollars in all. The second servant, who had two talents or four thousand dollars, also used his money carefully, and doubled it, making eight thousand dollars. But the third servant, to whom had been given one talent, or two thousand dollars, instead of making use of his master's money, went away and dug a hole in the ground, and put the talent into the hole and left it there.
"After a long time the master of the servants came home again, and called for his servants, to see what each had gained. The one who had received the five talents came with bags of gold in his arms. He said:
"'My lord, you gave me ten thousand dollars. Here they are, and ten thousand dollars more, which I have gained with your money.'
"'Well done, you good servant!' said his master. 'You have done well in small things; now I will give you great things; come and share your master's feast!'
"Then came the second servant, to whom had been given two talents.
"'My lord,' said he, 'you trusted me with four thousand dollars. See, here it is with four thousand dollars more that I have gained for you!'
"'Well done, you good servant,' said his master. 'You too have done well in small things; now I will give you great things; come and share the feast with me!'
"Then came the servant to whom had been given one talent, two thousand dollars. In his hand was the same bag of gold that he had received, and no more.
"'Sir,' he said, 'I knew that you were a hard man, reaping where you never sowed, and taking grain that you did not harvest. So I was afraid, and hid your money in the ground. Look, here is what belongs to you.'
"'You lazy, worthless servant!' said his master. 'You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and that I take grain that I did not harvest? If you knew that I am such a man as that, you should have put my money into the savings bank; and then at least I might have had my own money with some gain added to it.
"'Therefore,' the master went on, 'take away the talent from this man, and give it to the one who has brought me the ten talents, the twenty thousand dollars; for that shows that he is fitted to take care of it.
For to every one that has, more shall be given and still more. But from him that does not have, even that which he has shall be taken away.
"'And as for that good-for-nothing servant, turn him out of doors from the feast, into the darkness outside; there those who cannot come into the feast shall wail and gnash their teeth.'"
From this parable, as well as the parable of the Pounds, it is plain that by "every one who has," the Lord meant "every one who cares for and makes use of what he has"; and by "him who has not" he meant "the one who makes no use of what he has." Whoever uses rightly what he has, whether money, or knowledge, or powers of mind, or the chance to do good, will find more and more of it; and whoever neglects what he has will surely lose it.