The parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 and the parable of the Minas in Luke 19 seem so similar, and yet many details don’t line up. Are they teaching about the same thing or different things about Eternal Rewards?
(This post is part of a series on Eternal Rewards.)
Both the parable of the Talents and the parable of the Minas teach that believers (i.e., the slaves) are called to serve Christ (i.e., the master) in His absence, and upon His return, Jesus will reward us. As you observed, the parables are not identical, because they are teaching two different aspects of the Kingdom reward system.
First, in Matthew 25 we read:
The Parable of the Talents
Matthew 25:14-30 (NKJV)
The Parable of the Talents
14 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling 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.’
In the parable, a master gives his slaves “talents” to steward during His absence. A talent in Jesus’ day was a measure of weight of about 130 lb or nearly 60 kg. A talent of silver was equal to 9 years salary for a laborer, so even a single talent represented considerable personal resources. In fact, our modern meaning of the word “talent” finds its origins in this parable. Eternal Rewards
The three slaves received differing amounts of wealth based on their ability. Evidently, the master recognized the abilities and limitations of each servant, so he assigned responsibility to each accordingly. Regardless of the degree of responsibility, each slave was expected to devote his full-time and attention to managing the talent(s) he was given. Even the slave who received only one talent still had significant responsibility in light of the high value of talent. Therefore, all slaves must serve faithfully in the master’s absence.
At the end of the parable, the master returns and evaluates each slave’s service seeking to know if the slave had been faithful in discharging his duty. The first slave doubled his five talents as did the slave given two talents, so both slaves received the same commendation from the master.
Even though the master assigned a different degree of responsibility to each slave, he did so understanding each slave’s ability, therefore when both slaves performed faithfully, the master awarded each slave equally. The master’s commendation to each slave in verse 21 and verse 23 was identical and emphasized each slave’s faithful service rather than the magnitude of his achievement. Only the third slave received a rebuke for failing to provide faithful service to his master. Eternal Rewards
Based on these details, we see Jesus is describing a reward system for believers. Christ (i.e., our master) invites every believer (i.e., His slaves) to serve Him during His absence. A talent in the parable symbolizes a believer’s duty to serve the Lord faithfully in some important and challenging way, and the way we are called to serve the Lord will vary in keeping with our abilities.
Jesus calls some believers to assume greater burdens than others. Some believers must bear greater burdens in serving Christ’s (i.e., five talents), while other believers are asked to make fewer sacrifices in serving the Lord (i.e., two talents). Nevertheless, all believers are expected to demonstrate faithfulness so as to receive an equal inheritance.
A faithful servant’s reward is a share of Christ’s inheritance in the Kingdom. The Bible teaches explicitly that believers will receive a portion of Christ’s inheritance on the Earth to enjoy during the 1,000-year Kingdom:
Colossians 3:23-24 (NKJV)
23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
Colossians 1:12 (NKJV)
12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.
Ephesians 1:11,14 (NKJV)
11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,
14 who (which) is the guarantee (earnest) of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
The parable is focused on Christ’s inheritance as seen in verse 14 by the way the parable opens speaking about the master’s “possessions.” In fact, notice how each faithful slave was permitted to keep the additional talents he earned during the master’s absence. In a sense, we can say the slaves stored up wealth for themselves by their faithful service to the master. Scripture commands the believer to do this very thing:
Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJV)
Lay Up Treasures in Heaven
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
We store up treasure by faithfulness to our assigned duties in service to Christ, not the magnitude of our accomplishments. Christ may assign us lesser opportunities to serve Him, but our assignment does not limit our potential inheritance. For example, a pastor serving faithfully in a small church and a Christian mother serving faithfully in her home may be rewarded equally with the Apostle Paul or Martin Luther, assuming equal faithfulness.
In a related parable, Jesus addresses the criteria for assigning material reward in the Kingdom:
The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
Matthew 20:1-16 (NKJV)
The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.2 Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.3 And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,4 and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went.5 Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour and did likewise.6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’7 They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’
8 “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’9 And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius.10 But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius.11 And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner,12 saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’13 But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”
This parable in Matthew 20 confirms that faithful service earns a material reward in the Kingdom, and all believers who serve the Lord faithfully will receive an equal inheritance regardless of when we were “hired.” Even those assigned the least role to serve Christ (i.e., the one receiving only a single talent) are still expected to rise to the challenge and demonstrate faithfulness, and if they do they will receive an equal reward.
Finally, the third servant who produced no return received no reward at all. In the parable, Jesus says the slave was “afraid” of the master and “went away” after the master departed, which indicates the slave did not love the master nor did he wish to remain in the house serving him. When the master returns, he calls this slave “wicked” and “lazy.” The slave is sent to “outer darkness.” In other words, the slave’s faithlessness demonstrated he was truly no servant at all, which resulted in the master putting him out of the home.
The Bible teaches that without faith it is impossible to please God, and so this final slave was included in the parable to reinforce the necessity of faith before reward. The slave’s unwillingness to serve his master was proof that he was faithless. He was never truly a disciple, so he was sent to outer darkness, which pictures the disposition of unbelievers (i.e., hell).
In summary, Matthew’s parable teaches that faithfulness in service to Christ will determine our inheritance in the Kingdom. Believers may be assigned different opportunities to serve Christ, but faithful service will be rewarded equally. As Jesus said elsewhere:
Luke 16:10-12 (NKJV)
10 He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?12 And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?
Moving to Luke 19, Jesus teaches a similar parable yet with significant differences:
The Parable of the Minas
Luke 19:11-27 (NKJV)
The Parable of the Minas
11 Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. 12 Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return.13 So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas (about 3 month’s salary), and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’
15 “And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.16 Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’18 And the second came, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’1 9 Likewise, he said to him, ‘You also be over five cities.’
20 “Then another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief.21 For I feared you because you are an austere (severe or strict) man. You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’22 And he said to him, ‘Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow.23 Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’
24 “And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to him who has ten minas.’25 (But they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas.’)26 ‘For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.27 But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.”
Here we find a story that’s familiar in the broad outline, yet numerous details differ from the parable in Matthew. Let’s focus on the differences in Luke’s parable.
First, a master departs again with the intent to return. He leaves to receive a new kingdom. As the master goes, he leaves ten slaves behind commanding them to “do business” until he returns. The Greek word for “do business” (pragmateuomai) means to keep occupied, to busy oneself. So the slaves are expected simply to pursue everyday life, not some special project or task.
Secondly, the unit of weight in this parable has changed from a talent to a mina. In Jesus’ day one mina was equal to 1/60th of a talent, so a mina represented considerably less value than a talent. Once again, the relatively modest payment to each slave is consistent with the master’s charge to “do business.”
Thirdly, every slave received the same number of minas. No slave was given an advantage in this assignment since all had the equal task of doing business.
Fourth, when the master returned he assigned rewards proportional to each slave’s performance. Those who accomplished more with their minas received a proportionally greater reward.
Finally and most significantly, the form of the reward was not more wealth but authority over cities. Since the master had received a new kingdom, he needed men to assist him in ruling this new territory, so he assigned responsibility in the new kingdom according to each slave’s performance in everyday matters. The slaves who went about everyday business more effectively were deemed worthy of greater responsibility in managing the new kingdom.
These differences in Luke’s parable lead us to conclude that Jesus was teaching on a second kind of Kingdom reward system. While Matthew’s parable taught how believers receive material wealth in the Kingdom, Luke’s parable teaches how the Lord will assign believers responsibility to rule in the Kingdom.
Scripture teaches that in addition to receiving an eternal inheritance in the Kingdom, believers may also receive a place of ruling in Christ’s Kingdom government:
Revelation 20:4 (NKJV)
The Saints Reign with Christ 1,000 Years
4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
1 Corinthians 6:2 (NKJV)
2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
Luke 22:28-30 (NKJV)
28 “But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials.29 And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me,30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
According to Luke 19, the Lord will use different criteria for assigning responsibility than used for assigning wealth. What are the criteria for receiving responsibility in the Kingdom? Our first clue is the prominent repetition of the number ten in this parable. For example, the master initially calls ten slaves (though only three are judged), and each slave received ten minas.
The number ten in scripture signifies testimony or witness, indicating this parable is focused on a believer’s testimony not his degree of service. Further reinforcing this conclusion, the slaves were told to do business, which means pursue everyday activities. A believer’s good testimony is not a special work or short-term task. Rather, we are called to live our entire life as a daily testimony to our faith, as Paul says:
Romans 12:1 (NKJV)
Living Sacrifices to God
12 I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
Our witness for Christ is accomplished through our good works as Jesus said:
Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV)
14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
The “good works” Jesus mentions in Matthew 5:16 are the works of sanctification, of shining our light before men, and when Paul says a believer must present his body as a living sacrifice to the Lord, he is speaking of crucifying the passions of our flesh and walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:24). Those who pursue sanctification in this way are producing good works and good testimony. Those who live in their flesh are grieving the Holy Spirit and failing to produce a good testimony.
Just as every slave began with an equal number of minas, so every believer has an equal opportunity to yield a good testimony. The Lord does not “handicap” one believer over another in the call to be sanctified. Though our life’s circumstances, spiritual gifts, and mission may vary. Nevertheless, every believer receives the same Spirit, has access to the same word of God and therefore must answer the same call to godliness. As Jesus said:
Matthew 5:48 (NKJV)
48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
The test is whether we will obey this command as we do business on earth? The believer who yields a good testimony in this life is demonstrating to Christ he is worthy to be entrusted with greater responsibility in the Kingdom. Therefore, a believer’s testimony of godliness will determine his or her ruling position in the Kingdom.
This judgment is proportional: a believer with a better testimony will be awarded a greater opportunity to serve in the Kingdom, while a believer with a poorer testimony will receive a lesser degree of authority in the Kingdom. Those believers who obey the Spirit in seeking sanctification by the washing of the water with the word (Ephesians 5:26-27) will receive a reward of authority proportional to their obedience.
Ephesians 5:26-27 (NKJV)
26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
Conversely, those who squander their opportunities to seek a good testimony will receive less opportunity to serve Christ in the Kingdom.
The Lord awards authority proportional to the quality of a believer’s testimony because spiritual maturity is an essential factor in competent spiritual leadership, therefore who better to receive greater authority in the Kingdom than the one who has achieved greater spiritual maturity during the present world? As Jesus said:
Luke 12:48 (NKJV)
48..For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him, they will ask the more.
In the case of the slave who produced no results with his minas, the master’s judgment is a denial of reward just as it was in Matthew, but unlike in Matthew 25, this slave is not consigned to outer darkness. This distinction reflects how every believer has eternal security regardless of the degree of our sanctification. Faith is required for salvation but a good testimony is not. A believer with a poor testimony who fails to pursue sanctification will still be saved by their faith and cannot be denied the Kingdom, as Paul says:
2 Timothy 2:11-13 (NKJV)
11 This is a faithful saying:
For if we died with Him,
We shall also live with Him.
12 If we endure,
We shall also reign with Him.
If we deny Him,
He also will deny us.
13 If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.
The Lord cannot deny Himself (i.e., His promises to the believer), so the Lord remains faithful. Nevertheless, a believer who denies Christ, a testimony of sanctification will be denied an opportunity to reign with Christ in the kingdom, as Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:12.
It’s worth noting that Luke’s parable still includes the example of an unbeliever, though the unbeliever in Luke’s parable is called an “enemy,” not a slave. This distinction makes sense, since Luke’s parable isn’t focused on faithfulness but rather a testimony, and discussions of testimonies are only relevant for believers.
To summarize the differences between the two parables, faithful service leads to equal Inheritance (the talents), while better testimony leads to greater authority (the minas). Our inheritance in the Kingdom will be determined by what we do for Christ, while our authority in the Kingdom will be determined by who we become in Christ.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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