New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – The King’s Servants

Being an engineer in my day job, you can imagine that when numbers show up in the Word, I “calculate”. As we read through this parable, we see that each of the servants are provided a quantity of resources to use for a fixed period of time. Upon return of the Master, a time of reckoning falls on the servants. The Master judges each of the servants and doles out “rewards”.

Is that what this parable is about? Servants doubling their Masters resources and receiving proportional rewards?

Or is it about something else? Let’s read the parable before we make any assumptions.

Matthew 25:14-30

14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

Jesus was teaching His disciples. Those who were His servants.

When did the Lord give this parable?

This teaching was provided during the last week of the Lord’s life on earth.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

As Matthew 24:3 teaches, the Lord gave this teaching outside of Jerusalem.

Why did the Lord give this message?

Jesus began this parable by likening the Kingdom of God to this story. Jesus was about to leave this world and release the Spirit of God into His Kingdom, providing an inestimable “resource” for His servants. The Kingdom of God was about to explode on the scene, and His servants needed to have a clear understanding of acceptable behavior for a servant, but more importantly, they needed to understand the unacceptable perception of the Master.

But I am getting ahead of myself

What was the message for the original audience?

The first two servants, in doubling the Masters resource were rewarded “with much”. The servant that doubled the Master’s five talents, thereby providing the Master ten talents, received authority over ten cities. Likewise with the servant who doubled His Master’s two talents. He received authority over two cities.

As you can see, this is where my initial thought of proportionality was spawned. But I was not considering the point of the parable. This background information was describing the grace of the Master, revealing the Master’s character.

A talent is a huge sum of cash, equal to 6,000 denarii. One denarii was a full days wage. Therefore, a talent represented approx. 20 years of wages!

The audience in Jesus day would consider the initial trust of such wealth to be unthinkable, and the reward to be unbelievable, for servants worked without the expectation of rewards.

Peter and the gang must have been delirious with this parable!

But alas, the focus of the parable is the third servant. Let’s reconsider this servant’s perception of the Master.

‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ – Mat 25:24b-25 ESV

The servant approaches the Master with a bold defense, claiming it is the Master’s fault for his lack of profit. This fellow is the ultimate “victim” This is quite the claim, since “hard” may be understood as fierce, harsh, or stern. This servant approached the Master, proclaiming his fear due to the Master’s character, and returned the single talent back. He knew the Master would expect profit, and this created fear in this fellow, but this fear supposedly “froze” the servant in his endeavors.

The servant was afraid due to his perception (right or wrong) of the Master.

The Master did not accept the servants claim of fear causing his lack of service. The reason the servant came back empty handed was that he was wicked (evil, bad) and slothful (sluggish, indolent, grievous)! This had nothing to do with the Master’s character, for as the parable describes Him, He is one who entrusts His servants with responsibility, and rewards them richly.

Amazing that the servant was described as “worthless” in a parable describing profits, resources and rewards!

This did not turn out well for the third servant, for the talent was taken from him, given to the first servant (thereby blowing my proportionality theorem!) and was thrown out.

The servant was thrown out! When I read that, I was shocked! This was a servant of the Master! How could that be?

I will not repeat my previous findings on the consequences of this servant’s perception of the Master here. If of interest to the reader, please refer to Parable Surprises – Wedding Banquet.

Suffice it to say, I think the original audience understood that their perception of the Master was key to avoiding failure in the Kingdom.

What is the message for us today?

What is the parables message to us today? The core message I have come away with is not that we are required to double any resources we may have been granted. This is not the intent of the parable. The talents are simply a vehicle used to describe the Master’s gracious character towards His servants.

The key message from this parable is our perception of the Master!

Our Perception of God

How do you “see” God?

Do you see God as the third servant saw his master, as a hard man, reaping where He does not sow, and gathering where He scattered not seed?

When you consider the One above, who came to earth, who took upon Himself the form of a man, and became a servant to His enemies, who loved those who crucified Him, who suffered and bled, do you see Him as “hard”?

I am a weak and sinful man blundering through this existence of mercy, but the Scriptures have a constant witness we are wise to avail ourselves of. The Word speaks of God as ever loving, kind and merciful to those who look to Him.

As we seek to serve Him, we must understand His character in order to serve Him and our fellow man properly. He is like no other, and we must be constantly reminded of His “otherness”, of His not being like us.

But what is the nature of our God?

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. – 1 John 4:8

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. – 1 John 4:16

The fruit of the Spirit is the natural outflow of the nature of our God!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. – Gal 5:22-23 ESV

To attribute other than these characteristics to the Lord would be an exercise in contradiction. If we see Him as unwieldly, austere, fierce, harsh or stern, as this third servant saw his master, we ourselves shall suffer for this, and eventually end up using this lie as an excuse for our wickedness.

You see, the Scriptures teach us that what we worship is what we become. Now I am not saying if we worship God we become God, but the Scriptures do inform us of the opportunity to be conformed to the One we worship.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

But what if we avoid or ignore the witness of the grace of God. What may we be transformed into other than confirming our own likeness, of hardening our opinion of ourselves as being right, pure and good? This is a great danger!

But wait – there are implications of this decision to consider our own opinions as being correct as opposed to the Word. What might be worse is that we may project our character on Him? Make the One we worship identical to ourselves! How utterly disastrous for us and for His name!

To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. – Isa 40:25

He is the Holy One, the ever living One, the One who changes not! How can we ever be conformed into the image of the matchless Son of God if all we see is an image of ourselves!

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. – Rom 8:29

and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Colossians 3:10

What is your perception of God?

When you fall into a time of trial, do you see Him as One who brought the trial into your life, or as the One who will suffer with you through it?

When you fail in some endeavor, do you see Him as One that will mock you, judge you condemn you, or do you see Him as One who is kind and compassionate, willing to forgive, and inviting your repentance, providing your renewal?

Your perception of God determines your relationship with Him. Your perception of God determines your destiny.


Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.

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