Faithful with a Few Things

Before entrusting someone with a very responsible position, you might well evaluate how he or she does in handling less important matters. In Matthew 25:14–30 makes a similar point about the kingdom of heaven. How close is the connection between the way we conduct ourselves here on earth and what will happen in the new heavens and earth?

Be faithful with a few things. Your master entrusts you with talents. Our use of the word talent to refer to an ability grows out of this parable. Originally a talent was simply a measure of weight (about 75 lbs.) of copper, silver, or gold. It later came to have a monetary meaning. The master, before leaving on a journey, entrusts large sums of money to his servants. He knows the varied abilities of his servants, and entrusts money to them proportionately. In the absence of the master, they were responsible for investing the money, for using it in the master’s interests. Notice the undercurrent of grace in the story. All that the servants have, they have received from the master. Jesus is emphasizing the gracious character of the kingdom. During the time of his absence (in heaven) he equips you with an abundance of gifts. The gifts and abilities that you have are ultimately from the sacrificial work of the Savior. You are merely a steward of them. “… God as God is entitled to, apart from every contract or stipulation of reward, to all the service or obedience man can render…. In the parable, the talents, for the increase of which the servants are rewarded, are not originally their own but entrusted to them by their Lord. As a result of the relation of pure equivalence between what is done and what is received is entirely abolished. The reward will far exceed the righteousness which precedes it. He that is faithful over a few things will be set over many things, nay over all things, Matt. 24:47; 25:21, 23.” (Geerhardus Vos, The Kingdom and the Church, page 68)

Use faithfully what you have been given until your Lord returns. The master was away for a long time (v. 19) before he returned. Although Jesus tells you to live expecting his return, he does indicate the possibility that it may be at some distant point. The three servants responded differently. The first two immediately put the money to work, and both doubled the funds before the master returned. The third servant merely put the money in the safest location possible. He buried it in the ground. The Lord has given you a wide variety of gifts. He expects you to spend the time until his return using them. Instead of speculating as to when that will be, keep busy doing the work he has given you to do. The initial focus may be on the ministries that Christ was entrusting to the disciples. When he ascended they were not to be idle, but rather (once equipped with the Spirit) were to be busy about carrying out the instructions he would give them. The Holy Spirit addresses this parable to you as well as to the 12 disciples. Listen to this parable in the light of the Great Commission, with which Matthew closes his Gospel. “The expectation of our Lord’s coming does not entail any stagnation, or passivity in the life of a disciple; but rather, true, sanctified activity in the service of God.” (Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, page 516) Your accountability to your Lord is not limited to narrow aspects of your life. Every ability you have is to be used to his glory. Stretch and develop your abilities, grow in serving your Lord. Improve in your stewardship of time, wealth, and abilities.

Share your master’s happiness. Unfaithfulness results in judgment. The first two servants were faithful and received a reward (more on that below).The third servant was timid and lazy. Responsibility can be overwhelming. When his master returned and required an accounting, he began to make excuses that were in essence accusations against the master. He is engaged in blame shifting on the order that Adam and Eve practiced it. Simply doing nothing with what you have been given is inexcusable. Just marking time is not an option in the kingdom of God. Your Lord calls you to be growing, developing, using your gifts to his glory. None of you children are too young to begin using your talents to the glory of God. None of you saints are old enough to say, “I have nothing more to learn, no way to improve in my service of my Lord.” The parable has profound significance, especially as you look at the judgment which wicked slothfulness earns, verse 30 (and see the judgment at Matthew 24:50,51). The judgment is severe, for the servant put himself, his fears and his laziness, ahead of the interests and the command of his master.

Rejoice with your Lord! The majesty of the Lord is seen in his counting five talents “a little.” But the reward is incomparably greater. You will be put in charge of many things. There are only hints in Scripture as to the kind of responsibilities that will be ours in glory. Heaven won’t be an eternal vacation. You will be working to the glory of God. You will even judge angels! (1 Corinthians 6:3). “Although salvation is granted to all believers, there will be differences in glory among them, depending on their works (Matt. 10:41; 18:4; 20:16; 25:14ff.). In Scripture, therefore, both in the New and in the Old Testament, there is a close connection between sanctification and glorification.” (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 4, page 236) There is a continuity between your life here on earth and what you will be doing in the new heavens and earth. The central figure in this parable is not the wicked, lazy servant. It is not the servant who was given two talents, or even the one given five. Rather, the spotlight focuses on the master. He is the original dispenser of the talents. He is the one the subordinates are serving. The joy into which faithful servants enter is the master’s happiness.

Look around you at God’s covenant people. What an array of gifts and abilities, what an abundance of talent to use Jesus’ term, he has blessed you with. Yet these are just “a few things” in his sight. Use them well, and, as you do so, trusting in the One who has entrusted you with these talents, you begin to enter your Master’s happiness.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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