Friday, May 9, 2008

A Kingdom of Faithfulness

Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord. (Matthew 25:21)
In the previous parable (see A Kingdom for the Prepared), Jesus cautioned us to be prepared for His return. In this parable, He tells us how.
The kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. (Matthew 25:14-15)
Notice that each servant was given an amount “according to his own ability.” Nobody was given what he could not handle. But whatever the amount given, the master expected it to be put to use.
Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. (Matthew 25:16-18)
The first two servants put their talents to use. When the master returned he found that they had both doubled his money. Perhaps they each developed a business which was very profitable. Or perhaps they simply put it out at interest. Six to eight per cent was a common rate in those days, and they would have easily been able to double their money in nine to twelve years. Maybe that is how long the master had been gone.

The third servant, however, simply buried his talent in the ground. He had the ability to do more, and the opportunity to double his master’s money just as the others did, but he did nothing.
After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, “Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.” His lord said to him, “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.”

He also who had received two talents came and said, “Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.” His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matthew 25:19-23)
Notice what the issue here is: faithfulness. Remember that each servant had been given funds to manage according to his ability. Competency was not an issue — all were competent, but not all were faithful. The Greek word for “faithful” is pistos, which is the same word for “faith.” Today we often think of faithfulness as loyalty and trustworthiness. But at its core, there is a very important element of faith. These first two servants were both faithful because they had faith in their master, his words and his purpose. They were trustworthy because they trusted. The master sees a very important correlation concerning faithfulness: Those who are faithful in a few things will be faithful in many things.
Then he who had received the one talent came and said, “Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.”

But his lord answered and said to him, “You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
The problem with the third servant is that he did not trust his master. He saw him as hard, stingy and oppressive, someone who exploited the labor of others. Because he had no faith, he was full of fear: “I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground.” It is like the answer Adam gave after he sinned, and God asked him, “Where are you?” Adam said, “I was afraid … and I hid” (Genesis 3:9-10).

The servant did not really know his master, but the master had his servant pretty well pegged — wicked and lazy! The master took on his servant’s argument, though he did not agree with it. “So if you thought I was oppressive, and an exploiter”—that was the sense of is his words — “then you should have put my money with the bankers so that I would at least have a little return on my investment.” Taking the money to the Exchange really would have taken no more effort than to bury it in the ground. It would have been just as safe, if not safer, and would have gathered interest — sweat free. How lazy does a person have to be to pass that one up? But the servant not only lacked faith, he was paralyzed with fear.

Now consider the consequences. The first two servants, because they were faithful in little things, were made rulers over great things, while the fearful servant lost even the one talent he had; it was given to the one who now had ten talents. Faithful diligence brings abundance, but those who are lazy and fearful will lose all they have.

The kingdom of Heaven on Earth is all about the rule and reign of God. He is looking for who will trust Him completely and obey Him diligently, even in little things, so that He may make them rulers over great things. The reward is both now and forever.



The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.