Being Faithful In the Kingdom
Stewards of the Lord's Goods
Literally, this parable begins, "For as a man going into another country...." Obviously, Jesus is again likening the church, or kingdom of heaven, to something his followers could understand. Notice, the man in the story gives his own servants a sum of money for which to care. They are his servants and the money is his. It is important each of us recognize that we and all we have belong to the Lord.
Paul told the people on Mars Hill, "For in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring'" (Acts 17:28). The Psalmist sang in behalf of the mighty God who is Lord, "For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine" (50:10‑11). These and other verses indicate we are simply stewards of things belonging to God, even including our own selves.
Good stewardship involves proper use of the things belonging to another. The servants in this parable were expected to gain even more, not just hold on to what they had. Paul described himself as a steward of God's mystery. Then, he said, "Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:1‑2). A part of his faithful use of that mystery was entrusting it to others who would, in turn, place it in the safe keeping of others. "And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Timothy 2:2).
"Faithful Over a Few Things"
A talent was between 75 and 131 pounds, depending on which author one reads. It could have been gold or silver. Each man received a number of talents based on his lord's assessment of his ability to wisely use it to gain more. While their lord was away, the five and two talent men doubled what they had been given.
When the lord came back from his journey, he called his servants together to see what they had done with their trust. The five and two talent men both received the same words of commendation. "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" (Matthew 25:21, 23). The lord saw each man as having well used his trust. It did not matter that one earned five while the other earned only two. Instead, both were rewarded for faithful work.
God will judge each based on how he lived his life. Our concern need not be with what we have or do not have as compared to others. Instead, we must strive to faithfully use the Lord's trust! Our question should be, "What has the Lord given me and how can I use it to his glory?" Our goal should be to let our light shine so God can be glorified (Matthew 5:13‑16).
"You Wicked and Lazy Servant"
The one talent man hid his money in a hole in the ground. When his master came back, he dug it up and brought it to him. Lightfoot sees three specific things which caused him to fail to please his master. First, he did not believe in himself. The Lord had evaluated his ability and given him what he was capable of appropriately using. Yet he did not believe he could use it wisely.
Second, he let fear keep him from working. Fear is a dangerous and immobilizing force. Jesus said the fearful would have their part in the second death, or hell (Revelation 21:8). Third, he envisioned his lord as a man looking for failures for which he could punish his servants. We need to realize God does not rejoice over our failures. Remember, God is love. His love for lost mankind was so great he sent his Son to die in their stead (John 3:16‑17; Romans 5:6‑8; 1 John 4:7‑11). Out of that true love comes a willingness to be longsuffering, kind, not rejoice in our sins, but rejoice in our obedience to the truth (1 Corinthians 13:4‑8).
The lord in Jesus' parable describes the one talent man as wicked and lazy. He knew his master would want him to work with what he had been given. Still, he failed to seize his opportunities for work. Do we really have to wonder what the Lord thinks of the church today? We are in the middle of a technical revolution. We can communicate around the globe in a matter of minutes. Through television and radio, we can reach multiplied millions with the gospel at any moment. Many of our friends and neighbors have heard more about our lawns than they have about Jesus. How will the Lord describe our efforts? What will our reward be?
Our answer to these questions may give us a different view of the judgment against the one talent man. "And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 25:30). This is in stark contrast to the "joy of your Lord" which was given to both the five talent man and the two talent man. If we would have joy and avoid the place where crying and teeth grinding is incessant, we must put what the Lord has given us to use!
1. Over what things has God given you stewardship?
2. What could you do to faithfully use the things God has provided?
3. What lessons do you learn from the two commendations given by the Lord?
4. List reasons you think the one talent man might have hidden the money.
5. What is "outer darkness"? How should we live if we do not want to go there?
--Gary Hampton, author, evangelist, and preacher training school
--Gary Hampton, author, evangelist, and preacher training school director