Parable of the talents
“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. 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. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. “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.’ 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.’ 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.’ 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.’ “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. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ “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. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. ‘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. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 25:14-30 NKJV).
In the context of Matthew 24, we must understand the three parables in Matthew 25 to mean what disciples of Christ should do to prepare themselves for the second coming of Christ. All three parables in Matthew 25 deal with how people should prepare for the second coming of Christ. Chapter 24 dealt with the signs and times and events before the second coming of Christ, and in chapter 25 Jesus helps his disciples how to be ready for this event.
–The owner of the talents goes on a journey and comes back after a long time. He expects them to make some money after he comes back. He gives to three different servants five, two and one talent respectively each according to his ability. This fact reaffirms that God has created people with different abilities and talents. We are not all equal in terms of our gifts, talents, and resources God has entrusted to us.
— When the owner returns he settles accounts. The two laborers who doubled their money (talents) received rewards and the other one who buried his talent was rejected and went to outer darkness.
–Talents mean money in this context. A talent was worth more than 20 years of money for a laborer in Biblical times.
–The owner refers to Jesus Christ. The time when He comes back refers to his second coming or when a person dies. What the talents refer to can have different meanings. The most probable meaning is the responsibilities God has given to those in the church. We’ll look at that a bit later.
- Historical interpretation:
— The lazy servant could refer to disbelieving Israel. They received the oracles of God; they received the words of God, the law of God and the Temple service, but in the end, they rejected the ministry of Jesus Christ and all the responsibilities they received from God was useless and to no avail. Because they rejected Christ Jesus, and failed to represent God as they should have done they were judged as a nation in 67 AD.
— The different servants could refer to the apostles and Judas. Judas was rejected. The other apostles went on to serve God faithfully. All the apostles were given responsibilities by God to cast out demons and heal the sick, and preach the word of God, but in the end, Judas betrayed Jesus and went to hell just as the lazy servant went to hell.
— In a general sense, the one who hid his talent refers to those people who don’t do the will of God (Matthew 7:21-23) and are not ready to face Jesus at His second coming.
— According to some commentators: those who hide their talents refer to the people who don’t use the means of grace to repent and come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
— The people who received the talents contrasts the apostate church and the true church. God gave responsibilities to both, but some weren’t faithful, others were.
- What the talents cannot refer to:
Physical money per se or in itself.
Natural talents and abilities and gifts per se or in itself. Because if that be the case, then every talented filmmaker, business person, musician or any other professionals must all enter heaven because many worldly people work hard with their natural abilities and make investments and double and triple their money and get much more money than what they started with. The talents were given to the servants of God, to those inside the church, to the professing Christians. Given the context of the church, the talents can refer to money, giftings, property, natural talents and abilities or resources God gave people.
- What talents could refer to
— The life we have been given: in other words everything that God has given us in this life. Time, money, gifts, talents, education, possessions, etc. But it must be understood in relation to the kingdom of God. Have we used the things God has given us for the kingdom of God? Have we exerted the time, money, energy and resources God has given us in the kingdom of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ?
— Some commentators like Matthew Henry says the talents refer to the means of grace. The “means of grace” refer to the sermons we have listened to, the services and Bible studies we have attended, counsel we have received from children of God, and prayers offers on our behalf. Did we use these means? Have we used the means of grace (sermons; prayers, Bible Studies, etc. to receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior?
— The talents refer to the goods of the kingdom. What are the goods of the kingdom of heaven? Is it not the love God has bestowed upon us? Have we used it to love other people or just used it up on ourselves? Did we hide the love of God? Did we receive his love and pass it on?
— The talents could refer to the spiritual gifts of God. Remember having spiritual gifts doesn’t necessarily mean that you are born again (See Matthew 7:21-23). Have we been lazy and wicked in regards to the spiritual gifts God has given us? Have we used it to advance His kingdom and glory or for our own glory and advantage? Did we use it to build our own empire or God’s empire and kingdom? Jesus will say at the last day to some who have prophesied and did many miracles: “I never knew you. Depart from Me you work lawlessness” (Matthew 7:21-23).
— The talents could mean natural abilities and resources. e.g. a motorcar, business skills, an ability to write or the ability to paint or draw or learn languages. William Carey the famous missionary had a natural ability to learn languages and with his team translated many Bibles and New Testaments into other languages in India. He is an example of a person who used his talents for the extension of the kingdom of God. Did we use our natural gifts for God’s glory or our own? Have we used the abilities God has given us for the glory of God or the glory of ourselves? Have we wasted our talents on the things of the world or have we used them for the glorification of Christ?
- Why was the one servant rejected and the others accepted?
The lazy servant:
–Some say the fact that the lazy servant is called a servant means that he must have been a Christian. And the fact that he called God Lord also testified of this fact. However, the text on the other hand gives us two clues: The servant said to his master when the master settled accounts: “Lord, I knew you were a hard man” and “I knew you reaped where you did not sow” and “that you gathered where you did not scatter” What do these words mean?
–The lazy servant was a complainer, a murmurer. He charged the Master and the Lord of being unreasonable. The work of the Lord was burdensome to him. But that was just a way to cover up his laziness. Matthew Henry says: “those who think it impossible to please God, and in vain to serve him, will do nothing to purpose in religion. They complain that He requires of them more than they are capable of, and punishes them for what they cannot help. Whatever they may pretend, the fact is, they dislike the character and work of the Lord. The slothful servant is sentenced to be deprived of his talent.”
— The lazy man with the one talent thought God was mean. He didn’t have a love relationship with God. He didn’t know God as his Father. He thought God was unfair, mean and a hard taskmaster. That’s how atheists look at God as well. Many have left the church, once professing Christians are now back into the world, because they see God as unreasonable, unjust, evil e.g., “the man upstairs” “the one who sends people to hell for eternity” “The God of anger.” The lazy servant was a false believer and had a false conversion.
–God said to Him “you wicked and lazy servant” and took the talent from Him and sent him to outer darkness. Outer darkness is another description of hell. Why did God do that? God sent him to hell because he didn’t realize the day of salvation. He didn’t prepare his heart to seek God. He didn’t receive Christ as His Lord and Savior. He didn’t do the will of God. He didn’t invest the gifts of God back into the kingdom. He didn’t use the means of grace, and He didn’t submit unto Jesus as His Lord and King. If he did, he would have done the will of God. The responsibilities he received from God were wasted. He saw them as a burden and nonsensical.
The good and faithful servants:
— The other two servants received the words “Well done! Good and faithful servants, enter into the joy of The Lord” because they invested the money. What wonderful words to hear before you die! They were faithful in the work God gave them to do. They did the will of God. They fulfilled the responsibilities God gave them. They used the means of grace; they received Christ as Lord and Savior, they used what God had given them for His glory and not for the glory of self and the world. The evidence of this was that they were committed to doing the will of God in their lives.
–They invested that which God had given them back into the kingdom of God. Their mission was to love God, self, and neighbors and to fulfill the Great Commission. They set out to use the things God entrusted to them. They did not waste the love of God and the life of God, but gave themselves to Him and was in serving the Lord.
–What do these words mean: ‘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.”
This is a general statement which can have different applications:
It means they who have been given the Holy Spirit and labored for God and with God in this life, and set their lives to do the will of God, will in the next life receive the inheritance in heaven, more glory, joy, peace and happiness and eternal life. They will receive an abundance. They will be given more responsibilities in the kingdom of God.
–Those who have not received the Holy Spirit will lose all God has given them in this life. They will lose the peace they enjoyed and all the temporal blessings and abilities and money and resources and natural talents that they enjoyed in this life, and they will suffer in hell for all eternity. They will lose the life given to them, the love of God bestowed on them and the means of grace forever! They will end up in outer darkness!
- The promise of God to the faithful
These words of our Lord: “‘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”, must be wonderful words to hear from God.
A few remarks about them:
— Those who belong to the Lord are faithful and good. They were not so before but were made so by the work of the Holy Spirit. They were made so by the presence of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is joy and goodness and faithfulness.
— Those who go to heaven and hear these words are servants of God. They didn’t earn anything from God (See 1 Corinthians 4:7). Everything they had was given to them by God (the five talents, the two talents). They were mere stewards of his grace and what God had given them. They served God primarily not man.
— They got the affirmation of God: “Well done.” God is an affirming God. He is pleased to encourage and affirm his servants in His service.
— They were faithful in the things God called them to do. God rewards faithfulness more than anything else in His kingdom. He is looking for people who will keep on when things go tough, who will persevere in the midst of suffering. They were faithful in the little things, making money, and were given the privilege to rule over many things. Doing small and little things for God is important, because only when we are faithful in small things like money can we be entrusted with the real riches, which are the things of the kingdom (See Luke 16:10-12)
— And God promised them to make them ruler over many things. What are the many things? It may be a promotion in the kingdom of God here on earth, or it may be waiting for us in heaven! (1 Corinthians 2:9). I believe it is both. Many people who serve God on earth see that God gives them more responsibilities in His service. I have experienced it plenty of times in my life while serving God in different churches and mission organizations.
— The result of their faithful labor was that they could enter into the joy of the Lord. There is a reward in serving God. The rewards are more joy in the Holy Spirit, more of the fullness of the Holy Spirit, more of Jesus Christ who has been anointed with the oil of gladness above all his fellows (Hebrews 1:9; Psalm 45). Jesus is not only the man of sorrows but the man of unspeakable joy!
— It is inconsequential if you have received more or fewer abilities than others. We are not all the same. Receiving “one talent” or “two talents” or “five talents” shouldn’t make you jealous, envious of proud. What matters is what you have done with what God has given you. Have you used it or have you wasted it? Each person will appear before God on judgment day and everyone will only give an account with what God has given him/her. Jesus Christ will settle accounts with us all.
–Child of God what responsibilities has God given you to fulfill?
What talents and abilities and resources has He given you to develop and use for His kingdom and glory?
–Here at the beginning of the new year think about this: wouldn’t it be wonderful to look back and see at the end of the year that God says to you: “Well done! Good and faithful servant you were faithful over little over much, I will make you ruler.”
— Is that what you are striving after in the new year, being a good and faithful servant of God? God forbid that we be lazy and wicked servants in Gods eyes in the new year!! God said to the one who buried his talent: “you unprofitable servant! And he was cast away into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. In other words, he was sent to hell.
— Let us take those talents and resources God has given us and work while it is still called today for the glory of Jesus Christ and the coming of His kingdom!
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The Great Comission does not apply to every Christian, since only very few Christians — past and present — obeyed it (since most are unable to).