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The Good and Faithful Servant

Matthew 25:14-30

[Mt 25:14] “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. [15] “To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. [16] “Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. [17] “In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. [18] “But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

[19] “Now after a long time the master of those slaves *came and *settled accounts with them. [20] “The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ [21] “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

[22] “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ [23] “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

[24] “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. [25] ‘And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’

[26] “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. [27] ‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. [28] ‘Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’

[29] “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. [30] “Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 25:14-15

[Mt 25:14] “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. [15] “To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.  

He went on His journey…

In a previous study we looked at how God set up his business or vineyard (depending on the parable), then left it in the hands of overseers while he tended to other work. We can see this principle elaborated upon in a number of Jesus’ other parables:

Matthew 21:33

33 “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey.”  

Mark 13:34

34 {“It is} like a man, away on a journey, {who} upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, {assigning} to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert.”  

Luke 19:12

12 He said therefore, “A certain nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and {then} return.”  

Luke 20:9

9 And He began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey for a long time.”  

There are two things that we could draw from these “journey parables”

  • We have been left with a grave responsibility, all the tools we need and a perfect vineyard/property. God expects results upon his return.
  • God is not idle. While we tend the vineyard he has “leased to us,” he is preparing other properties as well. For the Jews that would imply the Gentiles (everyone who was not Jewish). Who would it mean today? In the meantime we are to turn our portion of the Master’s property into a model for others to emulate.

To call ourselves Christ-Ones is to accept an awesome duty. To call Jesus, “Lord,” is to be obedient to his teachings. To be obedient is to live out the great commission; “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit [Mt 28:19, NAS].” In our last study from Matthew 25:1-14 we learned that hearing God’s word and not obeying was the sin of impudence (for which the five bridesmaids were locked out of the wedding banquet).

Yet, the most important reason to be in God’s work is not out of fear of judgment but in the pursuit of joy. When we do God’s will we experience the gift of God’s joy, “on earth as it is in heaven.”

According to his own ability

It is very poignant how Jesus takes extra care to inform us that the Vineyard Owner never expects more from his people than they are able to give. However, he does expect each servant to give to his fullest potential.
The words that Jesus uses to describe what God expects of us are translated in the New American Standard Bible as; “according to his own ability.” In King James, it is “according to his several ability.”

The Greek words are according to “his own [idios] ability [dunamis].” Idios is a word that means private and would also be used in a statement like; “that’s none of your business” or, “that’s my business.” Dunamis means power, even miraculous power, as well as strength, ability or abundance. Think of the terms dynamite or dynamic when you think of power, miraculous or ability.

If we combine the two words into a statement, it would be accurate to say that God judges us not “in comparison” to other peoples abilities, but very individually. We are judged according to our own abilities, our own efforts. We are not even judged by our results and certainly not by the results of anyone else. The man with two talents is not judged against the man with five. Neither would the man with one talent be compared to the man with two. However, the castigated man’s reprisal was not relative to the amount he returned but to the effort he expended. God is not numbers-driven; he is compassion-driven. His accounts are not reconciled by what we’re accumulating but by what we’re distributing.

Matthew 25:16-18

[Mt 25:16] “Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. [17] “In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. [18] “But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.”

Went and traded with them

Now we come to the heart of our place in God’s plan. First, we are called to love him without equal and then, to gain (or win) [kerdaino] others by sharing the gift of his unsurpassable love.
There is a wealth of scripture dealing with God’s unfathomable invitation to participate in his plan. Rooted in those passages are God’s amazing promises to give us the strength for the journey and joy in the midst of it.

2 Samuel 7:1-3

1 Now it came about when the king lived in his house, and the LORD had given him rest on every side from all his enemies, 2 that the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within tent curtains.” 3 And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your mind, for the LORD is with you.”  

1 Chronicles 4:10

10 Now Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from evil that I may not cause pain!” And God granted him what he requested. (NKJV)

2 Chronicles 1:9-12

9 “Now, O LORD God, Thy promise to my father David is fulfilled; for Thou hast made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth. 10 “Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can rule this great people of Thine?” 11 And God said to Solomon, “Because you had this in mind, and did not ask for riches, wealth, or honor, or the life of those who hate you, nor have you even asked for long life, but you have asked for yourself wisdom and knowledge, that you may rule My people, over whom I have made you king, 12 wisdom and knowledge have been granted to you. And I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings who were before you has possessed, nor those who will come after you.”  

2 Chronicles 17:3-5

3 And the LORD was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the example of his father David’s earlier days and did not seek the Baals, 4 but sought the God of his father, followed His commandments, and did not act as Israel did. 5 So the LORD established the kingdom in his control, and all Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat, and he had great riches and honor.  

Isaiah 49:23

23 “And kings will be your guardians, and their princesses your nurses. They will bow down to you with their faces to the earth, and lick the dust of your feet; and {you} will know that I am the LORD; those who hopefully wait for me will not be put to shame.  

Isaiah 60:5

5 “Then you will see and be radiant, and your heart will thrill and rejoice; because the abundance of the sea will be turned to you, the wealth of the nations will come to you.  

Romans 15:18-19

18 For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, 19 in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.  

1 Corinthians 9:16-19

16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. 17 or if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. 18 What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. 19 For though I am free from all {men,} I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more.  

1 Corinthians 15:10

10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.  

1 Timothy 6:17

17 Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.  

2 Timothy 4:5

5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.  

3 John 1:5-8

5 Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially {when they are} strangers; 6 and they bear witness to your love before the church; and you will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7 For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. 8 Therefore we ought to support such men, that we may be fellow workers with the truth.  

What a list of blessings for those infected with the work of God! Let’s reflect on God’s viewpoint of ROI (Return On Investment) for the talents that he lends to us. Why does he give us these gifts?

  • To give us peace from fighting that we might focus on building and vision
  • To be blessed; to receive God’s strength and to be protected from evil
  • To be given the wisdom to lead and the means to do it
  • To be strengthened in our leadership and receive the workers to pursue it
  • To be above reproach, that those who attack us will be embarrassed by our good works
  • To have a joyful and radiant heart that experiences abundance
  • To experience the power of signs and wonders—the vibrant and living power of the Holy Spirit in our lives
  • To know the joy of our efforts and that our ministry will deepen and touch even more
  • To be blessed as we bless—the harder we labor for him, the greater his blessing upon us
  • To be richly supplied with what we need to accomplish our work for God’s glory
  • To be given the strength to endure and complete (fulfill) the task of evangelism
  • To be faithful and supported in fellowship as we seek to take the Gospel to those beyond our zone of comfort

Dug a hole in the ground

We have seen what God blesses; let us now clearly understand what he curses. The man who received condemnation didn’t lose the talent or even invest it poorly. One has the sense that God would forgive us our poor judgment—and make it right—because that still be giving our best with what we have received. However, instead of investing God’s richness in Kingdom effort, the condemned man intentionally hides God’s gift to him. The verb [krupto] is to conceal, cover up, keep secret or hide. In other words, he doesn’t even make the effort to share God’s abundance.

Just as there are many scriptures that accent how God will bless us with joy as we abandon ourselves to serve him, there are many other scriptures that warn us about burying his talents. In Hebrew the concept is to be a “sluggard.”

Prov 18:9

9 He also who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.  

Prov 26:13-16

13 The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! A lion is in the open square!”
14 {As} the door turns on its hinges, so {does} the sluggard on his bed.
15 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; He is weary of bringing it to his mouth again.
16 The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can give a discreet answer.  

Hag 1:2-6

2 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘This people says, “The time has not come, {even} the time for the house of the LORD to be rebuilt.'"

3 Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet saying, [4] “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house {lies} desolate?”

5 Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, “Consider your ways! [6] “You have sown much, but harvest little; {you} eat, but {there is} not {enough} to be satisfied; {you} drink, but {there is} not {enough} to become drunk; {you} put on clothing, but no one is warm {enough} and he who earns, earns wages {to put} into a purse with holes.”  

Mal 1:10

10 “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle {fire on} My altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of hosts, “nor will I accept an offering from you.”

Heb 6:11-12

11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, [12] that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.  

2 Pet 1:5-11

5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in {your} moral excellence, knowledge; [6] and in {your} knowledge, self-control, and in {your} self-control, perseverance, and in {your} perseverance, godliness; [7] and in {your} godliness, brotherly kindness, and in {your} brotherly kindness, love. [8] For if these {qualities} are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. [9] For he who lacks these {qualities} is blind {or} short-sighted, having forgotten {his} purification from his former sins. [10] Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; [11] for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.  
What is the result of concealing God’s gift or taking his gifts for granted (being a sluggard)?

  • To be considered by God the same as a “destroyer” (sin of omission)
  • To preach doom everywhere like a door swinging back and forth on it’s hinges. To be too lazy to do even menial daily tasks. To be self-important and blind to true wisdom
  • To focus on self and personal comfort—not on increasing God’s kingdom—all of which results in a hunger that won’t satisfy, a drunk that doesn’t thrill, a coldness in life that is deeper than physical and a need for “more” that can never be satisfied
  • To be disdained and ignored by God
  • To lose hope
  • To be useless, without character, unfruitful, blind and trapped in sin

Matthew 25:19

[19] “Now after a long time the master of those slaves *came and *settled accounts with them.  

Came and settled

The settling of accounts is an interesting business term. It means to add together or compute [sunairo], the final word [logos]. John uses the word “logos” whenever he speaks about Jesus Christ as the divine expression [logos] of God. Jesus is the fulfilled promise (the final settling of accounts) of God. Our final word will be the revealing of our obedience to the divine expression of God. Have we been faithful to Jesus? Did we fully give what had been freely given to us?

Matthew 10:7-8

[7] “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ [8] “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.”

These verses about the “final settling of accounts” truly illustrate what the Lord expects of our diligent response to the “leased vineyard” he has granted us. We must be faithful in deed—not just in word.

1 Corinthians 3:12-13

12 Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, [13] each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is {to be} revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.  

2 Corinthians 5:10

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.  

Perhaps the penultimate story of “the divine settling” is told in the parable of Lazarus and Dives (the rich man). In that parable, Dives is condemned with the piercing statement; “Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.”
Dives did not really do anything to Lazarus, except for walk past him until eventually he did not even see Lazarus anymore. He was just part of the unpleasant scenery. That is meaning behind a “sin of omission.” In the end, Dives took the talents that God had given him for accumulating wealth and used that gift selfishly. Not to build God’s people but to feather his own lining.

It doesn’t matter whether our gift is finance, music, carpentry or ditch digging. It doesn’t matter whether I have five talents, two or one. What matters is whether my gifts are being invested in the growth of God’s kingdom. In our outreaches we say that our ultimate goal would be to help people self-initiate compassionate communities wherever they find themselves. Another way that we put that to the incarcerated youth in our program is: “You will never be unwanted if you spend your life trying to release the potential of others.” That is what Jesus did for his disciples, for the crippled, the poor, the lepers, the prostitutes, even the tax collector who wrote this book. Each one of them was commissioned to go out and love others like they had been loved.

If I can love like that—regardless of my position, wealth or circumstances—I am a Good and Faithful Servant.

Matthew 25:20-23

[Mt 25:20] “The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ [21] “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
[22] “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ [23] “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’  

Well done good and faithful servant

Many men die within a year or two of retirement. I have also noticed a number of men who die long before they retire. They keep showing up to work, but they are dead emotionally and spiritually.

The greatest sorrow is to spend an entire life working for the wrong reasons. That is perhaps the greatest waste of human resources in our “land of plenty.” Many people work for bosses or nameless corporations that they hate. A high percentage of people not only work in this type of situation but also work towards a singular goal; to quit working. How then does this reading mesh with these issues of a meaningless life of drudgery?

In this parable the one’s who work hardest are rewarded by receiving even more work—even greater responsibilities.

The Master tells them, “You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things.”
The words are intriguing. “Faithful over a few things [oligos];” the term would be used to refer to either “puny things” or “for a brief season.” It doesn’t hurt to remember that the work I do in this life is puny—no matter how grandiose I think it may be.

Isaiah 64:6

6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

The works that I do are not for God’s sake. He gives me the opportunity to do them for my sake. He is not using me to achieve his ends (what kind of God would that be)? He is giving me the opportunity to grow and stretch that I might receive joy in the true salvation. I will be able to witness the freeing of all his children from the oppressive fetters of this earth.

If I can be faithful in the “puny things” or for this “short duration,” he doesn’t promise me retirement or rest, but instead deeper involvement! To be more enraptured by serving him. To be in charge of many things [polus] translates best as “abundance in a great age.”

A luxurious motor home or a retirement condo on the beach lose their luster in the face of the concept; “Abundance in a great age!” That’s the kind of retirement plan God has in store for his faithful! Yet God has more in mind that just our happiness tomorrow. He still seeks our joy now. He has given each of us a full vineyard—complete with everything need—to work on today. If we do not see the fullness of our vineyard it is our fault, not God’s. The ultimate question of this story is, “What did you do with what I gave you?” It is not, “What did you think about what I gave to someone else.” Or, “What would you have done if I had given you more?”

What is my “leased vineyard” today? What is my “one talent” today? How does the vineyard I tend look today? How am I investing God’s talent today? What am I doing with what I have NOW?

I put you in charge of many things

Work for the right reason! If you have read many of these studies then you know that I am always asking inmates to decide whether they are going to be a Prisoner of the County or a Prisoner for the Lord. In like manner I must ask myself, “For whom do I toil?” For whose purposes do I labor?

We can even be religious leaders and work for the wrong purposes! When Jesus questions the religious leaders of the temple about the source of John the Baptist’s authority [Matthew 21:25], they whisper to each other, “We fear the multitude.” They know Jesus will unmask them if they say John’s authority came from God and they know the public will turn on them if they say he had no authority from God. They are the blind leading the blind because they have no moral compass for leadership. They are more concerned about their wealth and position than the compassion of God. Look what Elijah says to the people when they act in such a manner:

1 Kings 18:21

[21] Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word.

Sometimes, my day involves sitting for long periods in jail lobbies. Sometimes, I will sit there for more than an hour only to have a guard tell me; “Visiting time is over, try again next week.”

I would be lying if I said that this type of behavior doesn’t irk me. Yet, over time I am learning to turn it over to my Lord. Am I waiting on a mean-spirited guard (who is working for an angry officer who is working in an under-funded county prison system)? Or, have I been given the opportunity to wait upon my Lord. There are people around me whose lives are in crisis, guards and inmates families. That is the “leased vineyard” God picked for me today.  Am I waiting for the guard or waiting on the Lord? Which choice do I make? Which one has the greatest potential of joy?

Am I faithful in puny things?

Luke 12:44

44 “Truly I say to you, that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.”  

Luke 22:28-30

28 “And you are those who have stood by Me in My trials; [29] and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you [30] that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  

Rev 2:10

10 ‘Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.’  

Rev 2:26-28

26 ‘And he who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; [27] and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received {authority} from My Father; [28] and I will give him the morning star.’   

Rev 21:7

7 “He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.”  

Enter into the joy of your Master

The second reward Christ promises is joy [chara], exceeding joy! This is not the emotional high that comes with a party hat and a cocktail umbrella. This is the kind of deep-seated, gut level joy that comes from knowing that you are doing exactly what you were created to do. In fact, the word is a derivative of “Rejoice” [chairo]. It was a word used for a final greeting or send-off.

I have known many people (even non-Christians) who have wanted these words on their tombstones; “Well done good and faithful servant.” What a final greeting or send-off that would be; especially when said by our Lord! Quite literally, they mean; “You are proven a faithful and trustworthy bond-slave.” This is an interesting term because a bond-slave was a slave that was sold into slavery because of his debts or his husband/father’s debts. They were viewed with even more disdain than servants. Yet, this is the term Paul chooses. He is a bond-slave; he was “trustworthy in bankruptcy.”

Yet, this is where faith leads us to humility. We have no merits worthy of God’s heaven. Our lives have been sold because of our sin. We are bankrupt before the Lord of Lord’s. But are we faithful? Are we trustworthy? Do we realize that our only true worth is that we were purchased by Jesus Christ and therefore our every breath should be in his service? And yet, how incredible it is that the one who purchased us from our bankruptcy seeks only one thing—our greatest joy!

Joyful is the person who places himself at the service of our Lord. Lovingly, we place our lives at his disposal; not to gain retirement but simply to serve incessantly. To serve so recklessly that one day we too will hear the words, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Let us look at some readings that illustrate the biblical concept of joy:

Ps 16:10-11

10 For Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay.
11 Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; in Thy presence is fulness of joy; in Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.  

John 12:26

26 “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”  

John 14:3

3 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, {there} you may be also.”  

Phil 1:23-24

23 But I am hard-pressed from both {directions,} having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for {that} is very much better; [24] yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.  

2 Tim 2:12

12 If we endure, we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us.  

Heb 12:1-2

1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, [2] fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  

1 Pet 1:8-9

8 “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, [9] obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.  

Rev 7:17

17 “For the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes.”  

Matthew 25:24-28

[Mt 25:24] “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. [25] ‘And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’

[26] “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. [27] ‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. [28] ‘Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’  

I was afraid

Once, when my brother and I were young, we found a big chunk of iron pirate about five miles above our house in the Blue Mountains of Oregon. Convinced we had stumbled on a chunk of gold ore we thought we had just purchased a free pass to the Christmas toy catalog. Lugging that chunk of rock down the rough mountain terrain was a day’s labor. Lest we chip it or break it, we refused to either roll it down hills or drop it over cliffs. Our dad’s only comment upon arriving home was, “Now you know why they call it Fool’s Gold.”

As the parable draws to a close we learn how a “wicked, lazy slave” views God. A fool’s god is feared—not revered. The difference is subtle but critical. Reverence draws us closer to God creating in us a desire to serve him. Fear makes us hide from God (as Adam and Eve hid in the garden of Eden). The Greek word that the servant uses when he calls his master a “hard” man could also be used as fierce or severe. The term can also be used for a parched and cracked desert landscape. That was his view of God! Look at how it affected the labors of his life.
The Master agrees that he expects his servants to reap where he did not sow and gather where he scattered no seed. In other words;

  • God has expectations of the vineyard he leases to us;
  • God expects us to go beyond the boundaries of the vineyard we are given or the talents we have received: “Reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed.” We are expected to plant and reap beyond our own comfort zone.

This was an indictment of the Chief Priests and Pharisee’s who saw their goal as building a fence around the system. It is also a personal indictment when we limit our love to those whom we find most comfortable or when we act like church is supposed to entertain us. The greatest deception of our culture may well be that church is some place we are supposed to work out “our own” salvation; where we are supposed to “get comfortable” or “be entertained.” The Gospel is about communal salvation. About a God who loved the “world” and a church that goes out to the “ends of the earth.”

A church is a fuel station or M*A*S*H unit to get people out to the harvest. God will not judge pastors by how many people they had in the congregation on Sunday but how many people were on the streets the other six days. It’s not how much fruit we keep in the vineyard or how many talents we bury. Its how much fruit or how many talents are in the marketplace. The richness of a church is not how much it has in savings or in it’s building. It’s how much it has invested in the community—how much is in circulation.

Take away the talent from him

There are dreadful consequences for this servant’s worship of a fool’s god. Upon the return of the master he takes three actions:

  • He takes away the fool’s resources. What little resources that man had were stripped from him and given to someone who used his talents wisely.
  • He takes away the fool’s place as part of the mission. He has done nothing but occupy space and live off the work of the rest of the company while the Master was gone. His place was taken away and the rest of the people would no longer have to carry his weight.
  • He throws the fool out where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Christ uses this cultural term quite often. It implies a place of complete despair. It is a place where people are filled with unrequited grief and self-righteous bitterness. The greatest sorrow is that some people will not have “far to go” to get to this place. The lazy servant seemed only a breath away from this type of life already.

This morning as I was entering the homeless shelter I talked to a man about the weather. He off-handedly said, “Now its light, but it’ll be rain tonight.” I teased him and said; “Sounds like a Country-Western song.”
His response stuck with me all day; “Do you suppose if you sing a Country-Western tune backwards you get back everything you lost?”

The reality of that statement, my immediate work on this study, and the circumstances in which I found myself seemed to meld into a sad commentary on so many of the lives I see daily. God can provide us with such joy as we cannot possibly contain it. The same verb for “to take away [airo]” is used in another important incident in our Lord’s life. It is interesting because this incident illustrates what our Lord treasures most and how he gently, but very firmly, deals with a different teeth-gnasher.

Luke 10:40-42

40 But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up {to Him,} and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” [41] But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; [42] but {only} a few things are necessary, really {only} one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Is my life fully focused on “the one thing” that is necessary? Or, am I still gnashing my teeth over the many things that do not lead to truly attending my Lord?

If Martha had just left Mary alone it is doubtful that she would not have been reproved by Jesus. If her work had truly been a reckless act of joyful service and her desire had been for Mary to have this one last opportunity to sit at Christ’s feet, there would have been no reprimand.

If I sit and gnash my teeth at others—that is more a statement of my lack of character than their incapacity. I heard a man tell a friend of mine; “I went to that church for three weeks and no one ever said ‘hi’ to me.”

While that should never happen in a church, the fact that this man never said “Hi” to someone else while counting the week’s that passed was as much a comment about his shallowness as the church’s self-focus. I hear people who complain about their pastors and I say; “At least they are up there! Shame on you for not spending your time in worship praying for him or her.”

Jesus said that we are all too often like “Children in the marketplace:”

Luke 7:31-35

31 “To what then shall I compare the men of this generation, and what are they like? 32 “They are like children who sit in the market place and call to one another; and they say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’ 33 “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine; and you say, ‘He has a demon!’ 34 “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking; and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man, and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners!’ 35 “Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”
God keep me from being a teeth-gnasher; both in this moment and in the eternal moment of your salvation!

Matthew 25:29-30

[Mt 25:29] “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. [30] “Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  

More shall be given

I remember when I was first teaching my son geometry and we were moving beyond lines to two-dimensional planes. One of the questions that was asked in his math book was, “Two people are five miles from each other, draw two points where they could meet that would be exactly three miles from both of them.”

Of course, the response to this question is impossible in linear thought. However, on a plane it is possible. Using a protractor, the two points can easily be drawn above or below the line.

When he grasped this concept, it gave us the opportunity to talk about God meeting us in multi-dimensions. In linear thinking, what seems impossible is conquered by thinking on a geometric plane where it is possible for the two subjects to meet in two places. However, add a third dimension to that and you could draw a circle of lines from two intersecting cones that would provide an infinite number of meeting places. Yet, imagine adding still another dimension; the spiritual dimension where God is willing to meet us daily! God is willing to meet us beyond abundance, indeed, in super-abundance. The possibilities of his endless bounty are beyond our ability to fathom!
The laws of physics and science do not undermine true spiritual laws, rather they point to God. The more physicists understand (providing they view the universe without a pre-ordained bias towards atheism)—the more we hear that there must have been a guiding hand in the creation of the universe. Physicists call this a “benevolent presence with an anthropomorphic bias.” I find that term slightly bulky to use in daily prayer and choose instead; “Abba.” We might even call it the God who “so loved the world that He sent His only Son.”

We know that just as a letter tells you something about the writer so creation tells us about the Creator! Jesus illustrates a basic physical law in this parable. Let’s call it the law of degeneration. If you don’t use what you have you will lose it. Muscles don’t remain tone with lack of use; they degenerate. Willpower doesn’t increase with a lack of application; it diminishes. Faith unpracticed doesn’t become greater faith; but instead degenerates into sin when it is buried.

Here is the great news behind Jesus’ illustration of this God-given principle; “for to everyone who has, more shall be given.”

Just like the first illustration about geometry, God is not willing to just meet us in a couple of points of our lives, but he is willing to meet us in infinite dimensions; so too God is willing to infinitely increase our faith when it is practiced!

“More will be given,” employs two verbs that are frequently used when Jesus talks about abundance in his stories. “Given” [didomi], is used alternatively for “to give,” but also for an adventure, to minister, to receive power, even to be “struck with a hand of authority” as when one is confirmed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“More” [perisseuo] is a word of superabundance; excess, overflow, enough and to spare, over and above. This is the infinite amount that God seeks to rain down upon us. His desire to bless us is even greater than our ability to comprehend what we ask of him. In previous writings, I have stated that we are like children standing before a waterfall with a thimble and asking for a drink!

It is Christ’s desire that our lives should overflow with blessing upon blessing;

John 15:2

2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every {branch} that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit.”

John 15:8-16

8 “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and {so} prove to be My disciples. [9] “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. [10] “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love. [11] “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and {that} your joy may be made full.

12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. [13] “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. [14] “You are My friends, if you do what I command you. [15] “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.

16 “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and {that} your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you.”

Gal 5:22-23

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

 Even what he does have shall be taken away

Yet, Christ’s warnings to those who do not apply their faith are just as numerous:

Matt 21:41-43

41 They said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the {proper} seasons.” [42] Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner {stone;} this came about from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? [43] “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.”  

Luke 12:19-23

19 ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years {to come;} take your ease, eat, drink {and} be merry.”‘ [20] “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This {very} night your soul is required of you; and {now} who will own what you have prepared?’ [21] “So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

22 And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for {your} life, {as to} what you shall eat; nor for your body, {as to} what you shall put on. [23] “For life is more than food, and the body than clothing.  

Rev 2:5

5 ‘Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.  

Faith is not faith unless it is applied. Faith that is not applied is at best, hypocrisy. It is the most attacked sin by Jesus Christ in all of his confrontations with the religious authorities.

Yet as we have said earlier, the reason we should apply our faith and not bury it is not because of a fear that we will “go to hell.” It is because everyday that our faith remains unused we create our own hell in our existing lives. God’s richness is not for someday; it is for today. The sorrow of hell doesn’t hurt us someday; it hurts us everyday that we do not exercise the muscle of faith in our lives.

Let’s make this day our someday so that today is the beginning of our eternity of days with Jesus!

About the Author

Jerry Goebel is a community organizer who started ONEFamily Outreach in response to gang violence and youth alienation in a rural community in Southeastern Washington. Since that time, Jerry has worked with communities around the globe to break the systemic hold of poverty by enhancing the strengths of the poor.

A primary philosophy of ONEFamily Outreach is to teach; “poverty is a lack of healthy relationships.” And, a primary focus of ONEFamily Outreach has been to break down the barriers of poverty through creating “cultures of intentional courtesy.”

As well as having developed ongoing mentoring outreaches in his own community, Jerry travels extensively to work with church leaders, community governments, and educators.

Jerry has received five popular music awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, a Best Educational Video Award from the National Catholic Education Association, and a lifetime achievement award from the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry for living Gospel Values.

To contact or book Jerry for a presentation in your area write or call:

Jerry Goebel
ONEFamily Outreach
(509) 525-0709

Copyright Notice

Copyright © 2007 Jerry Goebel. All Rights Reserved.  This study may be freely distributed, as long as it bears the following attribution: Source: Jerry Goebel: 2007 ©

Scripture Quotations noted from NASB are from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD VERSION of the bible. Copyright © The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995. Used by permission. (

The New Testament Greek Lexicon based on Thayer’s and Smith’s Bible Dictionary plus others; this is keyed to the large Kittel and the “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.” These files are public domain.

The Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon is Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon; this is keyed to the “Theological Word Book of the Old Testament.” These files are considered public domain.

NAS Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries. Copyright © 1981, 1998 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved. (

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