His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” – Matthew 25:23
At the end of Jesus’ ministry, he is using every opportunity to share what the life of the Kingdom is, and getting his followers to understand what they need to be focused on. He tells two parables about being ready for the coming of the master. The preparation, however is not just about “waiting for life to start” at his appearing, but rather about engaging life in anticipation. The first parable, ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom to come speaks of those who are prepared for the bridegroom and those who are not. In the second parable, three servants are given not just the responsibility, but the opportunity to work with the master’s money.
What Is It Good For?
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men – Matthew 5:13
The servants of the master were not just given money because he liked them, for them to feel important, or for them to compare with each other to know who was better than the other. He gave it for a particular purpose: To be used. Without use, the money would have had no real value. Similarly in our lives, when we consider our harvests, we have to ask the question, “What is it good for?” It is only then that we can begin to understand the working of the kingdom, what God expects from us, and what our real return is.
As the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out of my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song before you and all of the trees of the field will clap their hands – Isaiah 55:9-12
As we see in this scripture, and what we will see in the parable, God intends his things to be used, and to be useful.
It is in the use of the harvest that it finds value. We need to always be seeking for opportunity to use that that has been given to us.
Where’s Your Head At?
After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. – Matthew 25:19
The master was very particular about how he gave the money to the servants – each according to their ability. Each of the servants had been trained in the handling of the money, so that what the master would be able to receive what was expected. It was so clear that even when the master deals with the wicked servant, he tells him that he could have gotten a guaranteed return for very little effort (you should have at least given it to the banker, so I would have had interest). For the master, the question of whether there would have been a return was not the issue. The master not only knew, but fully expected that there would be a return – that the servants would be successful in bringing back a harvest of what they had received.
συναίρει μετ᾽ αὐτῶν λόγον
The phrase “settled accounts” deals with a person’s mental state, not just the financial accounting that we normally associate with the parable. This is also evident because the master didn’t tell the servants that they had to earn a particular amount. He gave it to them to see how they would react with his things, and toward him. Similarly, God gives us opportunities to harvest to see where our thoughts are in relation to him. What was more important to the master was where the servants were mentally:
- What did they get out of this exercise?
- Were they ready to take the next step?
While to the servants the amount of money might have been a lot, but to the master it was nothing compared to what he wanted to give them. Similarly, when we look at the harvests that God gives us, they are nothing compared to what He has in store for us.
Ownership vs. Stewardship
Two of the servants understood the task in front of them: they were put in charge of money and were expected to use it to get more. One servant, however, was caught up in who it was that owned the money, and making sure he kept the ownership at the forefront of his mind
I was afraid and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you – Matthew 25:25
While the ownership was a nice way to look at it, in truth it was the wrong focus. Remember, the master was more concerned about the servant’s ability to handle more of what he wanted to give. This servant, however, basically told the master that he didn’t want to have anything to do with him.
How we present the harvest back to the Father is very important. It doesn’t matter how much we harvest, if we don’t want to be invested in Him.
The wicked servant didn’t lose anything, but even that would have been more acceptable to the master, for at least he would have tried, and demonstrated that he trusted the master, and how the master saw him.
The other side of ownership that we have to be careful of is rejecting the master, and making the harvest all about us.
Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented it the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third… but when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “this is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.” – Matthew 21: 33-35,38
We can treat the harvests we receive with the adage “possession is 9/10ths of the law”, forgetting that we are only servants in the field of the Lord.
But I’m a child of God! I have rights as a child…
We have rights, very true. Those rights are to emulate Jesus in all things. So, to get the right perspective, we have to look at how Jesus views his own harvest.
Following Jesus’ Example
Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. – I Corinthians 15:24
Jesus reigns as king over our lives, over the kingdom of God, but there will be a day when he takes that role and all that he received, and turns it all over to his Father.
If anyone deserved to keep a crown, wouldn’t it be Jesus? Why couldn’t Jesus keep it? Does this say something negative about Jesus in relationship to the Father? Not at all. Jesus is demonstrating the life of the kingdom
The life of the kingdom is forever giving, forever returning in order to forever produce. Jesus will return the kingdom to the Father as the “end of a never ending cycle”, which will initiate something new from the Father.
Just like the master, upon receiving the talents back from the servants moved them into greater things, when we return our harvest to the Father, it initiates a new cycle of blessing that He wants to pour into us.
Returning and Receiving
The parable of the servants shows us five things that come from returning the harvest to the Father:
God brings us to harvests not as an end result, but as a part of a much larger, much more valuable process that He is working in us. A process that draws us closer to Him, and gives us more opportunity to see the Kingdom of God, and God Himself at work in our lives.