Perhaps this is old news and many of you already caught on but I hadn’t…. until last night.
I had an epiphany about what Matthew 25:14-30 is “really” talking about (fine, I’ll take something from everyone’s beloved Bishop). This passage is otherwise known as “The Parable of the Talents” by most accounts. The TNIV did something really weird with this passage. They called it “The Parable of the Bags of Gold.” Totally unrecognizable.
Anyhow, one aspect of Christian discipleship is teaching folks about money management issues. It’s a subject the Gospel writers account Jesus as having talked quite a bit about, with Matthew 6:24 (cf. Luke 16:13) serving as a major focal point. Typically in a Bible study series on money issues, the parable of the talents comes into play. It’s typically taught that the talents refer our money and that we need to be manging our money appropriately for the Lord or like the unjust manager in Luke 16 – we’ll be called to account and lose our money or responsibilites over the money, after all it is not our money it’s God’s money, we just manage it.
So, what was my epiphany? Well, we went over the passage last night in Bible study and while everyone was looking it up, I already had the passage at hand and saw verse 14 and how it says, “”Again, it will be like a man going on a journey...” I said to myself, “wait a minute, to what does “it” refer? So I looked back to fine “it”s referant. I looked back up to the beginning of the chapter and noticed 25:1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. ” I noticed particularly the first part of the verse, “At that time the Kingdom of heaven will be like….” and it dawned on me, I was about to become a false teacher if I tried to teach that this parable is about how to handle money!
The parable of the talents is not about money management! It is about kingdom management! Jesus is not talking about money issues in this parable (per se). He is talking about Kingdom responsibilites. Now, money may be one aspect of that but it is not the only aspect. There are many aspects involved in being part of the Kingdom of God. Each person has been given a talent (ταλαντα) or a unit or coinage or a bag of gold (TNIV). In this passage I do not think the talents are money per se, but a metaphor for whatever giftings or abilities God has given each person, perhaps even a person’s place in the Kingdom.
The question(s) becomes, what are we doing with the abilities God has given us in our place in the Kingdom? Are we fulfilling our roles and responsibilities appropriately, even effectively, to the benefit of God’s Kingdom? How are we doing in serving the King?
So when we read this parable – we need to ask ourselves, what are we doing to advance the Kingdom of God in this world? Are we working our jobs well? Are we managing our money responsibly? Are we taking care of our families, one another? and so on.
When we do well, we enjoy the benefits. We get to enjoy our master’s happiness (v. 21, 23). It helps our relationship with the Lord when we have a clean conscience about what we’ve been doing. If not, we need to think about the consequences of our irresponsibility as members of the Kingdom, and how that will affect our relationship with the Lord as well. It doesn’t look pretty does it?
So that was my epiphany – Matthew 25:14-30 – aka: the Parable of the Talents – is not about money – it’s about the Kingdom of God and our responsibilites therein.