The Parable of the Talents: Meaning, Commentary and Takeaway

by Robert Driskell · Print Print · Email Email

The parable of the talents is contained within Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of Heaven.  He is describing an aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 25:1).  In short, the parable says that a man was about to set out on a journey. Before he left, he entrusted three of his servants with differing amounts of money for them to take care of while he was gone.  When he returned, he found that two of his servants had taken the money and dealt with it in such a way as to garner an increase.  However, the third servant simply buried the money and then gave it back to the master.  The master was pleased with the first two, and rewarded them, but he was displeased with the third servant and said, “‘And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (Matthew 25:30 ESV).

The peril of parables

First, a word about parables.  They are stories meant to illustrate a truth, or truths.  It is wise to not press every little detail about a parable, but rather to understand the overall message it attempts to convey.  Some strange and heretical teachings have come from men and women who want each detail in the parables of Jesus to be identified with some reality, when the parable is not to be understood in such a manner.

The “Good and faithful” servants

Is it not a longing in the heart of every Christian, when we have finished the race, to hear ... “Well done, good and faithful servant”?

Is it not a longing in the heart of every Christian, when we have finished the race, to hear … “Well done, good and faithful servant”?

Two of the man’s servants took what he had given them and, by using the talents in interactions with others, acquired more talents.  When the master returned, he commended these servants and rewarded them with more talents.  When we are faithful with what God gives us, He rewards us with more; more of His love, His presence, His peace and joy…and oftentimes, more to do for His glory.  Is it not a longing in the heart of every Christian, when we have finished the race, to hear those words from the mouth of Jesus, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?

The ‘worthless servant’ of verse 30

Jesus said that the “worthless servant”, who did not utilize the talent he was given, would be cast into the “…outer darkness.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt. 25:30 ESV).  Therefore, we cannot say that this servant represented a true believer, a ‘true’ Christian (unless one says that this Christian forfeited his salvation), rather I think there is a better explanation for this man’s condition.

The Kingdom of God [Heaven]

In my article entitled “What is the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven” I wrote that the entire universe is God’s “Kingdom”.  He is King and every human being is either a faithful subject or a reprobate rebel.  I believe the parables of Jesus in this section of the Gospels illustrate, at least, this aspect of God’s Kingdom.  Then, as now and all through time, there are those who are faithful followers of Jesus, there are those who pretend to be His subjects, and there are those who outright reject Him.

How else are we to interpret Jesus’ words when He spoke about the faith of the Gentile Centurion?  “When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”” (Matthew 8:10-12 ESV).  Jesus was saying that not only was this non-Jewish man’s faith superior to many of the Jews who claimed to love God, He also said that some of these Israelites (or ‘sons of the kingdom’) would end up spending eternity apart from God.  We must remember that it is not who we are, or what works we do, that counts for eternity, but by Whom we are known.  No one is born a Christian, he or she becomes one by realizing his or her sin, repenting of it, and loving God with all his or her heart, soul, mind, body, and strength.

Conclusion

While I’m sure I haven’t plumbed every truth from this important parable, I think these truths are evident within it.  The parable is meant to emphasize the importance of taking what God gives us and using it for His glory, in order to bring others into the kingdom of God (after all, this parable is about the kingdom of God).  This includes any skills, talents, gifts, money, fame, or prestige that we might possess.  Whatever God gives us, it is our responsibility to use it for His glory; out of love for Him and our fellow human beings.

I also think the ‘talents’ in this parable can represent the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We are instructed to take this Gospel and share it with others in order that people would hear and believe and the Kingdom of Jesus might increase.  This parable shows us that to receive the gift of the Gospel and simply hide it, is wrong.  We must spread it however, and wherever, God grants us the opportunity.

A third truth that can be taken from this parable is that the true Christian will naturally want to take whatever God has given them and use it for His glory.  When one claims to be a believer in Jesus, but only lives to serve his or her own selfish desires and goals, it is doubtful that that person is truly a follower of Christ at all.  Such a person needs to re-evaluate his or her life in light of God’s Word to make sure of their “calling and election” (see II Peter 1:5-11), and thereby escape being cast into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth forever.

Take a look at these other parables: 5 Parables of Jesus to Learn From

Resources – The Holy Bible, English Standard Version “Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

DocReits February 3, 2014 at 11:52 pm

Thanks Robert for tackling this difficult parable of talents and the Kingdom. You are so correct when stating that the talents are not our works(contrary to most Christian commentaries). That would certainly lead to the third fellow losing out on salvation through lack of return on investment(works). So much for Grace.

This Kingdom idea involves parables of the Kingdom being likened to a dragnet trolling for fish, leaven in dough, a merchant who finds a pearl of great price, a treasure in a field and a mustard seed, which although very small grows to a very large tree. (Mt 13:31-51)

Further we are told that the Kingdom is within us and we are to pray the Father that His Kingdom will come on earth as it is in Heaven. Whew…No small wonder that confusion abounds!

My personal take on the Kingdom is that the Kingdom of God is “All of God’s Will and Purpose”. There is an opposing kingdom of darkness(Col 1:13), which is diametrically opposed to God’s Will and Purpose(His Kingdom). There is a war that rages between these two camps which fight for the prize of men’s souls. God’s Kingdom explains this parable in this way:

God’s Will and Purpose is that all men will be saved:

Here the Kingdom is seen as the “dragnet” trolling for men’s souls

God’s Will and Purpose was to spend the “Treasure” of Christ’s Blood:

Here the Kingdom is seen as the Pearl of great price, as this treasure rescues our souls from eternity lost.

God’s Will and Purpose is to deposit His Spirit into our flesh as His Guaranty of our Salvation:

Here the Kingdom is seen as the leaven and the mustard seed which grows within the believer to bring forth His fruit in our lives. Hence the Kingdom being within us.

These talents are God’s Kingdom within us as His deposit into the bank of we, His Temple, by His Spirit. God’s Kingdom is to grow(leaven and mustard seed) to produce the fruit of the Good Tree producing Good Fruit(Fruit of the Spirit). The talents are not the Fruit…the Fruit is what the talents produce. No fruit, no Kingdom seeds.

Therefore the third fellow never had the Kingdom within himself as seen by burying the talent available to all men and handing it back “unused” to the master, basically saying “No thank You!” Hence, his being cast outside of the intended “Will and Purpose of God”(The Kingdom). God will not save anyone against their own will.

These are just my personal reflections and certainly open to critique and/or discussion. It has helped me put some of these pieces together and might help someone else.

Blessings to you Robert! Thank you for the great article!

DocReits

Reply

Robert February 8, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Doc,
Sorry it took so long for me to respond, God has been blessing me with ministry opportunities that have kept me very busy. You have some very good points in your comment; I pray that all believers would think as deeply about their faith as you do. God bless you.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Ruby July 20, 2016 at 10:32 am

I had a good read with this article of yours. Actually a new parable which I have read on. Thanks for the share!

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