How to Be a Faithful Servant and Son or Daughter of God
User’s Guide to Sunday, Nov. 19
At one level, the teaching of this Gospel is plain enough: We will all account for our use of the talents and resources God has given us. But at the deeper level, we are also taught the importance of attaining to a mature fear of the Lord as the essential way of bearing the fruit that will be sought.
Let’s look at it with this perspective in mind and discover the differences of each kind of fear.
Three men are given resources to use. Two succeed; one fails. Why the difference? Ultimately, it is the difference between holy fear, love and confidence on the one hand and unholy fear and resentment.
Consider the plan of the first two men who succeed. They:
1. Receive riches: One gets five talents, and the other receives two talents, each according to his ability. While the “inequity” may offend modern notions, we can simply note the commentary in the Scripture itself. Each had different abilities.
2. Risk reinvestment: Something in these two men makes them free to risk reinvesting the money. Implicitly, they see the master as a reasonable man, someone who would applaud their industriousness. Thus they seem to experience the freedom and courage to step out and make use of the talents entrusted to them.
3. Render a report: Upon the master’s return, they are called to render an account. The text depicts a kind of joy on their part as they report.
4. Rise in the ranks: And note that their presumptions of the master as a fair and reasonable man are affirmed in his response. He is willing to give them greater access to share in his blessings and joy based on their openness to trust him and prove trustworthy themselves.
These two successful servants have a healthy respect for the master but not an immature fear.
But the man who fails follows a different plan. He is fruitless, for he buries the treasure; furious, for he says, “I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter.” He considers the owner a hard and unjust man; fearful, as he says he buried the talent out of fear; his image of the master drives his fear; forfeits: It is clear he wants nothing to do with the master. The owner therefore says, in effect, “Fine, if you don’t want to deal with me, you don’t have to. I will take your talent and give it to the one with 10.”
We see how the failed servant gives way to anger, resentment and indulges his immature fears that the owner is out to get him and the deck is stacked against him. He is not grateful for the opportunity afforded him by the owner, in contrast to the other two men, who see the master as decent, just and joyful. The failed servant should not believe everything he thinks, but should test it against reality.
Thus the deeper teaching here is: Grow in love, mature in your fear of the Lord, respectful and joyful in what he offers. Then reap the abundant riches of a faithful servant and son or daughter of God.