Matthew

25:14-30

12. The day of judgment, 24:1-25:46

v] The parable of the talents

Synopsis

Having dealt with the destruction of the temple and the signs of his coming, Jesus sets about encouraging his disciples, here, with the parable of the talents - the faithful and wicked servants.

 
Teaching

Be warned, the Master will inevitably return. In that day, God's blessings will abound for those who retain their faith, but for those whose faith is but a distant memory, there is nothing but weeping and gnashing of teeth.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 24:1-11.

 

ii] Structure: This passage, The parable of the talents, presents as follows:

The parable, v14-28:

Sayings, v29-30:

"whoever has will be given more, .........."

"throw the worthless servant into the outer darkness. .........."

 

iii] Interpretation:

For the wider interpretation of chapters 24-25 see 24:1-14.

 

Here again we have a parable that likely began life as a kingdom parable. Kingdom parables proclaim the gospel ("repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near", 4:17), but do so in a clouded way, ie., as if a riddle serving to condemn the unrepentant while drawing out those with ears to hear. So, it is likely that w{sper, " as/like", v14, is somewhat of an ellipsis such that "[for] as" = "[for] it is like" = "for the kingdom of heaven is like / may be compared to the situation where ......" (The "like / may be compared with" is often expressed with the verb oJmoiow, "is like", 13:24, 25:1, or the adjective oJmoia, "like", 13:31, 33, 44, 47). This introduction, of course, serves to identify kingdom parables and differentiate them from a normal teaching parable (an illustration). As a kingdom parable, the parable of the talents proclaims the immediacy of the kingdom, with the emphasis on judgment, v28. The worth of our life in God's domain will be assessed, and that assessment is now.

Although Jesus' kingdom parables are aimed at unbelievers, Matthew does, at times, use them for a didactic purpose - here to instruct disciples concerning Christ's "coming and the end of the age" - the theme of chapters 24 and 25. Note his didactic purpose with respect to the kingdom parable the ten bridesmaids, Matt.25:1-13. So, Matthew sometimes uses kingdom parables as a teaching tool for believers. As with the parable of the ten bridesmaids (cf. v13), an appropriate application for believers is provided by the two independent sayings of Jesus attached at v29 and 30. The first, v29 (cf. Mk.4.24-25, Lk.19:26), calls for a right hearing (a hearing with faith) of the news about God's coming kingdom in Christ, for "them that's got shall get, them that's not shall lose; so the Bible say, and it still is news", Billie Holiday. D&A argue that "it does not perfectly fit the parable", but the parable serves only to illustrate the saying. As for v30, Matthew applies a common judgement saying used by Jesus.

Matthew's take on the parable reminds us that everyone econti "having", having accomplished, doqhsetai "will be given" (theological passive, God does the giving) and perisseuqhsetai "he will have in abundance", he will have greater privilege and responsibility, but from the one not having, even what he has will be taken from him. The key to "having" is "a right attitude to his master", Nolland, or simply faith. Within the context of chapter 24 and 25 the issue is all about retaining our faith leading up to, and within, the tribulation. Retaining a firm faith in Jesus assures our eternal blessings in the day of judgment. If, on the other hand, we possess a faded faith, a faith that is now little more than a childhood memory, then everything will be taken from us on that terrible day. So, be warned.

 

What do the commentators have to say? Again, there is a tendency to allegorize the parable. Luz notes, commentators generally agree that the parable of the Talents concerns the way people relate to God, "however, about almost everything else there is no agreement." With reference to v29, the parable's application, Dodd suggests that the parable teaches that the person "who possesses spiritual capacity will enlarge that capacity by experience." "Good stewardship of little things brings greater privilege and responsibility. Poor stewardship leads to losing even what one has", Blomberg. "Like the master, God entrusts all people with a portion of his resources, expecting them to act as good stewards of it; ii] like the two good servants, God's people will be commended and rewarded when they have faithfully discharged that commission; iii] like the wicked servant, those who fail to use the gifts God has given them for His service will be punished by separation from God and all things good", Montague, Cross-cultural Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, 1989.

 

iii] Synoptics:

A similar parable is found in Luke 19:11-27, although with significant differences. Some argue that it is from Q, with Luke following Q and Matthew being somewhat creative. It seems unlikely that both Matthew and Luke are following a common written source; it is more likely that they are independently relying on a common oral tradition with localized differences. As for the concluding sayings, the second, v30, is a standard apocalyptic warning, cf. 8:12, 13:42, 50, 22:13, 24:51. Luz regards it a redactional. The second, v29, may derive from Mk.4:24-25, but given its presence in Luke's account of the parable it may be an explanatory aside from Jesus himself, although it seems more likely that it was attached early in transmission. The NT linkage of sayings is often prompted by technical links - here the two main verbs didwmi "give", and airw "take", are present in both v28 and 29. Irrespective of how this verse attached itself to the parable, it is God's word to us and serves to apply the parable for us.

 

v] Exposition: A simple verse-by-verse exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 25:14

The parable of the talents, v14-30. i] The parable, v14-28: In the parable, a man, going on a journey", leaves his assets with three associates, expecting to return and share in the profits. The assets are valued by talents. A talent is a variable, but worth something like six thousand denarii, $300,000. The faithful associates put the money to work in a business enterprise. The faithless associate buries it out of fear, laziness or plain nastiness. After a long time the master returns. The faithful associates, given graded resources comparable to their abilities, are equally rewarded with greater responsibilities and receive the master's "well done." On the surface, the third associate does seem to act carefully and with respect, even diligence, toward the master. Of course, it could be argued that his actions, in a sense, accused the master of being grasping. If he increases the master's capital he will not share in any of it, while if he loses any of the capital he will be held responsible. So, out of spite, he gives the master back what belonged to him, no more and no less. It could be argue that the third associate virtually condemns himself. He could have easily put the talent out on loan and so gained some income for the master. To act with such spite toward a "hard" master is only asking for trouble. It's worth noting that in New Testament times the distinction between "interest" and "usury" was well understood. Even Roman law set a maximum rate of 12%. Inevitably, the faithless associate loses his talent, along with everything else.

JWsper gar "Again it will be like" - as for. As noted above, the phrase is probably used to parallel the introduction of the preceding parable, indicating that we are dealing with a kingdom parable and not a teaching parable. The TEV, CEV and Barclay take a plunge with "at that time the Kingdom of heaven will be like."

apodhmwn (apodhmew) pres. part. "going on a journey" - [a man] going on a journey. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "man". The word is used of moving away from one's own district.

doulouV (oV) "servants" - [called the ones own] slaves. Obviously "slaves" is not intended; "associates".

paredwken (paradidwmi) aor. "entrusted" - [and] gave, delivered to [them]. May be stretched to "entrust" although this is reading into the parable. "Put them in charge of", TEV.

ta uJparconta (uJparcw) pres. part. "property" - the possessions [of him]. The participle serves as a substantive, "what belongs to someone"; "his property, possessions."

autoiV dat. pro. "to them" - them. The para prefix verb "to deliver over to" naturally takes a dative, "delivered over to them", but here autoiV technically serves as a dative of indirect object "delivered over his possessions to them."

 
v15

w|/ dat. pro. "to one" - [and he gave] to whom = one. Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage.

men ..... de .... de ..... "[to one] ... [to another] .... [and to another]" - An adversative comparative construction, although here more as a correlative series: "to one ... to another ...... and to another."

talanta (on) "talents / bags of gold" - [he gave five] talents [and to another two, and to another one]. In New Testament times a talent was a unit of exchange which varied in its value. The word can be used of money or silver or a weight of between 26 and 36 kilos of copper, silver or gold. So, it is a variable amount of money. In our usage we think of a talent as skills or mental powers. This meaning derives from the parable itself. Carson rightly notes that an allegorical treatment of this parable is not helpful; "attempts to identify the talents with spiritual gifts, the law, natural endowments, the gospel, or whatever else, lead to a narrowing of the parable with which Jesus would have been uncomfortable." "Five thousand gold coins", TEV.

ekastw/ dat. adj. "each" - to each. Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage; "according to his own ability he gave gold to each" = "he entrusted his assets to each according to their personal ability."

kata + acc. "according to [his]" - according to [his own power = ability]. Expressing a standard; "in accordance with." "He gave each man a sum proportionate to his ability", Barclay.

euqewV "-" - [and he went on a journey] immediately. Note the placement of the variant de used to sort out how the word "immediately" functions in the sentence. Metzger argues that the word "immediately" always relates to what follows so it best goes with v16, "Immediately having left, the one who had received the five talents ........", rather than v15, "Immediately he went on his journey."

 
v16

oJ .... labwn pres. part. "the man who had received" - [immediately having left] the one having received [the five talents]. The participle serves as a substantive; "he who had received the five talents", ESV.

poreuqeiV (poreuomai) aor. part. "went [at once]" - having gone. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "worked"; "went and traded", AV. Probably better temporal and linked to euqewV, "immediately", as noted above; "Then, the servant who had received the five talents, immediately went and put the money to work which had been entrusted to him."

hrgasato (ergazomai) aor. "put his money to work" - worked [with them]. "Went at once and traded with them", Moffatt.

en + dat. "-" - [worked = traded] with [them and gained five others]. Instrumental, expressing means

 
v17

wJsautwV adv. "so also" - likewise. Adverb of manner.

oJ "the one [with the two talents]" - the one having received [the two]. "The man who had received the two talents acted in the same manner and gained another two", Cassirer.

a[lla pro. "[two] more" - [gained two] others.

 
v18

de "but" - but, and. Usually treated here as an adversative, but primarily indicating a step in the story-line - the third character doesn't follow suit.

oJ labwn (lambanw) aor. part. "the man who had received" - the one having received. The participle serves as a substantive; "But the servant with one thousand coins", CEV.

to e}n "the one talent" - the one.

apelqwn (apercomai) aor. part. "went off" - having gone away. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "hid"; "went off and dug a hole", Moffatt.

argurion "money" - [dug in ground and hid] the silver [of the master of him]. The word can mean money in general. A normal way to hide money from thieves was to burry it, and silver could be buried without damage.

tou kuriou (oV) gen. "[his] master's [money]" - [the money] of the master [of him]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive; "the money that belonged to his master."

 
v19

meta + acc. "After [a long time]" - after [much time]. Temporal use of the preposition, as NIV. The settling of accounts follows a long interim. It is this time-interval and its appropriate use by the "servants" that has shaped the parable's use as a teaching tool for believers in the terms of the saying in v29. Yet, as noted above, the emphasis of the parable itself does not lay with the time-interval, but with the return of the master. This is evidenced in the extended account of the master's return. The master's distribution of property accounts for two verses, v14-15; the servants' management of the property during the extended time-interval takes up three verses, v16-18; but the master's return accounts for twelve verses, v19-30. As is typical of a kingdom parable, there is no weight given to delay here, nor of what a "long time" may entail, its weight falls on the master's return and the settling of accounts - the kingdom of God is at hand.

twn doulwn (oV) gen. "of [those] servants" - [comes the master] of [those] servants. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / sobordination; "the master over those servants."

met (meta) + gen. "[settled accounts] with" - [and settles accounts] with [them]. Expressing association; "with them." A technical term meaning "to make a reckoning." "He called them in and asked them what they had done with his money", CEV.

 
v20

proselqwn (prosercomai) aor. part. "-" - [and] having come to, approached. The participle may be classified as attendant circumstance expressing action accompanying the verb "brought", "came and brought", AV, but better adverbial, temporal, "then the servant who had twelve hundred pounds came forward, bringing twelve hundred more", Moffatt.

oJ .... labwn (lambanw) aor. part. "the man who had received [the five talents]" - the one having [five talents brought five more talents]. The participle serves as a substantive.

legwn (legw) pres. part. "he said" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the participle "having come to"; "then ....... he came forward and said."

moi dat. pro. "[you entrusted] me" - [master, you gave five talents] to me. Dative of indirect object.

a[lla adj. "[five] more" - [see I gained] another [five talents]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to gain."

 
v21

autw/ dat. pro. "[His master replied]" - [the master of him said] to him. Dative of indirect object.

eu\ adv. "well done" - excellent, well done [slave good and faithful]. Adverb of manner. The faithful servant is affirmed for his faithfulness. "You have shown yourself to be a good and trustworthy servant", Barclay.

epi + acc. "with [few things]" - [you were faithful] over / about [few things]. Here adverbial, reference / respect; "you have been faithful with respect to a few things" = "in little", Berkeley = "you have shown me that I can depend on you to do a small job well", Barclay.

katasthsw (kaqisthmi) fut. "I will put [you] in charge" - [over many things] I will appoint [you]. The first of two rewards - greater responsibilities. As already noted, it is unwise to draw propositional truths from the details found in this parable. Still, for the sake of speculation, one wonders to what degree life prepares us for our reign with Christ in eternity. Is it possible that the lessons learnt in this age will determine the degree of responsibilities we will be given in the age to come? Is this what is meant by the promise of rewards in the age to come - the building up of treasure in heaven? "I will give you a much larger responsibility", TH.

epi + gen. "of" - over. Here expressing subordination; "I will appoint you over much", Berkeley.

pollwn adj. "many things" - many, much. The greater responsibilities awarded to the two faithful servants are not necessarily the same, cf. v23.

tou kuriou (oV) gen. "[your] master's" - [enter into the joy] of the master [of you]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, as NIV, or verbal, subjective; "the happiness of your master."

caran (a) "happiness" - joy. The second of the two rewards is the pleasure/delight of the master, cf., Jn.15:11. Possibly "joy" here means "feast", so "the happiness of the heavenly banquet", NJB footnote. Of course, the sense "feast" reflects a desire to apply the reward in terms of "the heavenly feast."

 
v22-23

Although the second servant deals with two talents the reward is the same.

 
v24

proselqwn (prosercomai) aor. part. "then ...... came" - [but/and the one receiving the one talent also] having come [said]. The participle is best treated as adverbial, temporal, as NIV, or just attendant circumstance, "came forward and said."

oJ ..... eilhfwV (lambanw) perf. part. "the man who had received" - the one having received. The participle serves as a substantive. Note the tense change from aorist to perfect, expressing the fact that "he is the man who has received a talent of which he has made no use", Bruce.

kai "-" - and. Here adjunctive, "also"; "He also who had received the one talent ...", ESV.

oJti "that" - [Master, I knew] that. Not quite introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what he knows, given that the direct object of the verb "I knew" is "you". So, as Olmstead points out, the hoti clause is epexegetic, specifying se, "you", "I know you, (that) you are a hard man ...." Translations usually present the response as if respectful, "I know you have high standards and hate careless ways", Peterson, but it is more likely aggressive, "I know you! You are a shrewd and ruthless business man who gets others to do the work and you take the profits."

sklhroV adj. "hard" - [you are] a hard, severe, harsh [man]. By saying the master harvests where he has not sown, the servant is saying that the master is grasping, an exploiter. Therefore, he gives him back the exact amount entrusted to him. "A shrewd and ruthless businessman", Barclay.

qerizwn (qerizw) pres. part. "harvesting" - reaping. The participle, as with "gathering", is adjectival, attributive, limiting the substantival phrase "you are a hard man"; "a hard man who reaps ...." The imagery is of a farm-owner who sows a crop without actually scattering the seed and harvests it without actually winnowing the chaff from the grain. Such images "a man with an eye to business; he picks up profits in all sorts of places and not only those that have resulted from his own hard work", Morris.

o{pou ..... o{qen adv. "where ........ where" - where [you did not sow and gathering] from where [you did not scatter]. Local adverbs of place.

 
v25

fobhqeiV (fobeomai) aor. pas. part. "I was afraid" - [and] having been afraid. The participle is adverbial, best treated as causal; "because I was afraid." The servant was debilitated by fear (rather than respectful) and therefore did not act as required - putting the talent to work. "I was afraid that you might punish me if I lost your money", TH.

apelqwn (apercomai) aor. part. "and went out" - having gone away. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "I hid"; "I went away and hid."

ide interjection "look" - [I hid the talent of you in the ground] behold. Interjection; used three times in this parable, and once elsewhere in Matthew.

oJ son adj. "what belongs to you" - [you have] that which is yours. The articular adjective serves as a substantive.

 
v26

de "-" - but/and. Indicating a step in the story line.

apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "replied" - having answered [the master of him said]. Attendant circumstance participle; Semitic construction.

autw/ dat. pro. "-" - to him. Dative of indirect object.

oknhre adj. "lazy" - [wicked slave and] slothful, idle (rather than ambitious and wanting to do something worthwhile). Possibly "troublesome", Phil.3:1, but better, "hesitant" (eg., because of fear), Morris.

oJti "[so you knew] that" - [you knew] that [I reap where I did not sow and I gather from which I did not scatter]. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what he knew. Either as a statement or a question; "So you think you know what type of man I am?"

 
v27

oun "well then" - then. Inferential; "therefore".

a]n "-" - if, as is not the case, you decided [for you to deposit the silver of me with the bankers was necessary], then [I would have received back what was mine with interest]. Serving to introduce the apodosis of an irregular 2nd. class conditional clause / unreal condition. The ei + ind. present tense verb must be assumed for the protasis.

balein (ballw) aor. inf. "have put" - [for you] to deposit [....... was necessary]. The infinitive serves as the subject of the impersonal verb "was necessary", with se, "you", serving as its accusative subject.

ta arguria (on) "money" - the silver [of me]. Accusative direct object of the infinitive "to deposit." The plural indicates that money is in mind, say "silver coins", although a singular variant exists.

toiV trapezitaiV (hV ou) dat. "with the bankers" - Dative of indirect object / recipient, as NIV.

elqwn (ercomai) aor. part. "when I returned" - [and] having come. The participle is adverbial, temporal; "and I would have got my capital with interest when I came back", Moffatt.

ton emon "it" - [I would have received back] what was mine. The possessive adjective serves as a substantive.

sun + dat. "with [interest]" - Expressing association / addition, "along with interest."

 
v28

oun "-" - therefore. Inferential. "So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the ten talents", NJB.

ap (apo) + gen. "from [him]" - [take] from [him the talent]. Expressing separation; "away from."

tw/ exonti (exw) pres. part. "to the one who has [ten bags]" - [and give] to the one having [ten talents]. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of indirect object; "give the talent to the one who has ..."

 
v29

ii] The application of the parable, v29-30: a) Lesson - whoever has will be given more, v29. As noted above, Matthew uses this saying of Jesus to draw out an appropriate application of the parable for believers. Mark provides an extended version of the saying, Mk.4:24-25. In Mark's record of the saying Jesus calls for a right attitude toward the gospel, a hearing with faith; "consider what you hear." He illustrates this call with a rabbinic proverb, v24b, "the measure you give will be the measure you receive, with even more added", and follows up with an "explanatory aside", Nolland, v25. Matthew uses the explanatory aside here, and also in 13:12 where the context is similar to Mark. The idea expressed in the proverb is strange to our ears, but well understood at the time, cf., the Talmud: God "puts more into a full vessel, but not into an empty one", b. Ber.40a; "According to the standards of mortal man, an empty vessel is able to contain [what is put into it], and a full vessel cannot contain it, but according to the standards of the Holy One, blessed be He, a full vessel is able to contain it while an empty one cannot", b Suk.46a-b. ref. Hooker, The Gospel of Mark. The sense of the verse, particularly for our ears, comes down to this: "If a person takes a tiny step toward God, God will more than match this movement", Marcus. As Emily Dickinson puts it: "As if I asked a common Alms, And in my wondering hand, A stranger pressed a Kingdom, And I, bewildered, stand." The "tiny step", what a person ecw "has", probably expresses what that person "has accomplished", Blomberg, which Nolland defines as "a right attitude to his master", or simply faith. Of course, numerous other possibilities are proposed: "good living" in the sense of the "faithful use of one's gifts, large or small", Filson; "spiritual life", Morris; "faithfulness", Hagner ....... but it all comes down to faith. Faith in Christ will carry us through the terrible day; without faith we are lost.

gar "for" - More likely serving here as a stitching device, but possibly explanatory; ether way, not translated. Note Luke has "I say to you that."

tw/ ... econti (ecw) dat. pres. part. "[everyone] who has" - to the [everyone] having. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of indirect object / interest, advantage, with the present tense being durative and so expressing an ongoing "having".

perisseuqhsetai (perisseuw) fut. pas. "he will have an abundance" - The reward is left undefined; "more than enough", TEV.

de "-" - but/and. Mark has a coordinate kai, but Matthew increases the contrast with de.

tou mh econtoV (ecw) gen. pres. part. "whoever does not have" - of the one not having. The participle serves as a substantive standing in apposition to the genitive autou, "him"; "from him, the one not having, what he has will be taken" = "if any person has nothing, even what little they have will be taken from them."

apo + gen. "from [them]" - [even what he has will be taken] from [him]. Expressing separation; "away from."

 
v30

b) Warning - utter darkness awaits the godless, v30: Matthew concludes with a standard warning applicable to "those not having" FAITH. The phrase is used a number of times in Matthew's gospel, cf. 8:12, 13:42, 50, 22:13, 24:51. It may well be a popular proverb of the time expressing extreme grief, but is obviously used by Jesus to express the grief that follows rejection by God. Matthew uses it here to force the reader / hearer to look beyond the story itself for a deeper significance - in the face of the coming kingdom, popular prophets my proclaim "peace", but actually it is "doom". Note how Matthew contextualizes the saying with acreion doulon, "worthless servant", a phrase used in a deferential way in Luke 17:10. We are all worthless servants and without faith in Christ we will find ourselves lost in utter darkness; so beware!

acreion adj. "worthless [servant]" - [and throw the] useless, unprofitable [servant, slave]. Attributive adjective limiting "servant". He is a "useless" servant, TEV.

exwteron adj. "outside, [into the darkness]" - [into] the outer [the darkness]. Probably "outer darkness". Although it is unwise to spiritualize the image of being cast "outside, into the darkness", the general feeling it conjures up for us helps to express the point of the parable, namely, that in the coming of the kingdom there will be a consequential accounting.

twn oJdontwn (ouV odoV) gen. "[weeping and gnashing] of teeth" - [weeping and grinding] of the teeth [there will be]. The genitive is usually taken as adjectival, verbal, objective. Describing a situation of doom; of pain, and/or anger. "People will cry and grit their teeth in pain", CEV.

 

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