What does the Parable of the Talents mean?
This famous parable that Jesus used has a lot to teach us about stewardship of many things in our lives (including money) if we let it.
I am going to assume that you read the full parable in Matthew 25, but if not, I will have it down below at the end of this article as a refresher.
For now, let’s begin exploring some of the meaning and hidden lessons in this passage.
The Parable of the Talent’s is one of Jesus’ most famous parables. Yet hidden in the 17 verses in Matthew 25 are some of the most important keys to succeeding as a Christian.
These lessons aren’t just good advice—they’re divine mandates that can help believers be more in line with God’s purposes, not just in their finances but in every facet of their lives.
What does the Parable of the Talents symbolize?
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.”Matthew 25:14-15
The Parable of the Talents, found in Matthew 25:14-30, is a rich and compelling story often discussed in sermons, yet rarely deeply explored in its fullness.
The parable unfolds within the larger narrative where Jesus teaches about the end times and what it will be like when the Son of Man returns.
A “talent” in biblical times was a measure of weight, typically used to quantify precious metals like gold and silver. A single talent was a significant amount of money.
The Characters and Their Roles
Within this allegorical tale, we meet the characters whose roles serve to impart the wisdom of the story:
- The Master: Symbolizes God, the one who gives us all we have.
- The Servants: Represent believers and their varying levels of faithfulness.
- The Talents: Stand for our God-given resources, gifts, and opportunities.
The Master goes on a journey and entrusts his property to his servants. Two of the servants invest and double the money they were given, while the third servant buries his talent in the ground.
Key Themes in the Parable of the Talents
This parable touches on several essential themes that should resonate with all believers:
- Stewardship: The importance of taking care of what we’ve been given.
- Investment: The principle of growing what we’ve been entrusted with.
- Accountability: The understanding that we will be held responsible for how we use our resources.
The Relevance Today
In a culture that often promotes self-centered gain, the Parable of the Talents pushes back by focusing on the divine expectations of how we should manage our talents, time, and treasures.
While the parable can be interpreted in numerous ways, its immediate application to today’s Christians is clear.
How are you stewarding your God-given resources? Are you taking steps to multiply them for the Kingdom, or are you hiding them away?
Parable of the talents lessons from the First Two Servants
“And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”Matthew 25:20-21
When we look at the bold moves that the first two servants took with what they were entrusted, it is easy to view that as “risk”.
But let’s elevate it—let’s call it what it actually was: an act of faith.
Risk implies that we don’t know what is going to happen. Faith, on the other hand, implies that we do know what is going to happen, but we just don’t know how yet.
So, one of the most powerful things we can do as stewards is to shift our perspective from one of being a big “risk-taker” to one who is boldly stepping out in faith.
And here is the thing: one small act can have a domino effect.
Think of the boy with the five loaves and two fish. He gave what little he had, and it fed thousands. The first two servants understood this principle. They didn’t sit on their talents; they multiplied them. It’s an echoing lesson that small, intentional acts can lead to exponential rewards.
Now, here is where things get interesting.
Notice that in verse 15 the Master gave according to each servant’s ability.
And when they succeeded, their circle of influence grew. So if you’ve been faithful with a little, brace yourself—more is coming your way. Because the implication is that the more you and I handle well, the more we’ll be entrusted to manage.
The story is simple, yet the implications are profound.
Your talents, and your resources they are your sphere of influence. And what you do with them speaks louder than any words you could utter. So take the risk, multiply what you’ve been given, and prepare to be entrusted with more.
A Cautionary Tale from the Third Servant
“He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’”Matthew 25:24-25
Now let’s take a look at the third servant.
It’s easy to criticize the third servant for his inaction, but let’s look deeper into the underlying cause: fear.
While caution can serve as a guide, it can also become a hindrance that holds us back from fulfilling our God-given potential (just like in the Parable of the Minas).
The third servant allowed fear to paralyze him, an obstacle we must all be cautious to avoid.
The tragedy here isn’t just a buried talent; it’s a buried opportunity for positive influence and growth. The biggest risk is often not taking any risk at all, especially when entrusted with something as invaluable as a talent.
Instead of taking responsibility, the third servant chose to blame his master for his own shortcomings. Accountability isn’t just for the times we succeed; it’s also for the moments we falter. Acknowledging our fears and limitations is a key part of authentic personal growth.
The parable makes it clear: what you cultivate is what you harvest.
The first two servants experienced rewards and greater responsibilities because they were faithful with what they were given. The third servant faced loss—not just of the talent but, more importantly, the loss of trust and opportunity.
A few more key lessons to consider from the Parable of the Talents
Stewards are required to take risks
It is interesting how upset the master got with the steward, who took no risks. The other two stewards did take risks and reaped the rewards. I often wonder why the parable didn’t contain a steward who lost some of the investment. But either way, I think we are led to believe that the primary frustration of the master was that the steward was lazy and didn’t even try.
He was called a “wicked and lazy slave.”
My take on this is that he was more frustrated with his laziness than his lack of production.
The steward didn’t even put the talents in the bank to gain interest. The passage states that the master gave to each of them according to their ability. So, I think we can assume that the steward with one talent did have some ability, or else he wouldn’t have given him any.
And if he did indeed have some ability to manage money, even with the smallest amount of ability, he would have known that earning small interest at the bank is better than burying it!
I liken this to having a Vet watch your dog for the weekend and not feed it. Most everyone knows that you should feed a dog at least daily, but especially a vet. It is their profession – the thing they are skilled at doing and are entrusted to do.
So, the extreme amount of laziness this steward had to not at least put the talent in the bank, coupled with the fact that he let fear paralyze him from doing what he was expected to do infuriated the master.
Don’t compare yourself to others
The master in the parable didn’t give each steward the same amount. They all started with different amounts, not much different than this game of life we are all in. Some people start with a lot, some with a little. But we are all judged based on what we did with what we had, rather than what we ended up with.
The great thing about this is that our success is not based on what people may think about us. God knows what He gave us to work with and He will see what we do with it.
So, it doesn’t matter whether other people think you are a success or a failure – God’s definition of success is often quite different than man’s.
The master gave them each “according to their ability.” He knew a bit about their faithfulness and how likely they were to increase their talents.
It turns out he delegated wisely.
Our money is not our own
We enter into the world with nothing, and we leave with nothing.
One of the first lessons that I learned a few years ago that really changed the way I thought about money was that none of it is mine. It is all God’s. I have the privilege and opportunity to be a steward of what He has given me.
Once I began looking at my money this way, it changed my whole financial outlook and helped me focus more on pleasing God with the money entrusted to me.
Even if we spent our lives and ignored our responsibility as stewards, we still can’t take any of it with us. We might as well try to better the lives of those around us and store up treasure in heaven rather than down here.
As you read the Parable of the Talents, let’s not merely understand this story intellectually.
Let’s internalize and live it out. Let’s be the people who multiply, expand, and grow what we have been entrusted with.
As you go about your day today, remember these lessons aren’t just good advice—they’re divine mandates that can help believers be more in line with God’s purposes, not just in their finances but in every facet of their lives.
Related Bible verses for further study:
- 2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
- Proverbs 26:13 – “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!’”
- Romans 14:12 – “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”
- Luke 16:10 – “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.”
- James 2:17 – “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
- Proverbs 16:3 – “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”
- John 15:5 – “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
- Galatians 6:9 – “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
- Luke 12:48 – “But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.”
- 1 Corinthians 4:2 – “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.”
- Psalm 24:1 – “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”
- 2 Corinthians 9:6 – “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
The full passage from Matthew 25:
For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. “To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.
“Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. “In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. “But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
“Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. “The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
“Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
“And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. ‘And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. ‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. ‘Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’
“For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. “Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.Matthew 25:14-30