How to "Earn" a Well DoneMeeting the Master in The Parable of the Talents
You’ve probably heard this story…
There was a master with three servants. He was going on a journey and he called them to Him and gave each of them some money. “To one he gave five talents (sum of money), to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.
The passage is found in Matthew 25, as told by Jesus. Now eventually the master returns home to, as Jesus put it, “Settle accounts”.
The first fella embraced mercy and made good on grace; he had been able to turn his five talents into ten. “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!!
The second fella had a similar experience, also doubling his gift of two talents into four. He got the same beautiful increase in favor from his master. He also heard those stunning words we are all living to hear, “well done, good and faithful servant.”
Alas the last fella—it didn’t go so well for him. When he came before the master he said something terribly sad, “Master, I knew you to be a harsh and hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you had not scattered seed. So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is your own.”
With that, the fella returned to the master the one talent he’d received. Sadly, this guy, he didn’t get a well done. “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?” It was a question. One that reveals something pretty serious, the master will judge us by the revelation we chose to live from, by the master we chose to serve.
And that’s just what happened. After telling the servant that at the very least he could have banked the money for the interest, he takes the one talent and gives it to the one who now had ten. But it gets way worse for the faithless servant, “Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Wow! That’s pretty harsh. I mean, the fella didn’t make you money and you send him to hell? Normally if someone doesn’t return on their investment they get fired or demoted. But I have never heard of someone being thrown into outer darkness with the gnashing and the weeping because he was worthless at turning a buck. Because he was a bad steward…
The Stewardship Gospel
Years ago I was at a church service where the pastor taught on the parable of the talents. You have heard it. It’s the “Well Done” message. It’s the “try harder, work better, give stronger, lover bigger, good stewardship” message. It’s the checklist.
And it’s the North American gospel, in which church attendance is a part of the holy trinity of being a Christian. The other two: reading our bibles more, and becoming more disciplined in our prayer times.
Not that any of these disciplines aren’t good, but somehow the “Well Done” we hope for in heaven has been attached to our involvement in a home group, cell group, study group, care, group, life group, connect group, small group, donut group, diet group, spandex group…
Somehow our faith journey has been reduced to good stewardship—as if we got saved to become faithful Bible readers, faithful churchgoers, faithful prayers, and faithful givers—of our time, our money, our souls.
Somehow, the Christian life has become about performing better and trying harder—it’s not.
The Christian life is a love story. The Christian life is simply a response: a “Yes” to, and discovery of, His always good, relentless, life-transforming love.
We’ve done nothing to deserve being loved, and we can’t do anything to get a “Well Done.” His love has nothing to do with whether or not we are good stewards nor does He love us so that we will become good stewards. As Graham Cooke, a friend and hero of mine, says, “He loves us, because He loves us, because He loves us, because He loves us, because He loves us, because He loves us…”
He loves us because He is Love, and that’s just what Love does.
Honestly, if the “Well Done” parable was just about stewardship, then Jesus is rather cruel.
In fact, He didn’t even tell us how the faithful servants doubled their talents.
For those of us that aren’t business savvy or don’t fully understand the stock market, this story is practically a death sentence. If we read the “Well Done” parable solely through the lens of stewardship regarding what we do, most of us will begin to feel inadequate and hopeless.
The stewardship message I most often hear suggests that whoever is the smartest and hardest working gets the biggest slice of paradise. The message implies that my success in stewarding His Kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven” is directly connected to my personal gifting, ability, anointing, and work ethic. But if that’s true, if this story at its core is about what I can do for the master, then I am up $&@# creek without a paddle. And no offense, but so are you.
Faith = Trust + Risk
I have often heard it said that faith is spelled R-I-S-K. I would like to suggest that faith is actually spelled T-R-U-S-T.
When I jumped out of an airplane several years ago, I had a fella strapped to my back who had a parachute strapped to his back.
Have you heard the expression “leap of faith”? There is an implication that faith is about the leaping. The term is a bit misleading. You see, if I had leaped out of an airplane without the guy and his parachute, it would have looked like risk but it wouldn’t truly have been faith. My faith wasn’t in the leap; my faith was in the parachute.
While faith often looks like risk, at its core, it’s all about trust, because you can only risk to the extent that you trust.
And I think that this trust is the kind of faith that pleases God.
The faithful servants from the Parable of the Talents were the two fellas who understood the true nature of the Master. They understood that their master was good and that he loved them. They were the ones who truly knew the Master. It was his goodness and love that set them free to trust and risk. Faith, after all, is about believing that God only has goodness and love for us.
Their faith empowered them to live in a revelation of his always-good love, instead of fearfully living in the harsh reality of need.
What do we know about the one servant that got it wrong? He didn’t truly know the master—he believed that the master was evil. This enslaved him to live in the harsh reality of need. He could not trust and therefore he could not risk.
If you believe the master is harsh, your trust is compromised and you are not set free to risk, and the best you can hope for is to not lose anything he has given. Your highest goal is to hang on for dear life. You are a survivor just trying to make it through another day.
Risk is an act of trust. The unfaithful servant—the guy that got it wrong—he couldn’t even risk in trusting a bank. Why? Because he served an idea of an unjust, harsh, and merciless master who was impossible to satisfy.
“I knew you to be a harsh master,” he said. Need is a harsh master. When we relate to the master as a survivor (through the lens of our need) we are forced to bury our little treasure in fear of failure. We live in terror, slaving for the man. We strive.
The guy that got it wrong basically positioned himself to serve a harsh master instead of a loving Father. He positioned himself as a slave to need instead of a son of Love. In this parable, Jesus was revealing that we no longer have to live enslaved to the law of sin and death, but we are free, in Him, to live redeemed in the inheritance of sons and daughters.
I am not suggesting that stewardship isn’t a powerful principle, or that it isn’t important to God. I am simply suggesting that without a revelation of our Father’s always-good love, we have nothing to steward. It is impossible to steward the way Jesus has invited us to, unless we know Love.
True stewardship is about seeing the Father. It is simply a response to our revelation of who He is. If we are sure in His love, we are powerful in our stewardship.
The stewardship Jesus revealed is not first about the natural seen world, it’s first about the unseen world. Faith is the evidence of things unseen. The faithful servants were stewarding their revelation of the Master’s goodness. The faithful servants were stewarding their hunger to see the Father and become like Him. They were stewarding an intimate revelation of Love.
The “Well Done” we get in heaven has nothing to do with how we steward need, but rather, everything to do with how sure we become in our Father’s love. Why? Because Jesus knew that Love meets every need; that His Father’s always-good Love was the answer, and only those who were practiced in His goodness could be trusted to expand His family – His kingdom on earth as it is I heaven.
I would like to suggest that we aren’t called to steward need but love. I would also like to suggest that when we learn how to steward Love, we become answers to need—suddenly all of our gifting, anointing and work ethic are empowered to release life and transformation. The fact is we are called to make the kingdoms of this earth become the Kingdom of our God. We are called to steward from heaven to earth.
To do this, we must truly know the master, by becoming intimate with Gods goodness, and sure in His love.
Jason Clark is a writer, speaker and lead communicator at A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters to grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children.
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