20 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.’ 21 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.’ 22 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.’ 23 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 Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 25:20–23). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
25:20–23 Well done, good and faithful servant. The master’s identical statements of praise to both servants show that what was important was not the total amount earned but faithfulness in utilizing their gifts and potential. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Faithful stewardship in this life will result in being given greater responsibility and stewardship in the life to come.
25:23 the joy of your master. Both the man with 5 talents and the man with two received exactly the same reward, indicating that the reward is based on faithfulness, not results.
25:22, 23 The first two servants received the same reward even though they had received different amounts of money. The reward was based on faithfulness, not on the size of their responsibilities. The smallest task in God’s work may receive a great reward if we are faithful in performing it (Matt. 10:42).
25:19–23. “After a long time, the Lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.” The time of the reckoning emphasizes the delay involved (cf. 24:48). One day Jesus will settle accounts with every believer (2 Cor 5:10; Phil 4:17). Sufficient time had expired for the servants to make the most of the money entrusted to them. But the lateness of the reckoning had the potential of creating an illusion to some that the Lord would be negligent in holding his servants accountable. In other words his delay could encourage indolence and indifference among those who were so inclined.
When the time for rewards came, the first two servants were commended and promoted. Such a joyous occasion implies celebration with a feast (cf. Matt 24:30). The promotion to rulership “over many things” because they were “faithful over a few things” suggests the reward of regal authority in the kingdom reign of Christ (24:46–47; cf. 2 Tim 2:12; Rev 2:26–27).
If believers take advantage of opportunities for faithful service to promote God’s interests, they will be rewarded. If others waste opportunities for effective service, however small or insignificant, then even greater opportunities will be lost.
The last servant, in contrast to the first two servants, was reprimanded (vv 26–27), demoted (vv 28–29), and excluded from the joy of co-ruling with Christ (v 30). Even though he had been entrusted with less, he was still responsible for it.
25:19–23 After a long time the lord … came back and settled accounts with them. This depicts the Second Advent. The first two received exactly the same commendation: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” The test of their service was not how much they earned, but how hard they tried. Each used his ability fully and earned one hundred percent. These represent true believers whose reward is to enjoy the blessings of the Messianic kingdom.
25:19–23. After a long time (v. 19) indicates a delay in the start of the day of the Lord and the rapture. Settled accounts refers to the judgment following the rapture, perhaps at the bema seat judgment (see 1Co 3:10–17; Rm 14:10–12). The two slaves were given differing amounts and their returns reflected that. But the master said identical words to both (You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master, vv. 21 and 23) in connection with the reward, which included a slice of the master’s own joy. This implies that whatever level of abilities Jesus has given, His followers will be held responsible for faithfully making gains corresponding to the amount entrusted to them—no more, no less. Scripture is muted about future rewards, but this parable suggests they involve enlarged opportunities to serve Him when the millennial kingdom is established and to experience the joy of the master as it is done. But it also ties those rewards to what the believer does presently, during the time the Master is away. While works will not save a person, one must never think that works are inconsequential.
25:19–23. The phrase after a long time was Jesus’ acknowledgment that there would be quite a time gap before his final coming. It also implied significant opportunity for kingdom gain by those he has entrusted with kingdom resources. Now it was time to settle their accounts, and the servants brought the master’s property to him.
Jesus used the threefold pattern of story telling, which was so common in that age. The first two repetitions established a pattern, and the third became a contrasting departure from this pattern. The first two servants brought the original quantity he had given them, plus a 100 percent profit. Between the two of them, they had turned seven talents into fourteen. The master gave the identical response to each of the first two servants. Even though the second servant had earned only two talents, in contrast to the five of the first, each had lived up to 100 percent of his potential.
The master’s well done was the greatest reward a loyal servant could have hoped for. He called each of them a good and faithful servant. The two adjectives together describe a person who is reliable because of his loyalty and good character, as evidenced by the investment of his ability. In addition to verbal praise, the master rewarded each of the first two servants with even greater responsibility (cf. 24:47). They had been faithful with a few things, so he would entrust them with even more (many things). And finally, he invited them both to share your master’s happiness.
The point is clear. When the king returns, he will require an accounting from all of us. Those who have consistently invested their lives obediently and wisely, according to heaven’s priorities will have a return to offer the king. This return may include personal growth and maturity, souls brought into the kingdom, spiritual infants who have been raised to maturity, needs compassionately ministered to, wounds healed, conflicts reconciled, truth lovingly told. The investment we will have made for this return will be all we have been entrusted with in this life: our time, wealth, opportunities, relationships, natural talents and spiritual gifts, a mind and a conscience, as well as God’s Word, God’s Spirit, and God’s church.
The well done awaiting such a servant is the music of eternity—full reward for the person who has been truly loyal to the master. But much more awaits the good and faithful servant of the Messiah. The faithful servant will have even more privilege and responsibility as well as a share in the master’s happiness. By living their lives fully vested in kingdom interests and growth, they had gained an entrance into the kingdom (cf. 2 Pet. 1:5–11).
20–23. He who had received the five talents came forward, brought five additional talents, and said, Master, five talents you placed in my hands; look, an additional five talents I have gained! His master said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant. Over a small amount you have been faithful, over much I am going to put you in charge; come, share your master’s happiness. He (who had received) the two talents also came forward, and said, Master, two talents you placed in my hands; look, an additional two talents I have gained. His master said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant. Over a small amount you have been faithful, over much I am going to put you in charge; come, share your master’s happiness. The first servant, in bringing his report, hands the master two bags full of money, each containing five talents. Here the story becomes very vivid. This should not be lost in the translation. Note therefore the emphasis on the exact number of talents that had been entrusted to him. The words “five talents” are placed at the very head of the clause (after the term of address, “Master”). This is followed by the subject-predicate “you placed in my hands (or: entrusted to me).” In the next clause the parallel object, “an additional five talents,” again precedes the subject-predicate, which in this case is, “I have gained.” But, to make the story even more vivid, between the two clauses occurs the word “look” (for which see footnote 133 on p. 131). The man’s eyes are sparkling. He is bubbling over with enthusiasm, is thoroughly thrilled, and, as it were, invites the master to start counting!
“Well done,” answers the master. This can also be translated, “Excellent,” or “wonderful.” When the master now adds, “Over a small amount you have been faithful,” we wonder, perhaps, whether this was not a gross understatement. Certainly in those days five talents could hardly be considered “a small amount!” To justify the expression we need not immediately resort to the figurative meaning. We can, for the time being, stay right with the story as such, and find the solution in the fact that what the master was telling this servant was that, in comparison with the even weightier responsibilities with which he would be charged in the future, those which he had shouldered so nobly were but small. Note also that the servant is called “good” and “faithful.” In the eyes of the master this man had proved himself to be thoroughly reliable. Accordingly, he was going to have a share in the master’s feast.
It is gratifying to notice that when the next servant, his countenance beaming with equal joy, steps forward, hands the master two talents and then another two, and with the substitution of “two” for “five” in both clauses, makes the same speech, he receives identical praise. Has he not also doubled the amount? Has he not also added 100 percent to that which had been entrusted to him? He too, therefore, had been “good” and “faithful,” just as excellent as the first servant. Such moral soundness and such loyalty was what counted. He too, therefore, was going to share his master’s joy. We can picture a party at which the three—the master and these two good and faithful servants—tell each other what has happened, rejoice because of the business enterprises that have been carried forward so successfully, but especially share each other’s joy. Each man is happy because so are the others.
19–23. For the long time, see on 25:5. Settled accounts makes it clear that they had been given the money specifically for trading—the profit accruing was no unexpected bonus, but was what was intended from the start (cf. the idea of Luke 17:10). The ‘reward’ of faithful discharge of this responsibility is ‘not a well-endowed pension, but even greater responsibility’ (Schweizer, p. 471). It may be significant that both slaves receive identical commendations, despite the different scale of responsibility originally given to them; their achievement has been proportionately the same, however different their original endowment. Enter into the joy of your master is hardly commercial language (not even in gnb’s more mundane version, ‘Come on in and share my happiness’!); here, as in v. 30, the application is again creeping into the telling of the story.
25:21, 23 Well done, good and faithful servant! The man returns and commends his two faithful servants. Their faithfulness adheres in “putting to work” what they had been given. This will prove to be the thrust of the parable in its metaphor—a call to faithfulness to use what has been given for the work of the kingdom while awaiting the final day.
You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. This saying of the householder also has implications outside the parable’s story, given its reiteration at the climax of the story (25:29–30; also 25:23). Faithfulness begets opportunities for greater faithfulness.
Jesus and True Disciples: the Reward for Fidelity (25:20–23)
The conduct of the first two servants (25:16–17) illustrates what Jesus wants from his followers—unquestioning, immediate and productive obedience. But what about the servants’ reports of their actions (vv. 20, 22)? In telling the master of what they have gained (the verb kerdainō), are they guilty of sinful boasting? To be sure, righteous actions are often a catalyst for pride: see 6:1–18 (with comments); Luke 18:9–14; and Philippians 3:2–11, including Paul’s use of kerdainō and its cognate noun kerdē (‘gain’) in 3:7–8. But these servants simply give the master an accurate account of what they have done, and he has nothing but commendation for them. Obedient disciples need not be ashamed of their good works; on the contrary, they are to recognize them for what they are (cf. Paul’s testimony in 1 Thess. 2:9–12). The crucial factors are from what motives and for whose honor the works are done: see comments on 5:14–16 and 6:1. The divine Master who ruthlessly condemns human pride (6:1–18; 23:1–36), also takes delight in his people’s love for him, and in the deeds which give that love expression. Christians who view their good works with less delight than does the Master have sinned against him.
Whether a person is a genuine disciple will be evident from the way he lives. Jesus earlier taught that ‘every good [agathon] tree bears good [kalous] fruits’ (7:17); and that ‘the good [agathos] man brings forth from his good [agathou] treasury good things [agatha]’ (12:35). So too each of these servants shows that he is ‘good’ (agathos) by being ‘faithful’ (pistos, 25:21, 23)—by doing the work assigned to him and thereby gaining a profit for his master. Significantly, it is each servant’s fidelity rather than his achievement that the master stresses (he uses pistos twice in v. 21 and again in v. 23)—which helps to explain why he is just as pleased with the second servant as with the first. The Christian’s task is to be faithful to Christ (1 Cor. 4:1–2, with pistos); the success of the work depends on God (1 Cor. 3:6–7, about the God who makes things grow).
Just as disciples’ greatness is to be discovered in their service (Matt. 20:26–27), so they will find reward in their very acts of obedience. But that is only the beginning of the Master’s prodigality: lowly servants will one day be exalted to places of great honor (e.g., 19:27–30); and faithful servants will one day be ushered into the indescribable joys of the heavenly kingdom (25:21, 23). In response to Jesus’ faithful exercise of authority during his earthly ministry (9:6, with exousia), the Father gave him universal authority (28:18, with exousia); so too Jesus will reward his people’s faithful service on earth by granting them yet greater responsibility at the kingdom’s consummation. Life in ‘the new heaven and the new earth’ (Rev. 21–22) will mean not inactivity (such boredom is reserved for hell) but renewed activity (from which all tedium, severity, pain and sorrow will have been removed), and ever greater fruitfulness in a restored paradise under the rule of the Second Adam. Then, as now, believers’ highest joy will be to show their love for Christ by worshiping and serving him. Then, as now, the reward for knowing the Father will be an ever deeper knowledge of him (cf. comments on 6:5–6).
20–23 The achievement and reward of the first two slaves is presented in almost identical words. Their initial endowment was different, but each has achieved the same rate of return, and the master’s commendation is as warm for the less fully endowed as for the more favored. Cf. 20:1–16, where some did not have the opportunity to work as long as others, but all were equally rewarded. These slaves are commended, like the slave of 24:45, as “trustworthy:” they have done what was expected of them. In other contexts pistos might be understood as “believing,” but that would be inappropriate to these story situations (which are Matthew’s only uses of the term), and its normal sense of reliability is clearly needed here. But the reward for reliability, as for the slave in 24:47, is not to be set free from slavery or released from responsibility but to be given more of it. You don’t “retire” from being a disciple. If so large a sum as five talents is “a few things,” the “many things” which follow will be a huge responsibility indeed. But along with the added responsibility goes a significant change of status, the new relationship of sharing the master’s happiness. Cf. 19:28 for the idea that in the “new age” the reward for faithfulness will be to share the authority of the enthroned Son of Man. Is it reading too much into the parable to envisage heaven as a state not of indolent pleasure but of active cooperation with the purpose of God as well as enjoyment of his favor?
19–23 The accounting begins “after a long time” (v. 19), the implication being that the consummation of the kingdom will be long delayed (24:48; 25:5). “Settled accounts” (synairei logon) is a standard commercial term (cf. Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, 118–19). The first slave, who doubled his five talents (v. 20), is praised, especially for his faithfulness, and given two things (vv. 21, 23): increased responsibility and a share in his master’s chara (“joy,” as in Jn 15:11). But we should not conclude that the sole reward of fulfilled responsibility is increased responsibility. The eschatological setting, coupled with the promise of joy that bursts the natural limits of the story, guarantees that the consummated kingdom provides glorious new responsibilities and holy delight (cf. Ro 8:17).
The parallelism of vv. 22–23 with vv. 20–21 is not exact but close (cf. 7:26–27 with 7:24–25) and reflects a Semitic cast. The second slave has been faithful with what has been given him (v. 22) and hears the same words as his more able fellow slave (v. 23). Probably the “many things” assigned the two men are not exactly the same. The point is not egalitarianism, whether here (cf. 13:23) or in the consummated kingdom, but increased responsibility and a share in the master’s joy to the limits of each faithful slave’s capacity.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Mt 25:23). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1298). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.