The main points of these two parables are fairly clear, even if some of the details are open for interpretation. The parable of the ten virgins teaches us that we need to be ready when the bridegroom (Jesus) comes. The virgins are unmarried bridesmaids. The groom would leave home, go to the brides house for the vows, and then there would be a procession back to the grooms house for a marriage feast. The bridesmaids who weren’t ready ended up missing the feast. The parable of the talents teaches the same thing with a further explanation. We get ready for Jesus’ return by using our gifts and talents for Him while He is away. Talents here is literally money, but it serves as a metaphor for us.
One reason that I say interpretation can be challenging is the issue of God being a “hard man.” Do we really believe that of God, or do we simply understand that He has high expectations? I suppose the lazy servant might indeed say that He is a hard man! But we would do well to remember the OAR principle: O(pportunity) + A(bility) = R(esponsibility). God expects us to live and work for Him! The fact that the lazy servant has his talent taken away and the one with the most receives it doesn’t teach that God is unfair. It is instead a reflection of real life. Do we become more proficient in something by not doing it? Of course not! And the ones who use their abilities to the fullest are certainly blessed more and more. Use it or lose it!
How do we understand being locked out of the feast, or thrown out into outer darkness? The simplest way is to see the wicked servant or the foolish virgins as unsaved. That’s easier to swallow with the foolish virgins, but the servant might give us pause. After all, he’s a servant, right? But, in a sense, everyone is a servant of God. He has given us life, talents, abilities, and gifts. If we refuse to acknowledge Him and don’t use what He’s given us in service to Him, how can we expect to be welcomed and blessed?!?!?!