Bible Question:

What is the meaning of the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14?

Bible Answer:

The parable of the talents is a parable about the kingdom of heaven, and the man represents Jesus.

For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. (NASB) Matt. 25:14

The man was planning to take a long trip (Matt. 25:19), but before he left he distributed his possessions to three of his slaves. He gave ten talents to one slave, five talents to another slave, and the final slave received one talent. At the time Jesus walked this planet, a talent was a unit of weight used on a scale. A talent of gold was about 6,000 denari, and ten talents of gold was equal to twenty years of salary.

The master gave them money according to their ability (Matt. 25:15) and not according to some arbitrary standard. That is what God does with us. He gives us responsibilities according to the abilities He gives us. Each slave took the master’s possession and invested it. When the master returned, he evaluated their performances. Each slave had to show the master what he had accomplished. Two slaves had been faithful and had doubled the master’s money. In return, the master gave them more responsibility. Here are the master’s comments,

‘I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ (NASB) Matt. 25:21, 23

But the last slave was rebuked and punished because he was lazy.

But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave . . . (NASB) Matt. 25:26

The slave was lazy. The Greek word for lazy is OKNEROS. It has the idea of nothing being accomplished because the person is not motivated. The issue is not that he did not earn more money, but that he had no desire to serve and fulfill his responsibility. He did not really want to serve his master. He was not interested. He was completely irresponsible and unfaithful. So he did nothing. He buried the money. The slave did not value the responsibility that was given to him and when the master returned, he made up an excuse for his lack of motivation.

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.’ (NASB) Matt. 25:24-25

But the master knew the truth and called him wicked because he had no desire to serve. He was unfaithful and the master sentenced him to eternal hell.

Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (NASB) Matt. 25:30

The parable is a serious warning to us. In the present age, the kingdom of heaven includes those who are Christians and those who are not. At the end of this world, those who are not Christians will be removed and cast into the Lake of Fire. The mark of a real Christian is a life of faithfulness. The third slave was completely unfaithful – faithless.


It is easy to be confused here. While it is true that a Christian is one who does not work for his salvation but simply trusts in Jesus for the forgiveness of his/her sins, it is also true that one of the marks of a real Christian IS a desire to serve Jesus. WE WILL desire to obey His Word and fulfill the responsibilities God gives us. Paul desired to obey Him.

. . . thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service . . . (NASB) 1 Tim. 1:12

It was the desire of other men such as Tychicus (Eph. 6:21), Epaphras (Col. 1:7), Onesimus (Col. 4:9), Silvanus (1 Pet. 5:12) and even our Lord (Heb. 3:6). The desire of their heart was obvious by their faithfulness. Faithfulness is one mark of a true Christian.


We come to Jesus by faith and then live by faith. Do you desire to serve Jesus? If so, then faithfulness will be evident in your life. Are you faithful?