The Parable of the Talents

A few days before His crucifixion, Jesus told some parables. The first parable is about ten virgins looking for the coming of the bridegroom. Because of a delay, all of them fell asleep. When they were awakened, five of them who had made preparation had extra oil for their lamps. The other five who were foolish had no oil and their lamps went out.

The next parable about the talents appears to be built on the parable of the virgins by way of practical application to our lives and Christianity.

Matthew 25:13–30 “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. 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.”

We all want to be that servant who hears the words, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

The Bible has much counsel to servants. Paul counseled the Ephesians, “Servants, be obedient to them that are [your] masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” Ephesians 6:5, 6. Obedience is always a sign of a servant. Doing the will of God from the heart is the key. It is an obedience that must come from the heart.

“We have by grace been chosen as His servants. A servant means a worker, one who bears cares, burdens, responsibilities.” Manuscript 81, July 18, 1893. “It is those who profess to have accepted Christ’s service who in the parable are represented as His own servants.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 326.

If we are to be found good and faithful servants, first we have to respond to the call of a servant and be found faithful. We must be mindful that all things that a servant possesses are gifts from the Master. “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one, the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one, there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom; to another, the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit; to another miraculous powers; to another prophecy; to another distinguishing between spirits; to another speaking in different kinds of tongues; and to still another the interpretation of tongues: All these are the work of the one and the same Spirit. And He gives them to each one just as He determines.” I Corinthians 12:4–11.

“We are to realize that it is not our goods we are handling, but the Master’s entrusted capital for us to invest and increase as wise stewards of our Lord’s goods, that we may return to Him His investment with usury.” Manuscript 81, July 18, 1891.

“The talents that Christ entrusts to His church represent especially the gifts and blessings imparted by the Holy Spirit.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 327. This is the point of the parable. But it also includes the special gifts of the Spirit. “The special gifts of the Spirit are not the only talents represented in the parable. It includes all gifts and endowments, whether original or acquired, natural or spiritual. All are to be employed in Christ’s service.” Ibid., 328. Every talent or ability that we have belongs to Christ, and we are to employ them for His service.

In Romans 12:4-8 we are shown how each individual is the recipient of an important gift that, when brought together, makes a whole. “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not have all the same functions: so in Christ, we who are many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve. If it is teaching, let him teach. If it is encouraging, let him encourage. If it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously. If it is leadership, let him govern diligently. If it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Paraphrased.) Paul represents these gifts as being parts of the body. Christ is the one who makes up the body giving to each person a different gift. As we use these different gifts, we are functioning as a body.

“The talents are not apportioned capriciously. He who has ability to use five talents receives five. He who can improve but two, receives two. He who can wisely use only one, receives one. None need lament that they have not received larger gifts; for He who has apportioned to every man is equally honored by the improvement of each trust, whether it be great or small. The one to whom five talents have been committed is to render the improvement of five; he who has but one, the improvement of one. God expects returns ‘according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.’ II Corinthians 8:12.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 328.

“And likewise he who [had received] two, gained two more also. But he that had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.” Matthew 25:17.

When we look at the parable, one man receives five talents, one man receives two talents, and one received one. Two of them brought a return. The one who was given five talents brought back five more, and the one who was given two also increased, bringing back two more. However, both of these men received the same commendation, teaching us that it is not the amount of talents that we have that is important to God; it is all about what we do with what we have been given. “But he that 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.” Matthew 25:18, 19.

“We are all entrusted with the goods of heaven—talents of intellect, wealth, reason, and we are not to regard lightly any of these gifts. They are the Lord’s capital, to be used, sanctified, and returned to the Lord improved by use. To every man God has given his work, and all will have to stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of what they have done for their Master. …

“The more we have of this world’s goods, the greater will be our accountability to God. Let the question be asked sincerely, heartily, What do I with my Lord’s entrusted talents? There are those who have great light, great opportunities; they realize the Master’s kindly affections, and are stirred to make returns. But other influences come in.” Bible Echoes, June 6, 1898.

Satan is out there battling against each one of us to bring other influences into our lives to divert our attention from what we should be doing. “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and [so] that day come upon you unawares.” Luke 21:34. If we become overcharged with these things and forget what we are supposed to be doing, then we could be found unfaithful, like the servant who hid his talents in the ground.

One of the most overwhelming flaws in humanity is selfishness. It was this very thing that prompted the servant to hoard what was given him. He was afraid that God was going to claim something that he didn’t want to give—he was “afraid to trust God; afraid that God will require something they claim to be their own. They hide their talent in the earth, fearing to invest it anywhere, lest they be called to give back the improvements to God. … Because they have but one talent, they are afraid to trust it with God, and they hide it in the earth.” The Review and Herald, February 23, 1886. This servant was unwilling to give God what belonged to Him. What this man did not realize was the ultimate damage done by selfishness. “You that are placing your talents of means in a napkin, and hiding them in the earth, who are building houses and adding land to land, God calls upon you, ‘Sell that ye have, and give alms.’ [Luke 12:33.] There is a time coming when commandment keepers can neither buy nor sell. Make haste to dig out your buried talents. If God has entrusted you with money, show yourselves faithful to your trust; unwrap your napkin, and send your talents to the exchangers, that when Christ shall come, He may receive His own with interest.” Counsels on Stewardship, 40.

There are several ways that we bury our talents in the ground. One way is through the misuse of our mental faculties. “The Lord desires us to obtain all the education possible, with the object in view of imparting our knowledge to others. None can know where or how they may be called to labor or to speak for God. Our heavenly Father alone sees what He can make of men. There are before us possibilities which our feeble faith does not discern. Our minds should be so trained that if necessary we can present the truths of His word before the highest earthly authorities in such a way as to glorify His name.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 333, 334. One of the best ways to educate our mind is through witnessing. As we witness we use the things that we have learned, and as we share them with others, God gives us more.

There is one thing in this world that has the power to make or break any good thing. It is the power of speech. This can be the greatest blessing or the greatest curse depending on how it is used. “The power of speech is a talent that should be diligently cultivated. Of all the gifts we have received from God, none is capable of being a greater blessing than this. With the voice we convince and persuade, with it we offer prayer and praise to God, and with it we tell others of the Redeemer’s love. How important, then, that it be so trained as to be most effective for good.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 335. Our speech can be used for the Lord, but it can also be used for Satan. If we want our speech to be pure, our hearts need to be pure. We need to watch and be aware of the effect we have on others through this powerful medium. When speaking of the things that God has given as gifts to use in His service, this one, as the Bible says, has the power for great good or great evil.

Another gift that God has endowed us with is our influence. Whether we realize it or not, everything that we do influences another being in some way. It is for this reason that we need to exercise a spirit of joy and kindness. “Every soul is surrounded by an atmosphere of its own—an atmosphere, it may be, charged with the life-giving power of faith, courage, and hope, and sweet with the fragrance of love. Or it may be heavy and chill with the gloom of discontent and selfishness, or poisonous with the deadly taint of cherished sin. By the atmosphere surrounding us, every person with whom we come in contact is consciously or unconsciously affected.” Ibid., 339.

Time is another talent. What do we spend our time on? Is it worthy of a Christian, and enriching to the Christian walk? “Our time belongs to God. Every moment is His, and we are under the most solemn obligation to improve it to His glory. Of no talent He has given will He require a more strict account than of our time.” Ibid., 342. It may come as a surprise to many that it is the account of our time that we are held the most accountable. Our very lives are not our own, but His. Given this, how we spend the time that we are given is very important to God.

Health is often something that is taken for granted; however, health is another thing that needs to be worked with and increased. “Health is a blessing of which few appreciate the value; yet upon it the efficiency of our mental and physical powers largely depends. Our impulses and passions have their seat in the body, and it must be kept in the best condition physically and under the most spiritual influences in order that our talents may be put to the highest use.

“Anything that lessens physical strength enfeebles the mind and makes it less capable of discriminating between right and wrong. We become less capable of choosing the good and have less strength of will to do that which we know to be right.” Ibid., 346. Health is something to be guarded. The mind and the body sympathize with each other and every power of the will is necessary to overcome that which would be more difficult without good health.

Lastly, finances are a talent. “Our money has not been given us that we might honor and glorify ourselves. As faithful stewards we are to use it for the honor and glory of God. Some think that only a portion of their means is the Lord’s. When they have set apart a portion for religious and charitable purposes, they regard the remainder as their own, to be used as they see fit. But in this they mistake. All we possess is the Lord’s, and we are accountable to Him for the use we make of it. In the use of every penny, it will be seen whether we love God supremely and our neighbor as ourselves.” Ibid., 351. It is an individual work to see to it that the Lord is pleased with our stewardship. He is faithful to help us in every area that we may lack, to help us be faithful.

The importance of using our God-given gifts is not often fully acknowledged. “When Philip found Jesus, he immediately went to find Nathanael, and when he had found him, he said, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ And Nathanael said, ‘Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.’ This is what you should do,—invite others to come, and hear and see for themselves whether your words are true, and your religion genuine. When Jesus saw Nathanael, he said, ‘Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.’ Nathanael was astonished, and said, ‘Whence knowest thou me?’ And Jesus said, ‘Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee.’ Nathanael exclaimed, ‘Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the king of Israel.’ [John 1:45–49.]

“Here is an example of how we may put our talents out to the exchangers. Philip communicated his knowledge to another, and so brought a soul to Christ. The light given us of Heaven is to be communicated to others in this way. If you have given light to one soul, you have enlightened one hundred, for that one will communicate the light to others, and so it will go on continually increasing.” The Review and Herald, April 30, 1889.

When the misuse or neglect of our gifts becomes perpetual, eventually they are taken away. “Take … the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 364. This is not an arbitrary act of God, but rather a result of our own neglect. “Talent employed increases the gift but when used only to bless self, it diminishes, and finally is withdrawn.” The Southern Watchman, October 9, 1901. “Upon the slothful servant the sentence was, ‘Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.’ [Matthew 25:28.] Here, as in the reward of the faithful worker, is indicated not merely the reward at the final judgment but the gradual process of retribution in this life. As in the natural, so in the spiritual world: every power unused will weaken and decay. Activity is the law of life; idleness is death. ‘The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.’ I Corinthians 12:7. Employed to bless others, his gifts increase. Shut up to self-serving they diminish, and are finally withdrawn. He who refuses to impart that which he has received will at last find that he has nothing to give. He is consenting to a process that surely dwarfs and finally destroys the faculties of the soul.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 364.

It is wholly unnecessary that we should be stripped of God’s gifts. He has given them to us with our best interest at heart and also the best interest of others with whom we come into contact. When we use these precious endowments to His glory, we will never lack any good thing. It is His joy to give to us and care for us. He works with us day by day, hour by hour to enrich what He has given us if we allow Him. “When we give ourselves wholly to God and in our work follow His directions, He makes Himself responsible for its accomplishment. He would not have us conjecture as to the success of our honest endeavors. Not once should we even think of failure. We are to co-operate with One who knows no failure.” Ibid., 363.

“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 beside 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 a ruler over many things: enter into the joy of your lord.” Matthew 25:20–23.

Let us each be blessed through the use of the blessed talents, aptitudes, and gifts that we are given by a generous Father who wishes to bless us and asks us nothing in return but to use those blessings to enrich others and, ultimately, ourselves.

Jim Stoeckert works as an assistant with the Faith Haven Christian School and as head of maintenance for Steps to Life. He also serves the Prairie Meadows Church as head deacon. Jim can be reached by e-mail at: or by phone at 316-789-5559.