Parables of Jesus


Parables of life

The talents.

- Matthew 25,14-30
- First exegesis of the parable
- Second exegesis of the parable

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The talents

From the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 25, Verses 14.30
In fact it will happen as to a man who, leaving for a journey, called his servants and gave them his goods. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, according to the abilities of each; then He left. The one who had received five talents immediately went to employ them and gained five more. So also the one who had received two, gained two more. Instead, he who had received only one talent, went to make a hole in the ground and hid his master's money there. After a long time the master of those servants returned and wanted to settle accounts with them. The one who had received five talents presented himself and brought five more, saying: Lord, you gave me five talents; here, I've earned five more. Well, good and faithful servant - his master told him -, you have been faithful in little, I will give you power over much; take part in the joy of your master. He then introduced himself who had received two talents and said: Lord, you gave me two talents; behold, I have gained two more. Well, good and faithful servant his master said to him - you have been faithful in little, I will give you power over much; take part in the joy of your master. Finally, the one who had received only one talent presented himself and said: Lord, I know that you are a hard man, that you reap where you have not sown and collect where you have not shed. I was afraid and I went to hide your talent underground: that's what's yours. The master replied to him: An evil and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and I gather where I have not shed; you should have entrusted my money to the bankers and so, on my return, I would have withdrawn mine with interest. So take away the talent, and give it to those who have the ten talents. Because to whomever he has, he will be given and will be in abundance; but those who do not have will also have what they have taken away. And the useless servant throw him out into the darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

First exegesis of the parable

The question posed by this parable is the following: why is this servant who received only one talent despite having received less than all the others, condemned so harshly?

The Talent, from a monetary point of view, was made up of six thousand denarii. If one day's work in the vineyard was rewarded with money, one Talent compensated for about seventeen years' work, a considerable sum.

In the parable the master who has to leave on a journey delivers his goods not randomly, but according to the abilities of the servants. To the first, he gives five talents, to the second two and finally to the last one one talent, which is still an enormous sum.

Upon the Master's return he asks to settle the accounts, each servant brings the fruit of his investments. The first gives him doubled capital, the second does the same thing. Up to this point the master who has received money is happy with how the servants have invested his goods.

The last servant returns the Talent he received. He neither stole it, nor squandered it, nor consumed it, he simply hid it in the ground, in a safe place, so that he could return it.

The first and second servant understood that the master had granted them some of his goods to make them profit. They didn't need to be ordered, but they felt the need to make it work and acted accordingly, effectively.

The last servant thinks of defending what he has received and then returning it. And he shows it when he says to his Lord: I give you back what is yours, I didn't take anything, I hid it out of fear. I know that you are a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you did not scatter. This servant speaks this way because he imagines the Master as a cruel, dishonest, demanding man and he is afraid of him.

In the response the Master does not say to him: You were wrong! But if you knew, by misinterpreting, that I was bad, ruthless and demanding, why did you hide the Talent? You could have simply entrusted the money I had given you to bankers you trusted and without committing yourself you would have made what I had given you fruitful.

This servant is judged evil because he is lazy and without faith. He thinks badly of his Master, he imagines him harsh and ruthless. He conceives the relationship with God not of friendship and trust, but a relationship of servitude.

His judgment is wrong. It establishes an incorrect but dishonest relationship. Ultimately he manifests fear to justify his inactivity and not deciding. This servant represents those believers who have an intellectual conception of faith, but do not accept the truth and decline responsibility. They do not understand that God demands an active response from us all. Faith without works is dead.
(James 2.26)

Faith without works does not exist. And again: Because in Christ Jesus what counts... is faith that works through charity.
(Galatians 5,6)

Second exegesis of the parable

After the parable of the virgins, Matthew continues on the theme of the recognition of the Son of man, proposing the parable of the talents. Let us try to understand this text starting from the images of the three protagonists, three servants of which two are good and one is a loafer. Unlike the parable of the sower, where four fields are described of which three are unsuccessful (negative) and only one is the good one (positive), here there is a reversal: two are the virtuous examples, positive and only one is the negative one.

The spontaneous question that arises is to understand who these servants represent and what these talents represent. The parable speaks of a time of absence of a master who, for this reason, entrusts his goods to the servants, who are charged with continuing to manage them remaining faithful to his intentions and to his dispositions, for all the time in which he will not be there to monitor their work. This introduction reflects what Paul later reports in the letter to the Romans: "Besides, we know that everything contributes to the good [...] for those who have been called according to his plan.

For those whom he has always known, he also predestined them to conform to the image of his Son, so that he may be the firstborn among many brothers; those whom he predestined, he also called [...]" (Rom 8: 28-30) and all men were called to faith and salvation, but what is this call? The whole human race it has in itself this gift, which in a nutshell is to live in the fear of God, this fear preserves those goods which the word does not know to say and the mind does not know how to think, sustain and guide men towards the grace of the Lord. Fear of God as a prerequisite for that journey that leads to reaching the fullness of existence, which means being on the side of God, that is, remaining alive in the expectation of meeting Him and being with Him forever. It tells you what you have to do and gives you that desire to act in obedience. The parable of the talents confirms this truth to us: we all have the call to fear of God, which leads us to faith, and therefore we are all called to faith.

In the parable mentioned, the servants must behave according to the will of the Master who is now far away; it is therefore assumed that they know his will, that is, what they must do and how they must do it to continue being faithful to him even during the distance: this is the fear of God. But these servants act differently, based on their opinion of the will of the Master: while the first two immediately bring their talents to fruition, the third servant does not correctly interpret his command and bury talent. And how does it justify this behavior when faced with error? "Lord, I know that you are a hard man, that you reap where you have not sown and collect where you have not scattered"; in these three statements the "human" logic of the law is gathered: the servant does not see the Master for what he is, but through his reasoning; exactly as the Pharisees, scribes and high priests, that is the Jewish tradition, did towards God by interpreting the given Word from a human point of view; but when Jesus tries to bring them back to a correct interpretation, he is verbally attacked and threatened: "With what authority do you do these things? Who gave you this power?" (Mt 21,23) "Our father is Abraham [...] we have only one father: God".
(Jn 8: 39-41).

Jesus warns them: "Why don't you understand my language? Because you are not able to listen to my word. The devil is the father from whom you are and you want to fulfill the desires of your father" (Jn 8: 43-44) , but these continue to be convinced of their interpretation, which however has transformed the Law also modifying the vision of God: "if you do not obey, you will be punished". This is the reasoning that induces the servant to hide his only talent: "if I lose it or don't return it, the Master will punish me; then I place it in a hole in the ground, so he will be safe"; in the parable of the rich man, who lives only to satisfy his own lusts, Jesus warns us of the misfortune he is facing, realizing his false interpretations and his errors only after death. Returning to the present parable, it is therefore evident that the attitude of the first two servants is completely different, similar to that of one who has understood God's call, therefore he uses the whole earthly existence to multiply the talents that the Lord has granted him, and it does not hold them only for itself.

But how do we know if we are actually multiplying the talents we have been given, or if our faith is creating that path to God? From the parable it is understood that God makes no difference in this "distribution", because talents are given to all. Of course, the answer will be proportionate to the adhesion of faith, which depends on our freedom of choice, the freedom to recognize the Son of Man and to follow his teachings, thus yielding the gifts of God, or to retain for one's own consumption and by his own glory those talents received, wasting an entire life pursuing false teachings.

What is needed to respond to the call of faith? St. Paul affirms that everything is in following the proclamation of the Gospel, and that it is within us that we cultivate the Love of God. If we really live according to the Gospel of Jesus, we have the certainty of responding to faith, which means cultivating talents received, each according to their abilities. The good servants of the parable have recognized the mission that the master has entrusted to them, that is, to make the goods left in custody bear fruit; these servants therefore represent those who have understood the call of the Master: if he calls us it means that he trusts us, believes in our goodness and in our abilities; so why shouldn't we in turn trust him? Obedience, trust, trust are the talents to make bear fruit.

The Pharisees, on the other hand, claimed to have responded to God's call, but Jesus calls them hypocrites, whitewashed tombs, a race of vipers, because they were only looking for the admiration of themselves: this is who the lazy servant, who is conscious of the called but does not want to respond, because it has a vision of God so staggered that it does not allow him to recognize Jesus and to walk his journey of faith. Matthew, giving back the text of the parable of the talents to future generations, is as if he were telling Christians of all times: "be careful not to be like the Pharisees, represented by the lazy servant".

The Lord calls us twice, the first to give us the opportunity to adhere to the Gospel, the second to offer us the opportunity to understand how to respond to faith, in obedience; only in this way we could make the talents received fruitful and define what will be our inheritance for eternal life: "I no longer call you servants, because the servant does not know what the master is doing. I have called you friends, because all I heard from My Father, I have made him known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit".