Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew) is the Parable of the Talents. Long before “talent” meant a God-given skill or ability, a talent meant a large unit of measurement (and its related value in gold or silver). So what’s a talent?
A talent of silver equals 6,000 denarii (1 denarii = 1 day’s pay), what the average worker earns in 20 years. In today’s dollars, about $500,000 – meaning that the servants were trusted with $2,500,000 (5 talents), $1,000,000 (2 talents), and $500,000 (1 talent).
Each servant got the money to start a business, and time to get that business up and running before reporting back. To the people Jesus told this parable to, it sounds a first century version of Shark Tank, with the servant who did nothing being told “What are you, nuts?”
So where does our idea of a talent as a God-given skill or ability come from? This parable.
More on this tomorrow.