Gold - did you know?

A Talent or A Talent!

It has always been a general deduction from most research that approximately five percent of the population fits into the „financially successful‟ group of people. In the United States of America, for example, 6.88% of the population controls 90% of the investable capital within the economy. The same rule fairly well applies to all other capitalistic economies.

On that note, let‟s take a brief look this week at an old Sunday School biblical parable. Recorded in the accounts of the first four books of the Bible known as the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the first teaching of the parable took place just a little under 2,000 years ago, sometime between 30 and 33 AD. The following account is from the book of Matthew:


14 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man travelling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also.

18 “But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord‟s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.

20 “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, „Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.‟ 21 His lord said to him, „Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.‟ 22 He also who had received two talents came and said, „Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.‟

23 His lord said to him, „Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.‟

24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, „Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.‟

26 “But his lord answered and said to him, „You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.

29 „For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.‟”


The word „Talent‟ comes from the Old English word „talente,‟ a derivative from the Latin word „talenta‟ or „talentum‟ meaning a sum of money; also the Greek word „talanton‟ meaning again a unit of money or weight. In Medieval Latin centuries later the sense of the word was extended in the 14th Century to ability with money through the influence of theologians‟ interpretations of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). However, the word has evolved in modern language today to multiple broader meanings which include an individual‟s skills and abilities which do not include money; yet the word‟s origin tells us a lot about the true meaning in the parable.


The Talent was one of several ancient units of mass as well as corresponding units of value equivalent to masses of Gold and Silver. It was approximately the mass of water required to fill an amphora, a vessel for measuring liquids or bulk goods in the Roman Empire and for estimating the size of ships and the production of vineyards.

Around the surrounding regions of Israel the „Talent‟ was a common measure. A Greek, or Attic Talent, was 26 kilograms (917 oz.), a Roman Talent was 32.3 kilograms (1139 oz.), an Egyptian Talent was 27 kilograms (952 oz.), and a Babylonian Talent was 30.3 kilograms (1068 oz.). At the time of the recording of the Parable given above, the Hebrew Talent was 34.2 Kilograms (1206 oz.) of Silver.


To truly understand the parable, it must be read in context to the correct definition of what a Talent really is simply because the modern broader meaning of the word did not exist at the time of the parable‟s inception.

In the parable, the first servant received five Talents, the second two Talents, and the third received one Talent. Using the weights above, one Talent was equivalent to approximately 1,206 oz. of Silver which was approximately two year‟s salary for the common man of this era and region. Even in today‟s monetary inflationary environment, 1,206 oz. of Silver is currently valued at approximately just over US$22,200. Once understanding the weight of a talent in Silver, the parable takes on a whole new perspective. The first servant received ten years in salary, the second four years in salary and the third two years in salary equivalent.


In the parable, the master (or „lord‟ in this account) returns after many days away to take stock of what the servants have done with his Talents of Silver. I find it interesting how the parable mentions „after many days‟, because in a practical sense, true investing requires many days, weeks, months and usually years before a return is quantifiable. Too many people in today‟s world are myopic in their outlook as well as impatient for returns on investment. They don‟t have what it takes for the long haul.

As an example, I have known of orchard farmers who have planted fruit trees but not had fruit come from the tree in the first full season or the second full season. It was not until the third or fourth season when the tree bore fruit for the orchard farmer, yet he followed all the steps involved. He had control over the ground he planted in, the type of seed he used and the care he gave throughout the season, but still the tree did not bear fruit until it was ready to do so. Investing is no different at times! Patience is a virtue – Take note here.


The first two servants are commended, yet the master is angry with the third one. He is happy with the first and second servant, not just because of their return on investment, but also primarily because they actually stepped out in faith to invest, to try to increase, to learn, to better themselves in the process even if they risked failure. They were not lazy or afraid to roll up their sleeves physically and mentally.

However, the third servant didn‟t fare so well. He lacked the faith and withheld because of fear - fear of his master, fear of failure and fear of losing what he already had. To express his extreme displeasure, the master called him lazy and compared laziness with fear and wickedness. What the third servant had was taken from him and given to those who were not lazy but prepared to do something with their lives in faith.

I remember reading that if all the money worldwide was divided up evenly among the rich, middle class and the poor, within a given time span, the rich would become rich again, the middle class would return to the middle class and the poor would become poor again. It is generally true that the rich take financial risks, the middle class are more fearful and want only „safe‟ or „sanitized‟ risks, and the poor rarely want to risk at all, rather they grasp what they have and want to be given more.

At certain times and events in their lives, successful people can point to key junctions where steps of faith were taken. They risked failure and in some cases actually failed but then learned, grew and improved themselves to become better stewards and able to accept more responsibility. You see, with much comes much more responsibility, and taking on more responsibility requires a person to be disciplined and not lazy. Matthew the writer makes note when recording what is being taught in the parable when the master calls the third servant not just lazy but also wicked!


Jesus of Nazareth, a great man in my opinion, who spoke and taught the Parable of the Talents also said, “For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.” Principles as taught in the parable regarding the lazy and wicked servant and sayings such as „For you have the poor with you always‟ alongside of my opening statistic that only five percent of our population is financially successful - these all have a familiar similarity from a principle perspective.

What are you doing with your Talents?

Until next time,

Simon Heaps

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