The Parables of the Ten Minas and Five Talents

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Contents

Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27

Synopsis of Parables:

A nobleman was going to go far away to receive more land and called his servants to him. He gave one mina each to ten servants. [Alternatively, he gave five talents to one servant, two to another, and one to one servant.] While the nobleman was gone, his servants traded what they were given so that they had more. When he returned, he gave each person a number of cities to rule equal to the number of minas they gained. When he found a servant who did nothing with his mina/talent, so he took that mina/talent from the servant, berated him, and then gave the mina/talent to the one with ten minas/talents.

Parable Given in Response to:

The last verse before the Parable of the Five Talents was Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. Matthew 25:13 This came after the Parable of the Ten Virgins,(Matthew 25:1-13.) which came during Jesus's Olivet Discourse.(Matthew 24:3.)

It is possible that the Parable of the Ten Minas was also spoken on the Mount of Olives, because the verse preceding it says, And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought the kingdom of God should immediately appear.Luke 19:11 There is nothing immediately preceding the parable that indicates Jesus and his followers would think the Kingdom of God is near. Instead, the context is about Jesus meeting and staying at Zacchaeus' home in Jericho,(Luke 19:1-10.) which is decidedly not near Jerusalem.

Symbolism Chart

Symbol Meaning Verse Found Notes
↓ Minas/Talents Earthly Means Matthew 25:15
Luke 19:12
↓ Nobleman Jesus Matthew 25:14
Luke 19:12
↓ Servants Children of God Matthew 25:14
Luke 19:13
↓ Gained Talents/Minas Fruit of our Labors Matthew 25:16
Luke 19:15
↓ Judgment The Judgement Matthew 25:19
Luke 19:22
Regarding who is
chosen into the
kingdom.

The Parable of the Five Talents

As presented in the King James Version of Matthew 25:14-30

Matthew 25:14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.
19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The Parable of the Ten Minas

As presented in the King James Version of Luke 19:11-27

Luke 19:11And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.
12He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.
13 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.
14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.
15 And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.
16 Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds.
17 And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.
18 And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds.
19 And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities.
20 And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin:
21 For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow.
22 And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow:
23 Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?
24 And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds.
25 (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.)
26 For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.
27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.

Explanation of the Interpretation of Symbols

The Minas/Talents are Our Earthly Means Back to Top ↑

First, a note on the dictionary. A "mina" is the same thing as a "pound" in the Parable of the Minas. The KJV translators decided to translate the Greek "μνᾶ," mina, to "pound." However, the parable has been traditionally called the Parable of the Ten Minas, so do not be confused by the difference in terminology between the title and the parable.

The talents and minas that are given to each servant represent their earthly means to do the will of their nobleman. In the Parable of the Five Talents, Jesus says this clearly: And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Matthew 25:15 Here, some servants were given different amounts of talents because the nobleman thought they would handle the additional money better. However, the reward for each servant was the same. The nobleman said to both of them, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Matthew 25:21, 23 They each doubled their initial amounts, so in at least one aspect, they each did the same amount of work, and therefore are worthy of the same reward.

However, the Parable of the Ten Minas is different. Here, ten servants are each given one mina.(Although we only hear about the judgment of three of them. Luke 19:13.) The servants were each given the same amount, one mina. But what they did with the mina, and how many more they gained differs from the other parable. Likewise, so to is the reward. The servant that earned ten minas was rewarded twice as much as the servant that earned five minas.

When the playing field was leveled, the amount of effort put in resulted in more rewards, but when the playing field was unequal, the same amount of effort resulted in the same reward. So what can we conclude from this? Even though we may be given different abilities, circumstances, talents, personalities, and preferences, God will judge us based on what we did with what he gave us, and when he does this, he will reward us for our effort done.

Consider this, Jesus will hold responsible a person who has access to the internet and the ability to program more than others because they are able to spread Jesus's word motr than a person who lacks hands and cannot type. The advantages between the two are vast, one can make a website and spread the word to thousands, the other one is limited. Yet since they have a different playing field, God will judge each by their own efforts, and not by their circumstances. Likewise, a person who lived in the 1200s, did not have access to the bible, and only heard sermons in Latin,(a language they did not speak) would also be judged vastly different from the modern man who can write and speak one of the languages that the bible has been translated in, and can even read from their phone such a thing.

Jesus said, Many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first. Matthew 19:30 cf. Matthew 20:16; Mark 10:31 and this is probably one reason. We, as the human race, have never had the ability to delve into Jesus as deeply as we do right now. Directly after the ascension, there were no gospels written, and already the self-proclaimed apostle was leading away many people. Then his own writings were declared canonical, and shortly afterwords the Catholic church knowingly suppressed the common people from learning about God and Jesus from the scriptures.

So do not be discouraged in spreading the word for simple reasons like a lack of money, lack of technical skills, lack of social skills, or even a lack of appearance. God judges what is inside.(1 Samual 16:7.)

It is also important to note that the talents(and while not said, presumably the minas too) were the nobleman's "possessions." If God created the earth,(Genesis 1:9-11.) and formed man of the dust of the ground,Genesis 2:7 then do we not completely belong to the Lord? Even if we mine millions of pounds of iron and bang it into a house, does not the house that is built from the earth the Lord made, on the earth the Lord made, also belong to him? Just as the talents belonged to nobleman, so too do we, and our abilities, belong to God.

Most denominations hold that the meaning of the symbol of the talents and minas is similar to that written here. Some would say that they represent only "God-given" gifts to a person, but nearly every gift a person has was earned. No one sits down with a violin for the first time and plays it well, it is only with time and ability that they will be able to play wondrous music. Nevertheless, some people may have a propensity to being able to play the violin that other may not have. For instance, a person lacking a hand will likely not play the violin as well as a person with two functional hands.

As this is a common interpretation, this changes little-to-none established theology.

The Nobleman is Jesus Back to Top ↑

In the Parable of the Five Talents, the word "nobleman" does not appear. However, we are using the term "nobleman" to represent the master who owns the servants, to avoid confusion. In the Parable of the Ten Minas, the master is clearly labeled as a "nobleman."

Yet again, we find that a central figure in a parable is Jesus. Jesus left us to go back to the father,(John 16:5.) just as the nobleman in the parables left to go to a far country,(Matthew 25:14, Luke 19:12.) and like these noblemen, he too will come back.(John 14:3.)

Some may think the nobleman represents God, but God does not leave us and return to us. Yet, Jesus did, and so we know that the nobleman represents Jesus. This is standard in most denominations, and so this interpretation will probably not change any dogma any particular believer believes in.

The Servants are the Children of God Back to Top ↑

Here, the servants are those within the kingdom of God.

We see this because the noblemen expect their servants to gain with their given talents or minas. He even has the servants give a reckoning of what they did. This is similar to Jesus, who commanded his disciples to Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15 And of course, Jesus will judge us.(John 5:22.) Jesus says, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. John 5:25-29

There is not really any other interpretation for the symbol. An explanation saying that the servants are prophets (which they have represented in other parables) does not really make sense, as God has never thrown out a true prophet.

This is the only logical interpretation, and it does not really change any theology. Some denominations may say that the kingdom of God has not yet come. They're wrong, but they have a legible interpretation by changinig the meaning from “Children of God” to “Christians.”

The Gained Talents/Minas is the Fruit of our Labors Back to Top ↑

Here is an interpretation that might seem interesting. The gained talents and minas represent what we work for and have accomplished. It does not represent additional earthly means.

This interpretation goes well with other sayings from Jesus. Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Matthew 7:17, 18 Comparing the lazy servants who did nothing with their given money with those who were profitable, we can see who was producing good fruit and who was rotten. It was obvious to the nobleman who was rotten.

The servant hid away their talent or mina for earthly reasons.(Fear or hatred. See Matthew 25:25 and Luke 19:20.) The result was that nothing was gained. The same thing happens to those people who do not use what they have to lay up treasures in heaven. They gain nothing for eternity. This reinforces the idea that the gained talents and minas represent the fruits of our labors... only when looking at it from God's perspective.

Let us give a modern example. What will Jesus probably say to a person who has watched adorable cat videos on the Internet all day, instead of working for him? Jesus will probably say, Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (See Matthew 6:2, 5, 16.) What is the reward? The event of watching cute kittens! Sadly, we cannot bring this to heaven. Ultimately, it is time spent wasted.

Jesus says, For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:21, Luke 12:34 If you spend all day watching cat videos, sharing them with friends, bookmarking them, re-uploading them.... that is your treasure. Congratulations, ye have received your consolation.Luke 6:24b


Some other interpretations of this symbol rely on misleading information. In both parables, the lazy servant has their talent or mina taken away. It is given instead to the profitable servant.(Matthew 25:28; Luke 19:24.) Some people say the currency represents actual currency that you can be given from God by doing well with the currency that you have. This does not make much sense, however. First, the servants, the talents and the minas all already belong to the nobleman.(As already discussed above.) They do not belong to the servant, so if the nobleman says "give unto him more," that is merely more currency that the servant is now managing for the nobleman than before, so it makes little sense to interpret the additional currency as real life money.

Second, it does not seem that Jesus cares if we are rich. In fact, he prefers that we were poor, because he says, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:23 Jesus equates earthly riches with those with have earned earthly riches. Seems obvious, but listen to Jesus, But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Luke 6:24 He is saying that those same riches that were earned shall be their consolation. Why do they need consolation? Because they stored a treasure that can be stolen or corrupted, which Jesus advises against.(Matthew 6:19, 20; Luke 12:33.) Those who are rich here on earth seem to be in the same category as those whom Jesus called "hypocrites," saying Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. Matthew 6:2, 5, 16 The reward being what they have on earth!

It makes little sense to say that this parable deals with obtaining more earthly treasures. That would go against quite a bit of Jesus's teaching, and since Jesus only spoke the truth, we must throw out the incorrect interpretation, and not the truth.

Regardless, interpreting the additional talents and minas as the fruit of our labor is a rather standard interpretation. Some apply it only to be interpreted as heavenly treasures, and that is the way we lean here. However, by expanding the interpretation slightly, we can account for much more, such as what happens when a servant is lazy and does nothing.

The Judgment is the Judgment Back to Top ↑

The judgment of the servants represents the judgment of those in the kingdom of God. Note that since we already identified that servants as those belonging to the kingdom, we are excluding those who are clearly not in the kingdom, such as atheists or others that do not claim to listen to Jesus.

This results in the unusual interpretation that Jesus will not take everyone in the kingdom of God into eternal life. We have already been discussed in the Parable of the Net of Fish, but our current parable serves as reinforcement to the ideas presented there.

Given our current interpretations, there can be no other interpretation for this symbol. No matter how much people believe that they are eternally secured upon doing an action, Jesus himself teaches otherwise. Jesus himself even teaches that those in the kingdom of God may not live eternally. For many are called, but few are chosen. Matthew 22:14

More poignantly to this parable, Jesus says, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Matthew 7:21 What gets a person into heaven? Doing the will of the Father. The parables of the talents and minas represent this. When the servants did what their master wanted, they earned more money for their master, and were rewarded. When we do what God wants us to do, it will be the same. We will earn more followers, more believers in the kingdom of God, for him. For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. Matthew 12:50

Differences Between the Two Parables Back to Top ↑

While we present both parables together, they are two separate parables. It may be beneficial to consider the differences between them.

In the Parable of the Ten Minas, the nobleman leaves to receive a new kingdom, and tells his ten servants to "occupy," that is, to keep busy while he was gone. He did not tell his servants to do anything special. Contrast this with the Parable of the Talents, here we have three servants who are given three different amounts of talents, according to their abilities. He did not give them an order to do anything with the money, nor did he tell them where he was going or why. However, given that two of the servants ended up doubling their money, we can assume these servants knew that they should try to earn more talents.

Next, we have the difference in value between the mina and talent. In terms of currency, a mina was worth a sixtieth of a talent in Jesus's day. A mina was worth roughly eighty-eight denarii, although some equal it to a hundred denarii. One denarius is an average person's wage for a day's work. Putting this into USD, a denarius might be worth around $100, a mina around $8,800, and a talent $528,000. These numbers may be off a little, but they should give a rough estimate of how much money this was.

Next, in the Parable of the Talents, each servant was given according to their ability. In the Parable of the Minas, each servant was given one mina. They each had a level playing field.

Next, in the Parable of the Talents, the nobleman rewarded his working servants equally, saying thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Matthew 25:21, 23 However, in the Parable of the Minas, the nobleman gave one city for each one mina in possession of his servants,(Luke 19:16-19.) except for the man who did nothing with the mina he was given.

In the Parable of the Five Talents, the unprofitable servant went out of his way to work hard to do nothing with his talent. He went and dug a hole to bury the talent.(Matthew 25:25.) He would have to, presumably, dig the hole back up to give the talent back. This is surely much more difficult(and with a higher risk of losing the money!) than going to the bank to store the money. It's a good representation for the rewards we get for laboring hard on tasks that mean nothing to God. We work hard... and earn nothing. Compared to the Parable of the Ten Minas, the lazy servant merely put the mina in a napkin,(Luke 19:20.) and could not even be bothered to take it to the bank. This is also a good representation of what occurs when you waste your time doing nothing for the Lord. You gain nothing.

So these two parables are different parables, however they echo a similar story and meaning: if you do not utilize what you are given, then you will be cast out.

In Conclusion Back to Top ↑

The parables of the talents and minas are good parables to learn about how Jesus sees his unprofitable servants. Such a lesson can be learned by reading about Jesus's and his apostles' actions in the canonical gospels. They never sat around doing nothing, they were always moving about, teaching and preaching the gospel of the kingdom. However, by putting it into a parable, Jesus brings this matter to the forefront of our attention.

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