Matthew 25:20-21

And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, “Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.”

One of the curious linguistic coincidences in Scripture is that “talent” has a double meaning for us.  In today’s passage, a “talent” refers to a unit of money worth more than 15 years of a laborer’s wages.  But, by a happy coincidence, it also evokes (in the minds of English speakers) the modern meaning of “special ability or gift.”  This is good, because it helps us see clearly what often mystifies modern readers about the conclusion of the parable of the talents.  The moral is not that the King is absurdly generous toward diligent servants and unduly harsh toward timid people.  It is rather what we all learned in tap dance class, gymnastics, or piano lessons: use it or lose it.  Biblical talents are simply images of any grace God has given us.  We must exercise the muscle of grace or it will wither.

Mark Shea


Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog and regularly blogs for National Catholic Register. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.

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