The Parable of the Talents
In Matthew 24, Jesus foretold events that would happen before His second coming. Then, in Matthew 25, He told three parables to amplify His warnings and these parables are intimately related to each other. For example, the foolish virgins in the first parable are represented as the worthless servant in the second parable and the goats in the third parable.
“Again, it [the kingdom of Heaven] will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.” (Matthew 25:14–18, insertion mine)
When a person becomes a born again disciple of Jesus, He gives each person a mission and the necessary talents to accomplish it. He will give some servants just one talent and others will receive many talents.
“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ ” (Matthew 25:19–23)
No one should feel either superior or inferior because he has five talents or only one; remember, much is required of those who receive much and little is required of those who receive little. (Luke 12:48) Jesus wants each servant to use his talent(s) to bless those within his sphere of influence. Interestingly, the man with two talents actually received the same recognition as the man with five. Both servants received a 100% increase and the same reward.
“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘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 talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 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 25:24–27)
This part of the parable merits close attention because Jesus will fulfill it soon. Christ’s return will awaken the world from slumber. God’s wrath against wickedness, displayed in the first four trumpets, will surprise many Christians (the five foolish virgins) and they will be shocked to discover that they never had a relationship with the Bridegroom even though they believed they did! When Christ turns them away at the banquet door with the words, “I never knew you,” they will become bitter toward Jesus. Their sentiment is expressed in this parable when the worthless servant confesses to his master that he (the servant) knew all along that his master was evil. He said: “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.”
The wicked servant did not have a servant’s heart. He did not want the talent lent to him. He did not invest the master’s talent, as little as it was. He just buried the talent (forgot about it) and lived as if he were the master instead of the servant. The master responded to the wicked servant’s accusation saying, “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.” The master’s response indicates that each disciple will use the talents lent to him, and each faithful servant will have something to show when the master returns.
“Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has [been faithful with what was given him] will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have [anything to show for the talent(s) lent to him], even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25:14–30)
The Master takes the wasted talents away from the worthless servant and gives more talents to those who are appropriately using what was already given to them. The worthless servant is similar to the foolish virgins in the previous parable, and the Master prevents the servant from receiving His wonderful gifts. The moral of the story is that when a person is born again, the Master’s business becomes top priority. Otherwise, the Master’s business is soon buried with the cares of this life, and the gift entrusted to the worthless servant produces nothing for Jesus.
The Parable of the Sheep and Goats
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.” (Matthew 25:31–33)
Christians frequently abuse this parable interpreting it to mean that Jesus will judge human beings on the day of His return. Other Christians read the parable and conclude that Jesus will save them because of their charitable deeds. They think if a person has more good deeds than bad deeds, salvation is assured. The Bible does not support either conclusion. We cannot put the Bible in a state of internal conflict by “cherry picking” verses to reach a preconceived conclusion. (Internal conflict occurs when one Bible verse is used to cancel the meaning of another.) If we understand this parable is an object lesson that compliments the two previous ones in Matthew 25, the message in the third parable is quite simple: Our conduct reveals our spiritual DNA. If we follow the Holy Spirit, our actions will be selfless. If we follow the sinful nature, our actions will be selfish.
According to the parable, the people of Earth will be divided into two groups when Jesus returns. The groups are not separated by Bible knowledge or an understanding of Bible prophecy. Instead, they are divided based on whether they have a genuine interest and love for others. A few hours before His arrest, Jesus said to His disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34–35, italics mine) Jesus made an example of His sacrifice for sinners. He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:34–40)
Strangely, Jesus does not identify the saints as sheep because they showed kindness to those in need. On the contrary, each sinner is born with a goat’s heart and when he becomes a born-again Christian, the Holy Spirit transforms the goat’s heart into a sheep’s heart. This is the key point of the parable. God has prepared His kingdom for those whom the Holy Spirit has transformed into sheep. Goats cannot acquire eternal life through good deeds or giving money away, because their hearts cannot produce genuine interest in the welfare of others. Sheep, on the other hand, are people transformed by the voice of the Holy Spirit, because every born-again Christian receives a pair of ears: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27–28)
The foolish virgins solved charity problems by “giving alms.” The wise virgins solved charity problems by “giving themselves.” “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3)
Some people will say that they can’t help others because it takes everything they make to live. A person may not be able to help others financially because circumstances can develop and hold us in a financial bind for a while. God certainly understands this. However, the Master also knows selfishness and greed when present in a sinner’s life. If a person spends everything he makes on himself and deliberately saves nothing to help others, Jesus is not pleased.
If a person has no money to share, he may be able to share some of his time. Each born-again Christian can help others with words of encouragement and genuine gestures of friendship. Jesus knows that some people are poor due to laziness and stupidity. Others are dysfunctional because of abuse, addictions, being trapped by poorly-made decisions, or being emotionally and/or mentally impaired. Given these various situations, thoughtful insight is required to help others. In some cases, giving money (enabling self-destructive behaviors) can be more harmful than helpful. In many cases, people do not want help; instead, they want to be sustained in their current state. There is an old saying, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
“Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.’ ” (Matthew 25:41–46)
A goat does not become a sheep by acting like a sheep. This parable is not about “doing,” it is about “being.” Jesus said: “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:12–13) The truthfulness of His words is evident. Atrocities are occurring on a daily basis. Demons are possessing people at a greater rate than ever before and the proof of this is seen in predatory violence inflicted on unsuspecting people. Many terrible things are happening, but Jesus’ servants must keep about their Master’s business. Jesus has given each Christian a mission and the talent(s) needed to accomplish it. The parables of the ten virgins, the faithful and lazy servants, and the sheep and goats have a powerful moral. There will be no room in Heaven for foolish virgins, lazy servants and goats. Are you ready for Jesus to come? To prepare yourself, get into God’s Word and start your study with the gospels of John and James. Do not wait! Do it today!