Talents, Pounds and Ten Virgins.
Posted by adventbiblestudy on February 7, 2010
KJV Matthew 25:14-30
14. For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. 15. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. 16. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. 19. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. 20. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 22. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 24. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: 25. And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. 26. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: 27. Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. 28. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. 29. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. 30. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The parable of the talents may be one of the most misunderstood parables. This is the most popular of the two parables which deal with the same subject. To gain a better understanding of the talents we need to look at the parable of the pounds written by Luke.
KJV Luke 19:11-27
11. And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. 12. He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. 13. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. 14. But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. 15. And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. 16. Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. 17. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. 18. And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. 19. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities. 20. And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: 21. For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow. 22. And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: 23. Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury? 24. And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. 25. (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.) 26. For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. 27. But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.
By definition, “If a word makes good sense as it stands, and does no violence to the simple laws of nature, it is to be understood literally; if not, figuratively.” In other words, if a word or verse is out of the ordinary, such as a miracle or figure which does not exist, it must have a figurative or spiritual meaning.
At first glance one would think these parables deal with normal, everyday activities, used to teach a moral lesson. This is true to an extent. A closer examination will show actions which are not normal, everyday activities.
In the parable of the talents, one man received five talents and doubled the value. Another received two talents and doubled that amount. Have you ever tried to invest money? It is nearly impossible to double your money. What are the chances of two people doubling their investment? This action leads one to think there is more to this parable than normal, everyday acts used to teach a moral lesson.
In the parable of the pounds each man is given one pound. The first man increases the value ten times, the second five times. Now we are beginning to see a clear pattern. There is more at work than the investments of a few wise men. Also notice, ten men received a pound but the results of only three are recorded.
It is doubtful both these texts are separate accounts of the same parable. Judging by surrounding texts these most likely were spoken by Jesus at different times. But the parallel is unmistakable.
The Greek word used for talent is not the same Greek word used for pound, but they do have the same meaning. The definition for both is, “a certain weight.” They both refer to a sum of money.
While looking at these texts one phrase jumped out, “according to his several ability.” Look at the definition for the word ability.
Strong’s Ref. # 1411 dunamis Pronounced doo’-nam-is
from GSN1410; force (literally or figuratively); specially, miraculous power (usually by implication, a miracle itself):
The word ability sheds all the light we need on this subject. There is no connection between talents or pounds (money) and spiritual gifts. The connection to gifts comes from the word ability which means, “miraculous power or miracle,” which makes them spiritual gifts.
To illustrate a point we can study any number of Bible characters and examine their actions and abilities.
Adam pointed his finger at God in an attempt to plead his innocence.
KJV Genesis 3:12
12. And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.
Noah got drunk was found naked by his sons and cursed one of them.
KJV Genesis 9:20-20. And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: 21. And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. 22. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. 23. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness. 24. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. 25. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
Abraham lied about his wife two times. In an attempt to preserve his life he told Pharaoh and Abimelech she was his sister.
KJV Genesis 12:11. And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: 12. Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. 13. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.
KJV Genesis 20:2. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.
Jacob lied to his father in an attempt to receive a blessing. What blessing was Jacob trying to receive? Did he think his father had the power to give or withhold God’s blessing?
KJV Genesis 27:6. And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying, 7. Bring me venison, and make me savoury meat, that I may eat, and bless thee before the Lord before my death. 8. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command thee. 9. Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury meat for thy father, such as he loveth: 10. And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death.
Moses killed an Egyptian and turned down God’s original proposal to lead His people out of Egypt.
KJV Exodus 2:11. And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12. And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.
KJV Exodus 4:10. And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. 11. And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord?
David slept with a married woman, killed her husband and lied to cover it up.
KJV 2 Samuel 11:3. And David sent and inquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? 4. And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house. 5. And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child. 6. And David sent to Joab, saying, Send me Uriah the Hittite. And Joab sent Uriah to David.
To review, from the people God chose to achieve miraculous works, two were murderers, one cursed his son, three lied, and one or all doubted God’s power to a certain extent. But with these people we are left with a record of some of life’s greatest lessons. We are also given examples of some of God’s greatest works.
Few people consider the miracle God worked with Adam and Eve. It happens so often, we tend to take it for granted. Some even question if God is responsible for such a miracle. Be that as it may, God gave the gift of creation, or birth to Adam and Eve.
KJV Genesis 4:1. And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord.
We are all familiar with the story of Noah and the ark. It was God’s grace that carried the ark safely through the storm.
KJV Genesis 8:1. And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters asswaged; 2. The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained; 3. And the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated.
God also gave Abraham and Sarah a son, well past the child bearing years of Sarah.
KJV Genesis 18:10. And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. 11. Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
KJV Genesis 21:1. And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken. 2. For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.
Jacob may have witnessed a number of miracles, among them were the increase in wealth and the results when God sent His messenger to Laban.
KJV Genesis 30:37. And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods. 38. And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink. 39. And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted.
KJV Genesis 31:24. And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.
Moses may have experienced the most numerous and greatest of God’s miracles, from the burning bush, plagues upon Egypt, parting of the Red Sea, fountains of water in the desert and the greatest of all, God’s patience.
KJV Exodus 3:2. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
KJV Exodus 4:3. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it.
KJV Exodus 7:20. And Moses and Aaron did so, as the Lord commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood.
KJV Exodus 8:3. And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneadingtroughs:
KJV Exodus 9:10. And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast.
KJV Exodus 14:19. And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: 20. And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night. 21. And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
KJV Exodus 16:4. Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.
KJV Exodus 32:14. And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
Among other accomplishments, David defeated a giant while he was yet a little boy.
KJV 1 Samuel 17:49. And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth. 50. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David.
The Bible is full of stories like these, showing the same results; when men act upon their own thoughts and desires, things usually do not turn out well. But when God steps in to take control of the situation, there is no doubt of a success. As we can see there is no telling what will be achieved when God is involved.
In the parables of the talents and pounds, the men refusing to invest time and energy for the benefit of the ruler were ultimately rejected. They tried to play it safe, thinking this would preserve their standing with the ruler. They didn’t want to make waves. It turned out they were wrong. When considering the punishment there is no mistaking the relationship between these parables and the lesson they are teaching.
I do not think it is only a coincidence the parable of the ten virgins was given by Jesus at the same time as the parable of the talents. Anyone familiar with teaching will notice the pattern Jesus used to teach. Matthew chapter 13 clearly shows this method. Jesus first tells the parable of the sower. Afterwards He explains the interpretation, followed by additional parables. This is arranged much like a school text book; an example, followed by an explanation, followed by a collection of practice problems for the student to solve.
Jesus often used a set of parables to teach a lesson on the same subject. We see this in Matthew 15. Although most people do not see a connection between the parable of the talents and the ten virgins, one clearly exists on the spiritual level.
As we have seen, Bible characters have two sides. One side with great accomplishments and another showing their human limitations. A part that follows God and a part which attempts to do things on their own. The parables of the talents, pounds, and ten virgins all focus on a lesson showing the difference between people acting upon their own resources and relying upon God’s. This lesson is easy to see on the surface of the parable of the talents and that of the pounds. This lesson is more clearly recognized on the spiritual level when the parable of the ten virgins is studied.
KJV Matthew 25:1. Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. 2. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: 4. But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. 6. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. 7. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. 8. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. 9. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. 10. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. 11. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. 12. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. 13. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
Although this parable contains a number of key words, in this study will look at only two; lamp and oil.
KJV Numbers 8:2. Speak unto Aaron and say unto him, When thou lightest the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light over against the candlestick.
KJV 2 Samuel 22:29. For thou art my lamp, O Lord: and the Lord will lighten my darkness.
KJV Psalms 119:105. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
KJV Proverbs 6:23. For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:
KJV Psalms 119:129. Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them. 130. The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.
KJV Isaiah 8:20. To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
A lamp is used to provide light. The Bible compares the word lamp to the Lord, His words and commandments. The light given by the lamp is also compared to God’s word, law and testimony.
Lamp = God’s word and law.
KJV Exodus 25:6. Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense,
KJV Exodus 35:14. The candlestick also for the light, and his furniture, and his lamps, with the oil for the light,
KJV Leviticus 24:2. Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually.
Oil produces light. This is true in both the physical and spiritual application. If we applied the spiritual application of light to oil we see oil can represent God’s word and law.
Oil = light = God’s word and law.
This produces an interesting scenario, both the lamp and oil spiritually represent God’s word and His law; which produces the opportunity for more than one interpretation.
All ten virgins carried a lamp. To apply a spiritual interpretation we can consider both possibilities for the word lamp. Do all Christians have access to the word of God? Yes. Do all Christians keep the law of God? Some Christians claim the law ended at the cross. The lamp must represent the word.
Only five virgins brought oil; therefore the oil may represent God’s law. Following along this revelation we can see all ten virgins possessed the word of God, but only five followed the law. Those who had both were able to light their lamps, creating light, allowing them to enter into the wedding with the bridegroom.
A second interpretation uses the lamp and oil to represent God’s word. In this instance five of the virgins used the word of God, a combination of the lamp and oil to produce light. In other words, they used the word of God to understand the word of God. It takes both the lamp and the oil to supply light. On a spiritual level this parable explains the concept of the simple word study.
We have already learned a lesson from studying the results when God’s greatest heroes rely on their own moral judgment. With all this evidence pointing to an undeniable explanation, why do some people choose to ignore the obvious point; if we are shown we cannot rely upon the human judgments of Adam, Abraham, Jacob, Moses or David. Why would we ever consider accepting the mortal conclusions of others when it comes to interpreting God’s word?
In His infinite wisdom God used sinners as major characters in the Bible. We are shown a clear and distinct difference between their judgment and God’s; between the results of their actions and God’s. If you can’t trust the judgment of God’s greatest heroes, why would you trust the judgment of anyone else? But that seems to be the comfort zone of many Christians. Much of what is being taught has little or nothing to with the Bible.
There are only a few ways to be safe in this matter. Make sure whatever is being presented has supporting texts. Make sure you prove everything from the Bible. If someone claims a lamb represents Christ, make sure supporting texts are supplied even if it seems everyone already knows. Beware of anyone who does not put in the effort to prove what they are teaching. If they do not take time to prove it, they probably lack motivation and dedication. Not supplying proof texts may indicate a lack of passion. God’s heroes had passion and still made mistakes. If you have the passion to learn, make certain you are learning from people with more passion than yourself. Increase your passion by proving everything with the Bible.
There is also an important parallel between the parable of the talents and the parable of the sower, which teaches how to study a parable.
Parable of the talents, Matthew 25:29. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
Parable of the sower, Mark 4:25. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.
Why do you think Jesus used the same warning for both these parables?
Matthew may provide the best explanation in his recording of the parable of the sower.
KJV Matthew 13:11. He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. 13. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 14. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and