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The talents.


In our Savior's lifetime, a talent was a significant amount of money. A talent was equal to 60 minaes, and a mina was equal to 100 dinarii (pence). A worker might earn one dinarius a day. The parable says 'talent' for the sum of all goods God gives to a human, those material, psychical, and spiritual. Material "talents" are riches, favorable conditions of life, beneficial social status, and good health. The psychical "talents" are a bright mind, good memory, a variety of abilities in the arts and handicraft, the gift of eloquence, courage, delicacy, compassion and many other qualities that the Creator put in us. Moreover, to facilitate our success in doing good, the Lord sends diverse gifts of grace to our help, the spiritual "talents." The Apostle Paul wrote about them in his First Epistle to Corinthians: "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge…To another faith…to another the gifts of healing…To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy…But all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will" (I Cor. 12:4-11).

"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. 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. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. 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. 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. 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. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; though hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 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: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. 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: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him, which hath ten talents. 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. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Mt. 25:14-30).

In line with this parable, it should be concluded that God does not require anyone to do something above his power or abilities. However, the talents they have received make one accountable. A person must "multiply" them for the benefit of the Church and his neighbors, and it is important to develop one's good properties. In fact there is a very tight connection between visible works and the state of the soul. The more good one does, the richer one becomes in spirit, and the more perfect in virtues. Things external are inseparable from things internal.

The parable of the minaes is very much like the parable of the talents, and we omit it here. In both parables, people self-loving and slothful towards good are depicted by the wretched servant who hid the riches of his lord. The wretched servant did not have to rebuke his lord's cruelty, for the lord asked less from him than from the others. The phrase, "put my money to exchangers" must be understood as an instruction that a man who does not have the initiative and ability to do good must at least try to help others to do so. In any case, however, there is no person who has none of these abilities at all. Everyone can believe in God and pray for himself and others, and this prayer is such a holy and useful act that it can substitute for many good works.

"For unto every one that hath shall be given, but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." These words are mostly about the reward in the future life: whoever is becoming spiritually rich in this life will become yet richer in the life to come, and contrariwise, one lazy in the spiritual life will lose even the little that he used to possess. To a certain degree, the truth of this quote is confirmed every day. People who do not develop their spiritual capabilities lose them little by little. When a man stays sated and supine, his intelligence gradually dulls, his will weakens, his senses wane and his entire body and soul languishes. The human becomes disabled and vegetative, like grass.

If we thoughtfully review the deep meaning of these parables about the rich fool and the talents, we will recognize what a tremendous crime we commit against ourselves when we waste away the time and power that God has granted to us in idleness or unnecessary fuss. In this we steal from ourselves. This is why we must attune ourselves to doing good every minute of our life, directing our every thought and wish toward God’s glory. Serving God is not a necessity but a great honor!

The following series of parables is dedicated to the two virtues that are especially significant in human life: <see next chapter>

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