Gospel of Saint Lawrence Justinian

Matthew 25:14-23

At that time, Jesus spoke this parable to His disciples: A man going into a far country called his servants, and delivered to them his goods. And to one he gave five talents, and to another two, and to another one, to every one according to his proper ability: and immediately he took his journey. And he that had received the five talents went his way, and traded with the same, and gained another five. And in like manner he that had received the two gained other two. But he that had received the one, going his way, digged into the earth and hid his lord’s money. But after a long time the lord of those servants came and reckoned with them. And he that had received the five talents coming, brought other five talents, saying: Lord, thou didst deliver to me five talents, behold I have gained other five over and above. His lord said to him: Well done, good and faithful servant, because thou has been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. And he also that had received the two talents came and said: Lord, thou deliverest two talents to me, behold I have gained other two. His lord said to him: Well done, good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.


Verse 14. But that the apostles and all men might learn how they ought to watch, and to prepare for the last day, he subjoins another instructive parable of the ten talents. It has a great affinity with that mentioned in S. Luke, xix. 11. But this last was spoken at a different time, place, and occasion. It differs also in some points. — For even as a man, &c. This passage is to be understood of our divine Redeemer, who ascended to heaven encompassed by his human nature. The proper abode for the flesh is the earth; when, therefore, it is placed in the kingdom of God, it may be said to be gone into a far country. S. Gregory. — But when we speak of his divine nature, we cannot say that he is gone into a far country, but only when we speak of his humanity. Origen.

Verse 15. In the parable of the talents, the master is God, talents, graces, &c. Wi. — From this, it appears, we can do no good of ourselves, but only by means of God’s grace, though he requires our co-operation; since the servants could only make use of the talents given them to gain others. (A talent is £187 10s.) It is also worthy of remark, that both he who received five and he who received only two talents, received an equal reward of entering into the joy of our Lord; which shews, that only an account will be taken according to what we have received, and that however mean and despicable our abilities may be, we still have an equal facility with the most learned of entering heaven. Jans. — The servant to whom this treasure was delivered, is allegorically explained of the faithful adorers of God, in the Jewish law, who departing from it, became followers of Christ, and therefore deserving of a double recompense. . . . . The servant to whom the two talents were delivered, is understood of the Gentiles, who were justified in the faith and confession of the Father and the Son, and confessed our Lord Jesus Christ, God and man, composed of body and soul; and as the people of the Jews doubled the five talents they received, so the Gentiles, by the duplication of their two talents, merited a double recompense also. . . . But the servant who received only one talent, and hid it in the ground, represented such of the Jews as persisted in the observation of the old law, and thus kept their talent buried in the ground, for fear the Gentiles should be converted. S. Hilary.

Verse 18. He that had received the one. The man who hid this one talent, represents all those who, having received any good quality, whether mental or corporal, employ it only on earthly things. S. Gregory. — Origen is also of the same sentiment: if you see any one, says he, who has received from God the gift of teaching and instructing others to salvation, yet will not exercise himself in this function, he buries his talent in the ground, like this unworthy servant, and must expect to receive the like reward.

Verse 19. After a long time. This represents the time that is to intervene between our Saviour’s ascension and his last coming. For, as he is the Master, who went into a far country, i.e. to heaven, after he had inculcated the relative duties of each man in his respective state of life; so shall he come at the last day, and reckon with all men, commending those who have employed their talents well, and punishing such as have made a bad use of them. S. Jerom.

Verse 20. I have gained other five. Free-will, aided by the grace of God, doth evidently merit as we see here.

Catena Aurea

14. For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. 15. And unto one he gave rive talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. 16. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. 19. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. 20. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 22. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 24. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: 25. And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. 26. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: 27. Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received my own with usury. 28. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. 29. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. 30. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

GLOSS. (non occ.) In the foregoing parable is set forth the condemnation of such as have not prepared sufficient oil for themselves, whether by oil is meant the brightness of good works, or inward joy of conscience, or alms paid in money.

CHRYSOSTOM. This parable is delivered against those who will not assist their neighbours either with money, or words, or in any other way, but hide all that they have.

GREGORY. (Hom. in Ev. ix, l.) The man travelling into a far country is our Redeemer, who ascended into heaven in that flesh which He had taken upon Him. For the proper home of the flesh is the earth, and it, as it were, travels into a foreign country, when it is placed by the Redeemer in heaven.

ORIGEN. He travels, not according to His divine nature, but according to the dispensation of the flesh which He took upon Him. For He who says to His disciples, Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world, (Mat. 28:20.) is the Only-Begotten God, who is not circumscribed by bodily form. By saying this, we do not disunite Jesus, but attribute its proper qualities to each constituent substance. We may also explain thus, that the Lord travels in a far country with all those who walk by faith and not by sight. And when we are absent from the body with the Lord, then will He also be with us. Observe that the turn of expression is not thus, I am like, or The Son of Man is like, a man travelling into a far country, because He is represented in the parable as travelling, not as the Son of God, but as man.

JEROME. Calling together the Apostles, He gave them the Gospel doctrine, to one more, to another less, not as of His own bounty or scanting, but as meeting the capacity of the receivers, as the Apostle says (1 Cor. 3:2.), that he fed with milk those that were unable to take solid food. In the five, two, and one talent, we recognise the diversity of gifts wherewith we have been entrusted.

ORIGEN. Whenever you see of those who have received from Christ a dispensation of the oracles of God that some have more and some less; that some have not in comparison of the better sort half an understanding of things; that others have still less; you will perceive the difference of those who have all of them received from Christ oracles of God. They to whom five talents were given, and they to whom two, and they to whom one, have divers degrees of capacity, and one could not hold the measure of another; he who received but one having received no mean endowment, for one talent of such a master is a great thing. His proper servants are three, as there are three sorts of those that bear fruit. He that received five talents, is he that is able to raise all the meanings of the Scriptures to their more divine significations; he that has two is he that has been taught carnal doctrine, (for two seems to be a carnal number,) and to the less strong the Master of the household has given one talent.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) Otherwise; The five talents denote the gift of the five senses, that is, the knowledge of things without; the two signify understanding and action, the one talent understanding only.

GLOSS. (ord.) And straightway took his journey, not changing his place, but leaving them to their own freewill and choice of action.

JEROME. He that had received five talents, that is, having received his bodily senses, he doubled his knowledge of heavenly things, from the creature understanding the Creator, from earthly unearthly, from temporal the eternal.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) There are also some who though they cannot pierce to things inward and mystical, yet for their measure of view of their heavenly country they teach rightly such things as they can, what they have gathered from things without, and while they keep themselves from wantonness of the flesh, and from ambition of earthly things, and from the delights of the things that are seen, they restrain others also from the same by their admonitions.

ORIGEN. Or, They that have their senses exercised by healthy conversation, both raising themselves to higher knowledge and zealous in teaching others, these have gained other five; because no one can easily have increase of any virtues that are not his own, and without he teaches others what he himself knows, and no more.

HILARY. Or, That servant who received five talents is the people of believers under the Law, who beginning with that, doubled their merit by the right obedience of an evangelic faith.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) Again, there are some who by their understanding and their actions preach to others, and thence gain as it were a twofold profit in such merchandize. This their preaching bestowed upon both sexes is thus a talent doubled.

ORIGEN. Or, gained other two, that is, carnal instruction, and another yet a little higher.

HILARY. Or, the servant to whom two talents were committed is the people of the Gentiles justified by the faith and confession of the Son and of the Father, confessing our Lord Jesus Christ, to be both God and Man, both Spirit and Flesh. These are the two talents committed to this servant. But as the Jewish people doubled by its belief in the Gospel every Sacrament which it had learned in the Law, (i. e. its five talents,) so this people by its use of its two talents merited understanding and working.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) To hide one’s talent in the earth is to devote the ability we have received to worldly business.

ORIGEN. Or otherwise; When you see one who has the power of teaching, and of benefitting souls, hiding this power, though he may have a certain religiousness of life, doubt not of such an one that he has received one talent and hides it in the earth.

HILARY. Or, This servant who has received one talent and hid it in the earth is the people that continue in the Law, who through jealousy of the salvation of the Gentiles hide the talent they have received in the earth. For to hide a talent in the earth is to hide the glory of the new preaching through offence at the Passion of His Body. His coming to reckon with them is the assize of the day of judgment.

ORIGEN. And note here that the servants do not come to the Lord to be judged, but the Lord shall come to them when the time shall be accomplished. After a long time, that is, when He has sent forth such as are fitted to bring about the salvation of souls, and perhaps for this reason it is not easy to find one who is quite fit to pass forthwith out of this life, as is manifest from this, that even the Apostles lived to old age; for example, it was said to Peter, When thou shalt be old, thou shall stretch forth thy hand; (John 21:18.) and Paul says to Philemon, Now as Paul the aged.

CHRYSOSTOM. Observe also that the Lord does not require the reckoning immediately, that you may learn His long suffering. To me He seems to say this covertly, alluding to the resurrection.

JEROME. After a long time, because there is a long interval between the Saviour’s ascension and His second coming.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) This lesson from this Gospel warns us to consider whether those, who seem to have received more in this world than others, shall not be more severely judged by the Author of the world; the greater the gifts, the greater the reckoning for them. Therefore should every one be humble concerning his talents in proportion as he sees himself tied up with a greater responsibility.

ORIGEN. He who had received five talents comes first with boldness before his Lord.

GREGORY. (Hom. in Ev. ix. 2.) And bringing his talents doubled, he is commended by his Lord, and is sent into eternal happiness.

RABANUS. Well done is an interjection of joy; the Lord shewing us therein the joy with which He invites the servant who labours well to eternal bliss; of which the Prophet speaks, In thy presence is fulness of joy.

CHRYSOSTOM. Thou good servant, (Ps. 16:11.) this he means of that goodness which is shewn towards our neighbour.

GLOSS. (non occ.) Faithful, because he appropriated to himself none of those things which were his lord’s.

JEROME. He says, Thou wast faithful in a few things, because all that we have at present though they seem great and many, yet in comparison of the things to come are little and few.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) The faithful servant is set over many things, when having overcome the afflictions of corruption, he joys with eternal joy in that heavenly seat. He is then fully admitted to the joy of his Lord, when taken in to that abiding country, and numbered among the companies of Angels, he has such inward joy for this gift, that there is no room for outward sorrow at his corruption.

JEROME. What greater thing can be given to a faithful servant than to be with his Lord, and to see his Lord’s joy?

CHRYSOSTOM. By this word joy He expresses complete blessedness.

AUGUSTINE. (de Trin. i. 8.) This will be our perfect joy, than which is none greater, to have fruition of that Divine Trinity in whose image we were made.

JEROME. The servant who of five talents had made ten, and he who of two had made four, are received with equal favour by the Master of the household, who looks not to the largeness of their profit, but to the disposition of their will.

ORIGEN. That He says of both these servants that they came, we must understand of their passing out of this world to Him. And observe that the same was said to them both; he that had less capacity, but that which he had, he exercised after such manner as he ought, shall have no whit less with God than he who has a greater capacity; for all that is required is that whatever a man has from God, he should use it all to the glory of God.

GREGORY. (Hom. in Ev. ix. 3.) The servant who would not trade with his talent returns to his Lord with words of excuse.

JEROME. For truly that which is written, To offer excuses excusing sins (Ps. 141:4.) happened to this servant, so that to slothfulness and idleness was added also the sin of pride. For he who ought to have honestly acknowledged his fault, and to have entreated the Master of the household, on the contrary cavils against him, and avers that he did it with provident design, lest while he sought to make profit he should hazard the capital.

ORIGEN. This servant seems to me to have been one of those who believe, but do not act honestly, concealing their faith, and doing every thing that they may not be known to be Christians. They who are such seem to me to have a fear of God, and to regard Him as austere and implacable. We indeed understand how the Lord reaps where He sowed not, because the righteous man sows in the Spirit, whereof he shall reap life eternal. Also He reaps where He sowed not, and gathers where he scattered not, because He counts as bestowed upon Himself all that is sown among the poor.

JEROME. Also, by this which this servant dared to say, Thou, reapest where thou sowedst not, we understand that the Lord accepts the good life of the Gentiles and of the Philosophers.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) But there are many within the Church of whom this servant is a type, who fear to set out on the path of a better life, and yet are not afraid to continue in carnal indolence; they esteem themselves sinners, and therefore tremble to take up the paths of holiness, but fearlessly remain in their own iniquities.

HILARY. Or, By this servant is understood the Jewish people which continues in the Law, and says I was afraid of thee, as through fear of the old commandments abstaining from the exercise of evangelical liberty; and it says, Lo, there is that is thine, as though it had continued in those things which the Lord commanded, when yet it knew that the fruits of righteousness should be reaped there, where the Law had not been sown, and that there should be gathered from among the Gentiles some who were not scattered of the seed of Abraham.

JEROME. But what he thought would be his excuse is turned into his condemnation. He calls him wicked servant, because he cavilled against his Lord; and slothful, because he would not double his talent; condemning his pride in the one, and his idleness in the other. If you knew me to be hard and austere, and to seek after other men’s goods, you should also have known that I exact with the more rigour that is mine own, and should have given my money to the bankers; for the Greek word here (ἀζγύριον) means money. The words of the Lord are pure words, silver tried in the fire. (Ps. 12:6.) The money, or silver, then are the preaching of the Gospel and the heavenly word; which ought to be given to the bankers, that is, either to the other doctors, which the Apostles did when they ordained Priests and Bishops throughout the cities; or to all the believers, who can double the sum and restore it with usury by fulfilling in act what they have learned in word.

GREGORY. (Hom. in Ev. ix. 4.) So then we see as well the peril of the teachers if they withhold the Lord’s money, as that of the hearers from whom is exacted with usury that they have heard, namely, that from what they have heard they should strive to understand that they have not heard.

ORIGEN. The Lord did not allow that He was a hard man as the servant supposed, but He assented to all his other words. But He is indeed hard to those who abuse the mercy of God to suffer themselves to become remiss, and use it not to be converted.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) Let us hear now the sentence by which the Lord condemns the slothful servant, Take away from him the talent, and give it to him that hath ten talents.

ORIGEN. The Lord is able by the might of His divinity to take away his ability from the man who is slack to use it, and to give it to him who has improved his own.

GREGORY. (Hom. in Ev. ix. 5.) It might seem more seasonable to have given it rather to him who had two, than to him who had five. But as the five talents denote the knowledge of things without, the two understanding and action, he who had the two had more than he who had the five talents; this man with his five talents merited the administration of things without, but was yet without any understanding of things eternal. The one talent therefore, which we say signifies the intellect, ought to be given to him who had administered well the things without which he had received; the same we see happen every day in the Holy Church, that they who administer faithfully things without, are also mighty in the in ward understanding.

JEROME. Or, it is given to him who had gained five talents, that we may understand that though the Lord’s joy over the labour of each be equal, of him who doubled the five as of him who doubled the two, yet is a greater reward due to him who laboured more in the Lord’s money.

GREGORY. (Hom. in Ev. ix. 6.) Then follows a general sentence, For to every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance, but from him that hath not, even that which he seemeth to have shall be taken away. For whosoever has charity receives the other gifts also; but whosoever has not charity loses even the gifts which he seemed to have had.

CHRYSOSTOM. Also he who has the graces of eloquence and of teaching to profit withal, and uses it not, loses that grace; but he who does his endeavour in putting it to use acquires a larger share.

JEROME. Many also who are naturally clever and have sharp wit, if they become neglectful, and by disuse spoil that good they have by nature, these do, in comparison of him who being somewhat dull by nature compensates by industry and painstaking his backwardness, lose their natural gift, and see the reward promised them pass away to others. But it may also be understood thus; To him who has faith, and a right will in the Lord, even if he come in aught short in deed as being man, shall be given by the merciful Judge; but he who has not faith, shall lose even the other virtues which he seems to have naturally. And He says carefully, From him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have, for whatsoever is without faith in Christ ought not to be imputed to him who uses it amiss, but to Him who gives the goods of nature even to a wicked servant.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) Or, Whoso has not charity, loses even those things which he seems to have received.

HILARY. And on those who have the privilege of the Gospels, the honour of the Law is also conferred, but from him who has not the faith of Christ is taken away even that honour which seemed to be his through the Law.

CHRYSOSTOM. The wicked servant is punished not only by loss of his talent, but by intolerable infliction, and a denunciation in accusation joined therewith.

ORIGEN. Into outer darkness, where is no light, perhaps not even physical light; and where God is not seen, but those who are condemned thereto are condemned as unworthy the contemplation of God. We have also read some one before us expounding this of the darkness of that abyss which is outside the world, as though unworthy of the world, they were cast out into that abyss, where is darkness with none to lighten it.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) And thus for punishment he shall be cast into outer darkness who has of his own free will fallen into inward darkness.

JEROME. What is weeping and gnashing of teeth we have said above.

CHRYSOSTOM. Observe that not only he who robs others, or who works evil, is punished with extreme punishment, but he also who does not good works.

GREGORY. (Hom. in Ev. ix. 7.) Let him then who has understanding look that he hold not his peace; let him who has affluence not be dead to mercy; let him who has the art of guiding life communicate its use with his neighbour; and him who has the faculty of eloquence intercede with the rich for the poor. For the very least endowment will be reckoned as a talent entrusted for use.

ORIGEN. If you are offended at this we have said, namely that a man shall be judged if he does not teach others, call to mind the Apostle’s words, Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel. (1 Cor. 9:16.)

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