On “Talents” and “Talanton”

Youth Devotional Blog 05/20

Written by: Intern Sam B. Nguyen
Scripture Reading: Matthew 25:14-30
Fun Fact: The English word “talent” is drawn from the Greek “talanton”, which refers to a sum of money or a measure of weight. The generally agreed upon explanation is that a person who had a lot of “talanton” must have been very skilled or very good at what they did. Therefore, “talanton” eventually grew to refer to someone who is good at what they do, and that transformed into the word “talent” as we understand it in English today. Keeping that in mind as we look into today’s passage, we can reveal an interesting truth in what Jesus teaches.

The passage outlines a parable that Jesus shares with his disciples, where a master (or employer) gives each of his servants a number of talents before going on a journey. When the master returns, he discovers that most of his servants turned their talents into investments that allowed them to grow his money. However, one servant who was given the least talents — just one — hid his away so that he wouldn’t lose it and returns that single talent back to the master. This servant is severely punished.

Reading this passage using the original meaning of “talent”, a sum of money, we see a story about investment and about giving. The master gives money to his servants, rewarding those who can use the money well and punishing those who do not. However, if we use the modern use of the term “talent”, we can realize a new and interesting meaning in the parable. In that reading, each servant is given a number of abilities, and while some use it well to serve their master, the one who hides away his ability — however small it might be — has done wrong by the master. Similarly, we are each given different abilities and gifts by God, but it is up to us to use those abilities, those talents, well to serve each other and serve God, regardless of how great or little those talents may be. We cannot hide it away simply because we believe it is little.