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Parable of the Talents

Matthew 25:14-30




Approximately one-third of the teachings personally conveyed by Jesus Christ as noted in the Gospels were in the form of parables.  In the following passage He gave His reasons for using the parabolic form in teaching truth:


And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.  For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.  Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.  And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their  ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (Matthew 13:10-17)


Jesus Christ used parables to illustrate truth for the following reasons:


  • Parables were designed to teach the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, a designation of the coming millennial kingdom that will be Christ’s future corporeal reign of 1,000 years upon the face of the earth.  The term “kingdom of heaven” has been interpreted by expositors of the Word in a variety of ways, e.g., as the “sphere over which sovereign God rules,” or as the “sphere of all who have been granted eternal life.”  But within the context of the purpose of why Christ came to the Jewish State of Israel, which will be discussed later; it may be determined that the term and several of Christ’s parables were intended to refer to and illustrate the structure and administration of His coming literal kingdom upon earth.


  • Parables were targeted toward the understanding of Christ’s disciples and not for all who heard His teachings.  He used the parabolic form to reveal truth to some, and to hide it from others.  A mixed audience attended His teachings; some were believers and others were unbelievers.  Some had placed their faith in His person (deity), His purpose (grace-gift of salvation), and His office (Messiah); while others rejected these critical aspects of His incarnation and life.  To those who welcomed Him, they would have more; but to those who rejected Him, they would have less (Matthew 13:10-17).


  • Parables were the fulfillment of prophecy (vs. 14) found in Isaiah 6:9, which foretold that many would hear but not understand.  But now it was time for His disciples to understand His teachings and to be “blessed” (happy) in their understanding. Also see Psalm 78:2 and Ephesians 3:9.


Parables are unlike allegories.  While an allegory may be a story constructed without a basis in reality in order to convey truth, a parable is based on a known realm (reality).  The truth to be learned was gained from transference from reality to the unknown.  It becomes the hearer’s responsibility to properly understand what truth is being transferred from the reality of the parable that is told.  When Christ used a parable, He expected the believer to understand the parable by making the necessary transference from its reality to the truth that He was seeking to convey.


It is interesting to note that of all the parables delivered after the Jewish leaders of the day registered their rejection of Christ as Messiah (Matthew 12), only two parables were interpreted by Christ—the parable of the sower and the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13).  It is conjectured that He explained these two parables to set a pattern of interpretation for all His parables.  The fact that He did not interpret His subsequent parables indicates that He fully expected His disciples to understand what He taught.


Certain principles should be followed in the interpretation of parables, as follows:


  1. All doctrinal interpretation is totally dependent on the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13; 1 John 2:20, 27).


  1. Parables that are concerned with the kingdom of heaven refer to the coming form of theocracy that is often referred to as the millennial kingdom, which will be a period of 1,000 years when Christ will personally reign upon the earth.  The fact that parables are about the kingdom of heaven is expressed often by the Lord Himself.  Because the Church dispensation developed within the time bounds covered by the parables, and because the Church is a part of the future theocratic kingdom, interpreters often and erroneously apply the parables directly to the Church.


  1. Parables are to be interpreted within their immediate context, which often conveys the problem to which Christ is directing the parable.  In this light it is important to understand in which gospel record the parable is situated.  Each of the four gospels presents a different picture of Christ and His ministry while upon earth.  John emphasizes His deity and His grace-message of salvation.  In it He is referred to as the “Son of God.”  In Luke His humanity is primarily in focus, and He is called the “Son of man.”  Mark emphasizes His miraculous works and His position as “Servant.”  Matthew reveals Him as the “King”—the “King of the Jews” and the coming “King of kings” and “Lord of lords” to rule over the earth during His millennial reign.


  1. The interpretation should be based on a proper understanding of the reality from which the hearer is expected to gain truth.  In other words, one cannot interpret the parable of the sower unless one properly understands the process of sowing seeds during New Testament times.  It is impossible to discover the truth in a parable by superimposing current culture on the Jewish culture of New Testament times.  It is important for the student of God’s Word to become familiar with the frames of reference in which the parables are set, i.e., the culture, customs, and norms of the days when Christ walked the earth.




This parable is another “kingdom of heaven” parable, which follows the “kingdom of heaven” parables of the wedding guests (a.k.a. parable of the wedding feast, Matthew 22:1-14), of the wise and faithful servant (Matthew 24:45-51), and of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). 


All these parables were designed to teach the organizational structure of the coming millennial kingdom upon earth.  Whereas the first reveals the extraction of the “chosen” from the “called,” the second reveals the extraction of the “faithful and wise” from the chosen, the third reveals how the highest rank of the Bride of Christ will be selected; this parable reveals how the second highest rank of the Bride of Christ will be selected.


It would be helpful for the reader to have a proper understanding of the three tenses of salvation, i.e., past tense pertaining to the salvation of a person’s spirit and which is immutable (unchangeable) and based solely on grace through faith in Christ, present tense pertaining to the salvation of a person’s soul (life as it relates to the millennial kingdom and which is mutable (changeable) and based on divine good works during this life, and future tense pertaining to the salvation of a person’s body at the Rapture.  A review of these may be gained from the topical study entitled “Rule of Three,” which may be accessed from the topical section of studies at


As previously mentioned, the parable of the talents is one of several parables that reveal the structure and rulership of the coming kingdom of heaven.  The occasion for it is found in a preceding chapter (Matthew 21) in which Christ announced that the kingdom of heaven would be taken from Israel and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof (Matthew 21:43)—the believers (gentile and Jew) of the age of grace.  And with the setting of this parable of the “talents” next to the parables of the “faithful and wise” and the “ten virgins,” it may be determined that it is an “extension” to those parables, teaching the “basis” on which a believer will be chosen as a part of the bride of Christ. 


By putting all three parables together we learn that he must be faithful and wise (the achievement of “super knowledge”—Gk. epigonosis); that this required wisdom comes from the “second” portion of (daily surrender to) the Holy Spirit, which is accompanied by epigonosis of God’s Word, and that he must be faithful in utilizing the possessions (treasures) of God that he has been given in conjunction with his natural abilities of which he has also been endowed by God.


Three items of interest that must be considered, as follow:


  1. The kingdom as offered to Israel was contingent upon “national repentance.”  This was the “gospel of the kingdom” as preached by John the Baptist and by Christ (Matthew 3:2; 4:17).  If Israel would have repented, recognized their Messiah, and brought forth national fruit; the kingdom could have then been established and the nation would have been in it with all its spiritual blessings.  But Israel didn’t and it became a nation set aside with only future earthly blessings given to them through the unconditional Abrahamic covenant.  Individually they could be saved and become a member of the Church, but as a nation they lost their right to the kingdom by rejecting Christ.


  1. The kingdom that Israel lost is given by Christ to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof—a holy nation identified by Peter as the Church (1 Peter 2:9, 10)


  1. The kingdom was not given to this nation based on salvation only, but rather on works after salvation (Matthew 21:43b).  Thus, not all Christians will be privileged to rule and reign with Christ over the kingdom, but only those who produce divine good works—this is the key to all the parables that reveal the structure and rulership of the coming kingdom.



The Parable and Its Interpretation

Matthew 25:14-30




This is the fourth of five parables presented by Christ to teach the organizational structure of the coming millennial kingdom (“kingdom of heaven”) upon earth.  It follows the parable of “ten virgins.”  Starting at Matthew 24:32, Christ puts forth two major signs of the “last days” that will precede and foretell the imminent rapture of the Church. 


The first is the “parable of the fig tree” (vss. 32-35), which teaches that national Israel will return to their God-given land and which historically began in April 1948.  The second is the “sign of Noah” (vss. 36-39), which speaks of the wickedness that existed in Noah’s day (Genesis 6:5, 13; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3), the fact that the world will not take God’s impending judgment seriously (2 Peter 3:2, 4), and the shocking surprise when the event takes place (vs. 39).


Then immediately preceding the parable of the faithful and wise servant, Christ cautions believers to be prepared for His return by revealing that when it occurs there will be a great separation of the saved from the lost upon the earth (vss. 40, 41) and that continual “watching” is necessary since:


·         They will not know “what hour [their] Lord is coming” (vs. 42).


·         Any reasonable home owner would be ready if he knew when a thief was going to break into his house (vs. 43).


·         The coming of the Son of Man will be at an unexpected time (vs. 44).


The parable of the “ten virgins” further amplifies the necessity for those who have received God’s grace-gift of salvation to be ready for their Lord’s imminent return to extract them from the earth by rapture, as noted by the last words of the parable.  It also depicts the basis on which the “bride of Christ” will be selected from among all those who have been saved by faith alone in Christ alone (the “called”) and thereby possess eternal life.


The Parable and its Interpretation


Matthew 25:14-30

For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.  And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own abilites; and immediately he went on a journey.  Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents.  And likewise he who had received two gained two more also.  But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money.  After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.  So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, “Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.”  His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.”  He also who had received two talents came and said, “Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.”  His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.”  Then he who had received the one talent came and said, “Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.”  But his lord answered and said to him, “You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.  So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.  Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.  For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.  And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”


This parable is a continuation of the preceding parable of the “ten virgins;” although it has a somewhat different focus.  In the first place, the Greek words for “kingdom of heaven” are not in verse 14 of the original manuscript.  The translators placed the phrase in the verse for clarification, since the content of this parable pertains to the same period of time, i.e., the millennial kingdom on earth.  The connecting word between the prior parable and this one is “for,” a primary particle that assigns a reason that may also be translated “because.”  It is used in arguments, explanations, and for intensifications. In the second place, whereas the parable of the “ten virgins” looks inward and pertains to the inner power of the Holy Spirit (“oil”), this parable looks outward toward that which is produced by proper conduct (utilizing the “inner power”) during this life.


The transition between verse 13 and verse 14 should read:  “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming, because it is like a man traveling to a far country who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.”  Both parables warn of the unpredictable and imminent return of Christ, when immediately after the Rapture of the Church, all children of God will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ.


The word “talent” (Gk. talanton) represents a certain weight and thence a coin or sum of money.  This designation may indeed be symbolic of the richness of God’s Word (Psalm 12:6; 19:10; Proverbs 3:14; 8 (entire chapter); 16:16).  The word “servant” (Gk. doulos) indicates one who is in a permanent relation of servitude to another, his will altogether consumed in the will of the other.


The following observations are noted upon reviewing this parable:


  1. All individuals within the parable, excepting the “lord,” are servants (Gk. doulos, “slave”) to the lord; in other words, they are of equal standing.


  1. Each individual had different abilities; therefore, they were assigned different talents.


  1. The purpose of the provision of talents was for the gaining (production) of more talents.


  1. The lord, upon his return, settled accounts with all of the servants/slaves.


  1. The word “faithful,” just as in the parable of the “faithful and wise servant” is attributed to two of the three servants.


Like the parable of the “wedding guests/feast,” this parable is often misinterpreted when the popular view of “outer darkness” is construed as “hell.”  Contrary to this view, Scripture teaches that “outer darkness” is a place of obscurity just outside the light of the kingdom and is not hell.  Those who teach that “outer darkness” is “hell,” are in conflict with three cardinal doctrines of the Bible:  eternal security, grace, and the Judgment Seat of Christ. 


To stipulate “outer darkness” as “hell” is to conclude that one of Christ’s own servants lost eternal salvation and that salvation is ultimately achieved by works and not grace.  It also then must be concluded that the Judgment Seat of Christ is a judgment for all the lost and saved, which is not taught anywhere in Scripture.


The components of the parable are as follow:


  • The man (“lord”) traveling into a far country represents Jesus.


  • The servants represent believers during the Church Age.


  • The lord’s goods represent Christ’s possessions (Gk. huparchonta) or His power, including “full discernment” (Gk: epignosis) of the “kingdom of heaven” (kingdom truths).


  • Talents represent Christ’s “rich” portions of Himself and His Word (epigonosis) for the purpose of producing divine good works.


  • The return of the lord to reckon with his servants represents the Judgment Seat of Christ.


  • The two servants that properly used the talents to gain additional ones represent believers who will enter the kingdom of heaven and be rulers over “many things.”


  • The servant who hid his talent and did nothing represents believers who will lose their reward and be cast into obscurity for one-thousand years.


  • The “joy of your lord” represents Christ’s coming kingship over the earth (Hebrews 2:2) and the right to participate with Him in ruling over it.


Similar to those in the parable of the “faithful and wise servant” (highest level of kingdom rule) who will rule “all that He has,” the two who produce divine good works in this parable are those who will occupy the second highest level of kingdom rule and will rule over “many things.”  The giving of possessions in this parable is not the giving away of them, but it is placing them in stewardship under a servant for care and gain.


To the believer in the Church Age this does not represent the giving of spiritual gifts, but the giving of empowerment in proportion to those who already have gifts (abilities).  This then reveals a relationship or partnership between the Holy Spirit and the believer for the specific purpose of producing divine good works, i.e., Spirit-produced results.  The Holy Spirit provides the power and wisdom (super-knowledge) of the “second portion” of the oil (see the parable of the “ten virgins”), to be combined with the believer’s personal gifts and commitment (“own abilities”). 


The outworking of this combination between God and man was for the purpose of gaining more riches (divine good works, which includes making “disciples”—not just “saved persons”) for Christ.  However, this outworking cannot occur until the believer comes to a position of rest (faith) in Christ, that is, the inward-working power (Holy Spirit) who will produce divine good works through him (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 2: 12, 13; Colossians 2:6).


The three servants here speak of believers who have a variety of abilities to minister to others through the Word.  Some have more ability than others. . . . two out of the three servants received the same reward, even though one had five talents and the other had two talents.  This is a principle of the Judgment Seat of Christ that says all believers will be held accountable for that which was given to them.  Since both servants in this parable received talents on the basis of their abilities, and both gained a double amount of that which was given, then both would receive the same reward.  Here, our Lord rewards both servants by giving them the title of “good and faithful servant,” and inviting them to “enter” the joy of the Lord for the purpose of ruling over “many things.”. . . .


The key to where these believers will rule and reign in the kingdom is found in the word “faithful.”  Because this word appears in the title that Jesus used to address them, they are counted as being in the “faithful” who will be selected out of the “chosen” (see Revelation 17:14).  And since they are not members of the highest rank of the faithful, they must be those who will fill the second highest rank. (Shock & Surprise Beyond the Rapture by Gary T. Whipple, Th.M., Schoettle Publishing Co., Inc., 2003)


As mentioned previously,” this parable, although often seen as a separate parable apart from the parable of the “ten virgins,” is in reality a continuation of that parable and compliments it.  Whereas the portion concerning the “ten virgins” focuses upon the power within, this portion concerning the “talents” focuses on the production that is without, which is derived from the “inward power” (Holy Spirit) in combination with the believer’s abilities.


The following observations apply to the third servant:


  • He was every bit as much of a “servant” as the first two; therefore, it may be properly concluded that in relation to Christ this is a saved person.  Thus, the following observations will be made of his symbolic personage as it relates to the meaning (true interpretation) of the parable.


  • He evidenced little trust in God’s Word, i.e., he would not step out in faith to enter into trade (of self or self-effort for the filling or control of the Holy Spirit) that would produce gain for God.


  • He had a legalistic view of God’s administration, which viewed God as harsh, unyielding, and without mercy—thereby denying God’s grace and “principle of faith” during his daily life.


  • Because of his legalistic view of God, he operated out of fear.


  • He was accusatory of God at the judgment, claiming that God wanted him to accomplish an impossible task.


The following observations of the third servant by John T. Whipple are most appropriate:


In studying this servant’s life in the light of the other two servants, we see that his problem was in failing to understand the “partnership” between God and himself.  He did not know that his talent was to be taken to the marketplace for “trading,” not to the fields for “harvesting.”  Here is the key to understand this.  We are not to produce works “for” God through our won “self-efforts,” but rather allow Him to produce His own works “through” us as we “rest” in Him (by faith).  God wants us in the marketplace daily (the Word) in order to trade portions of our “life” for more of the double portion of oil, i.e., the Holy Spirit (talents or “epignosis”).  He also wants us to exercise our personal abilities by placing those talents received in the “bank” (the Holy Spirit) and then trusting the Holy Spirit to do His own work through us with that talent, i.e, make “spiritual interest.”  This activity in the marketplace and the bank speaks of gaining knowledge and wisdom, and then producing fruit through its interest.  Apparently, this is what the other two servants had done, and as a result gained other talents.  God simply said to the one servant who hid his talent, “Why didn’t you give my talent to the exchangers (put my money in the bank) so that when I arrived I would have “gained” my talent with interest.


Our Lord called this servant a “wicked” and “slothful” (Gk. “poneros” and “okeros” meaning hurtful and tardy, i.e., lazy) and took his talent away and gave it to the one having ten (a principle of loss at the judgment seat).  Then the Lord had this servant bound hand and foot (removal of all future service for a thousand years) and cast into “the outer darkness,” thus, showing that he would be worthless during the millennium. (Shock & Surprise Beyond the Rapture by Gary T. Whipple, Th.M., Schoettle Publishing Co., Inc., 2003)


Whipple sums up this parable in another of his books with the following remarks:


Our parable tells us that the first two servants (types of the bride) produced righteous works through a partnership that was made up of the power of the talents (His goods) and their personal abilities.  Thus, by exercising their different abilities while resting in the power of “Christ, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27b), they automatically produced the material for their wedding garments. 


The third servant, however, having seen the higher wisdom of the kingdom, failed to rest in its power and, as a result, produced no spiritual fruit.  Instead, he hid his power in the earth (representing a worldly life) and lost his position as the bride, being called a “wicked and slothful” servant (Gr. hurtful and lazy servant) by his Lord.


Finally, by joining the truths from the parables of the ten virgins and the talents, we can clearly see two things that must be done by the believer in order to become a member of the bride of Christ. 


First, a believer must “see” the kingdom (become spiritually wise) and, then, “hope” for it to the end. 


Second, he must trust in Christ for the results that can be obtained from the talents as they flow through his personal abilities.  This trust includes the losing one’s life here to gain it there; surrendering, or selling it, here to buy the double portion of oil for there; and depositing the talents in the bank (power) of the Holy Spirit here to earn interest through the believer’s exercised abilities for there. (The Matthew Mysteries, by Gary T. Whipple, Th.M., Schoettle Publishing Co., Inc., 1995)


To put it another way a believer can do “human good works” (good deeds performed by one’s self-effort), but they will profit him nothing in the millennial kingdom.  Only “divine good works,” which are those that are produced by the believer empowered by the Holy Spirit as Christ works through him will accrue benefit for him now and during the age to come.  The believer who lives outside the realm of faith, who insists on a life of legalism, will never achieve proper sanctification (spiritual maturity) and will at the Judgment Seat of Christ miss out on rewards and fail to achieve any rulership with Christ during the millennial kingdom.  If then this is his lot, he will exist for one-thousand years in obscurity (“outer darkness”) wherein he will experience great unhappiness (“weeping and gnashing of teeth”).


But it is critical that the believer understand that this does not have to be his lot.  A persistent and consistent exercise of the principle of faith in the study of God’s Word and the continuous exercise of faith in God’s Word as the believer surrenders to Christ (Colossians 2:6; Galatians 2:20) in order to accomplish divine good works, will exclude him from this outcome and secure for him a place in the Bride of Christ and a position of rulership in the coming kingdom upon earth.


It cannot be overemphasized that the same principle of faith that brings a person eternal salvation (of his spirit) is also the only principle that can bring a person the “salvation of his soul (life),” i.e., sanctification and eventual rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ and rulership beside Christ (as His bride) during the millennial kingdom upon earth.  Christians make a grave error by resorting to legalism as proper conduct for the Christian life.  Such is the fruit of pride and self-effort.  The believer must understand that divine good works are only possible as one surrenders his life to Christ’s inner-power (Holy Spirit), which then will allow Christ to accomplish His ends through the committed believer (Colossians 2:6; Galatians 2:20).