Institution Granting Degree
Calvary Theological Seminary
Arts and Humanities | Religion
Jesus often used the powerful tool of story in his teaching and preaching ministry for the purpose of conveying spiritual truth. In Matthew chapter 25, Jesus tells the parable of the talents. This is a story of an exceedingly wealthy master who entrusts to his servants very large sums of money, then departs on a journey. After a long time the master returns and asks for an accounting from those servants concerning their actions. Those who worked hard were praised and rewarded by their master. The one who produced no monetary gain did not fare as well.
At first reading, the parable might strike the reader that Jesus is teaching his followers to work diligently while awaiting his return. This basic theme has been often expanded to include the idea of using one’s gifts, talents, and abilities in the service of Christ or else lose them The common thread of these interpretations is simply those who are industrious will be blessed; those who are not will face dire consequences. This notion of individual work, responsibility, or self-effort is essentially the consensus of opinion for the parable’s application by commentators.
Unfortunately, if this interpretation is correct and taken to its logical conclusion, then one is confronted with the proposition that the difference between those who enter the joy of the master from those who are cast into outer darkness is simply diligent labor. One problem with this interpretation is that it contradicts biblical theology. Another problem is that these interpretations ignore common story techniques that Jesus employed to convey his message.
Certainly a reading of the story leads the reader to the notion that faithfulness of some sort is important. Indeed this is true. But faithfulness is merely a story technique that Jesus employed to show the reader that faith is the true message of his parable.
In the context of his Second Coming, Jesus was clearly teaching his listeners how to be prepared for his return, what it means “to watch.” The message of this parable, that all too often is overlooked, is that preparation must be made for his return by first responding to him by faith. Outward actions are mere reflections of the faith, or lack of faith, that resides within an individual’s heart. And this faith is not some vague, ethereal religious notion focused on some intangible God. Rather this faith resides in the very person, character, integrity, and indeed the very words of the Lord Jesus Christ.
To summarize, Jesus told a story about faithfulness, however he showed a story concerning faith towards himself. This conclusion stands in contrast to the majority of preachers and commentators. Yet the parable of the talents is indeed a story of faith, and this thesis will demonstrate the truth of this message.
Barnes, Terry N., "Matthew's Parable of the Talents: A Story of Faith" (2006). Faculty Dissertations. 114.