Last Updated on : November 23, 2014
The Parable Of The
Faithful And Evil Servants
By H.P. Mansfield, The Story of the Bible, Vol. 11
The Lord now repeated a parable that he had given on an earlier occasion (see Luke 12:42-48), in which he contrasted two servants: one faithful and wise, and the other evil and slothful. The first is represented as being elevated into a position of authority: made ruler over his master's goods after the example of Joseph whose wise and faithful service was similarly rewarded by Pharoah.
This parable, recorded only by Matthew in this place, is the first of four parables relating to the second advent, and which parallel the four that he recorded the Lord as giving at the beginning of his discourse in the Temple, relating to the first advent (see Matthew 21:28 - 22:14).
The Joseph-like Servant
Having completed his solemn warning on the need for wakefulness, the Lord delivered a parable unto the Apostles, illustrating the most profitable way in which they could occupy their time.
They should emulate the example of faithful and wise Joseph, who so conducted himself as a servant of the king, that he was elevated to rulership, with him. The Lord declared:
"Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord has made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his lord, when he comes, shall find so doing. Truly I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods."
The servant is described as being both faithful and wise. He is therefore one who lives according to the principles he believes, and who also manifests discretion in his relationships towards others.
In being appointed ruler of his Lord's household in his absence, the servant in the parable occupied a position of privilege and responsibilify, which he graced by providing "meat in due season."
Elders of Ecclesias occupy a similar position in the absence of their Lord.
If they grace the position they hold by providing "meat in due season," he will find pleasure in their conduct at his return.
Jesus described the pleasure of a lord who returns suddenly and unexpectedly, to find his trusted servant faithfully carrying out his instructions. Realising that he can place confidence in him, his lord will most certainly bless and reward him.
The Lord Jesus will do like wise, in regard to those who have faithfully, conscientiously, and wisely carried out his instructions in his absence.
His disciples are his servants, and the use of the term indicates the measure of service that should be rendered. The word "ser vant," is a translation of the Greek word doulos, which signifies a bondservant, or a slave: one whose will is absorbed in that of another. As Christ performed the will of his Father in heaven, and therefore became His suffering servant, so his disciples should seek to subordinate their desires to doing his will.
The Fate Of The Evil Servant
But all servants are not like Joseph. The Lord contrasted the wise and faithful servant with one who was evil and slothful 'who said to himself that his lord delayed his coming, and proceeded to act upon that belief.
Having been placed in a posi tion of authority, this servant exercised it in a domineering way. He began to smite his fellow-ser vants who feared to retaliate, and to give himself over to pleasure seeking and debauchery.
He was quite unprepared for his lord's sudden return, and was caught in the very act of indulging his folly: eating and drinking with the drunken.
He was not only guilty of wasting his lord's goods and time, but also, of giving a bad example to those placed under his charge, which could well lead to them doing likewise.
In indignation, his lord ordered that he be punished. The slothful servant now realised the extent of his folly in neglecting the opportunities opened to him, which, if wisely used, could have secured for him further advancement. Filled with regret, he could not restrain his bitter, though useless, tears of anguish and lamentations of sorrow.
Let us act wisely, so as to avoid similar tears of sorrow and unavailing grief at the Judgment Seat.
We must remember, that Christ has placed the riches of the Gospel into our care, and if we act like the evil servant did, we virtually rob him of what is his due.
The evil servant was found "eating and drinking with the drunken" (Matt. 24:49). Christ's servants do that when they mix freely with the world which has been made drunk with the "wine" of Babylon the Great (Rev. 17:1-2). He was found smiting the fellow servants. Christ's servants can be guilty of the same fault if they unduly exercise lordship over their brethren. He was found saying, "My lord delayeth his coming." Christ's servants can also act upon that presumption.
In short, a servant of Christ does not have to give himself over to what would normally be considered as debauchery in order to fit into the category of "eating and drinking with the drunken," for that could be his state if he is found unduly associating with the world about him in a way that Christ would not approve.
The Awful Punishment Of The Wicked At The Judgment
When the evil servant was brought before his lord to receive punishment for so wantonly wasting his lord's time and goods he heard the stem punishment:
"Cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites!'
Thus was proclaimed death by execution, the fate of all hypocrites and traitors!
It was a punishment often decreed then against slaves who wasted their master's goods, or acted dishonestly, and consequently suitably illustrated the fate of those who are described as "crucifying to themselves the Son of God afresh, and putting him to an open shame" (Heb. 6:6).
Christ's followers do this when by very thoughtlessness they treat Christ's sacrifice lightly, or show contempt towards the instructions he has left them. In this they put him to an open shame, because unbelievers judge the value of his offering by its impact upon believers. Paul wrote:
"He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know Him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10:28-31).
Let it be clearly understood that God does not drive by fear, but leads by love. However, those who remain indifferent to His requirements by refusing to submit to baptism, or by ignoring His will when baptised, face a fearful awakening at the Judgment Seat, as the Lord warned in this parable.
God will not remain indifferent to slighting contempt shown towards His Son on the part of those who should know better. They will be consigned to "the second death" (Rev. 2.11).
In the parable, this is described as being "cut asunder."
The word in the Greek rendered "cut him asunder" is dichotomeo, to cut into two parts. In the Septuagint, the verb is used of dividing the sacrifice as in Exod 29:17, whilst the noun (rendered "pieces", "carcase" etc. is found in such places as Gen. 15:11, 17; Exod. 29:17; Lev. 1:8; Ezek. 24:4. Judicially, those brought before the Judgment Seat of Christ will be "cut asunder" in that their characters will be revealed for what they are (Heb. 4:13), after which they will be condemned, or appointed with the hypocrites, to share their fate.
Primarily, this indicates being executed; but when considered in relationship to the work of redemption, it has far greater significance. It then implies that the one about to be executed has "broken the everlasting covenant" (Isa. 24:5), and deserves to be "cut off" (Matt. 24:51-mg).
In ancient times, a covenant was ratified by a solemn ceremony of sacrifice. An animal was selected for this purpose; then slain and divided into two. Between the parts, the two contracting parties met to make a solemn vow to remain true to the agreement into which they mutually entered. Afterwards they partook of the victim in a sacrificial feast, thus signifying that they were joined together in solemn covenant.
Such agreements were absolutely binding, and the penalty for breaking such a covenant was death. In fact, in ratifying it with the covenant victim "cut asunder" in the manner prescribed, the contracting parties indicated that the fate of the victim should be theirs if they broke it.
This ceremony and its penalty is described in Jeremiah 34:18-19:
"I will give the men that have transgressed My covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before Me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof . . . I will give them into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their life; and their dead bodies shall be for meat unto the fowls of heaven."
In the parable, the servant was found guilty of breaking a solemn vow he had made with his lord, and was therefore "cut asunder" in punishment, or executed as one who had broken his bond.
It illustrates the fate of those who act in similar manner towards the covenant that they have made with God through Christ.
For he is the covenant victim provided by God for that purpose. He impressed that fact upon the Apostles a few hours after delivering this parable, when, at the last supper, he took bread and breaking it (or dividing it in two), he passed it to them saying, "This is my body . . ."; and then passing the wine, "This is my blood of the new covenant. . . " (as the word "testament" should be rendered).
How solemn and binding is the covenant we make with God through Christ! How awful the punishment of those who break it! How significant the words that Paul used in describing it: "Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord -- eating and drinking condemnation to himself" (1 Cor. 11:27-29).
Figuratively, the rejected will be "cut asunder," or given their portion with the "hypocrites" (Matt. 24:51).
In fact, they will be banished from the presence of Christ and sent into the world of unbelievers which they loved, and there they will live out their hopeless existence in lamentation and regret until death claims them. They will illustrate the fate of those who break the covenant of God to all with whom they come into contact, and will constitute a solemn warning to any who might be disposed to despise the birthright which will be found in Christ by mortals during the millenium as now.