Matt 25:24-25          Unfaithful Servants in the Kingdom       11/27/2016   ßà

 

 

 

 

#1.      Working Faithfully Until the End (2Tim 2:20, Luke 19:13, Matt 25:16-17)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2.      The Sin (Matt 25:18,24-25, Heb 1:14, Jer 17:9)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3.      The Labor (Matt 25:20-23)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please open your Bibles to the Gospel according to Matt 25:14 (2X). We have here a parable that is commonly known as “The Parable of the Talents”. That is an unfortunate title, because the focus in this parable is not on the talents, but on the servants. Once it was called “The Parable of the Talents” people began to associate talents with various spiritual gifts we have received. And now the word “talents” has even entered our language. As a result, it will be very difficult to erase this false notion out of our memories. In our minds talents are associated with gifts, and no preacher is going to undo that in our minds. But it is based on a false interpretation of this parable. What then is the correct interpretation of the word “talents”? I will get to that in a moment. First we must realize that this parable focuses on the servants. And do you realize, more words are spent on the wicked servant than on the faithful servants. That is why I chose for the title of this sermon, The Unfaithful Servant in the Kingdom (2X), because it is a story about an unfaithful servant in the Kingdom of God, by which I mean that he is an unsaved individual in the externally visible church. As you know, there are both saved and unsaved individuals in the church. Let us read about them here in Matt 25:14.

Mt 25:14 ¶ For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.

Mt 25:15  And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.

Mt 25:16-17  Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.                       And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.

Mt 25:18  But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.

Mt 25:19  After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.

Mt 25:20  And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.

Mt 25:21  His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Mt 25:22  He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.

Mt 25:23  His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Mt 25:24  Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:

Mt 25:25  And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

Mt 25:26  His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:

Mt 25:27  Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.

Mt 25:28  Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.

Mt 25:29  For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

Mt 25:30  And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

And so, you see that it is not the talents, but the servants who stand in the foreground. The three parables in Matt 25 should be connected to Matt 24, where the Lord Jesus Christ disclosed the signs of His 2nd coming, when He shall come as the Judge of all the earth. These servants have been given talents to trade with, and to work diligently until their Lord returns. Verse 13 says, “Watch therefore”. Well, the admonition to watch does not refer to a passive waiting for His return, but it is an active watching. It is working hard and working faithfully for the cause and for the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. And the servant who did not work was called a wicked servant. Let us see what it means to be

#1.      Working Faithfully Until the End (2Tim 2:20, Luke 19:13, Matt 25:16-17)

The man travelling to a far country represents the Lord Jesus Christ. He is called “the Son of Man” because it was in His human nature that He suffered and died on the cross and entered into His Kingdom. He traveled to a very far country: Heaven. His ascension is in view here when He took His journey. It is again in His human nature that He will come again to judge the living and the dead. The Greek word for “servants” is literally “slaves”. When Christ paid for our sins on the cross He then set us free. But we love Him, and are grateful to Him, and therefore we chose to serve Him forever rather than be cut loose. Therefore we are His willing slaves. This is the relationship between Christ and His people. It is a unique relationship where we belong to Christ with our whole being, body and soul. And so unique is this relationship that God gave us a variety of names to describe this relationship. God calls us Assembly of the Upright, and Bride of Christ, and a City Not Forsaken, and the Fold of Christ, and the House of Christ, and Israel, and the Kingdom of God, and the Lot of God’s Inheritance, and New Jerusalem, and the Saints, and the Temple of the Living God, and Zion, and a whole lot more for which we have no time in this sermon. But in the present parable we are the Slaves of Christ. He purchased us, and so we belong to Him, and we are called to serve Him. If we do not serve Him then He is not our Lord and Master in all that we do. We see here in this parable that there are servants who do not serve Him. Are they then also in the Kingdom of God? Absolutely yes! The Kingdom of God on this earth is the externally visible church, which contains both vessels unto honor and vessels unto dishonor. God says in 2Tim 2:20, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour”. Yes, the unsaved are an integral part of the church congregation. God included them because they fulfill a function in the church. We understand this when we look at Judas Iscariot, who also had a task to fulfill in the church that was gathered around the Lord Jesus when He walked on this earth. And so we see that both the faithful servants and the unfaithful servants are given talents to work with, or to trade with. Did Jesus give some assignments before He left? Absolutely yes! In the parallel passage to this parable, in the Gospel of Luke 19:13, the Lord Jesus said, “Occupy till I come”. Whatever God has given to the church, we must occupy and faithfully put to work until He comes again. We may not abandon our work, claiming that the church is dead, or claiming some other excuse, but we must use the tools that Christ gave us to use. Therefore today we use computers, and printers, and all the tools that high technology has provided in the service of Christ. Let us read about this here in the parable:

Mt 25:16-17  Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.                       And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.

They doubled their talents. The factor of 2 is only to illustrate the principle. In the parallel parable of Luke 19 it is not a factor of 2, but a factor of 10. It just means that the faithful servants made good use of the talents they received and multiplied their talents many times over. And so, what are:

Literally a talent is a measure of weight, a heavy weight. Therefore if the talent represents an amount of money, it is a considerable sum of money, at least the amount of a year’s wages. Whatever the amount of money is, it is unimportant, because the literal amount of money is not in view. What do the talents represent here in this parable? Usually people believe that talents refer to natural gifts and spiritual gifts. Such gifts would refer to abilities which every human being possesses, and which every human being is called to put to use. It is true that such gifts are implied in this parable, because Jesus speaks of “every man according to his several ability”, but these are not the talents. Let me first show you that the talents cannot mean natural gifts or spiritual gifts. #1. These talents cannot refer to spiritual gifts, because the wicked servant receives one talent as well as the faithful servants. But we know that the wicked are never endowed with spiritual gifts. God does not love the wicked, and thus He never gives them any spiritual gifts. #2. According to verse 14 these talents are a share of the household goods, meaning His possessions. But if these talents are household goods, then they cannot be inherent in the servants themselves. #3. Each servant received talents “according to his several abilities”. Thus there is a distinction between the talents and the abilities. Then obviously the talents cannot be the abilities themselves. #4. The faithful servants double their talents. This cannot possibly be said of abilities a man possesses. His natural abilities are determined at the moment of birth. His spiritual gifts are given to him by God the Holy Spirit. And so, it is impossible for a man to double his own gifts. #5. According to verse 28, one talent is taken away from the wicked servant and given to him that has 10 talents. Now this cannot be said of gifts and abilities with which men are endowed. These gifts or abilities cannot be taken away from one and given to another. And so, these talents cannot represent natural gifts or spiritual gifts. These talents presuppose the presence of naturally endowed gifts or spiritual gifts but these gifts are not the talents. What would Christ give to someone who has been really endowed with many gifts? He can do almost anything that comes in his reach. What would Christ give him? He would give him lots to do. Think of the Apostle Paul who labored more than all the other Apostles combined. The Lord Jesus Christ gave him many things to do, because Paul was a very capable person. Let me read to you from 1Cor 15:10 where we are given this insight from God through the pen of the Apostle Paul. He says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me”. Paul was not stuck up in pride when He wrote this. He wrote, “yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me”. God gave him these tasks to do, and he faithfully carried out these tasks. And so, what do the talents represent? The talents represent specific responsibilities and obligations within the Kingdom of Heaven, and for the furtherance of the Kingdom of Heaven. Please turn 9 pages to your right (ß) to Matt 28:18 (2X), where Jesus gave the disciples the Great Commission before He went back to heaven. This would be the moment in time equivalent to Matt 25:14-15, where in the parable Christ gave to His servants the talents just before He left. We read in Matt 28:18-20,

Mt 28:18-20  And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.    Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.      Amen.

In other words, Jesus gave them a long list of things to do. All kinds of things are there to do in the church and for the furtherance of the church. The disciples did not know immediately what to do with this instruction from the Lord Jesus. They knew they had to do something, but hey had to wait until God the Holy Spirit gave them wisdom to speak for Christ, and to preach Christ, and to guide the church in the way that Christ had carved out for them. It was beginning at Pentecost that it all became clear to them. And so, the talents represent specific responsibilities and obligations within the Kingdom of Heaven, and for the furtherance of the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ assigns to each man a place in His Kingdom where this man has certain responsibilities in a certain calling that is unique to him. In this calling he has obligations and opportunities to be busy in the service of Christ. Some have the gift of teaching, some have the gift of preaching, some have the gift of evangelism, some have the gift of counseling those in need, some have the gift of administration, some have the gift of teaching little children, some have the gift of hospitality, and so on. There are many things to do in a church, because a church is a living organism where always new and exciting aspects develop. I am not only addressing the men. There are things to do for women also. If we are willing we will always see where we can fit into the church organization. But now we can understand the action of wicked slave.

#2.      The Sin (Matt 25:18,24-25, Heb 1:14, Jer 17:9)

Please turn again to Matt 25:18 (2X). What is the specific sin that the Lord Jesus is addressing here in this parable? As I said before, in this parable there are more words spent on the wicked servant than on the faithful servants. What is the reason for that? The reason is that God is giving us a warning, and He gives it lovingly. Warnings in the Bible should not make us feel threatened. Christ is not abandoning us. He warns us so that we by grace can avoid the sin, and be more assured that we belong to Him. What did the unfaithful servant do with the talent that was given to him? His sin is the sin of refusing to work for Christ, when he finds himself in his place and calling in the Kingdom. What did he do? He immediately went somewhere and dug in the earth and buried his talent. We read in Matt 25:18, “But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money”. Did you see how ridiculous this seems from our perspective? Do you see that the talent has now changed to just money? Do you see that he chose the most despicable place: the earth? And do you see that the money became to him of no use either? How ridiculous! But what does it mean? He did not bury his natural gifts, and he did not refuse to use his natural gifts. But he willfully and deliberately refused to do any work in his place in the Kingdom, and for the Kingdom of Christ. He refused to take on the responsibilities of his position and calling. His talent lies useless. Whatever that place in the Kingdom may have been, he refused to perform the assignment that had been given him by his Master. There must have been some reason in his heart why he refused to work for the Lord Jesus Christ. What was his reason? Only God knows, but it will come out on the Last Day when he will stand for judgment. Listen to this man as he tries to defend himself. We read in Matt 25:24,

Mt 25:24  Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:

Mt 25:25  And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

Of course, this is only a parable. On the Last Day the wicked do not have an opportunity to defend themselves as this man does. It is more likely that on that terrible day they will remain silent. The point of this parable is that on that day the real motives of all the wicked will be revealed. During this life they have all kinds of excuses why they will not serve the Lord Jesus Christ, and why they buried their single talent. They claim to be too busy, or they complained that they had to do too much, or they claim that they do not have the gifts to carry out the tasks that needed to be done, or they claim that they believed our religion to be a cult, and so on. In this life they have hundreds of excuses. But on the Last Day none of those excuses will stand. On the Last Day the real motives of their heart will be laid bare. And then it will become evident what the real motive was: They despised their talent. They were not satisfied with the work that was given them. They complained about the lowliness of that assignment. He coveted a greater place, a more honorable place, because pride was in their heart. The sin of pride is at the root of all sin. They are proud. They have the devil in their hearts. The devil also was not satisfied with the place that God had given him. What place had God given him? God speaks in Heb 1 about the reason why angels have been created. God says, in Heb 1:14, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” Serve those helpless naked creatures? NO! Lucifer had greater aspirations. Lucifer aspired to the throne of God. And so, Lucifer tempted Adam and Eve into sin, so that these two would no longer be contending for the throne that he coveted. And likewise, those who despised their talent and buried their talent were not satisfied with the task that was assigned to them. They must have their way or they will not labor at all. They are not satisfied with their calling, and so they refuse to do anything. They do not know that their local church is a family, and as such family members are expected to pitch in and practice their love for one another. They do not know because they are not true citizens of the Kingdom by grace. Especially they do not know the love for Christ in their heart, because they have never been given that love. We must remember that God gave us this parable as a warning to us all. Within the heart of each man lurks this sin of pride. It is a devilish thing, but God says that “The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked”; yes desperately wicked! God wrote this in Jer 17:9. The sin of pride is an abomination in God’s sight. God sovereignly assigns to each person his or her place. God does not make any mistakes. God fits the man to his place and gives the place to the man. And whatever that place may be, it is a wonderful place, because it is a place given by the grace of God, and it is a place given in the Kingdom of God. Now we want to know, w. is

God assigns to each man a place in His Kingdom. There each man has certain responsibilities that are unique to him. God Himself sovereignly determines the whole matter. God determines what gifts He will bestow on the man, and God sovereignly determines each man’s place in the Kingdom. To this place he is called, in this place he is set, to work in this place is his assignment. He does not enter that place by himself, or by his own efforts and choice. He is put there by God, just like each servant is given a certain number of talents by his Lord in the parable.

Each man receives these talents in different proportion, but each man in the Kingdom receives them. To put it bluntly, each man and woman in the church receive their talents, their assignments. These talents may differ greatly from one to another. Some men receive a place as office bearers in the church. Some receive a place as teachers in the Sunday School. Some receive a place as ushers and some receive a place as janitors. And when I say, “receive”, I do not always mean that they received their assignment verbally from the Pastor. The Pastor does not have the time or the wisdom to do all that. Many receive from God an urgent desire to fill some place in the church. Then they let their wishes be known to the Pastor who then counsels with others and approves the assignment. All have opportunities to serve Christ and to contribute in some way to the needs of the local church. God assigns people to comfort those who have sorrows, or to help those in financial need. God assigns people to fight the battle of true faith, or to suffer sickness and affliction with patience, or to witness faithfully in the world, or to teach children to know the Lord Jesus Christ. And so, there are many places in the Kingdom that can or maybe assigned to us. God, in His Wisdom, knows where He puts us, because our God is sovereign.

These talents are assigned to each man according to his abilities. Each man’s calling fits his abilities. Christ sovereignly gives both. And Christ always calls to the right place. Sometimes we think that the abilities do not match the assignment. But this is what brought condemnation to the servant who received only one talent. Christ never makes any mistakes. He gives assignments in the Kingdom that are exactly matched according to the abilities which He knows a man possesses.

These talents are assignments from the Lord Jesus Christ to His slaves. He entrusts all His possessions to mere slaves, to occupy till He returns. This is a very noble calling. Christ owns everything. He owns us. He owns His Kingdom. He owns our abilities. He owns our place in that Kingdom. And He entrusts responsibilities in that Kingdom to us, His slaves, so that we have the wonderful calling of using whatever belongs to Him and use it so that the Kingdom is enlarged. This is wonderful. We have His approval to use His possessions for a good cause, and He supports us in this work with His blessing. This is why God can say in Isa 55:11, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it”. The Lord Jesus Christ left His belongings in the hands of a bunch of people who are not very smart, but by His grace and through His sovereign guidance of all their affairs He makes the outcome of their work exactly as He wanted it. What a wonderful calling, and what a wonderful assignment. We do not have to live in fear and trembling whether we break something, because Christ is always in control. Let us now look at the work of the faithful servants.

#3.      The Labor (Matt 25:20-23)

Only the faithful servants labor. The wicked servants do not labor in the Kingdom of God.

Mt 25:20  And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.

Mt 25:21  His lord said unto him, Well done, (thou) good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Mt 25:22  He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.

Mt 25:23  His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

None of these servants is placed over very much. Even to the one who has 10 talents the Lord Jesus says: “thou hast been faithful over a few things”. In other words, none of us has a very great place in the Kingdom of God. None of us is indispensable. His Kingdom is not harmed when one of us is taken away. We are all given only a very small place, only a few talents. And yet, from our perspective it is as if some have a small responsibility whereas others have a large responsibility. But from God’s vantage point these are all little pebbles. Most pebbles are small, and some are even smaller than that. And yet each is equally important to the well being of the whole. The Kingdom needs each man’s place and each man’s calling. Compare verses 21 and 23. They are identical. The reward is the same for those who have gained 5 talents as well as for those who have gained 2 talents. And thus the Kingdom of God needs each man’s place and each man’s calling. There are no great and small callings. All are equally important and all receive the same reward. Eternal life is so much greater than any of us can imagine, and much greater than any reward for work done on this sin cursed earth. Moreover, on this earth a faithful servant fulfils his calling by grace. We have all kinds of shortcomings and sins cleaving to us. We work in the assignment for the Kingdom with many imperfections, to the extent that even our best works are as filthy rags in the sight of God. And so, we need a great deal of mercy and grace for such work to be acceptable. What then is our reward?

Our reward is to hear the voice of our Bridegroom say, Well done, thou good and faithful servant” Our reward is not for our labors, because that would be wages. No! Our best works are tainted with sin and “the wages of sin is death”. We do not want wages for our works. We want mercy and grace, and these are not earned or deserved, but these are given freely. Why then does God write in the Bible as if we receive great rewards for our works? God shows us hereby that He is double gracious. Perhaps you remember what God says in Eph 2:10. God says there, in Eph 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them”. God has before ordained, or before prepared, the good works that we as His servants are supposed to do. God gave us the works, and then He gave us the credits for these works as if we had done these in total righteousness. By this God shows Himself to be doubly generous, because He loves us. Similarly, God arranged in the OT that the firstborn would receive a double inheritance. God only does that for those whom He loves. Nowhere in the Bible do we find that God loves the wicked. We read about the reward for the wicked here in Matt 25:28, where God says,

Mt 25:28  Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.

Mt 25:29  For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

Mt 25:30  And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

What is the Lord Jesus saying here? “For unto every one that hath shall be given” means that everyone who has received the gift from God, everyone whose soul has been made alive by God, will receive more. God will give them glorified bodies also and God will give them a NH&NE where only righteousness dwells. And then God said, “but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath”, which means that those who have not received the gift from God, those whose soul has not been made alive by God, from them shall be taken away all that they have. What do they have? They have a relatively good health; it shall be taken away. They have cars, and houses and land; it shall be taken away. They have clothes to wear; it shall be taken away. They have cool grass under their feet and they have clean air to breathe; it shall be taken away. And so on. Hell is a terrible place to be. But now, look again at verse 28. All that the wicked have, and even their assignment to work, will be given to the saints. God indicates hereby that the saints are given the entire Kingdom with everything God owns. There is nothing that will not be given to the saints in the NH&NE. They are given the care of that glorious new creation, for in it and into all eternity they have their assignment and work. There they will labor forever for the glory of God and for the praise and honor of their Savior the Lord Jesus Christ. There they enter into the joy of their Lord.

AMEN.                  Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.