Jesus often taught spiritual concepts through the means of a story. Sometimes the message seems to be hidden and on one occasion the disciples asked Jesus to explain what He meant. But the purpose of a parable is to get our attention and make us reflect on the deeper meaning within the story. At first glance this parable seems to be about multiplication, or is there more to it? What does the parable of the talents mean to you?
Matthew 25 Parable of the Talents
Jesus tells a story, a parable, of a master and his relationship with his servants. The master is going away on a journey and entrusts some of his wealth to three of his servants. To one he gives five bags of gold; to another two bags and finally to a third servant one bag, each according to their ability. After a long time, he returns and wants to see how his servants have managed his affairs in his absence.
The man who received five bags had immediately put the money to work and by his master’s return, he has gained a further five bags. Similarly, the man who had received two bags has also been working hard and has managed to gain a further two bags. Both received high praise “Well done, good and faithful servant” – with a promise of future blessings. As they have been faithful and productive with a few things, the master feels he can entrust them with much more.
However, the man who had received one bag of gold responded in a different way. He buried the gift of gold that he had been given and hid it away. When his master returned, he still had the bag of gold he had been entrusted with. But because he had not put it to any use, he had not added any value to it.
What Does the Parable of the Talents Mean?
This story from Jesus is in a section of Scripture where He is teaching about the end times. Jesus explains that there are events that will signify His return and we ought to be watchful and aware. But He also teaches that we do not know the exact time of His return, and we must live in readiness. This is with motivation to serve the Lord wholeheartedly. Doing nothing with the wealth that we have been given is not an option. We need to be prepared to take risks, to invest where there is the possibility of a return, however small.
Matthew 25: 14-30 Explained
In the parable, the ‘bags of gold’ are also translated as ‘talents.’ In the New Testament, a ‘talent’ was a measure of gold, silver, or copper and valued according to the weight and type of metal. At that time a day laborer could take up to twenty years to earn ‘a talent.’
Jesus is implying that these servants are entrusted with great wealth. In the story, the gold, or talents, are given according to the servants’ abilities. The first and second servants put to full use what they have been given and bring a good return. They are praised and commended for their service. But not so the third servant….
What Did the 3rd Servant Do To the Talent Given Him?
The third servant buries the money in the ground and does nothing with it. His explanation for his behavior is this, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So, I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See here is what belongs to you”
He is condemned by his master for being wicked and lazy. At the very least he should have deposited the money in a bank where it could have gained interest.
Matthew 25: 27 Meaning
What does the parable of the talents mean for the third servant?
The behavior of the third servant is controlled by his perception of his master. He sees his master as harsh, and he is fearful. But there is only one master, and the other two servants do not perceive him in the same way.
The third servant is not excused for burying his talent, the gold, or the gift, that he has been given. Even if the servant was fearful, the master still had an expectation that he should have done something!
“Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.”Matthew 25:27
I would suggest we are called to invest and to put to use the gifts that we have been given wherever possible. When we give to God, whether it is our finances, our time, or our God-given talent, we serve willingly and trust Him for the outcome.
There are times when we may not see an immediate return. It could be that in some areas we may never see a return, on this side of eternity, but we are sowing into the kingdom. We are placing the gift that we have been given on deposit!
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Parable of the Talents Summary
The message of the story is to live in readiness for Christ’s return. We are expected to use the gifts that God gives us to serve His kingdom, and we are accountable for how we use them. This is not to bring condemnation but to bring motivation!
We can see from the account of the third servant how fear can paralyze us. When we become fearful, we are afraid of making a mistake, afraid of getting it wrong, and afraid of messing up. Often our default button when we feel afraid to do something, is to do precisely nothing. But God’s word declares that there is no place for fear in the love of God.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”1 John 4:18
God’s perfect love drives away our fears. When we know how much we are loved by God, we are motivated to serve Him in any way we can. Our desire to please the Lord means we are willing to try. We can step out and do something, even something different that we have never done before. In love we are released to be bold, to be innovative, and adventurous – to make good use of the gifts we have been given.
Fear paralyzes us and steals our destiny – but love mobilizes us, into the wide-open space of God’s grace!Tweet
Whoever Has Will be Given More
What does the parable of the talents mean for us today? The story is about stewardship, and how we use our ‘wealth’. In different seasons of our lives, we may find that we are rich in different ways. It could be our finances, our time, or our God-given abilities. Every good gift comes from our Heavenly Father and is given to us in varying measures. But it is our responsibility to develop those gifts to serve God, and serve others.
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Our gifts are not always given in full measure. But unless we make a start, and faithfully step out to use our gift in the service of God, it will never grow.
The challenge is to step out in faith and seek to use our gifts in new ways and so to fulfil our God-given potential. If we are rich in time, then we are to use that time wisely – it is the one gift we can never reclaim! If we have less pressure on our finances, then there is space to invest in others, this could be the time to grow that gift. Or it could be that we have a natural gifting, a skill, or talent, to develop and grow in God’s service.
Remember the third servant, held back and constrained by fear? But feeling fearful, having doubts, and being timid, are not in themselves the enemy of our faith. In fact, they may lead us to depend on God even more. But if we allow fear to take hold and control our behavior, so that we bury the gifts that we have been given, we are in danger of allowing fear to steal our destiny!
To Those Who Have Been Given Much, Much is Expected
God will respond to our faith, He brings blessing and multiplies what we offer to Him. Is this the time to dig deep and bring our gifts to the surface? To find out, once again, what we love and where our passion is? There is still time to invest in God’s kingdom to put to full use the wealth He has given us and to share the love, joy, and peace of the Holy Spirit.
“For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”Matthew 25:29
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