It is unfortunate that this is called the parable of the talents because we think of spiritual gifts when we hear the word “talents,” but talents were just money. This is talking about money and responsibility in a general sense.
The previous Parable of the Ten Virgins has detailed what qualifies one to enter and enjoy the blessings of the kingdom of heaven (25:1-13). The emphasis was on being wise and being prepared. We concluded that that meant having faith. This parable will talk about being faithful.
The following context reveals the judgment of the nations (25:31-46).
What will happen to those that do enter the kingdom? If we relate it back to the previous parable, were the five virgins who entered the feast treated the same? What about the judgments and rewards to be given at the return of Christ?
Logical and Ideological (c/e of rewards and judgments)
The 5-talent man (19-21)
The statement: “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.”
The 2-talent man (22-23)
The statement: “Well done good and faithful slave; you were faithful in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”
Is this man condemned for not making as much as the first? No. We don’t need to compare ourselves with others.
The 1 talent man ( 24-28)
He thought the master was hard. He doesn’t appear to be that way when he dealt with the first two.
The condemnation of the man by the master
You wicked, lazy servant. Is the master admitting to being terrible? The third servant didn’t really know the master. The other two knew the master and probably thought, “The master has given me this so I can try something. Even if I blow it, that is why he has given it to me.” The third guy doesn’t know or trust the master. He is afraid of him.
If you try, you get great commendation. If you don’t try, you won’t have any success.
Notice also that the master holds the slave accountable for what he thought--not what was true, but for what he thought was true. God holds us accountable for what we think. I don’t know how there can be Truth and we be held accountable for the truth and at the same time be held accountable for what we think is true and still have justice, but I think the Bible teaches that God does that somehow. How else can you explain that things will be worse for the generation that rejected Christ personally than for those in Sodom and Gomorrah and at the same time hold that Jesus is the only way to heaven.
The redistribution to the 10-talent man by the master
Luke 19 is similar to this. But there he gave them all equal trusts and there were unequal returns. There were different rewards. Here there are identical rewards.
For the variety of responsibilities which have been assigned in accordance to ability to be carried out during His absence, the Messiah will return to proportionately reward the faithful who will enter the kingdom and to judge the wicked who are excluded.
“In this parable Christ was teaching that those who see the signs forewarning of Messiah’s approach will have the opportunity to prepare themselves and to prove themselves faithful servants of His; however, if such persons do not do so, they will be barred from the kingdom that Christ will establish at His second coming. The parable, then, shows both the rewards for faithfulness and the judgment for unfaithfulness that await those who are anticipating Messiah’s coming.” (J.D. Pentecost, The Parables of Jesus , p. 156.)
Talent = 6,000 days wages. About $250,000 in modern terms at minimum wage.
Contrast and comparisons with the Parable of the Minas (Pounds):
The conclusion: the two parables which have similar themes were given on different occasions and give the balanced teaching that responsibilities are delegated with both equality (salvation) and diversity (abilities i.e. gifts).