14 “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. 16 Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. 17 In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. 18 But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘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.’
22 “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘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.’
24 “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’
26 “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. 27 Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. 28 Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’
29 “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 30 Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Mat 25:14-30)
The Meaning of the Parable
As in all parables, the parts of the parable each represent something in real life. The Lord had told the parable of the Ten Virgins just prior to this parable, which is recorded in Matthew 25:1-13, in order to describe what the kingdom of God is like. And He followed that with this parable of the talents, which is recorded in Matthew 25:14-30, in order to continue with His description of the kingdom of God. He began with the words, “For it is just like..." (v. 14). The pronoun "it" in this opening phrase of verse 14 refers back to its antecedent, which is the kingdom of heaven that he referred to initially in verse 1.
The master in this parable represents the Lord. He is introduced in verse 14 as "a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them." It's important to note that the master entrusted his possessions to his servants. This illustrates that in the kingdom of heaven, the Lord, represented by the master in this parable, has entrusted His possessions to His servants.
The master gave different amounts of talents to each of his servants, based on their individual abilities, since they did not all have the same level of ability. "To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey" (v. 15).
While the talents in the parable were literally money, they represent whatever gifts, skills, abilities, or talents the Lord has given to each of His servants who follow Him. It's interesting that the modern day word "talent" has come to mean those special abilities or faculties one has that are non-monetary. According to Webster's dictionary, a talent is: "Faculty; natural gift or endowment; a metaphorical application of the word, said to be borrowed from the Scriptural parable of the talents. Mat 25." Webster also defines a talent as one's eminent abilities.
Examples of Abilities
The following is a list of examples of abilities, skills, and talents that you may possess, which you may not have thought of or realized you had:
Biblical knowledge and understanding
An aptitude for learning
Speaking a second language
Speaking a second language
Helping others, including the poor, the weak, and those in need
Being a good listener
Being a good listener
Driving a motor vehicle
Using the computer
Playing musical instruments, such as the keyboard, guitar, etc.
Cooking and baking
Knitting and sewing
Faith and healing
Shopping and purchasing (including online)
Frugality (saving money)
Proof reading and grammatical advice
Operating a cash register
Of course, many more could be added to this list. Perhaps you have taken these things for granted, but I intentionally included common things in my list to show that these are all abilities in some way, even if they seem ordinary and not very glamorous. But not everyone can walk, run, ride a bicycle, drive a motor vehicle, such as a car or truck, and not everyone can operate a computer, fix things, build things out of wood, save money shopping, read, write, sing, play an instrument, compose songs and poems, create artwork, do cleaning, or iron clothes. Don't take anything for granted that you are able to do. It is all given to you by the Lord and was originally His possession. Don't underestimate or bury any of your talents.
Use of One's Talents
It's important to observe in the parable what each of the servants did with the talents they were given:
"Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more." (v. 16-17).
It was good that these two servants immediately put their talents to use. They went out and traded with their talents, putting their talents to work, in order to gain more talents than what they were originally given. This showed that they valued their master's possessions and wanted to be able to give him a return on his investment whenever he returned. These servants represent those who put to good use the abilities they have received from the Lord and gain more with them for the glory of God.
Unfortunately for the servant who was given one talent, he did not have the same attitude toward his master. Instead of going out and putting the talent to work to gain more with it, he dug a hole and buried it in the ground. This was based on his twisted view of the master and his inappropriate fear of the master as a hard man (v. 24-25). He did not gain any more with it, but only had the original talent to show the master upon his return. He represents those who serve the Lord that don't put their talent to use, perhaps because they view themselves as not being very talented or not having much in terms of abilities.
The journey that the master went on in verses 14 and 15 represents the Lord going back to heaven after He rose from the dead. We read this in the book of Acts where His ascension is recorded:
"And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.'" (Act 1:9-11)
Return of the Master
The master's return from his journey represents the return of the Lord Jesus Christ or His second coming. It says, "Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them" (v. 19). So we see that just as the master's return occurs a long time after he goes away on his journey, so the Lord's return happens a long time after He goes away to heaven. This is depicted the same way in the previous parable, in which the bridegroom's coming is delayed (v. 5). The Lord's return is also represented in the parable of the sheep and the goats that immediately follows the parable of the talents, in which the Son of Man comes back as King of all the nations (v. 31).
Settling of Accounts
The master returned specifically to settle accounts with his slaves, which represents the Lord returning to hold all of His servants accountable and render to each person according to what he has done with the Lord's possessions that were given to him. This refers to the coming judgment, which is also represented in the parable of the sheep and the goats. In that parable, he states,"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne" (v. 31). The Lord is depicted as sitting on His glorious throne with all the nations gathered before Him (v. 32).
There is coming a day soon when we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to settle accounts with Him. As the apostle Paul said, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.” (2Co 5:10-11).
It's important to observe the the master in the parable of the talents held each of his servants accountable for what they did with his possessions that he gave to them. Likewise, when the Lord returns, He will hold each of us accountable for what we did with what He gave us.
The outcomes were different for the ones who put their talents to use than for the one who did not, and who buried his talent.
To the one who was given five talents and who gained five more, "His master said to him, ‘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.’" (v. 21). Likewise, the one who was given the two talents and gained two more was told the same thing. The master was pleased with them and told them that they did well, and that they were good and faithful servants. That's what I want to hear the Lord say one day to me. Don't you? They were told to enter into the joy of their master where they would be put in charge of many things, since they had been faithful with a few things. This represents the eternal reward of the faithful who put to good use what the Lord has given them. Those who are faithful with a little will be entrusted with much. They are depicted as the righteous sheep in the parable of the sheep and the goats, in which the king says, "Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." (v. 34).
However, the one who buried his talent received a very different response from his master. “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’" (v. 26-28).
Sadly that servant's one talent was taken away from him and given to the one who had ten. He lost everything because of his inaction. His master did not view him as a good and faithful servant, but as a wicked and lazy servant, because he did not have any return on investment to show his master.
The master said, “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (v. 29-30).
Not only was his talent taken away from him, not only did he fail to hear the words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," but he was called a worthless slave and was thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. That should put the fear of the Lord into all of us, lest we end up like him. May it never be that any of us be found wicked, lazy, or worthless to the Lord due to neglect of the talents He's given to us, or failure to put them to good use for His glory.
This same warning is given in the parable of the sheep and goats, in which the king says to those on His left, "Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels... These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (v. 41, 46).
The righteous and wicked will be judged based on what they did and didn't do. The righteous are the ones who use their talents, money, gifts, and abilities to do good to others like feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, visiting the sick and those in prison, and clothing the naked. The wicked are those who fail to do these things, and to the extent that they fail to do so to the least of these, they fail to do it to Jesus.
Ways to Multiply Your Talents
The final thing in the parable that I would like to explain, as the title of this article implies, is the manner in which each of the good and faithful servants gained more with the talents they were given by their master. In our lives, here are some ways we can do that. You should use your talents to glorify God. If you can sing, then sing for the Lord. Do it around the house, and also in church. Do it to bless others, to encourage the saints, and to lead people to Christ. If you can use a computer, then do it for the glory of God. If you can drive a car, then use that for the glory of God. The same goes for writing. You can write articles that glorify God and post them on the internet. You can write poetry, too, if that is your particular ability. On and on the list goes, and the possibilities are unlimited. So get to work immediately and take stock of the talents the Lord has given to you, make a list of them, and then put those talents to good use for the kingdom of God.
You can also gain more talents or abilities by increasing and enhancing your existing ones through constant use and practice. Practice makes perfect, so as you use what you already have, you will become more proficient at it, and that will also constitute an increase of your talent.
Another way you can gain more talents, abilities, or skills is by acquiring new ones. You can take lessons, obtain training, apply yourself to learn new ones using the abilities you already have. Perhaps you can use your money to pay for guitar lessons or voice lessons. Or perhaps you can give someone help with learning to use the computer or you can repair their computer in exchange for keyboard lessons. Or you can use your reading ability to read a book and take a course on how to cook, so that you can use that new cooking ability for the glory of God. Then you can cook meals for those in need and bless them in the name of Jesus.
As I said, put whatever gifts, talents, skills, and abilities you have to good use loving and helping others. Teach others in the area of your ability, and thus multiply your talents in others for the Lord's glory. Learn from others in their area of ability. Help others to find and use their talents for God's glory. Be faithful with the abilities, skills, talents, and money the Lord has given to you.
Let's not forget that any money you have is obviously one of the talents the Lord has given to you, since the talents in the parable were literally money. Be sure to be a good steward with those resources by spending it wisely and putting it to use for the glory of God. That can include looking for ways to save money, being frugal, blessing others, giving to the poor and needy, giving financially to ministries that are advancing the kingdom of God, and investing in people to make a difference in this world for God.
The master gave each one a certain number of talents each according to his own ability. Each went and traded with them, and gained more talents. They were faithful with a few things, therefore, the master considered them good and faithful servants. He invited them to share in His happiness and put them in charge of many things.
He who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. His master considered him a wicked and lazy servant. The master took away the talent from him, and give it to the one who had the ten talents. The master threw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Whether the master's servants enter into eternal reward or eternal punishment depends on what they do with the talents he has given to them. The extent to which the master increased their responsibilities depended on their faithfulness to put to use and multiply the talents he gave them initially.
Therefore, it behooves each servant of the master to be faithful to put to good use the talents that he has given to them. It serves as a warning to us not to make the same fatal error as the wicked, lazy servant, by being like him and burying any talent the master has given to us.
Author's note: If you enjoyed this article, I also recommend reading my articles Faithful in the Little Things, The Day of Small Things, God Chooses the Weak Things, What is That in Your Hand?, Whatever You Do, Do All Like This, The Kingdom of God is Like This, Multiplication, Multiplication Illustrations, Better a Little, and Success in God's Eyes. I also recommend reading two poems by my daughter adapted from Matthew 25 called Use Your Talents and The Sheep and the Goats. For more articles on this blog, please see the Home Page. You can also find my complete collection of blogs at Writing for the Master.
Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus. Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15). He preached that we must repent and believe.
Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International. He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.