The Talents & the Minas (1)
These two parables,
though very similar in
some ways, speak of
categories of gifts
In both the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 and the Parable of the Minas in Luke 19, some servants are given a certain amount of money by their master before he goes away on a journey. In Luke 19:13 they are then told:
“‘Do business till I come.”
In our previous Note we considered something of the significance the Parable of the Minas (). However, to fully understand these parables we need to compare them to each other.
In the Parable of the Talents, the master gives three of his servants differing amounts of talents, “to each according to his own ability”: one receives five, another two, and another one (25:15).
Based upon this some Bible teachers, including some I very much appreciate, say that every believer has at least one talent. However, this is not the case, as we can see from the Bible, from our own observation, and from church history as well.
This parable comes right after the Parable of the Wise and Foolish virgins (Matt. 25:1-13). However, while there are ten virgins in that parable—and ten in the Bible is one of the numbers of completion—in this parable there are only three servants who receive talents. Moreover, each receives a different amount, based on his ability.
So, this parable does not speak of gifts being given to all the believers, but of the special gifts given to those who have specific offices or gifts within in the church, or who are themselves gifts to the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:8,11-13).
It is the Parable of the Minas that speaks of the common gifts given to all the members, for there you do have ten servants, and their master, the nobleman, gives each the same gift: one mina (19:13; cf. v. 16).
This understanding is confirmed by the relative value of the gifts. A talent was an extremely large amount of money. There is some disagreement about exactly how valuable it was, but some say it was worth 6,000 day’s wages; in today’s terms, that would be well over half a million dollars. In contrast, a mina was worth only 100 day’s wages; not a small amount by any means, but vastly less than a talent.
So, the talents speak of the special gifts bestowed upon particular members of the Body, while the minas speak of the fact that each believer does have at least some unique portion from the Lord. Thus, while we cannot say that every believer has at least one talent, we can say the every one does have at least a mina, and again, that is not a small gift.
In the New Testament the Apostle Paul, who surely was a unique gift to the Body of Christ, told the believers he served in Corinth,
We are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.
— 1 Corinthians 3:9
And in Ephesians he tells us that, among the believers, the Lord Himself
…gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some shepherds and teachers.
— Ephesians 4:11
The difference between the categories of gifts is also confirmed by our own experience, and by church history. No doubt we have all seen that among the saints, some are especially gifted by the Lord for His service. And certainly, this fact has also been borne out, not only by the apostles and servants of the Lord in the New Testament, but by so many outstanding figures in church history who, by their service to the Lord, demonstrated that they were indeed especially gifted among the saints for the His service.
But, why would the Lord use two such similar, yet contrasting, parables to illustrate the gifts He has given to His believers?
That is what we will consider in the next Note in this series.
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— 29 March 2023 —