Prepare to Hear “Well Done”: Part 2
Topic: Expository Passage: Matthew 25:14-30
Read: Matthew 25:14–30
Two weeks ago we began studying the “Parable of the Talents,” as it’s often called. As he does so often, Jesus uses this parable to bring spiritual truth to life in a way that is compelling, powerful, encouraging, and memorable. Jesus really was a master storyteller.
Remember that this parable is in the context of the Olivet Discourse. Jesus began in Matthew 24 by describing the signs that will precede his Second Coming and then the splendor of that Second Coming. Jesus will appear in glory to judge the world and to establish his kingdom.
Jesus then uses several powerful illustrations to challenge the Tribulation generation in particular, but really all of us, to prepare well for the judgment that will accompany Christ’s return. He warns the unbeliever not to repeat the mistake of Noah’s generation who thought judgment would never come but were suddenly swept away. Then he urges us to be ready at any moment for Christ’s return using the parable of the 2 servants who were left in charge of the master’s house and the parable of the ten virgins.
Then he tells the Parable of the Talents. In it Jesus shifts from simply urging us to be ready to describing how to be ready for our day of accountability. Last time, we focused on vv. 14–19, where Jesus compares preparations for the kingdom to a wealthy man who leaves his fortune in the hands of 3 servants (v. 15). Remember that each talent represented approximately $800,000, so he has left each man with a large stewardship. It represents the ministry opportunities God gives each believer.
Then vv. 16–18 say that the master left the three men to invest their talents. The first two men worked diligently and were widely successful. Both of them doubled the master’s investment. But the third servant disobeyed his master and selfishly buried his talent. Then the whole parable turns on v. 19 when the master returns. Jesus once again emphasizes that even though he may be gone for a long time, he is coming again. And when he does, everyone will be held accountable.
And today we will see that for those of us who are in Christ and have faithfully served him it will be a day of incredible joy. I hope we’ll leave today excited for what is coming and eager to run the race well. But Jesus also includes a sober warning for those he finds unfaithful and rebellious. They will suffer incredible loss and will be condemned to hell. As such, my outline today is built around the contrast in vv. 20–30 between the blessing of the faithful servants and the condemnation of the unfaithful servant. Notice first in vv. 20–23…
I. Christ will richly bless the faithful Christian (vv. 20–23).
I’d like you to put yourself in the shoes of the 3 servants, beginning with the one who received 5 talents. He had to be a little overwhelmed but also honored when his master entrusted him with approximately $4 million in modern currency.
It’s clear that he is a man of high character. He is loyal and obedient, and he clearly loved and respected his master. So after the master left he worked tirelessly to make him a profit.
And then one day with no warning, the master returned. The master is the master, so he wants to know what happened with his $4 million. But because this servant has worked hard and has been highly successful, his day of accountability is not intimidating. Instead, notice in vv. 20–21…
The Joy of the First Servant (vv. 20–21): Imagine his joy as he reports on his stewardship. He proudly approaches his master to present a phenomenal return of 10 talents. Again, we’re talking about a massive treasure in the neighborhood of $8 million. What a proud moment for this man who respected and adored his master.
The joy continues in the master’s response (v. 21). Of course anyone would be delighted to receive this kind of return. But the master doesn’t selfishly grab the money and send the servant on his way. No, he is a kind and generous, so he responds with 3 blessings.
First, he commends the servant, with the famous line, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Remember that this is no token The master and the servant have a relationship of mutual love and respect; therefore, this statement is filled with love and gratitude. It had to mean so much to this servant to hear these words from the master whom he honored so highly. What a moment!
The application is obvious. Sometimes the road of discipleship is incredibly difficult, but someday those who faithfully serve the Savior will stand before him. And how awesome will it be to hear the second person of the Trinity, our Lord and our Savior, whom we love and adore, say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” It’s hard to imagine how awesome that will be.
But the master isn’t done. He goes on to say, “You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things.” That’s quite the statement, considering the fact that his first stewardship was worth millions. However, his new stewardship would be so great that it would make his previous stewardship appear as only a “few things.”
Remember that in context Jesus is especially addressing those who will be alive when he returns. So Jesus is specifically promising them that if they serve him faithfully in this life, they will be given greater responsibility in the Millennial Kingdom Christ is about to establish. They will rule alongside Christ when he establishes his throne in Jerusalem, and they will help him manage his kingdom.
The Scriptures offer similar hope to every Christian. We will rule alongside Christ in the Millennial Kingdom, and will continue to work for our Savior throughout the eternal state. Maybe that’s surprising. Sometimes we assume we will spend eternity sipping lemonade while we float down the river of life. But Adam and Eve were responsible to work before the fall, and it will also be our joy to serve Christ and to rule alongside him throughout eternity.
Finally, the Master invited this man to “enter into the joy of your master.” In other words, the master rewards the servant’s faithful service by inviting him to enjoy all of the blessings of his wealth. Considering the fact that the Master is incredibly wealthy, this is a big deal.
And Jesus is promising us, that if we faithfully serve the Lord today, it may require great sacrifice. The race for holiness is a marathon of endurance, and ministry is always costly. But someday, you will enter “the joy of the Lord,” and the infinite wealth of Christ will be at your fingertips.
And when you see that kingdom, it’s going to make the burdens of life, the temptations to sin, and of the pleasures of this world look so small.
So if you are pursuing holiness and living sacrificially for the sake of the Great Commission, do not get discouraged. Keep saying no to the flesh, keep giving sacrificially, keep sharing the gospel, and keep loving others.
And if you’ve grown distracted and your heart is divided, then refocus, because there is nothing you can gain in this world and no pleasure you can achieve that can compare to the joy of the master. Then notice that vv. 22–23 describe…
The Joy of the Second Servant (vv. 22–23): These verses mostly repeat 20–21. They include the same accountability, an almost identical report with a 100% return, and an identical blessing. The only difference is that this man had less ability and was given a smaller stewardship. As a result, he only earned 2 talents as opposed to 5.
But the Master is just and kind. He recognized that this servant made the most of his ability and money he had received, and so he was just as pleased with this man as he was with the one who had made more than twice as much profit. As a result, he gives the exact same blessing.
I said last time that the inclusion of this servant is intriguing considering the previous parables only mention 2 types of people—the faithful and the wicked. So Jesus is clearly trying to make a new point with this middle servant. As I said last time, this servant doesn’t represent a less spiritual He works just as hard as the first servant, he makes the same 100% return, and he receives the same blessing. The only difference is that this man has less ability, so he makes less profit.
But the fact that the master is just as pleased with this servant means that Jesus’ reward is not based on who does the most stuff and who has the most fruit. Instead, what matters is that you are faithful to your stewardship, whether it is big or small.
So if God has called you to do great things, don’t assume that God is surely happy with me because I have more fruit than the next guy. The master would not be pleased if the first servant only earned 2 talents, because he had the ability to earn 5. So work hard to make the most of your stewardship, because “to whom much is given, much more will be required.”
But if God has given you a smaller stewardship, don’t be intimidated by what the next guy is doing. Just work diligently and gladly at your stewardship, because all that will matter in eternity is how faithful you were to your stewardship.
As I said a few weeks ago, I think we’ll be surprised by some of the people who will be most honored in heaven. Sure, the Adoniram Judsons and William Careys will be up at the top too, but there will also be the quiet, simple mother from a 3rd-world village who just loved everyone around her. There will be the handicap man who died relatively young, but he loved the Lord and served eagerly wherever possible.
I’m reminded of Mark 12:41–44. Jesus is at the temple, and he’s watching as wealthy people put large offerings in the treasury. But he only comments when a poor widow puts 2 small mites in the offering. This is because Christ saw that she gave at great cost to herself. Therefore, he says, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” Again Christ was far more concerned about her faithfulness to her stewardship than he was about the size of her offering.
So be faithful. Work hard at the ministry God has entrusted to you, and trust the Lord that he sees and he will more than repay your faithful service. In sum, the day of accountability was a day of joy for the 1st 2 men as they presented their labors, and the master richly rewarded them. But the day of accountability was a nightmare for the 3rd Verses 24–30 warn…
II. Christ will judge the false believer (vv. 24–30). Notice in vv. 24–27 this man’s…
Broken Logic (vv. 24–28): If you have every worked with children or teens, you know that it’s never good when you ask a question, and the response begins with, “Let me explain.” You immediately know that the child has some lame excuse about why he disobeyed.
That’s essentially what happens here. The third servant appears before the Master for his day of accountability, and he knows that he disobeyed the master’s command. He has to be sweating bullets; therefore, he immediately attempts to justify his inactivity by blaming his master’s character.
He calls him a “hard man” who aggressively looks to profit even where he has not done the work. In light of what we just saw about the master’s generosity in the judgment of the 1st 2 servants, it’s interesting that this man views his master so cynically.
And his cynicism dramatically affected his service. Essentially, he is afraid that if he lost the investment, his master would severely punish him, so he selfishly calculated that it was better to hide the money than risk losing it.
But the master saw right through the excuse. He condemns the servant as “wicked and slothful.” The real reason he ignored the master’s command was because he only cared about protecting himself.
The master continues by repeating the slave’s description. He does leave out the part about him being hard or harsh, but it’s a bit surprising that he seems to accept the rest of the description. However, this portrayal is so different from what we just saw of the master’s character in vv. 20–23 that we shouldn’t assume that the master is necessarily accepting the slave’s characterization.
Rather, he simply repeats the slave’s logic in order to point out the inconsistencies. In other words, if the slave saw the master as the kind of man who is always aggressively looking to make a profit, then he should have at least put his money in the bank where it could earn interest without any risk of loss. No, this man didn’t bury the talent based on some legitimate fear; he did it because he was “wicked and lazy.”
And I believe there is an important lesson for us in this conversation regarding God’s character and how it relates to our service. In particular, there is an element of truth in how the slave saw his master. Our Lord demanding. He won’t tolerate us squandering our stewardship.
But sadly that’s all he saw. He didn’t see that the master was also understanding, generous, and fair. Therefore, he had a distorted, cynical view of his master. As a result, (and also because of his selfish justification for his laziness), he didn’t even try to please the master.
Sadly, many people make similar mistakes in how they view Christ. They only see his demands; therefore, they either attempt to serve him out of shear terror, or like this servant, they just give up. But if we are going to faithfully and joyfully serve our Lord, we must never forget that God never demands more than we are able to give, and he is generous and kind.
So Christian, work hard for your master. Be ready to sacrifice your time, your love, and your money, for his glory. Do so with faith that he is good, and he is ready to generously reward your sacrifice. You will never out give
But also do so knowing that he is the master. He bought you with his blood, and someday he will hold you accountable for your stewardship. By God’s grace, run in such a way that it will be a day of joy. And then understand that if you don’t work hard for the master, God’s judgment will follow. Verses 28–30 close the parable by describing…
Severe Judgment (vv. 28–30): First, the master judged the wicked servant by taking his talent and giving it to the one with 10. Jesus then applies this in 29. The Master is ready to give abundantly to those who serve him faithfully. He is good and generous. However, he has no toleration for those who squander their stewardship.
As a result, the master commands the “worthless slave” to be cast out into “outer darkness.” The NT commonly uses this phrase to describe hell, so Jesus is clearly implying that the fruitless individual (no matter how good of a talk he can talk) will end up in hell.
Then he warns that hell is a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Weeping indicates tremendous sorrow and regret. And “gnashing teeth” pictures someone gritting their teeth because of great pain and suffering.
We live in a culture that talks very flippantly about hell. Just the other day, I read a tweet where someone compared going to Costco on the weekend to hell. At first, I chuckled, because I despise going there to, but then I thought, “How sad it is that people really don’t grasp how terrible hell really is”. It really is no laughing matter, and it will make even the worst suffering on earth seem like a very small thing.
Therefore, if you do not know that you are safe from God’s wrath in hell, then don’t toy around with the prospect of spending eternity in hell. We want to talk with you today about how you can know that your sins are forgiven and that you are safe in the arms of Christ. So please talk with me today or with someone else you trust and get that settled.
And finally we need to think about who these 3 servants represent and what the implications are for us. Many people assume Jesus is saying that the really spiritual Christians are going to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant,” while the lazy ones simply miss a reward. However, the 3rd servant doesn’t merely miss a reward; he ends up in hell. He represents an unbeliever.
Therefore, Jesus is clearly saying that unfaithfulness betrays an unbelieving It’s a serious matter. Of course, I can’t define specifically where that line of unfaithfulness is. But I can say that if you have no interest in really serving the Savior who bought us with his blood, it doesn’t really matter that you can talk the talk and look the part. Jesus is warning you that you may miss more than a reward; he is warning you that you may not be saved. He is urging you to be born again today.
But on the other hand, if all true Christians love the Savior and want to serve him, it’s not just the really good Christians who will hear “Well done.” Instead, every Christian will serve the Lord, and Christ will be pleased with all of us. That’s not to say that there won’t be differences of reward. The Scriptures are clear that some will receive more than others based on what kind of stewards they are.
But for true believers, there will be no wrath at the final judgment, because Christ already removed God’s wrath. And yes, there will probably be some regret. After all, we always could have done more. But ultimately, every true believer will live out the new life of Christ, and when we stand before the Lord someday, we will do so with joy. Christ will be pleased, and we will enter his joy for all eternity.
So Christian, take a long look at the generosity and wealth of your master. Imagine what it will be like someday to hear the incredible words of v. 21 and to enter the glory of the Savior. And then determine by the grace of God to prepare well for that day. Live for Christ, live for the Great Commission, and eagerly serve your brothers. Make the most of your God-given stewardship.