It's Not a Talent Show

God does not apportion talents equally to his servants. He gives more to some and less to others. Each apportionment has its unique temptations. But at one point, Jesus delivered a warning to less talented servants.

How Britain Got Talent

Our English word talent refers to a person's innate ability or aptitude to accomplish something, typically an above average to extraordinary ability. But the only reason this word is in our lexicon is because of Jesus's "Parable of the Talents" in Matthew 25:14–30.

In Biblical Greek, the word talanton, the etymological ancestor of talent, meant a measuring unit of weight, often of money, such as a talent of gold or silver. In the New Testament, a talent was the largest unit of monetary value and some estimate its contemporary value in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But in Jesus's parable, he was clearly using this monetary word talent metaphorically to imply any God-given stewardship we are entrusted with, including our abilities. This became so commonly taught in Christianized Britain that by the 14th century talent had been adopted into English to mean our abilities and aptitudes.

A Tale of Talented Servants

In the parable, a wealthy man, preparing to leave on a journey, entrusts three of his servants with talents (i.e. a lot) of money with the expectation that they will steward those talents well and provide him a good return on investment (ROI) when he returns. To one he gives five talents, to one he gives two talents, and to one he gives one talent. All we are told is that the master apportioned the amounts "to each according to his ability" (Matthew 25:15).

While the master is gone, the five-talent and two-talent servants invest diligently and wisely and receive 100% ROI, but the one-talent servant does nothing but bury his. So when the master returns, he commends and rewards the five and two-talent servants, but the one-talent servant is rebuked and punished.

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