Typically the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 or Luke 19:11-27 is thought to teach that we must use what God has given us in ways that will multiply these gifts for God, and therefore, grant us eternal reward from Him in heaven.
I have taught it this way for most of my life, and this is the basic message you will get from most pastors and most Bible commentaries as well when explaining the Parable of the Talents.
The Parable of the Talents Summarized
In the Parable of the Talents (in Matthew 25:14-30 anyway), the first servant turned his five talents of money into ten, the second turned his in to four, but the third hid his talent in the ground so that he would not lose it. We are instructed to be like the first servant, or at the bare minimum, like the second, but we should avoid at all costs being like the lazy, unprofitable third servant.
I now believe that this interpretation of the Parable of the Talents is completely opposite of what Jesus meant. Let me explain…
Money in an Honor-Shame Culture
Over the past twenty years or so, I have read, written, and taught a lot about the cultural and historical backgrounds of various Biblical texts. I have come to see that the cultural lens through which we read Scripture is completely foreign to the cultural lens in which Scripture was originally written or read.
If we really want to understand the meaning and significance of what was written, we need to understand the cultural background of the people who wrote and originally read it.
We live in a materialistically-driven culture, governed by greed and the accumulation of stuff. The Bible was written in an honor culture, where stuff and money didn’t matter. In an honor-shame culture, people want honor. Money is not a end, but a means to an end. Money and wealth is one way to gain more honor.
In an honor-shame culture, someone might be insanely rich, but if they had no honor, they were not well-liked or respected.
Furthermore, honor-shame cultures typically believe that wealth and possessions are in limited supply. They believe in a zero-sum economy. In other words, if one person gained wealth, it was only at the expense of someone else. The only way someone could accumulate wealth is if they took it from someone else. The rich get richer only at the expense of the poor, which, in an honor-shame culture, was an extremely shameful way to live. This is one reason why honor-shame cultures had so many “Patrons.” As the rich accumulated wealth, they saw it as their duty and responsibility to give this wealth back to society in the form of music, arts, schools, hospitals, and other such humanitarian works. This way, the wealthy gained greater honor, but not necessarily greater wealth.
The Parable of the Talents Revisited
Once we re-read the Parable of the Talents through this cultural lens, the entire passage get turned around.
In our materialistic, economic-driven culture, the heroes are the servants who accumulate more stuff. But in an honor-based culture, the people who accumulate stuff are the villains. Why? Because the only way they were able to get more stuff was by taking it from someone else. The hero of the story if the third servant, who did not become richer, but instead was content with what he was given.
The third servant in the Parable of the Talents was so content, he didn’t even put his one talent in the bank to collect “interest” (read “usury”). The master gets mad at this third servant and tries to shame him by taking away (read “stealing”) his possessions and giving it to the one who is already rich. This again is shameful behavior on the part of the master, but it explains why two servants behaved in such shameful ways — they have a shameful master.
I know this is a challenging way of reading the Parable of the Talents, because we are typically taught that the master represents Jesus, and that when He returns, each of us must give an account to Jesus for how we used the time and money He has blessed us with.
Obviously, in this alternate way of reading the Parable of the Talents, since the master behaves shamefully and teaches his servants to do the same, the master cannot represent Jesus.
So who does the master represent? The master represents the god of this age, the one who teaches models and the morally reprehensible behavior of stealing from the poor to make themselves rich. Jesus is teaching that this is the kind of behavior Christians can expect from the world when we try to live according to His new code of honor ethics.
There are, of course, objections to this view of the Parable of the Talents.
For example, how can I say that the master represents the upside down me-first mentality of this world when Jesus says in Matthew 25:14, “For the Kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country …” Doesn’t Jesus equate the Kingdom of heaven to the master who travels to a far country?
No, actually. If you look in a normal Bible, the words “the kingdom of heaven is” are in italics, which means they are not in the original. Jesus didn’t say these words; our translators added them! The reason the translators did this is because they thought it was a parallel story to the parables that come before and after the Parable of the Talents, but it is just as likely that the middle parable is set in contrast to the surrounding parables.
This is especially true when we read the text with new eyes and see hints of something else going on. For example, the master went into the “far country,” which is where the prodigal son went, and which represents life apart from fellowship with God.
In Luke’s account the message of the Parable of the Talents (Minas in Luke) is even more clear since it immediately follows the story about Zacchaeus, who is the perfect example of a man who became rich by robbing and stealing from the poor. Is Jesus a greedy tax-collector like Zacchaeus? Of coruse not! Yet if the traditional interpretation of the Parable of the Talents (and Minas) is accepted, Jesus had no right to tell Zacchaeus to give back the money he had received by doing his job (there was nothing illegal about what Zacchaeus did). Instead, Jesus should have praised Zacchaeus for being a good steward of his money. But Jesus told Zacchaeus to regain his honor by giving away his wealth.
Furthermore, the final statements of the Parable of the Talents has the master demanding that his enemies be outcast and killed. Again, this does not represented something God will do, but foreshadows what will happen to Jesus Himself and those who follow Him when they stand up to the god of this age because “they do not [him] to rule over them” (Luke 19:27). This master wants his enemies slain before him. Immediately after this, Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem where He knows He will be killed (Luke 19:27-28).
When he arrives in Jerusalem, one of the first things Jesus does is clear the temple of those who were using it to enrich themselves by stealing from the poor (Luke 19:45-48). As a result, the wicked “servants” of the temple seek to destroy Jesus (Luke 19:47).
I could go on and on about the Parable of the Talents and how this alternative reading of this parable makes much more sense in context and in light of the complete message and ministry of Jesus. If you want to learn more, here is one resource which talks about this perspective, and many similar themes as well:
A Recommended Resource
One of the many books which has helped me in this area is the Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels by Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh. If you want to understand the gospels, go buy this commentary. The “reading scenarios” at the end of the book are more than worth the price of the book. The commentary has rocked my world and allowed me to see and read the entire Bible in a whole new light. If we want to understand the Bible, we need to read it as it was written, not as we want it to be read.
Ain’t communicated with you in ages! I’ve been intrigued by watching your paradigm shifts about various issues over the past months and have found myself often in agreement with you. Not always, but mostly.
But anyway, I realise that there is great advantage to social-scientific criticism in helping us understand the Bible, but sometimes I’ve read interpretations put forward by such scholars and I’ve sort of thought, “Hmmm… that would be a good interpretation that would fit with the apparent social context… but I can’t see how it fits with the literary context.” So sometimes I end up rejecting some interpretations simply because I can’t see (or struggle to see) how it fits in the literary context. And this is one of those interpretations. Sure, it really helps clear up things like the hardness of the master (reaping where he did not sow and so on) which always puzzled me, but such an interpretation brings with it it’s own difficulties… like in Luke, how does the parable relate to the preceding context? Luke writes, “While they were listening to this [conversation with Zacchaeus], he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once…” Then he tells the parable. The point of the parable from the start would then seem to be something like, “The kingdom of God will not come immediately therefore you should do such and such.” If the social-scientific critics view of this is correct, perhaps the parable should have the third man giving his money away to the poor rather than keeping it thus arguing for a kingdom ethic exemplified in Zacchaeus. Furthermore, Luke makes a literary connection between the kingdom of God and the king in the parable as if to identify Jesus as the king who is going away and coming back. In the social-scientists view, it’s hard to tell the point of the little section on the king going away and coming back etc. It would seem germane to the purposes of Jesus’ parable – and Jesus doesn’t seem to teach like that.
That’s just a few scattered thoughts. I’d be interested to know what you think.
So it’s possible, then, that the Bible doesn’t really mean word for word what King James said it means? And that its meaning to people has changed over time to the point where those who think they are living by it might actually be doing just the opposite?
Jeremy, if you keep pointing out ideas and interpretations that actually make sense I won’t be able to help you when they come to take you away.
Jeremy Myers says
HA HA HA!!!!! You are so funny.
Yes, I think you may be right about the fact that the Bible may teach exactly the opposite of what we have traditionally thought.
Hold on…some big guy dressed all in white is knocking on the door…
Jeremy Myers says
Good to hear from you!
I went through the exact same thought process as I was studying this, and I understand your concerns. I definitely agree that in studying Scripture, we need to look at all the various contexts.
But I actually think the literary connection in Luke makes more sense than it does in Matthew.
There definitely is a literary connection between Zaccheus and the master in the parable, but I think that based on the context that follows the parable, Jesus is contrasting Zaccheus with the master in the parable, not comparing them. Zaccheus (who had stolen from the poor to make himself rich) had now repented and was giving it all back fourfold. This is set in contrast with the master of the parable who teaches, encourages, and praises his servants to steal from the poor to line his own pockets.
In the context that follows, the disciples are seen to be wavering between these two positions, and as readers, we are left asking which route they will choose (and therefore, which route we will choose).
Hey Jeremy. I was introduced to the social context approach and the honor/shame culture last quarter at UCLA, as you know. I’m very much open to the honor/shame reading of this parable, but the problem I’m facing is how this relates to the preceding parable (24:45-51) and the foolish virgins (25:1-13), as well as the sons of the kingdom (8:12), the sons of the evil one (13:42), and the workers of iniquity (13:28). I can see how the unprofitable servant of 25:14-30 may very well be an oppressed servant who will later be honored by Jesus, though he now weeps and gnashes his teeth at the cruelty of his master. But what about the faithful servant and the evil servant? The evil servant who beats his fellow workers is also weeping and gnashing his teeth. Then the foolish virgins are locked out of the wedding feast, and Jesus is the one locking them out (25:13). As you know, all of these parables are set in context of Jesus’ return, so you can see why I’m having trouble with the honor/shame understanding of this passage. The sons of the kingdom in Matthew 8:12 are weeping/gnashing their teeth (whom I still regard as believers in the kingdom), in contrast to the great-faith Gentiles who recline at the table (8:11). The unbelievers in Luke 13:28 are weeping/gnashing their teeth, and Jesus is the one telling them to depart from him.
Jeremy, is it your assessment that the only person weeping/gnashing their teeth later to be honored by Jesus is the servant in Matthew 25:14-30? Jeremy, know that I’m open to the honor/shame understanding of this passage, but man, the problems I’ve pointed out aren’t easily resolved. As you can see, I still hold that weeping/gnashing can refer to either believers or unbelievers. That’s not the issue, since it appears to be negative, whether set in the Kingdom or outside the kingdom. Since Matthew 25:14-30 is set in context of Jesus’ return, and that 24-25:30 appear connected (for the kingdom of heaven is likened unto), can we really see honor/shame in this parable? Again, I can easily see why the honor/shame understanding of the passage may be right, but only if the passage stands alone. But it’s not alone, it’s surrounded by a parable about an evil servant weeping, and foolish virgins being locked out of the wedding feast by Jesus. However, if you can provide a convincing argument as to why I’m wrong, believe me, I’m all ears. I’m just trying to be truthful and accurate with the Word, and if you can help me, then please do. I should ask though, what is your view on carnal Christians? Do they still lose rewards in your view? And don’t forget that some who view the third servant as the hero of the parable believe that Matthew and Luke villify the third servant, and thus view Matthew and Luke as unreliable.
Jeremy Myers says
Excellent questions! Let me say that this is a whole new area of study for me, and though I’m writing my thesis on it, I am by no means an expert. Basically, my thesis has simply opened my eyes to a whole new way of reading the Bible. I feel that once my thesis is done, the real study begins.
Here is my current tentative basic reading of Matthew 24-25 (note that if you check the semon section on my website, I have preached through this passage in the past, and followed a MUCH different outline than the one below):
24:1-3: Questions by the disciples
24:4-44: Signs of the coming kingdom
24:45-51: As we look for the coming kingdim, there are two options. Look for the return of Jesus by providing for others, or don’t look for His coming and live selfishly.
25:1-13: These two options are illustrated with the 10 Bridesmaids. This illustrates the fact that we be in a constant state of preparedness for the coming kingdom since we don’t know when it will arrive.
25:14-30: Illustrates the worldly results of living according to kingdom principles. While we wait for the coming kingdom, we still live in this world, which does not operate by kingdom standards. (Note that the phrase “kingdom of heaven” in v 14 has been incorrectly added to most translations and is not in the Greek). This parable does not describe the kingdom of heaven, but the opposte of the kingdom of heaven. This illlustrates the results of living according the second option of 24:45-51. If we are the “evil servant” the world may praise us and we will be honored by some in this world. But if we truly live honorably (as the third servant did), the world will shame us and take away what we have and give it to those who are already rich.
25:31-46: Illustrates the kingdom results of living according to the two options presented in 24:45-51.
As I study this further, the parallels and literary connections between the four stories fall together like pieces of a puzzle. For example, terms like “the kingdom” and “the Son of Man” are not mentioned in 25:14-30 (aside from the translator addition in v 14), but are mentioned in 25:1-13 and 25:31-46.
Waow! You’ve really done a lot of thinking on this Jeremy! I suspect that many people would disagree with you though because after investing a lot of time and effort into studying and arriving at certain conclusions, it would be pretty hard to reject them and begin to try to look at the Bible with a different “lens”. But this view is starting to make a lot of sense to me! I’m going to get that commentary that you mentioned! 🙂
Jeremy Myers says
Yeah, I’ve been studying this new “lens” for nearly a year now. I understand the attachment many people have to the other lens. And if truth be told, this new “lens” is a new area of NT research (within the last 10-20 years or so), and so no one has really attempted to refute it yet. But it’s not really a “theory” but a culture. You can’t really refute culture. You can, however, refute the ways that culture affected the biblical writers. So we’ll see if this comes out…
Thanks for the thorough response Jeremy. Now I can see why the honor/shame reading of 25:14-30 may be the correct one. There’s a problem with 25:31-46 however. You said that “25:31-46: Illustrates the kingdom results of living according to the two options presented in 24:45-51.” Does this now mean that you view the evil servant in 24:45-51 as unsaved?
I’m more inclined to this:
24:45-51: Those who loving provide for others receive reward. Those who live selfishly lose reward.
25:1-13: Wise virgins who provide for others receive entrance into wedding feast. Foolish virgins live indifferently and are locked out of wedding feast.
25:14-30: I see the strength of honor/shame reading. Unprofitable servant is cast into darkness by ruthless ruler. Jesus will later honor him for living wisely and suffering oppression. This may indeed be the correct interpretation.
25:31-46: Sheep and goats are different from faithful and evil servant. Whether a servant chooses to be faithful or evil, it has no bearing on kingdom entrance (1 Thessalonians 5:6-10 easily proves this). The goats are unbelievers. If we say the goats are unsaved because they weren’t concerned with social justice, then we render John 6:35-40, 1 Thess 5:6-10 and Romans 4:1-5 useless. Jesus’ Death and Resurrection becomes of no effect if we’re saved by social justice, or if social justice is the “proof” of our salvation. That’s why I see the FG dispensational view of Matthew 25:31-46 as the correct one.
Let’s not forget that Jesus doesn’t approve of the sons of the kingdom in outer darkness in Matthew 8:12. There’s still the possibility hovering that the same is true in Matthew 25:30. But I must say, the honor/shame reading makes sense in light of the master/slave relationship of those days, so I don’t have a problem with it. But more study needs to be done, especially since we have two vastly different views of outer darkness and who does the casting between 8:12 and 25:30. Those in outer darkness are NOT honored by Jesus in 8:12. They have lost their reward. Since 25:30 is parabolic, I can see why Jesus isn’t the one casting the man into outer darkness. Since the Greek doesn’t mention the kingdom in 25:14-30, it may very well be that outer darkness in that passage is confined to some state of oppression in this life for faithful believers, thus strenghtening the honor/shamer reading. This would mean that the meaning of outer darkness is flexible, which may very well be true. Isn’t this exciting Jeremy!
Jeremy Myers says
Hmm. Good questions and insights on 25:31-46. You are probably right.
As you can see, a lot of work needs to be done on these passages! It’s an exciting new area of study, though, isn’t it?
Indeed it is! I now officially have NO position on Matthew 25:14-30 🙂 There is good evidence both for and against the honor/shame reading of 25:14-30. It’s definitely not simple. And we need to ask ourselves if the meaning of outer darkness in 25:30 is unrelated to 8:12 and 22:13. Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t. Some good evidence against the honor/shame rendering of 25:14-30 comes from Joel R. Wohlgemut’s “Entrusted Money”, located in chapter 7 of Jesus and His Parables: Interpreting the Parables of Jesus Today, edited by V. George Shillington (1997: Continuum International Publishing Group).
As to Matthew 25:31-46, no one should forget 1 Thess 5:10 when reading that passage. Most people in Christendom have successfully taken the simplicity of John 3:16 and read their ideas of works into it, thus robbing people of simple faith in Jesus for eternal life. They’ve read a superficial rendering of Matthew 25:31-46 into John 3:16. Next time anyone is tempted to call the goats unsaved because they didn’t partake in social justice, let them remember these words, “He died for us, so that whether we watch (gregoreo) or sleep (katheudo), we should live together with Him” (1 Thess 5:10). As you know, gregoreo is associated with the day and soberness, while katheudo refers to the night, sin, drunkenness, and indifference (5:5-7).
The goats are unsaved for not believing in Jesus. Is Jesus for the oppressed? No doubt about it. Is Jesus concerned about the poor? Definitely. Will oppressed-but-faithful believers be honored by Jesus at the Judgment Seat? You bet. Does Matthew 25:14-30 pertain to this truth? In light of everything we’ve discussed so far, we need to do more study. Is eternal life received by social justice? No way Jose. The gift of eternal life is absolutely free.
Mike van Treek says
I agree with this social contextualized reading of the parables. I think the honor/shame is not the only model and maybe not the most present in the parable. The “limited good” model is also aplicable and possibly more clearly illustrated. Some others arguments for this interpretation went from the intertextual readings and a close readings (narrative analysis) of the story.
(sorry for errors).
Jeremy, back to this. First, there is a difference between poor and destitute in the 1st century. The poor still had their family farms. The temporary destitute were those who lost their farms because of Roman urbanization and Herodian commercialization (Crossan). Now, moving on, I think the Client/Patron system fits with FG just fine. As Gracious Patron, God gives us eternal security. He expects good behavior (to honor him, which can lead to honor for you at the JSOC, which brings rewards). If we are ungrateful, we are shamed (1 John 2:28) and lose rewards. The gift is secure regardless of behavior (1 Thess 5:10). Yes, in the limited-good society, the Patron’s clients may have exploited the poor, thus making the unprofitable servant the actual hero of the story, and the Patron nothing more than a bad man. But Jeremy, you’re supposed to realize that God is also Patron, and perhaps Jesus indeed intends for the hearers to imagine the Patron as God, using the monetary situation to prove a spiritual point, not a story about a literal patron whose servants exploit the poor. Just read the whole of Matthew 24-25. Even Malina agrees that the Parable of the Unjust Servant and the Parable of the Ten Virgins are warnings to the church of Jesus’ generation. Of course, Malina diverges at this parable.
So Jeremy, we can experience shame at the JSOC (1 John 2:28). Matthew 25:30 fits this description. The FG interpretation is still strong and even highlighted by the social sciences. Matthew intends the hearer to understand that the good and faithful servants were not exploiting the poor – Jesus is using familiar imagery to describe Kingdom issues and honor/shame in the Kingdom. So what say you Jeremy? Also, Fred Chay, a Free Gracer, presented a paper at ETS defending the FG view of rewards using Honor/Shame codes from the first-century. He titled it, “The Role of First Century Shame and Honor Codes from the Secular through the Sacred Concerning the Pauline Theology of Judgment at the Bema Seat.” You were right the first time Jeremy.
One more thing. You know that Patrons gave their clients all kinds of benefits, which could include jobs and more. So Jeremy, your point to me in the past that people were only concerned with honor, and not reward, falls flat. The patron gave the client some kind of benefit and expected honor in return. And of course the Patron would then honor you if you honored him. So Yes, Jesus will give us rewards if we are faithful, not just honor. 1 Cor 3:11 should have been sufficient for you. It’s honor and reward. There’s also shame and loss of reward.
I meant 1 Corinthians 3:14, not 3:11. 🙂
Also Jeremy, compare to Luke 19:11-27, and look at verse 11 very carefully. You know the parallelism between this parable and the parable of the talents. Why does Jesus tell this parable of the minas? Verse 11 – Because he was near Jerusalem and they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately! So who is the Nobleman/Patron? Jesus is the Nobleman/Patron. He is our broker as well when it comes to the Father and us. Jesus is both Patron and Broker. And what is Jesus’ point? That he’s going to go away to a far country (delayed parousia), and believers are expected to get to work before judgment. Matthew and Luke are using imagery that was exploitive in the culture, but as these images were representing a spiritual message, they had nothing to actually do with taking money from the poor and giving it to the greedy/wealthy. Also Jeremy, look again at Mark 4:25 (familiar statement Jeremy?) Then read the whole of Mark 4. Mark 4:25 and Matthew 25:29 together. Who is Jesus talking to in Mark 4:20-25 Jeremy? What about Matthew 24:3 in relation to 25:14-30? Or do you believe that the Synoptics misinterpreted Jesus?
The terms Kingdom and Son of Man may not be in the text of Matthew 25:14-30, but Matthew placed it in the context where those phrases appear constantly (start in chapter 24). Your understanding of the passage makes no sense in the greater context. Remember Jeremy, Luke 19:11.
Jeremy Myers says
Yes. But where did Jesus go to receive His Kingdom? Was it to heaven or to earth? That is, did Jesus receive His kingdom when he went from heaven to earth or from earth to heaven?
Furthermore, when Jesus tells the Parable of the Minas, is he talking about the future or the present (at that time)? Maybe the return of the nobleman is not some future event we are still waiting for, but was instead accomplished when Jesus came from heaven to earth in the incarnation.
Also Jeremy, read Matthew 13 all the way, very carefully, and pay attention to verses 10-17. Jesus is the one who will take away what people don’t have in this passage. Cross-reference this to Mark 4 in its entirety as well.
Jeremy Myers says
Right, but I believe Jesus is referring to spiritual truth and understanding, not to rewards. The “seed” is the “mysteries of the kingdom” (Matt 13:11) or the “word of the Kingdom (Matt 13:19). It is about truth and teaching that is accepted and understood (Matt 13:23). Compare Luke 8:11.
Jeremy Myers says
Thanks for all the comments. Much food for further thought. I am continuing to study this passage, and will post updates later.
I would love to read Chay’s paper, since that subject is what I wrote my Master’s Thesis on. Any chance you could get it?
Hi Jeremy. I actually e-mailed Fred Chay a while back, and he never responded. I wanted to know how he handled the Social Science framework overall. I would love to read the thing too! As far as the Talent parable is concerned, I’m aware that the typical Social Science approach is to say that the Master in the Parable of the Unjust Servant is not like the one in the Parable of the Talents. Since the Master in 24:45-51 wanted his servants to take care of the other servants, they affirm the traditional interpretation that Jesus is the Master. But because they get too literal with the Parable of the Talents, they see this patron as a cruel human who wants to exploit the poor through his other servants, and the unprofitable servant who refuses to do so is the one we should give a cup of cold water to in the next parable, the Sheep and the Goats.
There’s just too much working against this view. Jesus doesn’t approve of the sons of the kingdom in outer darkness in 8:12. Don’t get me wrong, the 20/21st century free enterprise interpretation of the Talent parable is wrong. The idea that talents refers to gifts/abilities isn’t too accurate either. I think he’s using the rough/limited-good imagery, but not intending it literally. It seems to refer to us believers advancing the Kingdom by evangelizing and discipling the world, as we’ve been commissioned to do. Mark 4 and Matthew 13:10-17 make it clear that Jesus told parables so some wouldn’t understand, only insiders (believers) were to understand. In Mark 4 and Matthew 13, Jesus is approvingly taking away from those who don’t have. So peasants who saw the unprofitable servant as the hero didn’t get it – they would have been thinking too literally. I say 25:14-30 still has Jesus as the Patron who went to a far country, and is coming back to judge how well we spread the good news.
Also, some social science guys believe that Jesus didn’t say the words of 25:29 at this occassion about taking away from those who don’t have. They believe Matthew demonized the unprofitable servant by having Jesus approve of this saying. Most of the social science guys say Jesus did say the words of 25:29, but didn’t approve of the saying. Both views maintain that the unprofitable servant is the hero. One sees Matthew as misunderstanding Jesus, and the other sees Jesus as actually saying the words of 25:29, but not approving of it! Again Mark 4, Matthew 13, Luke 19:11 can’t be ignored.
Preacher's Grandkid says
The honor culture is a noble idea, but I am still left with a question –
What about Matthew 25:30, where it states, “and casts ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Your interpretation seems to leave this verse out.
Jeremy Myers says
I am not sure exactly what your question is. I do not believe Matthew 25:30 is about hell, but about certain believers being excluded from the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. This would be incredibly dishonorable! The weeping and gnashing of teeth is a Hebraic way of saying “profound regret.”
Hope that helps a bit.
Chuck McKnight says
This is a very interesting view, one that I’ve never heard or considered before. But the text doesn’t say that the third slave hid the money because he was the courageous hero. It says that he hid it because he was afraid.
Furthermore, in the Matthew passage, this parable is immediately paralleled with the Son of Man (like the nobleman) returning to separate the sheep from the goats (just like the good servants from the bad) to reward the sheep (just like the good servants) and punish the goats (just like the bad servant).
This seems to be a case where Jesus gave the interpretation right after telling the parable.
Jeremy Myers says
Right. This way of reading the parable requires a whole reworking of how we interpret the details and understand the parallels with Christ.
becky McIntosh says
Hi I’m a bit late to the party and have just briefly read all these comments, but I ended up here because after reading the parable of the minas I read about the young Herod who lived in Jericho and had a remarkably similar story to that in Luke. And thought what? Why would Jesus compare himself to that guy?
And then when discussing that at a study we read the talents parable in Matthew and in the version we were reading (NLT) verse 31 actually says “But I…” and then Jesus goes on to talk about the parable of the sheep and goats.
I had never heard of the honor/shame cultural reading of the text. But if so it makes sense of the “but I “.
How come this is “but” is not in all the translations? It really links and compares the 2 parables, and how do we know which translation is truer to the original language meaning and culture?
Jeremy Myers says
The Greek word there is de which is usually translated as “but” as a contrasting conjunction. However, it can also be translated as “and” as a coordinating or comparing conjunction, and so it is difficult to know which way to translate the word.
Peter T. says
Being excluded from the wedding feast? If a person is saved, its only because they have Christs righteousness and perfection. As in the parable of the man that was in the feast but did not have on a white robe and was cast into outer darkness. He was cast out because he was not wearing the righteousness of Christ. He thought he could get in, but was never saved. Similar to the people in Matthew 7:21, who were relying more on their works and the works they did for Christ rather than Christ and the works He did for us. Its either faith in Christ and His work alone for salvation or no salvation at all. Everyone saved goes to the feast and everyone saved is the Grooms(Jesus) bride. We only can go to heaven and the feast based off of the works of Jesus Christ.
In my humble opinion the third servant never had faith. Just like the many people that either hear or read the word of God, and never believe. The same is as the servant that received the talent, but never believed which is why he never had a white robe and why he could not go to the feast. He never had on the perfect life of Jesus Christ.
Now you may ask, well then why is he a called a servant. It rains on the just and the unjust and all are used in Gods perfect plan. If a person is being used by God, then technically they are His servant. Just like the Pharaoh of Egypt when the Lord hardened and unhardened his heart. Even Judas who walked with Jesus and we know was not saved. I would say in my opinion that he was given talent. He walked with Christ and saw miracles and still yet never believed. The talent was wasted, because he never believed Jesus was his savior.
Also if we wear the perfect life of Christ then how could we ever add anything to it. At the end we throw the crowns at His feet, because all the work is His. We are invited to the feast by Gods saving grace. I have never invited myself to a party and have never been to a party where the person who invited me said you didn’t work hard enough so you must leave. However, I have been to parties where there is a certain dress code and if you were not wearing the proper attire you could not enter. Again to enter the feast we must being wearing the righteousness of Christ, that beautiful white robe GIVEN to us by our Lord and Savior.
There are two contradictory interpretation of this parable, I find this confusing, which one do you see as you present position?
Oh my goodness! Thank you for this!! I am in a Bible study and am preparing for the next lesson, which is the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. I was really, REALLY struggling with the “traditional” interpretation. It was the 3rd servant and the phrase, “I was afraid”, that totally spun me around. What I had always been taught about this parable suddenly made no sense! I actually began to think my group might stone me if I shared my thoughts.
I continued to research and found your article…thank you for your insight. You are indeed, one of the faithful ones. 🙂