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§ 257. Parable of the Talents (Matt., xxv., 14-30) compared with that of the Pounds (Luke, xix., 12).

The parable of the talents (Matt., xxv.) is evidently allied to that of the pounds690690   Cf. p. 348. (Luke, xix., 12); but there are points of difference too striking to be ascribed to alterations in transmission. In the latter, each of the servants receives the same sum, one pound, and their position in the kingdom is assigned according to their gains. In the former, different sums are intrusted to the servants in proportion to their ability, and those who bring gains in the same proportion are rewarded accordingly. The aim, therefore, of Luke’s parable is to represent different degrees of zeal in the management of one and the same thing, granted to all alike; of Matthew’s, to show that one’s acceptance does not depend upon his powers, or the extent of his sphere of labour, but upon faithfulness of heart, which is independent of both. If the different number of talents in the latter parable represents different spheres of labour, greater or less, corresponding to different measures of power, then the one pound in the former must represent the one common endowment of Christians—the one Divine life or the one Divine truth received into the life in all believers—the one Divine power, proving itself by its fruits in all who partake of it—but yet admitting of different degrees of fruitfulness according to the completeness with which it is willingly received and appropriated. These points of difference in the two parables presuppose that they had different objects. That of the talents aimed to intimate that the reward depends upon the motives, not upon the amount of one’s labours, except so far as this might be affected by the disposition of the heart; and perhaps, also, to rebuke ambition and jealousy among the disciples themselves. That of the pound, on the other hand, was designed to stimulate the zeal of the Apostles in their labours for the kingdom of God, and encourage them to a holy emulation.

In both parables the servant who makes no use of the capital intrusted to him is condemned. But in Matthew this servant is precisely the one to whom only one talent is given; representing, perhaps, those who, with inferior powers, have insufficient confidence, and make the smallness of their gifts and the narrowness of their sphere of labour a plea for inactivity; such as say, comparing their talents and opportunities with those of others, “What can be expected of me, to whom so little has been given?” Here again, then, faithfulness and zeal, not the 373measure of gifts, are made prominent. In the parable of the pounds, the one pound is taken away from the negligent servant and given to him that gained most; in harmony with the scope of the parable, that which the negligent one never truly possessed (because he never used it) is transferred to him who proved himself worthy of the trust by gaining most. It is not so in the parable of the talents; here equality in motive and disposition is the main point, so that the quantitative differences disappear, and he who with five talents gains other five deserves no pre-eminence on that account. The feature, therefore, given in Matt. xxv., 28, is not so appropriate to his parable as to Luke’s; at all events, it belongs only to the filling up of the picture in the former, while in the latter it is a prominent feature.


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