Matthew 25:14-30 contains what is called the Parable of the Talents. A “talent” in ancient Israel was a unit of exchange, a monetary value, not our modern sense of a talent being a skill.
An unnamed master — clearly Jesus in the context — entrusted (vs. 14) five talents to one servant, two to another, and one to yet another, to “each according to his ability.” Then (15) he went on his journey [to heaven] and (19) after a long time returned (Acts 3:20-21) and settled accounts with them. If you are reading this, then Jesus’ Second Coming has not yet occurred, and the message He gave those three servants can have a dramatic effect on your eternal destiny.
When the master returned, he found that the first two servants had “put his money to work” and doubled what the Master had given them. But the third servant had hidden the talent in the ground and produced no profit for his master. The master called him “you wicked, lazy servant” for his failure to serve the master with what the master had entrusted to him. And He said (30), “Throw that worthless servant outside.” Those are five words you’ll never want to hear Jesus speak to you!
But to the servants who had honored the Master’s trust and had worked and produced fruit and gained profit, the Master said: "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!" (Matthew 25:21, repeated in vs. 23) Six short words, actually just five important ones plus the and. You will most certainly want to hear these words from Jesus our Master when He comes back to earth. Let’s look at each of these five all-important words and see how we can adjust our lives so as to please our Lord and Master Jesus when He returns.
To the first two servants Jesus said, “Well DONE!” They understood that the Lord wants us to work for Him, to “do” His bidding, not just listen to good sermons or read our Bibles merely for knowledge. He wants us to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving [our]selves.”
What was the difference between those Jesus called the wise builders and the foolish builders in His Matthew 7:24-27 parable? The foolish heard His words but did not put them into practice. The wise builders “heard His words AND put them into practice” (24). You’ll want to be among those to whom our Lord and Savior gives the commendation: “Well DONE!”
Jesus did no lazy work, no haphazard work, no half-hearted work. He did all things well! And that’s the attitude He wants us to take with whatever He has entrusted to us. For example, in the realm of the gifts of the Holy Spirit —
Please permit a personal reflection. I was ordained as an Ephesians 4:11 Bible teacher in 1975. Today, 43 years later at age 75, I am still acutely conscious of the fact that the Lord has “entrusted” me (Matthew 25:14) with His call and spiritual enablement to teach His Word, the Bible. My age notwithstanding, I am well aware that I will give an account to the Master when He comes for how well (or not) I have used what He has given me to do. And the same goes for each of you, in whatever gifts and callings He has given you. We are exhorted to work "well" for the Lord.
Vine’s Greek dictionary tells us that the word describes good character. It is also used, for example, to speak of a “good tree,” “good ground,” etc., and to describe our good God. It also has the sense of people being morally honorable. Joseph of Arimathea, who buried Jesus, was called “a good and upright man” (Luke 23:50). It is used in the contrast of “the evil and the good” (Matthew 5:45).
Here’s a suggested composite of its various New Testament uses: a good servant would be of high character … would produce wholesome fruit consistent with that character … would be morally honorable … would be pleasing to God and of benefit to others. He or she would be the opposite of evil.
How good should we determine to be? — As new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), we are to “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). Wow, what a high calling to goodness, to righteousness, to God-like holiness! Press toward that goal in this life, and you’ll hear Jesus call you a “GOOD servant.” Our character matters greatly to the Lord. As the popular saying goes, “Character is more important than charisma.” Both, of course, are important, but “good” character even more so.
My pastor in Anchorage used to say that people start leaving your church when you begin preaching (1) commitment, (2) submission, and (3) faithfulness. In my many years pastoring local churches, I have found his statement to be accurate. Focusing here on faithfulness, I am reminded of the proverb’s lament, “A faithful person who can find?” (Proverbs 20:6)
Jesus emphasized 5 words: Well … done … good … faithful … servant. Faithfulness is the one He reemphasized in giving out His rewards (Matthew 25:21, 23): “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” The master had entrusted the servants with a portion of His assets, which they were expected to use faithfully on behalf of the master. The apostle Paul tells us, “It is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2).
The Bible commands us to “examine ourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Ask yourself, are you faithfully committed to the Lord, your spouse, your family, your church, and to the gifts and callings of the Lord in your life? Remember Jesus’ words to the third servant, who had failed to be faithful in what the Lord had entrusted to him — “You wicked, lazy servant!” (Matthew 25:26).
Jesus, the greatest Person ever to walk the earth, said that even He came to serve, to give. How can we, for whom He died, do any less?
We born-again children of God are citizens of the kingdom of God (John 3:3). And greatness in God’s sight comes through being a servant. Jesus said, “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matthew 23:11), just as He came to serve us in His life, in His ministry, and in His death and resurrection for our salvation. He washed the disciples feet to give all of us an example: if our Lord and Master served in this way, how much more should we?
Memorize that verse, Matthew 25:21 (and 23): “Well … done … good … [and] faithful … servant.” It will give you an ever-ready “sermon” to share if the occasion arises.
But more importantly, it gives us a measuring stick to evaluate our lives before the Lord:
1) Are you doers of God’s Word, and not hearers only? [DONE]
2) Are you striving to excel at whatever the Lord has entrusted you with? [WELL]
3) Are you content just to “get by,” or are you aiming to be a “good” servant, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness”? [GOOD]
4) Are you being faithful to those things the Lord has put into your life to do? [FAITHFUL]
5) Do you live each day with Jesus’ attitude — that is, not to be served, but to serve? [SERVANT]
“Well done, good and faithful servant” — that is the moment in all eternity I look forward to most, when I see His face and hear those words. Picture that moment in your minds. And make whatever adjustments you need to in your life to ensure that you will one day hear those all-important words from your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
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©2018, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.