The Parable of the Talents in a Financially Unstable World

Exploring new meaning behind Jesus' parable of the talents through a simpler, more literal interpretation of the parable in the greater context of what Jesus says is to come in the end times.

Traditional Takeaways from the Parable of the Talents

Jesus gives his disciples the parable of the talents as he talks with them about the end times on top of the Mount of Olives in a teaching known as the Olivet Discourse. Just after Jesus finishes talking about the birth pains, the abomination of desolation, the great tribulation, and a few other parables (Matthew 24-25), he gives the parable of the talents, where Jesus teaches us about three servants in charge of their master's wealth (talents as their master goes away on a long trip (Matthew 25:14-30).

Quite frankly, the predominant, modern American church interpretation of this parable is quite watered down. The following article by the Geneva College titled, The Importance of Cultivating God's Blessings, teaches on Jesus' parable and leaves the reader with four main takeaways:

  1. We were placed on earth to work, and God rewards those who put effort into bettering their lives and the lives of those in their community.
  2. We will be granted exactly what we need to fulfill God's bidding, and it is our responsibility to use our talents to the best of our ability.
  3. We should not compare our talents to those of others but be grateful for and make the most of what we have received.
  4. We will eventually be held accountable for our contributions or lack thereof, and we should recognize the opportunities we receive and make the most of them.

While these four takeaways don't necessarily represent an incorrect interpretation of the parable by any means, they are fairly broad, somewhat ethereal/spiritual, and do not provide the reader with immediate, actionable steps they can take to live more like Jesus wants his disciples to live (which is the ultimate point of the parable).

The Literal Takeaway

I'd like to add one more simple, actionable takeaway that Jesus gave his disciples (in both that time and his disciples in the future) by specifically choosing to illustrate the end times with an allegory of servants caring for their master's finances. Simply, my additional takeaway is a more literal interpretation of the parable: to invest the money God has put in your control in a way that's pleasing to God, especially when God is showing the world that the appointed time of the end is near.

At first glance, this may contradict the parables that Jesus just gave. Why would we have to prepare ourselves financially if just a few verses before Jesus indicated that there is to be a pre-tribulation rapture (reference the parable of the bridesmaids and Jesus' short illustration about the days of Noah)? After all, if the church is not on the earth for the tribulation, then we don't have to worry!

However, even if the church doesn't suffer during the tribulation (because God raptured us), we, as Bible-believing followers of Jesus, still have a responsibility to look out for the people left behind on the earth after the rapture. God still loves the faithless that will be left on earth after the rapture, so we should look out for them out of love; and yet further, looking out for these people includes looking out for them with our money/investments.

If one considers even earlier verses about the greater context of the tribulation, that person would soon realize that the world (and the church) will experience discipline through God's just judgment before the last seven years of this generation! During the birth pains (Matthew 24:4-14), when the church is still walking on this earth, Jesus explains that there will be wars, famines, earthquakes, changes in the world order (rise of the antichrist), and great deception.

Thus, Jesus, with the parable of the talents, is telling his church (his disciples, the audience of the Olivet Discourse) that during birth pains, we are to financially prepare for the days of great tribulation that lie ahead!

All of this information may seem overwhelming; I can relate. This is especially true if you consider that, effectively, Jesus is commanding his disciples to invest their money correctly during the unimaginable, economically turbulent situations that he just described, but God provides. In fact, he has already provided us with the only financial advice we need for these times in the same parable that he commands his church to allocate their financial resources wisely!

How Does this Apply to Me?

At the end of the parable, Jesus commends the two servants who invested their talents (i.e., gold and silver) and doubled their principle, and he punishes the servant who buried his portion in the ground and did not grow his master's wealth at all. It almost goes without saying that the master would have scolded the servants differently if the servant who buried his master's wealth generated the most wealth for his master when the master returned (because of the precious metal value of the currency's weight in gold and silver, for example).

In the economic conditions of the time, the parable's financial advice given to grow wealth, which was to actively invest in a business or store your money in the bank, may have been sound for the time according to modern financial wisdom. In 30 AD, the Roman talent was backed by and made of precious metals (which means the currency's rate of inflation could not easily be manipulated; they couldn't print dollars for free!) and the Roman empire still had lots of life left in it as it fell in about 476 AD (leaving plenty of time for the investments of Jesus' disciples to grow in the banks or in business).

At other times, however, this financial advice is not sound. For example, if someone were to hold $20 of physical gold versus $20 cash in an interest-earning savings account in the United States over the last 100 years, the gold would have generated more buying power than the savings account (calculations here). If we also consider the fact that the U.S. federal government has incentives to manipulate markets and data (because the U.S. fiat dollar currently has global reserve currency status) in order to strengthen the U.S. dollar against competing currencies and assets (such as stocks, bonds, and gold), then an even grimmer picture is painted of the U.S. dollar's performance over the last 100 years in an interest-earning savings account.

The writing of my interpretation of this parable comes at a time when global debt is racking up much faster than the global GDP is growing, and while banks are collapsing around us under the weight of that debt. These events are indicators that holding physical gold may continue to outperform the dollar and even widen its wealth generation performance margin just as it has done over the last 100 years.

The wealth generation performance margin of holding gold versus holding the dollar will increase; meaning, gold's buying power (real rate of return) will increase while the U.S. dollar's buying power will continue to decrease. This occurs when debtors with U.S. dollar-denominated debts begin to default en-masse (like Silicon Valley Bank and Credit Suisse) and the U.S. tries to print their way out of collapsing all while countries begin refusing U.S. dollars. At the same time, major economies around the world are making moves to create their own CBDCs (like America's FedNow and China's e-CNY). So, invest your money wisely!

According to Jesus in this parable, if you can't put Jesus' financial wealth that he gave you in an interest-earning savings account, then you should put his wealth in gold/silver and bury it in the ground or invest in a business (buying stocks that pay dividends, for example).

I'm not here to convince you that we are on the edge of a financial collapse and transformation, unlike anything we've ever seen in our lifetime (although I do think that we are). I'm really here to tell you that the Bible indicates that there will be financial strife and transformation unlike anything the world has ever seen until those days, and that is made known to us so we can prepare ourselves wisely when the Holy Spirit begins showing us the signs that Jesus talked about, which brings us back to the parable of the talents. Why else would Jesus have used this illustration of wisely investing in the same teaching where he's contextualizing the end times?

Lastly, if you still aren’t convinced that this parable could be Jesus telling his disciples to invest wisely at the end of times, we can confirm in Revelation that if we are truly in the end times then we should expect to see both economic strife and drastic transformation. Specifically, when Jesus is opening the 3rd seal, we see that a day's worth of food costs a day's wages, which is an indicator of hyperinflation and/or famine (Revelation 6:5-6). Later in the book (and in the tribulation), John describes the mark of the beast, which is a bio-technological device that exiles those who do not partake of it from participating in the mainstream global economy (Revelation 13:16-18) - this sounds a lot like the consequences for not taking the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021...

Jesus Gave this Responsibility to His Disciples

Jesus gave these instructions to all of his disciples, not just the 12 listening to the Olivet Discourse firsthand. As such, it's your responsibility as well, as an image-bearing human with free will, to decide whether you think we're living in the end times (the days Jesus was describing in the parable when our master is almost home from his long trip). Further, there are judgments/rewards that Jesus (the master) will dish out to us (his church) if we do/don't wisely invest the financial resources that Jesus trusted us with, regardless of if we are in the end times. Luckily, Jesus has your back until the end of time and beyond into eternity. He will help you invest your money wisely and help you become closer to him in the process if you call upon his name and read his word.

Jesus, please bless this post. I pray that I've clearly made the case that the parable of the talents (in the context of the other highly related scripture I presented) points towards economic strife and transformation leading up to and during the great tribulation period that has yet to come upon this earth. Further, I pray that I have made it clear to all readers' minds that one of Jesus' most important calls to action in this parable is that we are called to invest our financial resources wisely no matter when he decides to come back and judge the earth as he promised. Amen