Well done, good and faithful servant

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We’ve seen the danger and the opportunity of “talents“.  Whether it’s the monetary unit or the God-given ability, we’re tempted to abuse our talents in one of two ways – self-indulgence or cowardly retreat.  We either show off our talents in self-promoting ostentation or we bury our talents and keep them from the world.  Neither option is Christ’s intention.  He wants us to be servants – using our talents for the blessing of others.  But how will we be motivated to move out of our natural responses driven by pride or fear?

The answer from Matthew 25:14-30 is to get a true vision for our Master.

Let’s recap the story… one servant is given 5 talents and makes 5 more.  Another is given two talents and makes two more.  The last servant is given one talent and “he went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.” (v18)  And the reason for this tight-fisted parsimony?

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:  And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. (Matthew 25:24-25)

This is such a contrast to the way the Lord is portrayed in his dealings with the good servants:

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. (v21)

The amount which they make their master is not important – whether five talents or two – faithful service of this lord is what counts.  After all, both good servants are told that their talents are merely “a few things” when compared to the “many things” he has in store for them.  This lord is no grudging miser.  He exalts servants to thrones, making them rulers.  And not simply rulers, they are intended for the life and love of this lord – entering into his joy.

Again let us compare this to the allegations of the third servant.  “A hard man, reaping where [he] hast not sown”?  An object of dread?  One who makes his servants shut down and close off?  It is amazing to think that this servant is describing the same lord.

And yet, in response to this meanness, the lord displays exactly the hardness that the servant fears:

26 His 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 strawed: 27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. 28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. 29 For unto every one 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. 30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  (Matthew 25:26-30)

Judgement is repeatedly presented in the Bible as a handing over to the person’s mad desires.  Everyone gets the lord they trust in.  Forever.

Here again we see that the wicked servant gets exactly the kind of lord he looked to.  To imagine the Lord of heaven as a harsh task-master will create a certain kind of grudging service, which in turn will result in a certain judgement.   On the other hand, trusting a generous Lord to be the One who raises servants to be kings, this produces open-hearted spend-thrifts.

It all turns on how we see the Lord.  And how should we see Him?  In the next chapter He tears apart bread and says “This is my body”.  He pours out wine and says “This is my blood.”  He gives His very Self to the world in love and as we look on, how can we not thrill to the invitation “enter into the joy of thy Lord”?  It’s that vision that creates “Good and faithful servants.”

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