Matthew 25:25, How Much is a Talent?

And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

//In this parable, a man travels to a foreign country, but before he leaves, he gives talents to his servants. Ten to one, five to another, one to a third.

Do you picture a talent as a small, silver coin? If you do, you miss the flavor of the parable. A talent is formed in the shape of a huge ingot; that is, a heavy weight with a handle on top for ease of transport. A talent weighs 75 pounds; over 34 kilograms. A strong man can lug one in each hand. It weighs 6,000 denarii and represents the salary of 6,000 days’ work. Sixteen and a half years.

Now we can read over the story with a new understanding. First, these talents are not on loan. They are freely given. Ten talents would provide enough for the servant to live adequately for another 165 years! Five talents would do for 82 more years! The abundance of the gift is important to the story. These servants gladly accept the gift, and put it to good use, doubling what they have been given.

Then we come to the third servant, who received only one. This man does not seem to appreciate it as a gift; rather it is an incredible responsibility! He sees it as nearly more than he can bear, keeping this talent for the day his master returns and he can give it back. How on earth can he hide an entire talent? He finds a way, burying it in the ground.

Now that you understand the dynamics of the story, I’m guessing the parable will speak to you in a different way.

6 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    all my life i poo-pooed the third servant for hiding his ‘talent’–which, indeed, i pictured as a coin…when i found out that a talent was 75 pounds of gold, i looked at the servant in a completely different light…to wit–if you give me 75 pounds of gold, i may not hide it but i’m going to have a VERY hard time getting out of bed and going to work each morning…after all, i’ve just been handed a 16 1/2 year vacation…i more readily identify with the third servant than with the first and second…

  2. Ha! Good point!

  3. It would be 16.5 years IF you worked 365 days a year. Working 6 days a week (taking 1 day of rest) it would have been more than 19 years of work. WOW!
    Thank you for the clarification on this, we can see it in it’s true light, not how the enemy want’s us to see it.

  4. A nice one! Please kindly update the actual number of talents given to each servant from the scriptures. E.g 5 talents were given to the 1st servant and not 10 talents(he invested it and made it 10 talents rather). The 2nd servant was given 2 talents and he doubled it while the 3rd servant got 1 talent. However, your teaching here is awesome. Thanks!

  5. A talent is worth a little under 1.5 million U.S. dollars in today’s money. During the reign of Alexander the Great, he held a drinking contest in India to honor the death of Calanus. The winner, Promachus, won 1 talent, which would have made him a wealthy man if he hadn’t died 4 days later of complications of alcohol poisoning (one of 42 recorded deaths as a result of the contest!) The very idea that someone would give away 16 talents is a bit mind-boggling. That’s an absolutely ludicrous sum of money.

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