The Three Servants
In Matthew 25, Jesus told a parable describing the Kingdom of Heaven. He said a man was going on a long trip but before he left he called together his three servants. Each servant was given an amount based on their abilities. Five bags of silver to the first, two bags to the second, and one to the third.
“The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.” (Matthew 25:16-18)
I grew up hearing this story in church plenty of times and it always confused me. As a child, I knew nothing of investing. I took my allowance and saved it in my Batman bank—and I was pretty good at saving it! I didn’t see anything wrong with the last servant taking his single bag of silver and burying it in the ground. It would be safe there and he would be guaranteed not to lose it. He was risking nothing. Playing it safe. After all, what if something bad happened and he ended up losing his master’s money? I was convinced the last servant had made the right choice. But when the master returns home, the first two servants are rewarded handsomely for growing the amount that was given to them. “Well done good and faithful servant,” the master says.
“Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’
“But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’
“Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (Matthew 25:24-30)
What? All the servant did was handle the money in the safest manner possible, right? I finally revisited this passage of Scripture as a mature, completely committed follower of Christ, and the truth of this story was a gut punch. The third servant was trying to control the outcome. He wasn’t acting out of faith with what the master had given him—he was acting out of fear. By burying the money, the servant knew exactly what he would get back. He wanted to control the situation. Neal Samudre wrote of this passage of Scripture, “In our anxiety and fear, we default to what we can control.” That’s exactly what the servant did and for a long time in my life, that’s what I was doing. I was unwilling to step out too far in faith because that would mean I would have no control over the outcome. God has given me certain talents and ablities and placed callings on my life and I was only seeking to bury them as a means of controlling my outcome.
“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” (Revelation 3:15-16)
This is the third servant. He’s not on fire with faithfulness, but he does not openly rebel against the master; he is lukewarm, returning exactly what he was given. Jesus hates lukewarm. How do you respond to the fear of not being in control? Do you bury what God has given you so that you can control the outcome or do you act in faith, going where your trust in God has no boundaries? Which servant are you, one who is welcomed or one who is cast out into outer darkness?
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.