parable of the talents in four scenes

The parable of the talents is a parable about preparation.  When Jesus comes again, will you be among the lost or will you be among the saved?

In the previous chapter, Jesus said, Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.  But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.  Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect”  (Matt. 24.42-44)

The idea is that we do not know when the Lord is coming.  Therefore, we need to always be ready lest He come at a time when we do not expect Him and find ourselves unprepared.  It is this principle that leads right into chapter 25 where we find two parables.  The first one is the parable of the wise and foolish virgins.  The second only that immediately follows is the parable of the talents.  Both of the parables are set before us to impress upon us the importance of being prepared for the coming of Christ.

Sidebar:  This is why I do not give any credibility to the so-called end-time predictions.  Anyone who claims to be able to predict when the end of time and the second coming of Christ will occur needs to read and study what Jesus taught in Matthew 24 and 25.  Man tries to figure out when the end of time is going to be, and Jesus Himself, the Son of God said that we do not know the day or the hour. Therefore be prepared lest He comes and finds us unprepared.

The parable of the talents can be divided into individual scenes.  

scene 1:  the assignment

Matthew 25.14:  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. 

In Bible times, it was common for the wealthy to have servants and take their possessions and place them into the care of their servants.  The servants typically would come in and run the household.  They would do much more than just remedial tasks.  Servants would take care of the finances, do the laundry, cook the meals and even have the authority to make decisions concerning what happens to the welfare of the house.

It was common in Bible times for the master of the house to leave his home and go on a journey.  So he would put his servants in charge of the house and turn over his goods to them.  This is what we are reading about here in the parable of the talents.  The master of the house turns over his goods to three servants.

scene 2:  THE Administration of duties

Matthew 25.15:  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. 

Some like to define talents as an individual’s abilities.  Some like to point out that God has given us certain abilities (talents), and He expects us to use them.  But that is not what this parable of the talents is describing.

A talent is a measuring weight.  It is like using the word “pound” or “kilometer”.  A talent is a measuring weight that was equivalent to about 130 pounds.  The value of the talent was dependent on what was being weighed.  You might have a talent of gold or a talent of silver.  To put it in modern terms, we would say that we had 130 pounds of gold or 130 pounds of silver.  One talent of gold would be worth more than one talent of silver  (cf. 2 Sam. 12.30).

We don’t know what the value is of the talents that were given.  There is no value mentioned in the parable of the talents.  They may have been gold.  They may have been silver.  They may have been copper.  All we know is that to one servant, the master gave five talents.  To the second servant, the master gave two talents.  To the third servant, the master gave one talent.  

Also notice that these talents were administered according to each servant’s abilities.  Each one of these servants had a different degree of ability.  Each was given talents according to what the master knew he could handle.  

Matthew 25.16-18:  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.

We find in the parable of the talents that each servant did something with the talents that were given to him.

  • The first servant took his five talents and made another five talents.
  • The second servant took his two talents and made another two talents.
  • The third servant took his one talents and buried it in the ground.

Matthew 25.19:  After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.  The servants were now forced to answer for what they had done.

After some time, the master returned from his journey to see how these servants handled the responsibilities given to them.  


Matthew 20.20,21:  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.'

The first servant who received five talents showed the master that he had doubled his money by making an additional five talents.  The master said, “well done” and then awarded his servant.

Matthew 20.22,23:  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.' 

The second servant who received two talents showed the master that he also had doubled the master’s money by making an additional two talents.  The master said, “Well done” and then awarded this servant as well.  

Matthew 24.25:  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.' 

This master reaped where he had not sown.  This master would go out and see something of value and would claim it as his own even though he did not earn it himself.  This was a man who would go and gather whatever crops were grown when he was not the one who scattered seed.  He was a shrewd, harsh, fierce, business man.

Because of this, the servant said, “I was afraid.”  So the servant took the one talent he was given and buried it.  He did not want to risk losing it.  When the master returned, the servant took that one talent he had buried and gave it to his master.  How did the master react to this last servant?


Matthew 25.26-30:  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.  So 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.'

There are three words to describe this third servant.  

  1. Verse 26:  “Wicked”  The word “wicked” is defined as “hurtful,” and it carries the idea of someone doing harm.
  2. Verse 26:  “Lazy”  The word “lazy” describes someone who is slothful.
  3. Verse 30:  “Unprofitable”  Here is a servant who was doing harm to himself and to his master.  He could have put forth a little bit of effort and put the talent into the bank.  At least it would have earned some interest.  But he was lazy, and because he was lazy he brought no profit to his master.  

In this parable of the talents, Jesus tells us how to be prepared for the day of His coming.  If we are going to be prepared for the coming of Christ, we must actively be doing good.  We must not be lazy, but be profitable as we are to be fruitful in every good work.

Heaven is possible because of the grace of God and the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ.  But you and I will not get there by God’s grace alone.  In the parable of the talents, I learn that God expects me to be active and busy serving Him, serving others, and being prepared by being profitable rather than being wicked, lazy, and unprofitable.

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