The Parable of the Talents
Matthew Chapter 25:14-30
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
“20 So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ 21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
“22 He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ 23 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
“24 Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ 26 But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28 Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”
Jesus spent time telling His disciples that there was a coming judgement of the saved, and that they/we should be prepared to give an account of our lives. This chapter begins with the importance of being ready to meet the Lord. The Parable of the Ten Virgins (verses 1-13) reminds us that it is the people that have the Holy Spirit, symbolized by the extra oil, that will go in with the Bridegroom. Jesus is coming soon to receive those who are saved; we will disappear into Heaven and meet the Lord face to face for the first time. What a day that will be!
Now, we will look the next parable, The Parable of the Talents. In this parable we are not talking about salvation; rather, we are talking about service in the Kingdom of Heaven. This is very important for us to know and to understand. One CANNOT work your way to Heaven. No amount of ‘good works’ can make up for the disease of indwelling sin that is a part of all mankind. We cannot buy our way into Heaven. Rather, eternal life is a gift from God to us once we have trusted Jesus’ work on the cross and the resurrection for our salvation. There is no other way, no option and no plan ‘B’. So, with this in mind, let us jump into the lesson.
Jesus was preparing his apostles and other followers for His soon departure to Heaven. He is the ‘man travelling to a far country.’ Soon, He would be crucified, buried, raised and then ascended into Heaven. He promised us in John 14:1-6 that He would go ‘and come again’ to get us. The theme of the wedding/marriage that was central to the first parable of the Ten Virgins can also be seen here. Once there was a betrothal, the partners, male and female, were considered married. According to The Jewish Encyclopedia, under the heading Betrothal, written by Marcus Jastrow and Bernard Drachman, a betrothal was considered marriage in Bible times and specifically Deuteronomy 22:24 and 2 Samuel 3:14; the betrothed woman is addressed by the title ‘wife.’
We know from the Christmas story that Joseph would have had to divorce Mary, even though they were betrothed and not yet married. Jesus is picturing His return to Heaven to prepare a place for us, His bride, as was the custom. So, Jesus was doing exactly what a betrothed groom would do for his wife. But Jesus would not be back in a year as was the custom of weddings in that day. He would be a lot longer, as we can see since we are still here almost 2,000 years after His ascension, and He has not yet returned for us.
A second and maybe even a more accurate application is that of a man traveling to do business. At the time that Jesus lived, the majority of land travel would have been by horse, donkey or a caravan, like a horse-drawn carriage. By sea, the travel was by small ships driven by the wind. There were no motors to drive the ships; traveling was time consuming, tedious and often dangerous. Most of us have seen old western movies about the wagon trains taking settlers from the eastern parts of the US to the west. These were treacherous times, fraught with thieves, disease, wild animals and dangerous weather. One literally took your life in your hands to cross the country. So, when a man left to go to a far country, it was understood that he would be gone a long time. I don’t know if the apostles got this out of the parable, but we should. As mentioned before, it has been nearly 2,000 years since Jesus left to go and prepare a place for us.
When the master, Jesus, left, this was not a time to sit back and do nothing while drawing a paycheck. There was work to be done. The master calls his servant and issues them responsibilities in respect of their abilities. Each one had a job, and no job was more important than the other. This is important to understand; if God has called you to do something, He has equipped you to do it. In Matthew 18:18-19, Jesus gives the disciples an insight into the power they will have to do the work at hand.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I tell you truly that if two of you on the earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven.”
He gives them power, on the day of Pentecost, to carry out and to perform that work of the Gospel. They/We carry the Gospel, and we have the power to bind people into the kingdom and loose them from the kingdom, if they reject the free gift of salvation. And, when we gather to ask for what we need to do the work, God answer our prayers. As an entity, the New Testament Church has been given a mandate by Jesus to go and make disciples; this means to evangelize the world and help people to see their need to repent and be saved. We see this mandate in Matthew 28:18-20:
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Inside the New Testament Church, there are many jobs to be done to make this all work. There are pastors/teachers, deacons, evangelists, Sunday School teachers, bus drivers and a host of other jobs. Notice in verse 15 of our main text in Matthew 25 that the man, representing Jesus, gave each servant according to his ability. This simply means that each servant was able to do whatever task was assigned. All these are part of the work to be accomplished for the kingdom. Jesus is coming back, just like the man who was traveling into a far country. He will come back, and we will have to give an account of how we managed the jobs and the abilities that He gave us. How will this judgment go for you and me?
Well, the master of the house returns again; his servants did not know when he would return, he just did. He is the master and they the servants; he does not answer to them. It is difficult for many Christians, both the new and the older, to see Jesus as this harsh judge. But Paul is diligent to warn us that there will be a time of judgment for the saved. In 2 Corinthians 5:10 he writes,
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive his due for the things done in the body, whether good or bad.”
Notice that ALL will appear before the judgment seat of Christ. This is not the Great White Throne judgment of the lost in Revelation 20:11-15. This is the judgment of the saved. Paul will be there too; notice “we must all appear.” Paul is including himself in this judgment. This is clearly stated in 1 Corinthians 3:11-13:
“For no one can lay a foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, his workmanship will be evident, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will prove the quality of each man’s work.”
Our works, once again, this has nothing to do with Heaven and Hell. If you are at this judgment, you are not going to Hell. All of our works will be put through a rigorous process of assessment; and whatever comes out the other side of the assessment, we will either suffer loss or be rewarded accordingly. This is the stage set before us in this parable. The Master has returned, and he is going to ask each of his servants to give an account of how he managed the Master’s business while he was away.
The first two servants set a daunting example for us as far as the return on the investment. They give back to the master a 100% return on his investment in them. The first got five (5) talents; this would have been a sum of money weighed out to him; and in the time that the master was gone, he was able to double the investment. The second got two (2) talents, and he too doubled the investment. It is clear that the master knew his servants well. He had every confidence in their ability to perform, and they did not let him down. The master would not have given them a job that could not be done. We are specifically told that he gave them ‘according to their own ability.’
Would it not be awesome if we could return to Jesus a 100% growth on His investment in us? This would take commitment, dedication and discipline as a believer. It would take us being serious about the master’s return and living in expectation of His imminent return. The first two servants lived this way; we see that the master is pleased and promotes them to even greater responsibilities. The lesson for us is that we will have the opportunity as the Lord’s servants here on earth to work and earn position in the coming kingdom that Jesus will rule when He is here on earth. There is a lot of work to do in the coming kingdom, and those who faithfully serve in this temporal kingdom will be able to serve in the eternal kingdom.
Ah, the last servant. Sadly, too many of us are like this guy. We take the talent the Lord has given us and we bury it. We do not use it and take no care that we will have to answer to the Lord. Then the Lord returns and we hand him back what is his. The master is upset; he is very disappointed with the return on his investment. The man did not lose any money, but he also did not grow the money. The master offers this, that he could have at least given it to the bankers to earn some interest. Any amount of return would have been better than nothing.
This sets the bar very low for us to please the Lord; and all too often, too many of us cannot even get that high. Well, this servant loses his talent; it is given to someone else, and he is not allowed to serve in the coming kingdom. Please remember, this is not about salvation; it is about service. This is not about position; it is about performance. Now, let me remind you that the servant could have done something with the talent; he simply chose not to.
What are you and I doing with the talents that the Lord has given us? Make no mistake; you and I will be judged.
The idea of judgment does not go over well in our modern world and in the modern church, for all intents and purposes. We have been fed a diet of ‘you can be anything you want,’ but in reality, you need to be what God wants you to be; anything else is wasting the talent the Lord has invested in you. The apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:10,
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”
Notice that we are going to be judged on the things done in our bodies. We will give an account to God. The master of the house, Jesus, the Head of the New Testament Church, will come back to judge us and how we managed His business. Romans 14:10 reminds us that “we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” Jesus expects us to be ready with ‘profit’ in hand for Him when he returns.
What profit will you and I have to offer the Lord? Have we been winning souls? Have you even shared the Gospel to someone? Have you prayed for someone to be saved? Have we been growing in the ‘fruit of the Spirit’? Have we become more like Jesus since we were saved? Have we been good and faithful servants?
We will have to answer these questions. How will our judgments go?
Please recall the verse that we have considered as a foundation for this line of lessons. Take the time to read, study and apply the Word of God. Make sure that you are a faithful attendee at a church where the Pastor and other under-shepherds are diligent and deliberate students of the Bible. That they take the time to study, get better and make the Bible the central teachings of all they teach. It is the Word of God along with the power of the Holy Spirit that restrains evil in us and in society around us. You may think that I am harping on this, but in some of the emails I have received in response to these articles, I see that people are realizing that they have to give an account of their lives to Jesus. This should put the desire in us to seek first the Kingdom of God in all aspects of life.
Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law.”