Who is the good servant that will be rewarded on the return of the Lord? It is the one who serves the Lord according to his wishes. This section of scripture teaches much about serving the Lord and what it means to serve the Lord. It also shows us the outcomes for those from whom service is expected but is not carried out.
The Lord’s Service
Jesus has given his people certain gifts and abilities which they are to use in his service. It is up to his servants to then use those gifts to work and generate growth for the Lord. It may not necessarily be growth in numbers, but could also be those who teach, preach or help others to produce greater maturity.
In this parable we see a ruler travel to a far land to receive a kingdom. Jesus is that ruler. When he leaves he gives a number of his servants one pound each, which they are to trade with while he is gone. These are the gifts he has given to his people to employ in His service for and with his people.
Good and Faithful Servants
When the Lord in the parable returns he calls his servants to give an account of what they have done with the pound entrusted to them. The first shows he has traded with it and made ten pounds more. A second servant made five pounds more. To each of these he says, “Well done, good servant” (Verse 17) and they receive a reward.
Likewise when Jesus returns he will seek an account of his servants to see what they have done with what he has given them. All who serve the Lord will be hoping to hear those wonderful words, “Well done good and faithful servant,” for this is the greatest reward any can receive.
Those who have served the Lord well will receive a blessing, just as those in the parable received their masters reward. But as we saw in the parable, not all of his servants will be blessed for some will not use the talents, abilities and gifts given to them.
In the parable one of the servants came to the master saying, “Lord, here is your pound, which I kept laid away in a napkin; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man; you take up what you did not lay down, and reap what you did not sow.” (Verse 20-21)
Fear prevented this man from action. Fear of his master and fear of failure. But what he ended up doing was…nothing, which is worse than doing something and making a mistake. The Lord knows that we will make mistakes and he will help us through those times. But if we choose to do nothing, we are neither moving forward or backwards. The servants of the Lord, like those in the parable, have been entrusted with gifts and abilities to use in the service of the Lord.
But what is worse is that if they do nothing for fear of the Lord, then they are blaming the Lord for their own shortfall. In the parable the man blames his master because he calls him a severe man and accuses him of things he has no right to say. Basically he is not taking responsibility for his own actions or lack of action and is trying to make the master a scapegoat.
But the master proves him wrong from his own words. He says, “I will condemn you out of your own mouth, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into the bank, and at my coming I should have collected it with interest?” (Verse 22-23)
Now Jesus was not condoning the practice of lending money at interest in these words. Usury, which is lending money at interest, was unacceptable under the Law of Moses under most circumstances. But what Jesus is showing here is that if this man thought his master was harsh or evil, then why didn’t he do what was evil to provide him with ill-gotten gain. Either way, whether for good or for ill the servant would have provided the profit for his master.
To Him Who Has Will More Be Given
In the end we see that this bad servant did not receive a reward but instead was punished. The master says, “I tell you, that to every one who has will more be given; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Verse 26)
When we consider those who serve the Lord, if they fail to do what was required of them then they too could lose whatever they may have. The one thing all of us who follow the Lord have is the promise of eternal life and as I read this section of scripture I believe the punishment Jesus is speaking of is to take away that promise.
There is much more in this section of scripture and I ask that if you have any additional views, please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments. I have only barely scratched the surface of this section so I look forward to your insights.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng www.sxc.hu/ taken by Nimalan Tharmalingam)