The Parable of the Talents: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required”

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Among the parables spoken by Jesus, which have been given varying explanations by various theologians, is the one that we find reported in both Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19: 12-27 (with additional insights provided in Mark 13:34-37).  Before expounding on the spiritual meaning of this parable, let us review each of the verses in full, as found in the King James Version of the Bible.

Matthew 25:14-30

For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Luke 19:12-27

He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities. And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin:For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow. And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury? And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.) For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.”

Mark 13:34-37 “For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.

Expositions of the Parable of the Talents…What Others Have Said

Anyone can now search the Internet for the meaning of this parable, and as might be expected there are differing explanations as derived by persons with varying viewpoints.  One such explanation begins by claiming,Jesus told this story to represent the gifts that we have been given by him to further advance His Kingdom on this earth. While that explanation is certainly valid as far as it goes (there is indeed more to say as will be detailed below), the expositor then goes off on a tangent to discuss earthly talents like “playing the piano” which if one doesn’t use one will lose through neglect.  Is that really what this parable is about? Earthly talents?

Other expositors suggest that the lessons to be learned from this parable are:

  1. Success is a product of our work,
  2. We are given all that we need to do that work,
  3. We are not all created equal,
  4. We work for the master, not ourselves,
  5. We will all be held accountable

Another explanation posted on the Internet is that the parable provides an exhortation to Jesus’ disciples to use their God-given gifts in the service of God, and to take risks for the sake of the Kingdom of God.  Moreover, that these gifts have been seen to include personal abilities (“talents” in the everyday sense), as well as personal wealth.

While all of these explanations seem to have some validity, they miss some critical points such that it is necessary for us to take a closer look to see what we can find from the Bible and… “not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 2:!3)

What is a Parable?

Before we begin we must remember what a parable is.  A parable is the method that Jesus used to tell an earthly (material) story that conveyed a heavenly (spiritual) meaning.  Some parables are easier to understand than others, but Jesus provided the key to understanding “all” parables with His own exposition of the meaning of the Parable of the Sower (Please see the the separate post:

The Kingdom of Heaven

Remember also what Jesus said regarding this comparison in John 3:12, “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” In the Matthew version of the Parable of the Talents, Jesus begins the parable by describing the “Kingdom of Heaven” in a simile. Jesus begins by saying that the Kingdom of Heaven “is like”…and then He immediately provides an earthly story.

Who Do the Persons Mentioned In the Parable Represent? 

1) The Man/Nobleman

We know from the Bible (e.g., Mark 13: 34-37) that the man/nobleman in the parable who traveled to a far country is Jesus Christ Himself.  Jesus was raised from the dead, spent 40 days on this earth, and then was taken up into a cloud (and by implication, to Heaven, where Jesus currently sits at the Right Hand of God the Father) according to Acts Chapter 1, verses 1-9 together with John 20:17 and Acts 2:32-34. We also know that Jesus, like the man/nobleman, is also going to return as He left…as we read in Acts 1:9-11 (but Jesus’s return will be on Judgment Day, which will occur at some point in the future, perhaps very soon). “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”  Jesus went to the far country, Heaven, and entrusted His servants with the Gospel of Salvation to be spread abroad.  Moreover, Jesus (The True Nobleman) is most certainly coming back at the end of the world to call for a final accounting on Judgment Day, when the books are opened as we read in Revelation 20:12, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

It should also be remembered, and God specifically tells us to remember, that in Isaiah 46:9-11, “Remember the former things of old: for I [am] God, and [there is] none else; [I am] God, and [there is] none like meDeclaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times [the things] that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasureCalling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken [it], I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed [it], I will also do it.” Again, Jesus is the man of God’s counsel and Who will execute it Who is coming from the “far country” representing Heaven. Jesus is being also likened to a bird of prey coming from Heaven, and God is assuring us that it absolutely will happen!

2) the Servants

It is clear from the parable that there are two different types of servants. The servants, as a combined group, are those who identify themselves as servants to Jesus Christ, hence, at least outwardly, they are all people would appear to be “Christians”.  However, as the parable goes on to show, there are “faithful” and “profitable” servants (or true, saved Christians), and “unfaithful” and “unprofitable” who identify themselves as Christians but who are not really saved.

3) The Rebellious Citizens 

The citizens who hated the nobleman (in the Luke version of the Parable of the Talents), “…sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.” But we know what the nobleman did to those rebellious citizens, because the nobleman said, “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.”  In Psalm 9:17, we read, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” Those who are not God’s servants are opposed to God, they hate God and therefore are the open enemies of God.  Their end will be the same as for those who were described as the enemies of the certain nobleman who we read about in the Luke account of the Parable of the Talents.

What Do the Talents Represent?

In the English language, the use of the word “talent” usually is taken to mean a natural innate ability or skill, for many people immediately think of earthly skills.  But that is definitely not the kind of talent that Jesus was describing in the parable, because it is clear that the items mentioned, which were identified as “talents”, related to a monetary exchange of some type (specifically “money”) as is indicated when we compare the accounts of Matthew and Luke together (e.g., gold, or as in indicated in the King James English translation in which the translators interpreted the money as being equal to the English currency of a “pound”).  What is also significant is that those talents were never a possession of the servants, but rather they were counted as the possessions of the man (Luke describes the man as a “nobleman”) to whom the servants were responsible.   The talents were only entrusted to the servants until such time that the man/nobleman would return from his excursion to a far country, and, according to Luke, where he would “receive for himself a kingdom.”

But we must step back a moment and ask the question: if the talents are 1) not earthly talents, and 2) the talents are equated to money that can be increased through investment, then what is the spiritual meaning of the talents in the parable?  If Jesus Christ is spiritually represented in the parable as a nobleman, then we have to ask what is spiritually represented by the talents, exemplified by money that should be increased? 

Moreover they were entrusted with the talents “according to his several ability”, e.g., based on their individual ability as servants to handle the talents.

We are reminded that Jesus made it clear that if we have the Gospel of salvation as specified in the word of God, the Bible, we are to share it and multiply it. The idea of multiplying the talents through investment is similar to bearing fruit. We must be fruitful branches of the Vine (Who is Jesus). As we read in John 15:1-8 where Jesus said,

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.”

The Monetary Connection: God’s Word is Precious Beyond Measure!
In Proverbs 2:1, we read where God says, “My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;  So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, [and] apply thine heart to understanding;  Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, [and] liftest up thy voice for understanding;  If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as [for] hid treasures;  Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.”  We also know from Colossians 2:2-3 that in Jesus Christ are “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” 
Also, regarding this spiritual wealth, we read in Isaiah 55:1 that it is clear that these treasures are freely given by God, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Hiding the Talent or keeping it in a napkin…What does that mean?

God expects us to share the Gospel message as found in the Word of God (the Bible) such that many might be saved through the hearing of it.  We are not to keep the Word of God locked up within ourselves, we are to proclaim it so that others can be saved through the hearing of it.   Romans 10:17, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Matthew 5:15,  “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.”
Mark 4:21:  “And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?”
Luke 11:33: “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.”
Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

We must allow the light of the Gospel, Jesus’s (the Saviour’s) Words, shine forth from us into this darkened world. We are not to keep it to ourselves, as though it were money to be buried in the ground, or wrapped hidden in a napkin, to keep it from being productive.

“Austere Man” and “Reaping Where He Did Not Sow”…What does that mean?

We also learn from that parable, as both the wicked servant and the nobleman knew, that the nobleman was an “hard/austere” man who could “reap where he didn’t sow”.

We read in Matthew where the wicked servant said, “Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:” whereupon the man replied, “Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.”  and we read in Luke where the wicked servant said to the man, “thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow.Whereupon the man said to the servant,And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?”  

What did it mean to reap where he did not sow? The Parable of the Sower is one source of those insights …Please see: where is is clear that the seed that is sown is the Word of God, because Jesus said so explicitly in Matthew 13. We also know that God declared that His Word is like a seed spread by a sower in Isaiah 55:10 and 11, God makes clear that He will uses the distribution of His Word (the Gospel of Jesus Christ for Salvation or the “word of the kingdom” as Jesus described it in Matthew 13:19) as He sees fit, some will be saved and some will be the more condemned: “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” We don’t know the end result, that is entirely God’s business, but as faithful and profitable servants we must continue to distribute the seed (The Word) no matter the end result.

We also should remember that Jesus said in John 4:35-38.  “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.”   Moreover, we read in 1 Corinthians 3:5-7, “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.”  And in 2 Corinthians 9:10-11, “Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.

We know several things regarding God’s Magnificent Salvation Plan. It is clear that God can and will save anyone who He wants to save, regardless of the means by which that person is saved.  We know that God is the one Who determines who is the good fruit arising from that good seed verses the weeds (tares) sown by the devil whom God does not save, which are allowed to grow together until the harvest at the end of the world (Matthew 13:38,39).

We also know that while God has predestinated all those who will be saved (the elect of God, see Romans 9:11 and Ephesians 1:5 and 11), He still chose to carry out each individual’s salvation through the “hearing of the Word”.  Romans 10:13-17 makes clear to us, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacherAnd how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias (Isaiah) saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Therefore, while it is outside the power of any one person to save another… as only God can do the saving, it is still a command that believers pass along the Word of God and the gospel message it provides (which each Christian have themselves individually received) along to others.  Yes, while indeed we do know that God can save anyone without any particular individual’s help (God can indeed reap where He doesn’t sow), we can NEVER be presumptive (never “second-guess” God) in thinking that regardless of whatever we do, all those who God plans to save will be nonetheless still be saved.  We therefore are instructed from this parable that we cannot remain slack in sharing the gospel message, despite being given the knowledge that God is Supremely Sovereign and will save those whom He intends to save.  By being slack, we will thus be considered “wicked servants” and destroyed (and sent to Hell just like any unbeliever…and worse still, we also know that according to Luke 12: 47, Jesus said, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”)

To further underscore the above point, God tells us in Proverbs 24:11 &12, “If thou forbear to deliver [them] that [are] drawn unto death, and [those that are] ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider [it]? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth [not] he know [it]? and shall [not] he render to [every] man according to his works?” We clearly have a duty to perform, and again we cannot be slack in delivering the message of salvation through Jesus Christ to those that are lost and who are on death’s road to hell.

And here we are reminded of another of Jesus’s parables discussing a disobedient “servant” as found in Luke 12: 36-4: “And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not. Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all? And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripesBut he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

The Unprofitable Servant was “Afraid”…What Are the Implications?

Isaiah 51:7,8, “Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings. For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.

Note that this is also entirely consistent with what Mordechai (an allegorical type of Jesus) told Esther (an allegorical type of the Believers) in Esther 4:14 (Please see:, “For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  By implication, if Esther had not faithfully taken up the instruction to go forth to the king as Mordecai had commanded, she would have been destroyed as a wicked and unprofitable servant. And note what kind of destruction is reserved for the wicked and unprofitable servant as we read in Mark’s version, “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”   We know from elsewhere in the Bible that outer darkness is equated to Hell.  Hell is for the unsaved sinners who reject Jesus and His Gospel message as found in the Bible. Jesus is equated by God with God’s Word, the Bible, and hence rejecting God’s Word is rejecting Jesus.

Moreover, God warns us very clearly.  There is no reason to be afraid of what mankind might say or do to us when we stand up for the Truth through the sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but rather we should fear (show reverence and obedience to) God.  In Matthew 10:28, Jesus proclaimed, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul andbody in hell.”  That latter “him” is God Himself!

We also know that as we share the Gospel, we are not “to be afraid” of how it might be received by the hearer, because as we read in Isaiah, 55:11, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”  So then, even if no one becomes saved through a person’s sharing of the Truth from God’s Word, it will still serve God’s purposes and glorifies Him in the process.

“Occupy til I come”: Spreading the Gospel Message So That The Seed Continues To Be Sown In Order to Bring About a Great Harvest of Souls

As we have been shown elsewhere, the seed of the sower in the Parable of the Sower is (just like the talents in this parable) represents “the Word of God”…through and by which the Gospel Message of Salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ Alone is preached. To be a profitable servant, the Gospel Message must go forth from each and every believer!  We must also hold fast to that which we have been entrusted.

Revelation 2:24-26, “But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already hold fast till I comeAnd he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:”

As a Believer, I am convicted to say, Dear Heavenly Father, in the Name of The Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Beloved Son, have mercy on me, for I am still a most unprofitable servant.  Please bless me with the Holy Spirit (Thy Anointing Oil) that I might be profitable for Thee in sharing the true Gospel of Salvation through Jesus Christ to multiply the talents given to me for Thee in using Thy Word to bring many others to salvation (as bountiful fruit into Thy harvest house) before that Great and Terrible Day of Judgment at the end of the world when Jesus comes again.


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