Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

The Signs of the Times (12) Matthew 24 and 25

Written by Rev. J.W. Wullschleger
Read Matthew 25: 19 Ð 30
In this instalment we study the second part of the parable of the talents. Last time we saw that the master travelled abroad, and gave talents to his servants. The one received five talents, the other two, and the last servant one talent. The first two traded with their talents and gained a double portion. The third servant hid his talent in the ground. We saw that the servants stand for the church of Christ on earth. The servants represent the members of the visible church, just as in the parable of the five wise and the five foolish virgins. This time we will see how it ends with these servants.

After a long time the lord of the servants comes home again. Our Lord hints in these words at the long time period that will lapse until He returns. It is an indication to His disciplesÐand to usÐthat they should not expect an immediate return. The day of ChristÕs return will be a Òday of reckoning.Ó It will be a day in which all matters will be permanently settled.

The first servant comes forward. You can hear how thrilled he is when he says, ÒLord, five talents thou deliveredst unto me: behold [look!] five talents I gained beside them!Ó His eyes are sparkling and there is excitement in his voice. ÒWell done, thou good and faithful servant,Ó is the response of his master. After this word of approval, he also gives his servant a reward. ÒThou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.Ó Notice the criterion that is used. It is faithfulness. This man has not sought his own ease or interest. He has done his utmost for his master. Notice also the double contrast in the text. Few things and many things are contrasted; also being a servant and becoming a ruler. Concretely, it implies that he may now enter into the joy of his lord. In terms of the parable, it might mean that his master would have a feast upon his arrival.

The second servant comes forward. He has been just as faithful as his fellow servant. He hears the same message from his lord, ÒWell doneÉ Enter thou into the joy of thy lord.Ó

Some lessons stand out in this part of the parable. First of all, there will be a reward for all of ChristÕs followers. That reward is a reward of grace, not of merit. Just as the believers are justified by grace alone, so the reward is also out of sheer grace. Is the Lord obliged to thank His servants for their labours? No, He is not (Luke 17:10). Is the reward then not super-abounding? Is it not much and much more than any of GodÕs most faithful servants would ever dream of? This reward shows us the riches of our Master. He does not give meagerly. He gives abundant grace here on earth and endless glory hereafter.

Let us also note that heaven is a place of joy. The servants enter into the joy of their master. In several passages of Scripture this is confirmed, as for instance in Isaiah 35:10, ÒAnd the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." We can have only a faint idea of what that will be. It is called Òthe joy of thy lord.Ó What makes heaven a place of joy is the presence of the Lord with His favour and glory.

The parable speaks not only about the reward of the two faithful servants, but also about the end of the third servant. He must have felt very uncomfortable, seeing his two fellow servants being rewarded for their faithfulness. What will he say? It appears that he is a good talker, and without a blush he puts blame on his master. ÒLord, I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawedÓ(vs.24). The figure is chosen from agriculture. ÒStrawingÓ refers to the winnowing of threshed grain on the threshing floor, where the chaff is separated from the wheat.

This servant accuses his master of harshness and stiffness. This accusation is not true, though, since his lord had given a talent to him. He had not sent him to work without any means. The servant goes on to say: ÒAnd I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth.Ó In other words, Òhere thou hast what is thineÓ (vs.25). His reasoning is flawless. However, his master sees through it and knows it is a lame excuse. His answer comes down to this, ÒIf I am such a harsh man as you picture, why did you not bring your money to the bank, and receive it back with interest?Ó (vss.26 and 27). The real cause of his lack of action was laziness. He is a Òwicked and slothful servantÓ (vs.26).

How many people there are that live and act this way! Some hide behind GodÕs election. They say, ÒIf I am not chosen to life, I will never make it.Ó Or they hide behind human depravity and say, ÒI cannot give myself a new heart. God has to do it.Ó In the meantime, they have no problem going on in an unconverted state. In different ways they express their ungodliness, e.g. they watch all the filth on TV or read it in magazines.

What will God say to them in the last day? ÒIf you really feared Me as a hard Man, why didnÕt you do the utmost to escape punishment? If you had come to Me and asked Me for a new heart, I would have given it to you. If you had striven to enter in, you would also have received assurance of your election.Ó In the day of judgment every excuse will be proven futile. The only thing that can be said to such people now is: DonÕt continue this way! Although you have no strength in yourself to do any good, with the Lord is grace and mercy to supply all your needs. The Lord gives a new heart; He gives us faith in Christ, the willingness to serve Him, strength, comfort, and whatever we may need. The Lord is not a Òhard Man.Ó Those who say that do not know Who God is. The Lord is gracious and merciful to all that call upon Him. He is not mocked. His holiness and justice do not allow people to trifle with Him. He will pass a fair judgment upon all that despised His majesty.

The one talent is taken away from the servant and given to the one with ten talents. Our Lord applies it this way, ÒFor 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 hathÓ (vs.29). The talents, as we saw last time, refer to our gifts, abilities, knowledge, time, influence, in short: all that God has adorned us with in life. All this should be viewed as talents that we should use to GodÕs glory. Those who use them to the proper end will be rewarded with further gifts hereafter. But those that make no use of what they have for the glory of God, their gifts and talents will be of no profit but of miserable disadvantage to them at last.

The end of the wicked servant is dreadful. He is cast into outer darkness, the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Christ often speaks about this (8:12, 13:50, 22:13, 24:51). This Scripture passage shows us that we should consider every thought, every word, and every action in light of eternity, in light of the day of reckoning.

The message of the parable is this: by GodÕs grace never be content with a profession of Christianity without practice. Let us not only talk about religion, but do something too. We will be judged not only by what we have done against our Master, but also and even more by what we have done for Him. To do nothing does not come from the Spirit of God. The apostle James writes that Òfaith without works is deadÓ (Jas.2:20).

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION.
1. Is it wrong to be looking for a reward after this life? Compare with Hebrews 11:26.
2. Will there be a difference in rewards in heaven?
3. Does this parable indicate that the believers will be judged first? Compare with I Corinthians 6:2.
4. Some passages of Scripture speak about a reward according to our works (Psalm 62:12, Matthew 16:27). Is salvation not a gift of grace without works?

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