By Genelle Austin-Lett

Categories: The Bible


In modern English, what are talents? How can we know what our individual talents are and how to make the best use of them? How can we be sure we are not burying our talents and we are actually improving on them?


Excellent question. Most Bible dictionaries refer to talents as a monetary unit in either silver or gold. Most agree it is worth over $1000. Many translations also refer to it as a monetary exchange. What's interesting is that this section is often referred to as the Little Apocalypse (Matt 24-25). Jesus had just finished a long day in Jerusalem. It was the Tuesday before his crucifixion. As evening was fast falling around, Jesus took his disciples to the Mount of Olives where he spoke to them in code. His disciples would understand, but his enemies wouldn't. Since this was "code," Jesus wasn't necessarily talking about money but the talents needed to start his church. Jesus told his disciples several parables at this time in preparation for laying the foundation of church.

Edith Armstrong Hoyt in Studies in the Bible for the Modern Reader (p.130B) refers to the parable of the talents in (Matt 25:14-30) as abilities. She speaks of spiritual wealth as opposed to monetary wealth. Hoyt says, "The use of the English word, as talents in music, sports, etc, came from this source. Jesus taught that men differ in talents. But all have some talent. No man is without some gift essential to the building of his dominion. Each one must prove his stewardship, individually as well as nationally. There are many more one talent men than five talent men. Every man is needed, and especially the one talent men, to bring fulfillment and completeness. To use what one has, means that one enters into the joy." It is important to use what we each possess.

As far as the last part of your question, prayer reveals how to use the talents God has given us. I find I Cor. 12 a helpful chapter on looking at individual talents and how they fit in serving the church. You might want to look at the following translation of Paul's letter to the Corinthians from Eugene Peterson's The Message.

"What I want to talk about now is the various ways God's Spirit gets worked into our lives. This is complex and often misunderstood, but I want you to be informed and knowledgeable. God's various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:

  • wise counsel
  • clear understanding
  • simple trust
  • healing the sick
  • miraculous acts
  • proclamation
  • distinguishing between spirits
  • tongues
  • interpretation of tongues.

All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when."

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