Theme: Faith without works is dead.
This weeks lessons teach us that laziness and evil behavior must not characterize Gods people
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? 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. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 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. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Yesterday I spoke about the sinfulness in judging others by comparison. The warning against this applies in our judgment of other people, whom we are not fit to judge. But it does not apply to ourselves. On the contrary, we must be rigorous with ourselves. We must not imagine that our poor or nonexistent performance will be excused.
Which brings us to the third clear lesson of the parable: the failure of all excuses before God. The man who had been given one talent and had hidden it in the ground explained that he had not done more because he knew his master’s nature too well: “Master, I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you” (vv. 24-25). The servant did not actually know his master at all. His master was not really like this. The servant was only making an excuse. It was a foolish excuse, and it certainly did not fool his master. But do not many people today do the same? They use the theology of justification to excuse their failure to care for others practically. They use knowledge of predestination to excuse their failure to evangelize. They use perseverance as an excuse for being lazy.
The master told the servant that if he was right about his character, he should have worked all the harder. If he was hard, the servant should have labored hard to produce a profit for him. The servant was wicked because of this unjustified slander, and he was lazy, which was the real reason for his zero-growth performance! By that standard, what wicked persons must there be in our churches! How lazy must many of us be
D. A. Carson wrote, “It is not enough for Jesus’ followers to ‘hang in there’ and wait for the end. They must see themselves for what they are—servants who owe it to their Master to improve what he entrusts to them. Failure to do so proves they cannot really be valued disciples at all.” He then quotes Henry Alford as saying, “The foolish virgins failed from thinking their part too easy; the wicked servant fails from thinking his too hard.”1
You can get away with giving excuses to other people—to your boss, your parents, your pastor. But do not think that you can get away with giving excuses to God. The apostle Paul wrote that in the day of God’s judgment, “every mouth will be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God” (Romans 3:19). There will not be even a single protest when the Judge takes the bench.
I have been to a few surprise parties in my life when the person for whom the party was being given really was surprised. Usually they have not been, because they have noticed the clandestine preparations or someone has unwittingly “let the cat out of the bag.” But sometimes the surprise has come off I think when I read these judgment stories that there really will be a surprise for many in the day of judgment. But it will not be pleasant. Many will be confounded by Christ’s judgment.
The wicked servant thought he had done well. He must have been startled to hear the words: “Throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v. 30).
This will be the end for many who in their lifetime called out, “Lord, Lord,” but did not do the things Jesus said. We would not dare to say this if the Lord had not said it first, but on his authority we must say that many who worship in apparently Christian congregations, who consider themselves to be good Christians, will be confounded by judgment on that day.
This last point is very sober, Jesus is speaking of divisions, between the five wise and the five foolish virgins, between the faithful and wicked servants, and in the next parable between the sheep and the goats. But these are not for this life or for a few moments or years after death. They are forever. They are the gulf between heaven and hell, happiness and suffering, misery and the joy of the redeemed. In the last parable the goats go away “to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (v.46). In this parable the faithful are invited to share their masters happiness (vv, 21, 23), while the wicked are cast “outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v. 30).
What a grim fate that is Darkness, because it is a life without God, who is the source of all light. Outside, because it is without him who is the center of all things. In that darkness there is no hope, no joy, no love, no laughter. There is only weeping and the gnashing of teeth forever, Don’t go there. Repent of your sin, trust Christ as your Savior and get busy working for him now.
1 D. A. Carson, God with Us: Themes from Matthew (Ventura, Calif: Regal Books, 1985), p. 159. The Alford quotation is from Henry Alford, The Greek New Testament, wol. 1 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1958).
What is the third lesson Dr. Boice mentions from this parable?
How is hell described here?
It is not enough for Jesus’ followers to hang in there and wait for the end. They . . . owe it to their Master to maximize what he entrusts to them.