Recently while struggling a bit with trusting God enough to have the courage to step out and put one of my gifts to work, the Holy Spirit pulled my mind to the parables in Matthew. He led me to the parable in Matthew 25 of the master entrusting his servants with 5, 2, and 1 talents.
We probably all remember the story and how a “talent” was a sum of money and how the master entrusted the sum of money to each servant to manage for him until he returned. After some time away, the master returned to call each servant into accountability for what was done with the talent. He found that both the five and the two talents left to two servants had been invested and doubled, but that the third servant had buried his talent to avoid any risk.
We can all hear layers of lessons as we read this parable, especially because of the English word used in the story–talent–which connotes ability or aptitude, capacity for success, special ability, or power of mind or body.
It was that train of thought that led me to wonder if that happens only in the English translation of the Greek New Testament. What if I were French or Swedish or Russian? Would I read this passage and only see a word meaning a sum of money? Perhaps, if the word had been translated as money in the English translations, I would only see the lesson of being a good steward of belongings or perhaps a lesson about being a good employee. I am sure that I would be far less likely to see the analogy that the word talent makes so obvious.
As I mulled this, out of curiosity, I googled “French Bible Matthew 25:25.” In the list of links, I clicked on saintebible.com/multi/matthew/25-24.htm. When the page appeared, in my heart and aloud, I sighed, “Wow. Just wow.” There on the page, I could see this verse in more than 50 languages, printed side by side across three columns. Notice, I said I could see—not that I could read. Some of the languages don’t even use the characters I recognize as letters let alone words that look familiar. Yet, what a lesson I found as I followed the Spirit to this page! In Norwegian, I could see the word talent. In Hungarian, tálentomodat. In Dutch, talent. In Croatian, talenat. In Italian and Spanish and Portuguese, talento. In Romanian, talantul. In Bulgarian and Russian, таланта and талант, respectively. I quickly copied талант and pasted it into Google Translator. It translated, as I expected, talent. Then I noticed that below the translation, the site showed the definition for the Russian word талант: gift, endowment, ability, accomplishment, capability, dowry.
Granted, languages have similarities and the development of language as well as the process of translation could be cited in an effort to tamp the awe inspired by this pattern, but don’t miss the fact that in all those translations on that page, I detected no other comparable similarity with any other words. How we need to be reminded not to quench the impact or minimize the wonder of the divine!
Can you believe that the Father, the ultimate author and creator, planned for a word which originally meant a weight to come to mean a measurement of money and then to also come to mean gift or endowment, ability, accomplishment, capability or dowry—not just in the original language but even through translation into multiple languages? I can! Can you believe that He used that word in a parable so that it would reveal multiple layers of truth—truth that we can appreciate at different levels at different times of our lives? I can believe it. I am convinced, God does that over and over in His story.