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God’s Unprofitable Servant Punished
"Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness; there shall be
weeping and gnashing of teeth."— Mt 25:30.
We who delight to be known as
Christians, followers of Jesus, have heretofore been very careless in our study
of God’s Word, and have thus been disrespectful to our Teacher, and have gotten
ourselves into a world of trouble and confusion of thought which is driving
many into unbelief. We must learn to be more critical in our reading of the
Word of God. We must not assume so much, but must carefully note the Master’s
exact statements, that we may be able to distinguish between His literal
utterances and His parables, dark sayings, figures of speech and hyperboles.
Take, for instance, our text. How few have ever sought to weigh it and to draw
proper inferences from it! The usual custom is to conclude that it refers to an
eternity of torture into which the majority of our race enter at death; whereas
no such conclusion would be a reasonable deduction from the narrative from
which the text is taken.
It is part of a parable, every element of which is figurative.
Whoever reads the connection will perceive that the person or class mentioned
as going into the outer darkness is not represented as going into death at all.
Furthermore, the phrase "outer darkness" could not refer to such a
place as is generally pictured by evangelists as the future abode of the
non-elect; for that place is invariably said to be the very reverse of dark,
and its inmates to be shut in—not cast out!
It should be noted that the person or class referred to in our text as cast
into outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, is a
Christian—not a worldling, not a stranger, alien, foreigner to the Divine
promises, but one of the Lord’s recognized followers.
The punishment comes upon him, not because of murder, theft or blasphemy, not
through immoralities, but because of neglect of opportunities of service. Had
he been guilty of gross sin, he would not have been recognized of God as a
follower of Christ, regardless of any profession he might make to that effect.
Having become a consecrated believer in the Lord, he had received a talent of
privilege and opportunity in the Master’s service, and this he had neglected to
From this viewpoint many Christian people should be startled and thoroughly
awakened by our text; for undoubtedly many are in the very position described
in the parable. An investigation of the matter which comes close home to
themselves will assist them in the exercise of common sense in the
interpretation of this Scripture; whereas the general tendency seems to be to
permit unreason to interpret such texts as these, which are always inferred to
belong to the very grossest, immoral enemies of God and the principles of
righteousness. The majority of people are much more merciful in thinking about
matters which are applicable to themselves; for their love is not yet
sufficiently developed to enable them to feel an equal interest in their
neighbor—yea, in their enemies.
THE PARABLE AS A WHOLE
Let us examine the parable as a whole, in order that we may make no mistake in
the application of any of its parts. (Mt 25:14-30.) It represents the entire
Gospel Age—from the time when our Lord ascended on High, going to the far
country, even Heaven itself. He left His interests in the hands of His
servants—the Apostles and believers in general; and in their hands these interests
have remained ever since. The whole narrative shows that not merely nominal
Christians are meant by the servants, but true Christians—fully consecrated
These alone have the talents belonging to the Lord in
their charge for use in His service, "every man according to his several
In olden times a talent represented a sum of money, an Attic talent being
equivalent to $1,200 in our money.
Thus to one servant five talents were entrusted, representing $6,000; to
another, two talents, representing $2,400; and to another one talent—$1,200.
But while the matter is here stated merely from the financial point of view,
all will agree that such a statement is only for convenience; and that the real
thought in the parable is that these talents represent not only financial
ability, but also social standing, education, mental equipments, etc.
THE TALENTS COMMITTED TO SOME
Those who hear the Lord’s voice calling them as sinners to repentance are not
as yet His servants, nor are they entrusted with any of His talents. They are
still strangers, aliens and foreigners, without God and having no hope. (Eph
2:11-13.) But after they have learned of the grace of God in Christ and of the
provision made in Him for the covering of the sins that are past and of the
blemishes which are present, then if they rejoicingly accept Him as their
Savior they thereby take the first step toward God. Being thus justified by
faith, they have peace with God as respects their former sins and the condemnation
under which they realize that they had rested. (Ro 5:1-3.)
But still they have not yet become servants of God. However, they are in that
attitude of mind where the Lord would be willing to accept them as His
servants; and hence the Apostle invites such, saying, "I beseech you,
brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living
sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, and your reasonable service."—Ro 12:1.
In his consecration the believer thus lays at the Lord’s feet his life, his
time, his influence, together with whatever property or mental endowment he may
possess—all for the Lord, "to be used in joyful service for the glory of
our King." It is at this juncture that the Scriptures represent that we
are begotten again by the Holy Spirit to newness of life, newness of aim,
newness of purpose.
"Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
(2Co 5:17.) It is these New Creatures whom God recognizes as His servants,
consecrated to His service; and it is this class which is represented in the
parable under discussion. To these servants He gives various talents to be used
Some one may ask, "What are these talents?" We reply, The very
talents which they possessed before consecration, and which in consecration
they laid at the Lord’s feet. These He now gives over to them, gives into their
custody, thus making them rewards of their own time, influence, means,
education, mental ability, etc.
From this viewpoint we can see how some have one talent, others two talents,
and still others five talents; for no two of the Lord’s people are exactly
alike in mentality, in influence, in opportunity or in wealth. Each, however,
is responsible for exactly the amount thus entrusted to his stewardship, plus
whatever increase he may be able to effect; and his love for his Master and his
loyalty as a servant are to be tested by the degree of activity he will
exercise in the use of these talents, opportunities, etc., under his care.
Although the parable represents the faithfulness of the one having the five
talents and of the other having the two talents, and the unfaithfulness of the
one having but one talent, this we are to understand is merely an illustration.
It is possible for the person having the one talent to be faithful, and equally
possible for those having two or more talents to be unfaithful. Indeed, our
experience has been rather along the line that those possessing the most
talents are as likely to be amongst the unfaithful as are those who have but
the one talent. It is not unreasonable to suppose that by far the majority of
those consecrated to the Lord have possessed only one talent.
Hence the Lord’s statement of the parable is undoubtedly the most appropriate
one, applicable to the larger proportion of His people who will prove derelict,
unfaithful, in the use of their consecrated ability in His service.
As a matter of fact, the Lord tells us that not many of those who have money
talents will accept His invitation at all. Not many of them will make
consecration of themselves, so as to place their natural talents at His
disposal or make it possible for them to become stewards of the same. The
Scriptural statement, we remember, is that not many great, not many wise, not
many learned, not many rich, not many noble, according to the course of this
world, but rather the poor, rich in faith, hath God chosen to be heirs of the
Kingdom.—1Co 1:26-28; Jas 2:5.
APPORTIONING REWARDS TO THE SERVANTS
"After a long time the Lord of those servants cometh and reckoneth with
them." The reference here is undoubtedly to our Lord’s Second Advent, and
indicates that then His first work will be with the Church, not with the world.
To this agree the words of St. Peter: "Judgment must begin at the House of
God." (1Pe 4:17.) In this we have a most positive assurance that the
servants of the parable are not worldly people at all, who have neither lot nor
part in this matter, and who are not in any sense of the word stewards of the
grace of God.
True, the Lord causes His sun to shine upon the just and the unjust, and His
rain to fall upon good and bad alike.
But He recognizes none as His servants except those who have come to Him in the
appointed way—"No man cometh unto the Father but by Me."—Joh 14:6.
If we have the right understanding of "the times and seasons"
outlined in the Scriptures, we are now living in the very time of the Second
Advent of Christ—the time during which He is reckoning with His servants,
preparatory to assuming the Kingdom control of the world.
This transfer of the world to Immanuel’s Government will
be accomplished through the overthrow of present institutions—financial,
political, social and religious—in "a Time of Trouble such as was not
since there was a nation."—Da 12:1.
This reckoning of course must include the resurrection change of all the
faithful in Christ Jesus, mentioned in the Apostle Paul’s description of the
(1Co 15:42-44.) Those who during this Gospel Age have been faithful to the Lord
in the use of the talents committed to them are in line for the glory, honor
and immortality of this First Resurrection, by which they will enter into the
joy of their Lord. The Apostle’s statement respecting these—that they will
differ in the degree of glory received "as star differeth from star in
glory"—is corroborated, if not directly by this parable under
consideration, at least by the corresponding parable of the pounds. (Lu
19:12-27.) There the stewards are specified in parabolic form: Our Lord declared
that one of the faithful should have authority over ten cities, another over
five, etc., in His Kingdom.
THE TALENT HID IN THE EARTH
But now comes the particular feature of the parable from which our text is
taken. The servant who had but one talent entrusted to him hid it in the earth.
In excusing himself for not having made better use of it, he intimates that his
heart was filled with fear instead of with love for his Lord; for he thought of
his Lord as unjust, hard, unmerciful, unloving, exacting. He had a bad
Alas, how many Christian people are in a similar plight! Having a wrong
conception of the Lord’s character and purposes, they are deterred from using
in His service what talents they possess. Evidently this class is pictured most
distinctly in this parable. The hiding of the talent in the earth is full of
meaning. It implies that the opportunities and abilities consecrated to the
Lord are being buried in earthly interests, earthly affairs—business
or pleasure, family or society or what not—to the neglect of the stewardship,
and hence to that extent in the repudiation of the original consecration.
If you, my dear brother or sister, are not in the place of this unfaithful
servant, you probably recognize the likeness of some of your fellow servants.
They are not bad people; they are not wicked. They are moral, honest in their
dealings with their fellow men—though not honest with the Lord in the use of
their consecrated talents.
Now that you see the person or the class represented by the unfaithful servant
in the parable, doubtless your love and your sympathy begin to exercise
themselves toward these dear neighbors, friends and relatives. You begin to
hope that in God’s mercy they are not to be sent to eternal torment because of
their carelessness in respect to their consecration vow.
THE PUNISHMENT BAD ENOUGH, HOWEVER
Although there is nothing in the parable to indicate eternal torment for this
class of unfaithful servants, nevertheless the punishment outlined is certainly
bad enough, severe enough. Our hope is that this discourse may prove helpful to
some who are now in this attitude, to the intent that before their earthly
accounts are called for they may take their talent out of its earthly
investment, and with redoubled energy and zeal apply it according to their
original covenant, hoping in the mercy of God for forgiveness of their previous
laxity; and that by His grace they may yet hear His words: "Well done,
good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
The first part of the punishment meted to the unfaithful servant is the loss of
the talent—the loss of the opportunity and privilege of service as a co-laborer
with the Lord. This implies that the unfaithful one can have neither part nor
lot in the Kingdom—cannot be accepted as a member of the glorified Body of
Christ. His failure to use his consecrated talent signifies his failure to make
his calling and election sure.
The second feature of the punishment is the being cast out from the light and from
the privileges enjoyed by those who are the Lord’s faithful followers. To be
thrust into the outer darkness of the world is to lose what light, privilege
and appreciation of spiritual matters had been previously enjoyed. The third
feature of the punishment is that the unfaithful servants shall share in the
great Time of Trouble with which this Gospel Age is to end—the time of anarchy
and confusion which the faithful class of the Lord’s people shall be accounted
worthy to escape, as our Lord declared.—Lu 21:36.
THREE CLASSES OF CONSECRATED CHRISTIANS
The parable merely mentions the punishment of the unfaithful servant without
showing what the result will be—how he will be exercised by the tribulations
through which he will pass. But the great Teacher who spake the parable sent a
message later on to His people in which He indicated just where all unfaithful
servants may be found, and through their tribulations be enabled to some extent
to recover their standing and obtain a share in the Divine blessing—although
not in the Kingdom class. We refer to Re 7:9-17. There we see the unfaithful
servants after they have passed with weeping and gnashing of teeth through the
great tribulation which marks the full end of the Age. We see that their severe
experiences will work with many of them such a change that they will gladly
acclaim their Lord, and rejoice to be servants in His Temple and before His
Faithfulness in the use of their talents would have given this class a place
with their Lord in His Throne, even as He promised. (Re 3:21.) But in His great
mercy, while rejecting them from association in the Throne and while causing
them to pass through merited tribulation for their unfaithfulness, He will
nevertheless permit them to come up through that tribulation, washing their
robes in the merit of His sacrifice. To those who
are rightly exercised by these experiences He will give the palm of victory,
but not the crown; for this is reserved for the faithful servants alone.
But it is not our thought, nor that of the Scriptures, to guarantee that all of
the consecrated shall be either in the Throne or before the Throne, shall be
either crowned with our Lord as joint-heirs or else stand as servants with
palms of victory in their hands. The Scriptures bring to our attention still
another class amongst the truly consecrated, namely, such as are described in
Heb 6:4-8 and Heb 10:26,27. "There is a sin unto death"—the Second
Death. But this sin is something beyond the sin of hiding the talent in the earth—neglecting
the covenant made with the Lord. From that wilful sin unto death there is no
hope of recovery, either in this Age or in that to come.
Let us arouse ourselves, dear fellow servants of the King of Glory. Let us use
every talent that we possess to "show forth His praises who hath called us
out of darkness into His marvelous light." Let us develop in our hearts
more and more the graces of the Holy Spirit—meekness, gentleness, patience,
brotherly kindness, love.
"For if these things be in you and abound, they will make you that ye
shall be neither barren nor unfruitful in the service of the Lord; ... and so
an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting
Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."—2Pe 1:8-11.
Take my will and make it Thine; It
shall be no longer mine; Take my heart, it is Thine own; Thus in me Thyself
Take my love, my God; I pour At Thy feet its treasure-store; Take myself—I wish
to be Ever, only, all for Thee.