Parable Of The Talents: Meaning, Summary and Commentary

The Parable of the Talents has something very important to teach us. What lesson is Jesus trying to communicate to us through this parable?

What is a Parable?

A parable is a story that tries to explain a concept or lesson to the listeners using things or actions that the listener can easily identify with.  It is a comparison of two things that is told through a story that sometimes have two meanings.  Jesus frequently used parables and sometimes the parables were given to hide the meaning from the self-righteous but reveal them to those who want to obey God.   The parable can contain a simile or a metaphor designed to arrest the listener to what the storyteller is trying to teach.   The disciples asked Jesus why He spoke to them in parables as “the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”  And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.  For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matt 13:10-13).


Everyone has talents but not everyone uses their talents.  In the Parable of the Talents, it appears that Jesus is stressing the importance of a person using their talents.  A talent is useless unless it is used.  There is no one that has no talents.  This includes those in the church and those outside of the Body of Christ.  Even an unsaved person has been given talents, which are God-given abilities but we can also say that talents are all of these three things; time, talent, and treasures.   Some have the talent of helping, some of giving encouragement, others use their personal time at the expense of themselves to help others, yet others help to financially support the church or help the poor, however there are many who simply bury their talents.  This is part of what is in the Parable of the Talents.  A talent is a monetary unit that is worth about 20 years’ worth of wages for a person’s labor.

The Parable of the Talents

The Parable of the Talents is given by Jesus right after He talks about His second coming and that no one knows the day or the hour and so a believer must be using their talents to the best of their abilities as if Jesus will be returning today.

This parable is given in Matthew 25:14-30:

“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.“

God has placed each one of us on this earth for the express purpose of using our talents…not for ourselves but for the glory of God and this frequently includes helping others financially. Since a talent is considered the wages earned in a 20 year period, it is like He is saying that we have been given time and money to use to accomplish His will.  A servant does not use his talent only for himself.

“He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more.  So also he who had the two talents made two talents more.  But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.”

The first two servants used their talents, thus multiplying them, but the one who had a talent did not use it but simply buried it or hide it.  It could be said that he or she hide if from the world and from the Master but the point is that it wasn’t really his or her talent but it was “his master’s money.”

“Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.  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.’  And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two 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.’”

The first two servants used their talents and when a person uses their talents, God gives them more to use.  What you don’t use you lose and these servants used their talents for the Kingdom and that is why their master says to both of them “Well done, good and faithful servant…I will set you over much and now enter into the joy of your master.” They will be given much responsibility in the Kingdom because the Master could trust them.

“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.’  But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?  Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.  So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.  For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Tragically, Christ will return and take away even the little that a person has in talents and abilities.  Some scholars believe that the unprofitable servant will be cast into hell because it is often described as a place where there “will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” and that this servant was never truly saved.  He or she may have professed faith but they really never possessed faith.  Jesus will have words of terror for them at His return: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Others teach that this is a saved person but they will be shut out of the millennium rule, the thousand year period where the Kingdom of God comes to earth.

One thing for sure is that this servant buried his or her talent and didn’t use what God gifted them for or the money that they were blessed with.  They hid it which means that they didn’t use it or they hid the fact that they were Christians from the world and were ashamed of their faith and didn’t publicly proclaim that Christ is their Lord and Savior.  Take warning for those who do this because Jesus said that “everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 10:32-33).


Which are you; a faithful servant or one that hides their talent and their profession of faith in Christ?  Have you buried your talents or are you using them?  Are you a servant of Christ or a self-seeking servant that is only interested in meeting your own needs?  Only you know and the Lord knows. In the same chapter where Jesus spoke the Parable of the Talents, He speaks clearly to both believers and unbelievers, saying “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.  The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Matt 10:37-42).

Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book  Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon

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  • alan

    your say that God wants us to use our talents [ as in abilities ] I think that this I a wrong why to look at this, your and my abilities in this passage is not about our
    gifts as humans. this is about spreading the gospel. If this could be about our
    talents and abilities then when someone says to the Lord I did this in your name and cast out demons in your name, is that not an abilitiy [ talent ] and they were cast
    out into outer darkness. please be careful on how you might give someone a false
    idea of were they might stand with God. thanks alan

  • Al Gray

    Equating the ‘talent’ described in the parable with the modern idea of ‘talent’ (as in natural human ability) is an error. The parable has to be understood in the context of God’s ways of grace. Jesus used parables to explain spiritual truths, and these are not simply attractive pieces of advice to natural man to “pull his socks up” or whatever, or even worse, to justify natural practices, such as financial investment or material acquisitiveness (valid though these activities may be in certain contexts).
    This is talking about the love of God given by the Spirit of God to each person in accordance with what they are able to receive. This love is only effective when active, and thus shared with others. This parable is a call to a life reaching out to others and forsaking a small-minded, navel gazing obsession with one’s own spiritual life. The wicked and lazy servant clung to his ‘talent’ without making any effort to engage with others, so that it would grow.
    This person clearly represents someone who has a rather negative view of God, seeing Him as merely an austere judge, and who is obsessed with his own spiritual life without any concern for anyone else. It is clear that this is highly relevant to the state of contemporary Christianity, where there is often an obsession with one’s own salvation to the detriment of reaching out with the love of God to others. This spiritual self-centredness is driven by a blasphemous view of God’s character, in which His love is subsumed under His judgmentalism, and in some presentations of the Gospel, God’s love is presented as something of an afterthought. Such a view causes spiritual paralysis, since only the love of God can truly motivate us to value and care for others.

  • Jason Rekker

    If God is indeed the Master in this story, then it shows that salvation depends upon works. According to Wellman’s interpretation, we can be forever condemned for what we do not do. Further, what do we make of the Master being a “hard man” who takes things that are not his? There must be more to the parable than meets our eye.

  • StephenNewdell

    Augst 12, 2017: Thank you Pastor Wellman! I appreciate your writing and this piece is especially helpful to me today, as I am learning more and intending to teach others, particularly young people who have been convinced that God is a myth and….etc. etc. I’ll be reading much more of your work. Kind regards and Blessings, StepheN

  • When Jesus spoke this parable talents meant money. Also in later verse the context is specifically money and giving to the poor in a variety of ways. God himself identifies with the poor and its as if our abundance is for them. To apply this to all human abilities is error. Sometimes God asks us to lay down our natural abilities and talents. We are to be led of the holy spirit not of our natural abilities. If I am good at something that does not mean God necessarily wants us to use those talents. He can and does give new talents and gifts according to his will. Hitler was talented in speaking and leading and he used them and satan used them. To blindly use our talents because “God gave them to us” is a mistake. Some of our talents might just be genetics.