Based on my experience, if you ask a Bible-believing business professional to name a passage of the Bible that relates to doing business, the person will most likely first mention the “Parable of the Talents” (Matthew 25:14-30). Here are five reasons why I think this parable resonates with Christian business professionals.
The Parable of the Talents gives us a perspective of God that we don’t usually hear about in modern churches on Sunday morning. In this parable, God isn’t being presented as Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Savior, Friend, Creator, or Miracle-Worker. He is being portrayed as a businessman.
Approximately 90 percent of the working population in the United States works in a for-profit company. Because they spend a significant portion of their lives in a business setting, viewing God as a businessman comes quite naturally for many of these business professionals.
In the parable, the Master gave a clear challenge and assignment to his stewards: “bring back more money than I’m giving you.”
Business professionals like a good challenge when it is accompanied by clear expectations, especially when it comes to generating income.
The stewards in the Parable of the Talents worked in an economic system in which they could be rewarded in proportion to their efforts and productivity. The parable seems to imply that God rewards hard work, an ethic that any successful business professional can appreciate. Business professionals enjoy working in environments where they can be rewarded for their diligence and results.
In the parable, the diligence and productivity of the two faithful stewards is contrasted with the slothfulness of the “wicked, lazy slave” (Matt. 25:26). Not only does God reward diligence, he punishes laziness. This is how the marketplace works, and business professionals usually can appreciate that.
Although the Master didn’t give each of the three stewards equal amounts of currency, they each received at least one talent to invest. A single talent was equivalent to the standard pay for approximately 20 years of labor (about $500,000 USD), a significant amount of money.
Before the master went away on his journey, he told three of his stewards, “I’m leaving, and I’m placing you three in charge.” The master would not have entrusted his possessions to the stewards if he didn’t trust them.
The parable seems to imply that God has entrusted a certain amount of decision-making autonomy to his people. Consider what God has entrusted to his people:
When the Master returned from his journey, he said to one of the two diligent stewards, “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:23). Accepting and honoring the Master’s trust resulted in even more responsibilities for the two faithful stewards.
When the Master returned, notice that he didn’t say to them, “Now give me my money and get back to work!” Instead, he invited them to “enter into the joy of your master.” In other words, he wanted them to recognize that they were in partnership together. He didn’t view them merely as peons and tools to get things done. He wanted them to see things from the Master’s perspective.
More than stewards, we are “heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). The Parable of the Talents helps to illuminate this reality for us. God wants to partner with us. He wants us to see things the way He sees them.