The parable of the talents began in this manner:
“For it [that is, the circumstances connected with the kingdom of the heavens] is just as when a man, about to travel abroad, summoned slaves of his and committed to them his belongings. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, to still another one, to each one according to his own ability, and he went abroad.”—Matt. 25:14, 15.
The “man” is Jesus Christ. He was soon going to take a long trip “abroad,” back to his Father in heaven. Jesus was going to do this after his death and resurrection. There he was to sit down “at the right hand of God, from then on awaiting until his enemies should be placed as a stool for his feet.” (Heb. 10:12, 13) It would be a long time until he received from his Father the command to take full kingdom power, but at that time he would first inspect and reward his “slaves.” He would expect them to be at harmony, attending to his ‘business,’ and not at odds with one another. After the inspection was completed he would oust his enemies from the earth, as shown at Luke 19:15-27.—Ps. 110:1-3.
THE “BELONGINGS” ENTRUSTED TO THE “SLAVES”
Now, this “man” had “belongings” to leave in charge of his “slaves” until he would return with kingly power. What belongings of great value did Jesus Christ have? He did not have money, great possessions of land or buildings. Neither did he have recognition of authority from the political governments. He was put to death by the Roman Empire at the insistence of the Jews. What, then, did he have to entrust to his “slaves”?
It was a set of values different from the kind of belongings just mentioned. During his ministry in the flesh Christ had been seeking first the kingdom of his heavenly Father. By his preaching and teaching he had cultivated a field, he had built a potential into this field—a latent power to bring forth disciples. This was the estate that he left to his disciples.
It is obvious that Jesus had more than three “slaves.” So the three different “slaves” who were depicted in the parable would represent all the prospective joint heirs of Christ for whom he has covenanted for the heavenly kingdom. There would be persons from all walks of life, old and young, men and women. (Compare Acts 1:14; 8:12.) But these differences of circumstance and age were to be no barrier to unity—all would do the same work.
In the fulfillment of the parable the Master saw to it that no one got more than he could handle, “according to his own ability.” The “five-talents” class of that first century evidently included the apostles, to whom the greatest responsibility was given. (Rev. 21:14; Eph. 2:20-22) They were of great assistance to the “two-talents” class in taking care of their responsibilities.
All the “slaves,” like the ones in the parable of the minas, were ‘to do business until he came.’ (Luke 19:11-13) It would be Jesus’ business, the King’s business, and the obedient slaves would therefore have to be at unity of thought and action. Christ is not divided against himself. (1 Cor. 1:10) His “slaves” would certainly not promote his business by working against one another, as in Christendom, where one sect teaches one thing and another sect teaches another.
In the parable itself the “ability” of the slaves, the basis on which the talents were proportioned, would be physical or mental ability. In the fulfillment, however, was it physical or mental ability that was represented? No doubt such would be valuable if channeled in the right direction and used properly. But the “ability” here represents the spiritual possibilities that are to be found in the Christian “slave” who is in line for the heavenly kingdom. The zeal, the willingness, the eagerness that he has, all contribute to these possibilities. This is in harmony with the principle that “God has set the members in the body, each one of them, just as he pleased.”—1 Cor. 12:18.
The Master, Jesus Christ, has committed something to these “slaves,” no matter whether they prove to be in the “five-talents” class or the other classes mentioned in the parable. On their part, they must also have or contribute something. What they can contribute complements the valuable thing entrusted to them, and enables them to cultivate the spiritual estate, the “field” left by the Lord Jesus Christ. It would help them, as a class or united group, to reap new disciples.