Matthew chapter 25

English Standard Version

14"For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master 's money. 19Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20And 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.’ 21His 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.’ 22And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ 23His 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.’ 24He 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, 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26But 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? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29For 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. 30And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
New International Version

New American Standard Bible

Christian Standard Bible

New Living Translation

King James Version

14For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. 15And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. 16Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money. 19After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. 20And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 22He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 24Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strewed: 25And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. 26His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed: 27Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. 28Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. 29For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. 30And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
New King James Version

What does Matthew chapter 25 mean?

In response to their request (Matthew 24:3), Jesus has been describing future events to His disciples. Some of it must have been difficult to understand as they sat together on the Mount of Olives. The temple stood before them whole and sound (Matthew 24:1–2). Jesus was alive and well and still there to teach and direct them. None of the terrible things He described had happened, yet.

Still, Jesus has emphasized one point above all the others: When He is away from them, they must live in a state of readiness for His return. They must prepare for Him to come back by making right choices while He is gone (Matthew 24:32–51). In this chapter, Jesus shares more parables to emphasize that point. This passage is one of the few chapters in the Bible composed entirely of Jesus' own spoken words.

Christ describes the kingdom of heaven using the example of ten virgins who took lamps to meet a bridegroom. The word "virgin" was used at this time to describe an unmarried, young woman. It's possible Jesus meant for these young women to be understood as bridal attendants. They have all gone together to wait, perhaps at the bride's house, for the groom to come. Then they would all go together to the wedding feast, likely at the groom's house (Matthew 25:1–2).

The ten young women have all brought lamps since the procession through the streets will take place long after dark. The Greek word used for "lamp" here more generally refers to a light, so these might have been what modern people might think of as "torches." Regardless of their shape, these lights need oil to operate. Half of the young women, however, either brought no oil or only enough to last a very short time. The groom is delayed. They all sleep until hearing the announcement that the groom is approaching (Matthew 25:3–7).

Without oil, the five foolish young women are in trouble. They ask to use some of the oil brought by the wiser women, but there will not be enough for all of them. They are forced to run into the night in an attempt to buy oil, causing them to miss the procession. When they arrive late to the wedding feast, they are not welcomed in. Those who were supposed to have been there have entered, and no one is left to vouch for these foolish ones (Matthew 25:8–12).

Jesus emphasizes again that nobody knows the day or hour when He, the bridegroom, will return. His disciples must be prepared (Matthew 25:13).

Next, Jesus uses a parable which explains part of how the word "talent" is used in modern English. In this story, a wealthy man going on a journey leaves three servants staggering sums of money. Each is intended to steward these funds, ideally returning a profit for the master. In Jesus' era, a "talent" was a weight measure of precious metals. Scholars estimate that a single talent could have been the equivalent of nearly twenty years common labor. The trust invested in these men, and the value of their assets, is enormous (Matthew 25:14–15).

The first two servants do exactly as expected, using all they were given and returning as much as they were able. The third servant buries what he is given and doesn't touch it until the master returns (Matthew 25:16–18).

The first two servants are praised by the master, given even greater responsibility and opportunity, and invited to share with him in his joy (Matthew 25:19–23).

The third servant is condemned for his feeble excuse that he was afraid to lose his master's money. In fact, his excuse is dishonest: had he really feared the master so much, he would have tried to generate profit. Instead, the third man proves he's not a true servant at all, just a pretender. Whether out of spite, laziness, or bitterness, he chose to ignore an enormous blessing. Having proven himself disloyal and disobedient, the man is thrown out into the dark (Matthew 25:24–30).

The point of this parable is how we, as God's creations, use the assets, resources, abilities, skills, and materials He has given to us. Not all people are given the same share of "talents," but God's assessment is based on whether we faithfully use what we're given. To waste, ignore, or disrespect what God provides for us is sinful.

Finally, Jesus describes the moment when the waiting will be over: when He returns to earth with His angels as the King and the Judge. This depicts some point during the end times. What follows is a passage notoriously difficult to interpret. Scholars debate whether this is an explicit moment in time, perhaps at the beginning of the millennial kingdom, or a general explanation of each person's eternal fate. Other disputes arise over whether those being judged are only Gentiles, only non-Christians who survive the tribulation, or all people living on earth at that time. In any case, Jesus sits on His throne and separates these people into two groups (Matthew 25:31–32).

The use of shepherding terminology is why this passage is referred to as the "parable" of the sheep and the goats. What it depicts, however, seems very real. The first group is praised and rewarded, since their faithful love for others has proven their faithful obedience to Christ. Their description echoes other biblical passages about salvation and election (Ephesians 4:1; Matthew 24:22; Mark 13:27; Romans 11:7; Titus 1:1). Such persons are not saved by their good deeds (Titus 3:5), but their good deeds prove that they do, indeed, have a saving faith in Christ (John 14:15). Loving other people, and meeting their needs, is treated by Christ as if those deeds had been done for Him, personally (Matthew 25:33–40).

In contrast, the other group exhibited deeds which prove they do not have saving faith in Christ. Jesus will condemn them to the eternal fire originally intended for Satan and demons. That group of unbelievers did not serve others during their times of greatest need. Jesus took that personally, as well. As with the first group, the "goats" echo back Jesus' judgment, but more as an excuse than in confusion. "If we had known it was you…" they might be saying. That, however, does not change their sin (James 2:1; 4:17). Their actions have proven their lack of faith (1 John 4:20), and so they are damned to a horrific eternal fate (Matthew 25:41–46).

Having completed the Olivet Discourse, Jesus will turn to the completion of His earthly mission, which means a sacrificial death at the hands of His enemies (Matthew 26:1–5).
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