Andrew Fountain - The Parable of the Talents


Sermon notes - The Parable of the Talents


  • Parable of the talents in Matthew 25
  • One of the most misunderstood teachings of Jesus
  1. The Parable
  2. What it means
  3. How we put it into practice
  • You probably think you know what I’m going to say
  • If so, you would be completely wrong
  • In fact, it has nothing at all to do with AMTC

Mount of Olives (Gethsemane)

Mount of Olives (Gethsemane)

Image source: Ian Scott

  • Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem with the disciples
    • He has taken them privately to the mount of olives
    • He is preparing them for the fact that he will soon leave them and they will have to cope with his absence

Matthew 25:14-30

  1. “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them.
  2. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.

  1. The one who had received five talents went off right away and traded with them and gained five more.
  2. In the same way, the one who had two, made two talents more.
  3. But the one who had received one talent went out and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money in it.

  1. After a long time, the master of those servants returned and settled his accounts with them.
  2. The one who had received the five talents came and brought five more, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have made five more.’
  3. His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful in a little. I will put you in charge of much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
  4. The one with the two talents also came and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have made two more.’
  5. His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful in a little. I will put you in charge of much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
  6. Then the one who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Master, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed,
  7. so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’
  8. But his master answered, ‘Evil and lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I didn’t sow and gather where I didn’t scatter?
  9. Then you should have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received my money back with interest!
  10. Therefore take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten.
  11. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance. But from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.
  12. And throw the worthless servant into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

based on NET Bible

What is a talent?

  • pause and let people answer…
  • Natural gifts or ability?
  • If you use your gifts you will generate more?
  • You will become more and more talented by practice?
  • And this is how to earn God’s favour and go to heaven?
  • When God judges the world, it will basically a talent show?
  • Except the untalented will be thrown into darkness?
  • The word talent nowadays =special abilities or gifts
    • This has only been the case for the last 400 years
    • before that, talent simply meant a weight, usually a gold weight of extremely high value
    • It is only through a misunderstanding of this parable that we started calling abilities talents
    • The original hearers would have had no concept that Jesus might be talking about gifts

Does talent = ability?

  • music, languages, art, public speaking, acting, debating, writing?
  • “called his servants and entrusted his property to them”
  • It is unusual for God to refer to these abilities as his property
  • Is God really the harsh man who will punish us for not using our abilities?
  • So what would Jesus’ hearer’s have understood a talent to be?
    • can you tell me?

Gold Roman Talent

Gold Roman Talent

Image source:

  • So what was a talent?
    • weight of between 32–60 kg or 70–130lb (depending on which part of the world you were in)
    • The big handles would be for lifting—more comfortable with two people lifting it
  • Value of 20 years wages
    • In Canada in 2011 this would be about $1 million
    • So the first man was given 5 million, second 2 million, third 1 million
  • This is what the original hearers would have understood
    • This has nothing to do with a talent show

Robin Hood

Robin Hood

Image source:

  • Another problem:
    • Robin hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor
    • Is Jesus the opposite?
    • He takes from the poor and gives to the rich?
  • And will the greatest rewards in heaven go to the most gifted?
    • What if you have very few natural gifts?
    • What if you are disabled, or have some other disability?
    • This does not seem fair
  • And nowhere else does Jesus teach about the importance of using our gifts
    • he is usually much more concerned about faith, trusting him, following kingdom values etc.
  • Let’s look at the reversed-Robin-Hood statement:

Matthew 5:29

  1. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance. But from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.
  • This is one of the most difficult of the verses
  • but is actually the key to the parable
    • because Jesus uses the same expression in four other places
    • The meaning there is much clearer
    • this will shed light back on this passage

Mark 4:23–25

  1. “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”
  2. And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you.
  3. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
  • So what does it mean to hear?
    • What is it that’s given and taken away here?
    • Simply it means to value it and make use of it
    • so going back 2 verses to another mini-parable:

Mark 4:21–22

  1. And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand?
  2. For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light.
  • This mini-parable is about Jesus’ teaching being like a lamp
    • the light is the truth
      • What are you going to do with it? If you hide it, you won’t be given more light
    • The light then, is Jesus’ revelation of himself
      • If we want more…
  • In other places Jesus said similar things:
    • Parable of the house on the rock
    • Parable of the 4 kinds of seeds—the disciples asked for more explanation and they were given more
  • So these millions of $ are the truths of Jesus’s teaching, the truths of the kindom
  • Now we all understand what it means to “invest in a relationship”
    • If somebody tells you that in order to improve your marriage, you need to invest in it, what do thay mean??
      • (spent time with the person, effort, thoughtfulness)
    • How would you “bury” a relationship? (ignore the person, be too busy to see them)
  • So, a definition of the talents:
    • The talents are what Jesus has invested in his relationship with us
    • The reward is actually Jesus himself “Enter into the joy of your master”
  • So explain passage:

Matthew 25:14-30

  • Example of romance between Prince William and Kate Middleton back in 2011
    • If William sent her a text message, what would be the equivalent of burying it?
      • saving it very carefully but not replying to it
    • What would it mean for her to invest in the relationship to make it grow?
      • (answer his texts & email, say yes to dates, be attentive, thoughtful etc.)
    • We all understand how this works in human relationships
      • We know what it means to bury a relationship—just don’t respond

Parable of the Talents

  1. The Parable
  2. What it means
  3. How we put it into practice

What can we learn?

  • If you are not yet a follower of Jesus:
  • You can’t stand still
  • You either invest the truth you have recieved and get more revelation from God
  • Or you ignore it and slip back away, and lose what you had
  • God says: “Draw near to me and I will draw near to you”
  • Jesus says “who am I”
    • Peter says “the Messiah”
    • 6 days later, Jesus takes Peter and two others to witness his glory (why not the other way around?)
  • But what about this man at the end—are we at risk?
    • Not once we have begun a relationship with Jesus
    • He didn’t have a relationship—he didn’t like his master and so was too lazy to do anything with his master’s investments
    • It’s an upward spiral—the more you have, the more you will want
    • but this man was never a true believer, because believing is the first step
  • Have you ever wondered how Judas could have done what he did?
    • having seen all the miracles
    • heard all the teaching
      • he is an extreme example of the kind of man at the end of the story
  • So if you are not a follower of Jesus this morning,
    • This message is an invitation
    • Put what you know about Jesus into practice by trusting him
      • and you will receive much, much more

If already following Jesus

  • He has given you Kingdom treasures
  • They are worth more than $5 million
  • We have the message of Jesus which can rescue lost people
  • It can revolutionize nations
  • It can mend the broken


  • Open your mouth wide and I will fill it
  • We have greater riches than gold
  • All those who “invest” this treasure by following Jesus will gain a reward
  • The more you trust him, the more pleased he is
  • What is the reward?
  • The main reward is Jesus himself:
    • “Enter into the joy of your master”


  • So, who has talent at Newlife?
  • Everybody!
  • Everyone who has heard the teaching of Jesus and his invitation to come has this treasure
  • Who will be the ten talent person on the day of judgement?
  • How do you use your talents this week?
  • Rephrase that as “how to you invest in your relationship with Jesus this week?”
  • Just like any relationship: conversation, time, effort
    • Acts of love are examples of following him
  • The way this parable is typically misunderstood could lead you to doing the opposite:
    • Trying to earn God’s favour by performance
    • not receiving the truth that you are already loved
    • Abiding in him (vine and branches)
  • Now I want to say that the way that this parable is usually interpreted is not entirely false,
    • It’s just that the teaching is not from this passage!
    • What the Bible calls gifts are certainly to be used, especially for blessing one another
    • Rom 12, 1 Cor 12, Eph 4 & 1 Peter 4 are all about using our gifts
    • And gifts that we have can be used very effectively to advance the Kingdom of God
    • But there is never a suggestion that if we use our gifts we will get more, or that God will judge us on how we used them.
  • Asking for prayer is not a weakness, but is a sign of strength
    • That you are believing in Jesus’ power and willingness to hear you
  • Jesus is coming soon
    • He will say “what have you done with the truth that I have given you?”
  • How do you use your talents this week?
    • You trust him! receiving the truth of his love and acceptance
    • You trust that if you step out in love, his power will flow into you
    • You make the values of Jesus, the treasure on which you build your life
    • Most of all you invest in your relationship with him
    • He will be your reward!

Updated on 2016-02-15 by Andrew Fountain