This story is interesting enough by itself. But when you translate the amount given into modern day income, it’s really staggering. As I summarize the story below I will translate as follows (service worker income / professional income) based on the National Bureau of Labor and Statistic. Right now the national average for a service worker (laborer) is about $14/hr and the national average for a professional is about $32.50/hr.
The full version of the story can be found in either Matthew 25:14-30 or in Luke 19:11-27. There are minor differences between the two versions but the message is the same. Matthew was likely present during the original story and wrote it down from his memory while Luke was not present but interviewed many people to write his book. My version will summarize and then discuss…
A very rich ruler was leaving for a long time on a trip and brought 3 of his best employees in to run all he owned while away. To one he gave 10 talents ($4 mil / $13.5 mil), another he gave 5 talents ($2 mil / $6.7 mil) and the third he gave 1 talent ($600 k / $1.35 mil). They were to “manage” this amount while he was gone. On his return, he debriefed each employee. The first had managed wisely and doubled the wealth and the ruler gave him 10 cities to rule. The second also managed wisely and doubled the wealth and the ruler gave him 5 cities to rule. The third was afraid to lose the wealth so hid it the entire time (not loosing a dime but not making anything either). The ruler took that wealth and gave it to the first employee and than banished the 3rd man from his kingdom for ever.
First of all, that wealth is staggering. There is little instruction given, just take care of this for me while I’m away. A talent was equal to about 20 years worth of a laborer’s wages. Since these were likely his top three guys (more like management), I also show 20 years worth of a professional’s salary. To put yourself in the shoes of these men, imagine receiving either 200, 100 or 20 years worth of your own income to manage. That thought is really staggering. How much risk would you take. In this example, we don’t know how long he was gone but it is assumed to be a long time. We also don’t have an example of someone who did risk and then lost wealth… what would the ruler have done…? However, the principal and purpose of the story remains.
Jesus is the ruler, going off to “prepare a kingdom (which is in Heaven)”. He doesn’t tell us how long He will be gone but He gives us “talents” to manage for His purposes. We are the servants who have been given the talents. Are we using them for His purpose? Are we using them for our own? Are we hiding those talents, afraid to loose them?
Jesus will return and ask us (although He already knows the answer) how we did. What will your answer be? Are you using the gifts and talents He gave you for His purpose? Are you multiplying His most valuable asset, the body of disciples? Are you growing the church? Then He will be proud of you and say “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
If you are currently the 3rd servant, hiding those gifts and talents, you still have time to change. Use what He had given you to multiply the kingdom. Jesus did give us all one final instruction, the only instruction that matters between now and His return…
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”