Since it involves the distributions and use of money — called “minas” — the Parable of the Ten Minas (or Ten Talents) is often interpreted from a financial angle. I actually don’t think it’s truly about money, though it does contain some obvious lessons about the resources we are given.
Let’s start by taking a look at the parable.
Luke 19:12-26 (NIV)
He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’
“But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’
“He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.
“The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’
“‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’
“The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’
“His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’
“Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’
“His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’
“Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’
“‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’
“He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away.
Is the Parable about Money?
Though Jesus uses money in the parable, it’s unlikely that He was talking about it specifically, particularly in regard to growing it. We have to remember that Jesus came into the world not for money, but for people. The money reference therefore was most certainly only symbolic.
Consider also, that if Jesus had any money at all the Bible doesn’t tell us as much. As well, we have no examples in which Jesus sends his disciples out with money that needs to be grown in order to honor Him. Clearly, He was using this parable to describe something other than money, even though money is used to tell the story. Pure speculation on my part here, but maybe Jesus was using money because He knew that it would help His listeners to understand what He was trying to tell them.
A common non-monetary interpretation of the parallel — and the one I believe to be correct — is that Jesus was describing how the Kingdom of God would flow, and what our responsibilities would be in helping it do so.
Very briefly, the king in the parable is Jesus Himself (“…went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return”). The two servants who grew their minas to five and ten, were those followers who embraced the mission and multiplied what they had been given. They would each be given cities to rule over (great in the Kingdom).
The servant who hid the money in fear was given the same resources, but did nothing with them because He didn’t really believe (or even disagreed). Finally we have those who didn’t want Him to be king — the citizens of the country he visited. They would be killed (the Judgment) for their lack of belief in him.
Using the Time and Talents You’ve Been Given
The minas in the parable, I believe, are representative of resources God gives us to do the work of the Kingdom on Earth. First, there are spiritual resources. It starts with the gift of salvation; once we have it we’re to tell others of it (sharing). Then there’s revelation. Each of us have varying degrees of spiritual revelation. We can think of it as spiritual understanding where God opens our eyes to various teachings, and it’s a way of reaching out to others on a different level.
We’re also given resources in the form spiritual gifts. In Romans 12:6-8, the Apostle Paul lists some of these as prophesying, serving, teaching, encouragement, giving, leading and showing mercy.
We also have skills that can be used to spread the Gospel. We’re all spread across the employment and business spectrum and that gives us a chance to witness to those who don’t believe. God can use us where ever we are. In addition, by being good at the occupational work we do, we display integrity to those around us. And sometimes, we can even use our work skills to help others. Think about an accountant who helps another believer (or non-believer) with his tax returns, or a repairman who helps with repair work at church. Each of us can witness wherever we are and in different ways through our skills.
Finally, there’s time. We don’t always think of it as a resource, but it is. We can use what time we have to volunteer at church, to help our neighbors, and to witness to others.
Each of these are resources that have nothing to do with money. I think this is what the minas symbolize in the parable.
There Might be a Money Connection . . .
Does money fit into this parable at all? Even though it’s not as important as we may interpret it to be at first glance, I think it’s in there too.
Like all the items listed above, money is also a resource. It can be used to further the Kingdom. Money can be used to do this by using it to support the church, to help the hurting and by supporting outreach ministries. And if it frees up the holders time, it can allow him or her to do mission work or to participate in outreach efforts closer to home.
There’s also the matter of stewardship. Like all resources, money is to be grown and preserved (as opposed to hoarded). Properly managed, money can be used as a resource in the advancing of the Kingdom. By having money, you can be in a position to help others and provide the financing to spread the Gospel.
Money isn’t the mina, but it is a component.
Whatever the mina is, whether it’s revelation, spiritual gifts, talents, time — or money — our greatest goal should be to use it to further the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. And when our lives are over we’ll hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21)
What do you believe this parable is about? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!