Meaning of Matthew 25:24—A question about the parable of the talents


I don’t understand the second part of Matthew 25:24, “Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed”.

Thank you!


You might enjoy this podcast episode from ‘Exploring My Strange Bible’ of this passage; from Tim Mackie, one of the guys who started the Bible Project.

Today we ponder a pretty well-known peril of Jesus that has been misused and abused in unfortunate ways when it is read out of context.

This story is about a landowner who gives different sized investments to his servants and then expects them to produce something with the investments. Then based on what they have done with the investment, the landowner rewards or punishes different people.

As you can see, this is one of those stories where if you take it out of context, you can just do terrible things with it.BUT when you locate this parable as a warning or challenge that Jesus gives to the leaders of Jerusalem, all kinds of parts of this parable pop out in new ways.

(from ‘Matthew Marathon’ series)

Here are a few quotes:

He asks “Does Jesus have your attention?”, with this story. :slight_smile: The point of parables is to make us engage and think about it.

He says there are some people who would read this story and really go “hang on, who is this master?”.

Tim Makie asks a couple of questions to make us think too

  • What do I know to be true of Jesus view of things?
  • Does Jesus typically paint rich people in a positive light?
  • Does Jesus have any qualms against speaking out against people who abuse their position of authority?
  • Does Jesus care about people who have low self esteem or low in society?

The King entrusts his servants with enormous amounts of money (bags of gold)

  • does everyone get the same amount of money?
  • why is he giving different amounts?
  • what does this say about the Master?

there is something about money that says something about us when we have excess

  • Does the Master have a hangup with giving people enormous amounts of responsibility? apparently not.
  • the third servant does nothing
  • how long does this go on for?

the money originally was the Master’s own.

  • What happened to the profit made to the two servants that were commended? the Master gave them the profits to keep!
  • Did the Master compare the outcome of servant 1 and 2, and say to servant 2; oh you did ok, but not as good as servant 1? no, He commends each individually for their work
  • Would we not want to work for this boss?
  • the third guy comes up: what were his first words out of his mouth? “Master, I know you are a really hard man”.
  • Based on what the Master did to the first two servants, are we supposed to believe this third guy?
  • this third guy has a story in his head that bears no resemblance to reality as to the Master’s character.

Well worth a listen; I like the style of teaching in the podcast, it’s very down to earth and approachable. Hope you enjoy it. :slight_smile:

Perhaps as a related followup video, I also enjoyed John Lennox’s talk on ‘Wealth and Eternity’, which was also challenging and encouraging.


Perhaps a companion question might be, when does it make sense to insult your master, boss, King as a defense for failing to manger his resources in a manner that is expected? Is there evidence from 1st century Palestine/Rome were such a comment would be considered a high compliment particularly when said to a to your master? In short, did the slothful servant misjudge his master’s character and in so doing seals his fate?
Here are 3 examples of when this might be considered a compliment.

  1. If the master was from Gaul then this would be a compliment. Cicero, in The Republic, writes, “The Gauls think it disgraceful to grow grain by manual labor, and consequently they go forth armed and reap other men’s fields.”
  2. If the master was a Bedouin raider chief, then this would be high praise because the worth of a man was measured by his skill as a raider.
  3. From the Babylonian Talmud we have this interesting account of King David recommending that his troops be authorized to go and plunder as an acceptable mean of commerce:
    C. For R. Aha bar Bizna said R. Simeon the Pious said, “David had a harp suspended over his bed, and when midnight came, the north wind would come and blow on the strings, and the harp would play on its own. David immediately got up and undertook Torah-study until dawn.
    D. “When it was dawn, the sages of Israel came into him. They said to him, ‘Our lord, O king, your people Israel needs sustenance.’
    E. “He said to them, ‘Let them go and make a living from one another.’
    F. “They said to him, ‘A handful [of food] cannot satisfy a lion, and a hole in the ground cannot be filled up from its own clods.’
    G. “He said to them, ‘Go and organize marauders.’
    Neusner, J. (2011). The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary (Vol. 1, p. 11). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

There is at least one reason that the ‘slothful servant’s’ defense would be considered an insult and that was if the master were a nobleman in a settled agricultural community. Jesus and his disciples are from such a community. Two of the servants understood the true nature of the master one did not and the master obliged him.
Hope this makes sense.

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I have always taken this passage as a misunderstanding of the character of the Master. One thing I always found interesting is that the servant is judged based on their misunderstanding and not for the misunderstanding itself. The Master says, “If you knew I was a hard man… you should have done x, y, z.” I always found that to be an interesting point.

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Hi Matt.,
This link you mentioned is NEW AGE THEOOGY
Just thinking,

Hi Dave,
Which link are you concerned about - theBibleProject podcast or the John Lennox talk?

What part of the talk sounded like new age thinking?

I must admit you’ve lost me a little bit with the suggestion, but I’m also curious as well to hear your thoughts and happy to discuss if you’d like to. :slight_smile: I don’t have any personal experience with the new age - and It’s good to talk these things through together. :slight_smile:


Hi Matt,

On viewing these two links you mentioned, my statement was unfounded. I apologize for this. I am wondering if I was reading someone else’s response and clicked on your reply?



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ah no worries at all. . no question is out of bounds here. it’s good to talk through anything together on the forum. God bless :slight_smile: