In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus shares a parable often called "The Parable of the Talents" or "The Parable of the Bags of Gold." In this parable, the master of an estate entrusts three of his servants with bags of gold while he goes away on a journey. It is clear from this parable that this money is the master's, and as his servants these three men are to steward the money in a way that honors the master.
After a long time (v. 19) the master returns, and his servants report back to him. The first two servants are commended: "Well done, good and faithful servant." They're invited to share the master's happiness and will continue to contribute meaningfully (vv. 21, 23). The third servant, however, is both wicked and lazy (v. 26). He hasn't added to his master's wealth at all. It's likely that the "spending power" of the bag of gold with which he is entrusted is actually less, given that the master was gone "a long time" (v. 19) and the realities of inflating costs. The third servant did nothing with this money that would even add interest to it. This third servant, then, is then excluded from the master's joyful presence and assigned to a place of "darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (v. 30).
There's obviously a lot that can be said about this parable. I want to focus our attention here on the clear point of the parable: we're to be faithful servants with what we've been given. (If you want to hear a full 40 minute sermon I've given on this passage, click here.)
And that means the next right question is this: What drivers motivate my faithfulness? How can I anticipate with confidence hearing these words from Jesus someday, "Well done, good and faithful servant"? Here are four drivers — straight from this parable — that can help us anticipate hearing these words from Jesus ourselves.
Driver #1: See yourself as "steward" and "servant." (Not owner.)
To see this point, let’s pause on the characters we meet in this parable.
The owner or master in this parable represents Jesus — He’s the King who entrusts us with gifts and is one day coming back. It’s clear in the parable that the other characters in the story are servants and stewards. The money they’re entrusted with isn’t a gift; it’s a stewardship. If they would have approached the money as owners instead of knowing their identity as servants, it would have been sad for every one of them when the master returned.
And so when we start putting this together, Jesus is painting a picture of reality that shows us He is the ultimate “owner” (He is God, and we aren’t; He’s the Creator, and we’re the creature), and we are servants and stewards for Him. This smacks against so much in our culture that says we are our own authority. We shouldn’t belong to anyone but ourselves.
But in his book You Are Not Your Own: Belonging to God in an Inhuman World, Alan Noble shows us that this glorification of self isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. After all: If you are a sovereign self, how do you ever know if you’re right or wrong? What moral authority is there outside of yourself to help you know you're on the right track? What happens when you as the sovereign self messes up? How do you know that you’re not deceiving yourself?
This puts tremendous pressure on ourselves that we’re not designed to carry.
So if we can’t fully trust ourselves and we can’t fully trust others (because they can be flawed and deceived just like me), who can I trust?
Let's hear directly from Alan Noble now on this: “Where does this leave us? If we cannot trust ourselves to desire and pursue what is good for us, and we certainly cannot trust other humans to desire and pursue our good, what remains? To whom can we safely belong? To whom can we trust our existence without fear of abuse? / “We need to belong to someone who is perfectly able to desire our own good while desiring their own good, someone for whom there cannot be conflict between our good and their good (John 3:16; Romans 8:28; 2 Peter 3:9). We need to belong to Christ" (Noble, You Are Not Your Own, p. 126).
This is good news! Rather than seeing our identity as servants and stewards of God as negative, it’s actually positive. We belong to a good Master who is perfectly loving, generous and gracious, and desires what is best for us — even better than we can do for ourselves.
How can we be faithful with the resources and abilities and experiences God has given us? How do we hear “Well done, good and faithful servant?” It starts by seeing God as God, and ourselves as His stewards.
Driver #2: Our purpose is to advance God's kingdom. (Not our own.)
This point goes hand-in-hand with the last one. Since we are stewards, we don’t live for ourselves or only for our own pleasure. We don’t just gravitate to what’s most comfortable. We don’t live to please others. We live to please our King Jesus Christ.
This is one of those “captain obvious” observations that stands out in the parable, as the servants multiply the owner’s resources in a way that grows the master’s estate. What’s good for the master turns out to be what’s best for the stewards! This isn’t a zero sum game.
We steward our lives and our resources and everything about us in a way that honors Jesus. And as we live for God’s kingdom, we find joy, satisfaction, and meaning. it’s the way we’re designed to live!
This instills purpose into everything we do. Your life has tremendous purpose! There are things that only you can do because of the abilities you have, the position you’re in, the relationships around you, the things you’ve experienced — things that I can’t do and the person sitting next to you can’t do — that help contribute to helping people find and follow Jesus.
Driver #3: Cultivate a true view of God.
This driver is important because our view of God affects everything about us.
Let’s go back to what the third servant says when he stands before the owner who’s returned. Here’s Matthew 25:24-25: 24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
So many things in this third servant’s perspective are just flat out wrong. The master had entrusted this third servant with over $1M dollars — that sounds a whole lot more like generosity and trust than him being a “hard man.” The third servant had misunderstood his identity as a steward, and therefore he misunderstood his relationship with the owner. He accuses the master of harvesting where he hadn’t sown and gathering where he hadn’t scattered seed.
But the thing is, the steward is just passing blame and missing the point of his assignment. He’s scrambling to justify why he had nothing to show for himself while the master was away. My first real job at age 15 was bagging groceries at Hy-Vee. What the third servant does here would be like 15 year old Tim accusing the owner of Hy-Vee for not doing my work, while I sit by and do nothing.
Everything about it is backwards and selfish and insubordinate.
The third servant is entitled, accusatory, and afraid. It’s because He hasn’t seen the Master for who He is — generous and gracious.
This is a question for all of us: How do you see God?
A.W. Tozer rightfully asks us, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
This parable shows us WHY what we think about God is so important — because your view of God shapes how you live. A wrong view of God will push us away from Him. But a right view of God invites us back when we’ve messed up, and we persevere with Him through the ups and downs of life. A right view of God draws us to Him more and more, and motivates us to live faithfully.
Let’s do some review: How can we hear “Well done, good and faithful servant”? For us to do this faithfully, we need to own our identity and our purpose as stewards, and we need to cultivate a right view of God.
There’s one more thing we can’t miss.
Driver #4: Keep the end in mind.
If we zoomed out of just this passage to the larger context of Matthew chapters 24 and 25, we’d see that this larger context is full of Jesus teaching about things that happen at the end of time as we know it. The Bible also teaches us there is a second coming of Jesus — which we’re to wait for watchfully and actively. That’s what these chapters are about.
And so when the master comes back after his departure, that represents Jesus’ second coming at the end of time. And what we see in this parable gives us a picture of what will happen then.
The two faithful stewards will receive a joyful welcome into eternity — “Well done, good and faithful servant.” This eternity is a place of joy and happiness, where Jesus’ followers continue to have responsibility and serve meaningfully. The master tells the faithful servants in this parable that “they will be in charge of many things.” (If your picture of heaven is one of playing harps on clouds and not really doing anything ever, forever — we need to see that that’s not a biblical picture!)
But then there’s the unfaithful servant, who is excluded from the joyful presence of the master and assigned to a place of darkness and isolation, full of personal regret (that’s what “weeping and gnashing of teeth” is getting at — intense regret). This is a hard, sobering truth we find in the Bible, as we encounter this presentation of the reality of an eternal hell.
But don’t think the third servant is assigned here because his money didn’t produce a good enough ROI. This third servant is assigned to hell because he was never in right relationship to the owner in the first place.
These eternal realities should lead every one of us to reflect on whether we know God personally ourselves — are you in right relationship with Him? This offer of knowing God personally is available to you today Here’s how: You turn to God in faith — admitting that you’re a sinner who needs God, trusting in Jesus’ finished work on the cross alone for your salvation, and following Jesus as your Savior and Lord.
The good news of Christianity is that we are saved from our sins and brought into a right relationship with God entirely by grace through faith. And then it is this personal relationship and God’s transforming grace that changes our hearts and motivates us to live faithfully today — little by little, step by step.
How can we live faithfully? How can we anticipate hearing these words from Jesus, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?
What we’ve seen from Matthew 25:14-30 helps us answer these questions with confidence.
As we live this way — all of it grounded in and fueled by a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ — we find motivation to steward our gifts well in a way that pleases God, and we can look forward with confidence to the day we’ll hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Did you enjoy this post? You may also be interested in...
Leave a Reply.
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.