Just to get a fuller meaning of the parable of the talents, let’s look at a few of the other words a bit closer. (If you haven’t already looked at the meaning of the word talent, check out the previous post–what an encouraging and challenging lesson I found in that one word!) In verse 14 of Matthew 25, the word entrusted is παραδίδωμι paradídōmi, par-ad-id’-o-mee; from a root word that means to surrender, i.e yield up, intrust, transmit. It can mean to betray, bring forth, cast, commit, deliver (up), give (over, up), hazard; or to put in prison, recommend. The master surrendered, gave over, hazarded his possessions to the servants. He willingly took a risk by entrusting the talents to the each because he was giving each the power to use or lose the talent.
The next verse gives even more detail about just how he gave his possessions to the servants. If I can mingle the languages a bit, he “didomi”-ed 5 talents to one, 2 to another, and 1 to the third. The word didomi (δίδωμι) means to give, to adventure, bestow, bring forth, commit, deliver (up), give, grant, hinder, make, minister, number, offer, have power, put, receive, set, shew, suffer, take, utter, yield. There was a submitting of power in the act of giving, an empowerment of the receiver in the act of giving.
The passage doesn’t leave the description of the exchange with just two verbs describing how he delivered the talents—entrusting and empowering the servants with the talent, though; in the next verse, the Holy Spirit uses the word lam-ban’-o (λαμβάνω) to show the exchange from the servants’ perspectives. Lamban’o means to take, to have offered to one; it can mean to accept, to assay, attain, to obtain. Three different verbs to emphasize this intentional act of entrusting, giving, committing, hazarding something to one who received it and took hold of it. The receiver accepted the talent and received control of it.
We have all probably heard lessons on this parable many times. We may know without much thought that the talent in the parable was a form of currency. We see the analogy of the master entrusting belongings to the servants and recognize the analogy–that all we have comes from God. That lesson alone is powerful but how easy to take it for granted, to fail to remember that everything good comes from God, that all we have we should receive as stewards.
When we feel a bit greedy or selfish, when we feel a bit proud of all “we have worked so hard to get,” it is a reminder that everything belongs to God and He has entrusted us with it—temporarily.
How can we be greedy or selfish when it is not ours? How can we be proud when He gave us life and breath and ability to do whatever we do? We have probably considered the lesson in the parable of being a good steward. I have, and that lesson has, rightfully, convicted me. I will be held accountable for all that God has entrusted to me. It all belongs to Him and I have received it as an endowment from Him to do His work.
Over time, for me, that lesson has gained an even fuller meaning, bringing a lot of relief from worry, too. A good master, a reasonable employer, provides the resources required to do the assigned work. God is not only a just master, He is a good Father. As my master, He will provide me what I need to do His work. As my Father, whenever I am in need, He will provide for me from His abundance. In the same book in Matthew, in chapter 7, verses 7-11, Jesus makes that promise—in specific detail and with a powerful comparison: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Do you hear the promise? He doesn’t just promise to meet our needs, He promises that God is better than earthly fathers who know how to give good gifts to their children.
Look back and soak in the promise: He will give much more to those who ask!
As good as that truth is and as much comfort and assurance as that gives me every day, this week, the layers of this parable revealed even more for me. As I studied this passage again, I found more layers, new layers of meaning, even more powerful in convicting and encouraging me.
The realization struck me, as I looked a bit more closely at the words, that the actions of the master toward all three servants and the actions by all three servants have been virtually identical up to this point of the story. The only difference lay in the number of talents each possessed. It is easy to miss a phrase in verse 15 that explains the difference and provides such an amazing assurance of our Father’s plan for us: he gave “to each according to his ability.”
The word ability is doo’-nam-is (δύναμις) meaning force (literally or figuratively); specially, miraculous power:—ability, abundance, power, strength, violence, mighty (wonderful) work. The one-talent servant received the talent for which he had the strength, might, perhaps even miraculous power, to manage. The five-talent servant received the talent for which he had the strength, might, perhaps even miraculous power, to manage. Do you hear that? Really, hear that and absorb it. The master gives the talent to the servant for which the servant has the strength, might, perhaps even miraculous power, to manage. All good things come from God. He gives us our abilities and then he gives us the talents for which we have the ability to manage.
Have you wondered about the value of the talent in the parable? I went back to the text and http://www.blueletterbible.org to dig a little deeper. (Next Post)