Matthew 25:14-30

In preparation for the understanding of this parabolic-type allegory (which is one of four in chapter twenty-five) (and this one is called the “parable of the talants,” but which is not the parable of the talants!), we need to re-visit a former passage in Matthew; and then we need to read the other two synoptic accounts of this event (in Mark and in Luke).

And all the while we still have to keep in our minds that Jesus is still responding to His disciples’ need for information concerning His Parousia and consummation of the age (twenty-four, verse three).  So all that He has said now, from that point, must be remembered – because all of this is His answer to their question!  All of it is regarding the same thing, and the context is the same!

Now, first, as I said, we have to revisit a former passage in Matthew.  As we see, Jesus is still speaking in parables, and here’s the explanation for that – back in Matthew chapter thirteen.  And listen closely, for the key to understanding our present text is here.

At verse ten Jesus’ disciples approach Him and say,


“‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’”  “And answering He said, ‘because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of the Heavens; but it has not been given to those.  For he who has, it will be given to him, and he will have abundance; but he who has not, even what he has will be taken from him.  [There’s the key.]  Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing… they see not; they hear not – neither understand.  And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled saying, ‘in hearing you will hear and by no means understand; and seeing you will see and by no means perceive.  Because the heart of this people is waxed gross, and with the ears they heard ‘heavily’ (heavy with wine, or heavy with the indolence of guilt), and they closed their eyes; lest they see with the eyes and hear with the ears – and understand with the heart and turn back and I heal them’ (Isaiah six).  But blessed your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.  For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see that which you see – and did not see; and to hear that which you hear – and did not hear.’”


And then, after several more parables, Matthew writes (verse thirty-four):


“All these things Jesus spoke in parables to the crowds; and He spoke nothing to them without a parable – so that that spoken by the prophet was fulfilled saying, ‘I will open my mouth in parables.  I will utter things hidden from the foundation.’”  (Psalm seventy-eight)


Verse twenty-nine of your text says:  “… For he who has, it will be given to him, and he shall have in abundance; but for he who has not, even what he has will be taken from him….”  In the explanation of His parabolic teaching, Jesus reveals the key to understanding our text in Matthew twenty-five.  Here are the “mysteries” of the Kingdom… hidden from the foundation, and spoken by the prophets!

Now let’s go to the two other Gospel writers, as I promised, and read their accounts of this parable.  (They are somewhat different; apparently Jesus spoke this parable several times during the three years – especially on those occasions when He was “approaching the city of Jerusalem.”)

Mark’s version is very short.  But it’s in the same context of Jesus’ teaching about His Parousia and the Kingdom.  Listen:


“…as a man away from home… leaving his house and giving authority to his slaves – to each his work; and he commanded the doorkeeper that he should watch….  Watch, therefore, for you know not when the lord of the house comes, either late or at midnight or at cock-crowing or early… lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.  And what I say to you I say to all, ‘watch!’”


Now, that’s very short; and it combines two parables in one. 

But Luke’s account is more detailed.  Jesus was nearing Jerusalem, and He spoke concerning the Kingdom.  Listen:


“A certain ‘well-born’ man went to a far country to receive for himself a kingdom… and to return.  And having called ten slaves for himself, he gave them ten minas and said to them:  ‘trade while I am coming!’

“But his fellow-citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him saying, ‘we do not wish this man to reign over us.’  And it came to pass upon return, he having received the kingdom, and he said for the slaves, the ones to whom he had given the money, to be called to him that he might know what who gained by trading.

“And the first one came saying, ‘Lord, your mina gained ten minas.’  And he said to him, ‘Well, good slave.  Because you were faithful in a least thing, be having authority over ten cities!’  And the second came saying, ‘Your mina made five minas.’  And he said also to this one, ‘and you be over five cities.’  And the other came saying, ‘Lord, lo your mina which I had, having put it away in a napkin.  For I feared you, because you are an austere man; you take what you did not lay, and you reap what you did not sow.’ He says to him, ‘Out of your mouth I will judge you, wicked slave.  You knew that I am an austere man, taking what I did not lay, and reaping what I did not sow.  And why did you not put my money on the money-changers table?  And upon my coming it would have gained interest for me.’  And he said, ‘take from him the mina and give to the one having the ten minas.’  And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’  I tell you that to everyone having, it will be given; and from the one not having, even what he has will be taken.  [This is the same as verse twenty-nine of our text!]  Nevertheless, these my enemies (the ones not wishing me to reign over them) bring here and slay them before me.’”

Now.  Knowing the context, and having heard these passages that we just read, let’s run through the allegory quickly (our text)… and see if you can see the central issue.  You should be able to think through these things by now.

And then we’ll look more carefully at its “center”; and then there are some “good and necessary” implications to be made with regard to the Church in this new age of Christ’s Kingdom (this is a Kingdom parable, you see).

And those implications have absolutely nothing to do with one’s “talents.”  The usual message from this passage is full of absurd exhortations to God’s people to sing if they have the “talent” for singing; or to play if they have “talent” for the piano; or to teach if they have the “talent” for talking!

But that word is spelled t-a-l-e-n-t.  The word that Jesus uses in this allegory is t-a-l-a-n-t – talant!  And a “talant” was a measure of wealth… usually in silver!  So what does a talent for singing have to do with how much silver one has?

And in the parable the talant doesn’t belong to the servant anyway!  It’s a measure of his lord’s possessions – not his!  (as it is usually preached)  This allegory falls in the context of Jesus’ Parousia and consummation of the age; it’s a Kingdom parable… not an illustration about how Church members perform!  It’s about the King and his Kingdom – hidden from the foundation of the earth!

And it begins with “a man.”  A “well-born” man, Luke says; a nobleman.  “Like as a well-born man….”  This allegory follows the one before it immediately, and it is understood that this, too, is a “Kingdom” parable.  And the “Kingdom” is likened to a well-born man.

And he’s leaving home; so he calls his “specially assigned” servants and hands over his possessions to them.  To one he gives five “measures of his wealth” (Luke doesn’t use the word “talant”; he uses “minas” – another silver measure); to another… two; and another… one; to each according to his respective authority.  At this point in the allegory there are no questions about it… after all, it all belongs to him!

Well, the one honors his lord by increasing his wealth; and he’s called “good,” and “faithful.”  Another did the same.  But one did nothing (he didn’t even make a little interest at the money-changer’s table!)  And his excuse came in the form of an indignant accusation against his lord… he was too harsh!  And he didn’t do right with what was his!  The servant judged his lord, and he based that judgment on his own standards.  And all this concerning “belongings” that were owned outright by his lord!

Now, the good and faithful servants were allowed to share their lord’s joy in his possessions.  But the other one was called “evil” and “indolent,” and even what he had was taken away, and he was thrown out to the household where he could cry out and express his indignation elsewhere (the gnashing of the teeth)!

Now, as you heard before, Luke weaves another factor into his allegory… which is exactly the same otherwise.  The “lord” received a kingdom while he was away (expansion); his fellow-citizens didn’t want him to reign over them, and sent a delegation to express that rejection; and when the lord returned from receiving his kingdom, he ordered those to be slain!  So Luke, writing to Gentile readers, provided the “fuller” allegory; where Matthew, writing to Jewish Christians, deemed it unnecessary.

Now, considering the whole context; and considering the other passages we read earlier; and considering the parallel synoptic accounts, this cannot, in any logical or theological sense, be called the parable of the talants!  And whoever sees it that way has missed it!  (Anyway, if Luke was being read it would have been called the parable of the minas!)

The central issue here (since it is a parabolic allegory – dark saying; a mystery) isn’t on the surface, since, up until now, it has been a “mystery” from the foundation of the earth!  As Jesus said back in chapter thirteen to His disciples when they asked Him why He spoke in parables:


“Because it is given to you to know the “mysteries” of the Kingdom of the Heavens; but to them it is not given!  For whoever has, to him shall be given; and he will have abundance.  But whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.  Therefore speak I to them in parables; because seeing, they see not; and hearing, they hear not, neither do they understand….”


And all this so that the prophetic Word through Isaiah (chapter six) would be fulfilled in them!

“It is given to you to know… (Jesus said to His disciples there in chapter thirteen).  And… “whoever has – to him shall be given.”  And… “whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away!”

And what does our text in chapter twenty-five say… at verse twenty-nine?  “For unto every one who has, it shall be given and abundantly!  But from the one not having, also that which he has shall be taken away from him!”

In both cases (in both texts – here and in chapter thirteen) the mysteries of the Kingdom of the Heavens are withheld from those to whom it has not been given to know.  And those to whom it hasn’t been given to know?  Even what they have will be taken away from them – in order that the prophecy according to Isaiah chapter six might be fulfilled in them!

That prophecy says (verse ten, chapter six):  “Make their heart fat and make their ears ‘heavy’ and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart….”  That word “heavy” from Isaiah is the same word that Jesus uses here in our text to describe this wicked servant… he is wicked and “indolent!”  Indolence is “self-indulgence”… lazy self-indulgence.  So in chapter six Isaiah was told by God to “make their ears ‘heavy’” so they couldn’t hear!  Make them “self-indulgent” that they won’t hear… and they won’t have.  And those that don’t have, even what they have will be taken away from them!

So this parabolic allegory is one of the Kingdom… in the context of the Parousia of Christ (a mystery hidden from the foundation of the world).  And the wicked servant represents Israel, whose eyes have been shut, and whose ears have been made indolent.  It has not been given to know!

And even what it has will be taken away from it… the nation, the city, the temple, the covenant… everything.  “Even what it has will be taken away….”  And it can express its indignation toward its “master” in “outer darkness” (wailing and gnashing of the teeth).

This is a Kingdom parable concerning the One Who went away and received His Kingdom.  (That’s what the parable ought to be called.)  He was sole possessor of all and could do with all as He wished.  And even though He was sole owner of it all, some didn’t wish to live under His reign!  Some questioned Him with arrogance and indignation.  They questioned His motives and method of ruling!  The subjects rejected the Sovereign!  They were wicked and indolent, and they didn’t like the way he dealt with all His belongings!  The subjects “judged” (indignant) the Sovereign – criticizing Him for the way He dealt with His Own possessions!  So having departed to receive His Kingdom, He returned and destroyed those who didn’t wish to live under His rulership.  They didn’t have, and even what they had was taken away.

And what of those to whom it has been given… and given in abundance?  Listen to Isaiah at chapter sixty-five:


“For behold I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.  But be glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create.  For behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a ‘joy.’  And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people; and the voice of weeping nor that of crying shall be no more heard in her.”


“I will joy in My people,” said God through Isaiah.

And here’s why these two parables are so closely linked together (this one and the one last Lord’s Day concerning the Bridegroom).  Listen to Jeremiah thirty-three:


“Thus saith the Lord:  again there shall be heard in this place… the voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the Bridegroom and the voice of the bride – the voice of them that shall say, ‘Praise the Lord of Hosts, for the Lord is good; for His mercy endures forever….’


“Enter in to My joy….”  In the allegory the good and faithful were allowed to participate in their Lord’s joy in His possessions.  And Isaiah and Jeremiah make it clear that these are those to whom it has been given in abundance – the Lord’s people.  The ones in whom the Lord of Hosts rejoices.  In the New Jerusalem the voices of the people cry out in joy at being under the rulership of their King, for they have entered into His joy.

Now, as I said, there are some good and necessary implications to this allegory.  And having now understood it, most of them are pretty obvious.  The King is Sovereign Ruler of it all, isn’t He?  He is sole possessor of it, and He has all the rights to do with it as He will.  After all, He did reap where He did not sow (the Gentile nations belong to Him too)!  And He did earn the right to receive the entire Kingdom – and did, ipso facto, receive it!

And what is irrevocably implied here is that He will continue to put down every high thought against His Sovereignty (just as He did with the nation of Israel).  So you and I who “joy” in Him long to see (and maybe some of us will see) a “shaking” of the social foundations of this nation (and all others); and a collective “sigh” of the Church under the burden of depravity and the curse; an upheaval of the Church itself as it repents and “reforms” itself; a return to Biblical, reformed, Calvinistic and covenantal preaching such as came from our Puritan forefathers; a lifting of the heavy burden of sin and the curse, and coming under the “light” burden of Christ, as men submit themselves to God’s Holy Law; open idolatry is to be checked and driven underground; ethnic Israel is engrafted once again into the covenantal stalk, and Jewish and Gentile Christians are all one… and so many other implications that we could enjoy talking about.

And while much of that may be yet to be, it is for us to continue in His joy; and to be obedient to Him; and never to deprecate (be indignant) and accuse and protest the way our King deals with His Own possessions.  After all, He has been given all power in heaven and on earth – to those who have, much abundance will be added, but to those who have not, even what they have will be taken away.

As we come to the Table this morning it is with great joy that we share in the abundance!

Israel received, and received, and received!  But she played the idolatrous harlot for fifteen hundred years… and did not produce what was required of her.  And even what she had was taken from her.  In arrogance and indolence she complained and accused the Lord of heaven and earth of being unfair!  And brought His judgment into question over the disposition of His own belongings!!  And she murdered Him.

And this King of Kings and Lord of lords took everything she had and just gave it to the nations – us!  Nothing we did to earn it.  We just received it from His Hand.  And that’s what we celebrate at the Table.  And that’s what we joy in with our lives as we live under His Sovereign Rulership.