It is well to bear in mind that Jesus is still uttering His great eschatological discourse concerning the time when He shall return, and concerning the Sign of this return or Parousia!
He had rather prophetically spoken of the sign of His return. This we have noticed in our former essays on this twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew. Now our Lord will instruct us and warn us concerning the need ofreadiness which consists in watchfulness! And watchfulness in turn reveals itself in our fulfilling the office unto which God has called us, whether this be the special office of minister, elder and deacon, or whether this is the office which is ours by virtue of being a Christian, having the anointing of the Holy Spirit as a living member of Christ and His church!
In the parables that follow, in this chapter and in chapter 25, the Lord Jesus gives some particulars concerning the Parousia of Himself, its unexpected nature, the twofold attitude of faith and unbelief. And the latter is given in order that we may rightly examine our hearts whether we walk in the faith or not! It is a profitable word which is here spoken by the Lord. It is profitable for instruction, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work!
The parable to which we wish to call attention in this essay, and concerning which we hope to make a few expository remarks reads as follows: “Who then is the faithful and wide servant, whom his lord hath set over his household, to give them their food in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, that he will set him over all that he hath. But if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord tarrieth; and shall begin to beat his fellow-servants, and shalt eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he expecteth not, and in an hour when he knoweth not, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.”
Jesus begins by asking a question in this parable. It is the question: who then is the faithful and wise (prudent) servant? And this question is asked in view of the preceding verse where he had given the exhortation to the church, to us, to be in a state of spiritual readiness. We must constantly live in a state of watchfulness!
Such watchfulness is only possible by attending to our office and calling where God has placed us as a living member of his church in this world.
Hence, the question: who then is the faithful and prudent servant?!
And to this question Jesus himself gives us the answer. However, the answer which he gives is really a portraiture of two different attitudes and actions in oneand the same servant! From the viewpoint of the parable they are two hypothetical cases. The one is the servant as he is portrayed as being faithful. The other as he falls into the temptation occasioned (not caused) by the tarrying of his lord.
Thus the parable really confronts us with the concrete calling which is ours and also shows us, as in a mirror, the deep workings and temptations of our flesh as it wars against the Spirit. Jesus is not simply telling us a story but relates a hypothetical case in order that we might be excited unto watchfulness!
We wish to state here and now that we cannot agree with those who would spiritualize the elements in this parable. They then would make the “household” the church, and the “servant” the office-bearers in the church, etc. Thus doing the one point of comparison is lost from view, that is, what is called by theologians the “Tertium Comparationis.” This point of comparison in the “parable” is that even as the servant in the hypothetical case is either faithful and prudent and thus watchful, or on the other hand “wicked,” not performing his duties, so we are to learn from this what our calling is. Here is exhortation, with confrontation of the word, calling us to watchfulness!
And this confrontation is such, that, when we do not heed it, whether we be clothed with one of the special offices in the church, or whether we are simply clothed with the office of believer, we know that we shall not reap the reward. Every man is called to duty in some respect and place in this world before God toward his fellow-men. For this “servant” stands here in relation to both tables of the law. He stands in relationship to his neighbor and is accountable to God!
Thus also this parable is such that, he who has, receives more and has abundance, and he, who has not, from him is taken away even that which he thinketh to have. Luke 8:18.
Let us attempt to analyze this parable just a bit more in detail.
Notice, first of all, how Jesus portrays the faithful andprudent servant. Jesus speaks of this servant as one who is simply a bond-servant. The “lord” has absolute right over him. He belongs to this earthly lord. Legally he is his property. His lord has elevated him to that post, trusting him to be faithful, assigning a specific duty to him. It is a duty of great responsibility. He must see to it that the members of the household of the lord have their food in their season. He can therefore be promoted and demoted at the discretion of his “lord.”
Such a “servant” is faithful in the same measure that he punctually and from the heart, not as eye-service and men; pleasers, performs his assigned duty. Faithfulness is the one thing sought for in a servant. Now it is the part of wisdom for a servant not to act the part of being lord. That part he must ever “play”! He cannot become a “lord” in deed and in truth. His very legal station is that of a bond-servant. He” must always simply stand in office. That is wisdom. However, the text employs the term “prudence.” And prudence is not the same as wisdom. Wisdom sees reality. Prudence is wisdom applied in a certain situation, dictating a course of action which leads to a good and proper end. The fear of the Lord is, of course, the principle of wisdom.
Such prudence in the case of this hypothetical man in the parable is that he constantly performs his assigned duties. If he is faithful he shall needs be prudent. One cannot be the latter without the former. Such faithfulness in duties is at once watchfulness. It is not watchfulness of the man, who does not desire to be “caught” by his lord, but one who is dutiful when he comes.
The other case is that of this same man, in the same position of being a servant, with the same assigned duties. He is now presented hypothetically as being an evil servant. He is at heart bad, injurious. He is self-centered, and will use his office and station without regard of the return of his lord.
In his heart he is portrayed by Christ as being a bad man.
In his heart he says something. Out of this heart proceed the things which defile the man, Matt. 15:19. He is tempted. It is the sad development from lust to conception to the act, as depicted in James 1:14, 15. For every man when he is tempted to evil, is tempted of his own lust, being enticed and deceived, and lust having conceived brings forth sin, and sin when it is finished brings forth death.
Thus the hypothetical case is presented.
His lord delays. This delay is not the cause and reason for this man saying in his heart what he does. It is simply the occasion. The deeper reason is the “lusts” in his heart. It is the lust of the eyes, the lusts of the flesh and the pride of life. The philosophy of this man is: let’s sat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die! And he puts the day of reckoning, when his lord returns, far from his mind.
Two things he does.
He wholly neglects his calling toward the household. Instead of feeding them with his lord’s goods as steward of the household, he beats them and ill-treats them! He begins to smite them. He does not practice the Golden Rule in his stewardship. That had been enjoined upon him.
Then too he begins to eat and drink with the drunken. He deliberately uses the lord’s gifts, wasting his lord’s substance.
This man, of course, is unconverted and a hypocrite!
He is not what he pretended to be.
Hence, he shall not be exalted over the entire substance of the lord. He shall be surprised when his lord comes, just as were the wicked in the days of Noah and the flood.
For even as the lord of this evil servant comes he will find such a one not “thus doing,” so shall it be with all those who do not live in the hope of seeing Christ come in His Parousia.
Such shall be cast into outer darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. They shall suffer the torments of conscience forever where the worm does not die!
On the other hand those who are faithful and prudent shall not be found wanting.
The truth of this parable is underscored further in the parables which follow: the Ten Virgins, the Talents and the Final Judgment.
Let us therefore be watchful, fulfilling our calling and office faithfully as the angels in heaven fulfill their calling.