Jesus’ Parable of the Talents(Matthew 25:14-30)
Matthew 25 is the New Testament’s main chapter on the final judgment. In this context, Jesus offered the parable of the talents. A talent was a weight of silver or gold.
Jesus often used what I call pocketbook parables. People understand money. They are interested in money.
The parable of the talents teaches about personal responsibility and final judgment. It uses money to explain this. This parable reveals how God expects us to use our money. We are to expand it — meaning our influence — rather than waste it. This is a lengthy parable.
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.
There are five principles governing this passage:
1. God is the owner.
2. He delegates administration to representatives.
3. Each representative adopts a plan of action.
4. The owner requires a final accounting.
5. There is a system of inheritance and disinheritance.
This structure reflects the five points of the biblical covenant model. (On this model, read Rev. Ray Sutton’s book, That You May Prosper . Download it for free here.)
1. The sovereignty of God
2. The delegated authority of man
3. The law of God
4. The judgment of God
5. The kingdom of God
Put more commonly:
1. Who’s in charge here?
2. To whom do I report?
3. What are the rules?
4. What do I get if I obey or disobey?
5. Does this outfit have a future?
God is the Owner
God has servants (verse 14). All people are His servants. God also possesses assets (v. 14). In this case, talents (money). He allocates these talents in terms of the servants’ abilities. This means that He understands their abilities. He allocates the money unequally. The good performers receive more.
He then departs, putting His servants in charge. There is no escape from this responsibility. In the parable, He does not tell the servants what to do with this money. He leaves this up to them. They are responsible.
Each of them has a plan. Two enter into trade. The other one buries his talent.
The Owner Requires an Accounting
Two of the men double their money. The one who had more to begin with receives greater praise. He had greater responsibility. The owner praises both of them. He then rewards them according to their productivity. What is their reward? Greater responsibility.
The message is clear: We are to be net producers, not consumers, of wealth. We are to leave more behind than we inherited on our arrival.
One man returns the buried coin. He says he was governed by fear. He accuses the owner of being a hard man. He accuses him of benefiting where he had not worked. This is erroneous. He ignores the risk associated with allocation.
The owner curses him. He gives the spare talent to the most productive man. Conclusion: The rich get richer. The rich therefore get more responsibility
In Luke’s version of the parable, this is clear.
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. (Luke 19:13-19)
1. There is no escape from responsibility.
2. There is no escape from stewardship.
3. There will be a final day of reckoning.
4. You are commanded to multiply your gifts.
If you are in debt for consumer goods, you are not multiplying. If you are deep in consumer debt, you are falling behind. You are in rebellion.
Making Your Budget
The three servants were required to present an accounting of their use of the assets entrusted to them. Each of them had a plan.
Having a successful plan requires budgeting. A budget lets us put numbers to our plans. These numbers serve as success or failure indicators. If we find that we are going deeper into debt, the numbers are failure indicators.
The parable is clear. We are to multiply our assets, in the broadest sense of the word: our talents. If you find that you are consuming your talents, you are in worse economic shape than the servant who buried his talent.
You need to monitor your success in handling money. A budget lets you do this. You need a plan. You need a budget.
Last week, I asked you to assemble receipts of your spending. This week, you must make a budget. I have provided free tools to help you do this.
If you don’t like using digital tools, then do it on a sheet of paper.