Two Good and Faithful Servants

English service - April 21, 2024 

Messenger: Pastor Jim Allison 

Matthew 25:14-30 

Two Good and Faithful Servants


              Those of us in worship today, both here at Open Door and online, are moving toward the end of our message series, “People Jesus Praised.”  As you may remember from last month, soon before He goes to the cross, Jesus teaches His followers to prepare them for life after He has died, come back to life, and then returned to heaven.  He does not put a specific date on it, but He says that He will return one day, suggesting that they may have to wait a long time before this happens.  He wants them to be ready and live in expectation of His next appearing.  To help them get ready for this, He gives a set of three short stories, parables.  The first, about 10 bridesmaids waiting for a wedding celebration to begin (last month’s story), focuses on the time of preparation for the life ahead.  The second (today’s reading) brings our attention to the way Christ’s people will actually live out this life.   


              Again in the second story, Jesus presents a sharp contrast between two types of people—those who live in various ways for the glory of God and the good of others, versus those who do not.  The master in the story is a symbol for Christ, or God, and the servants stand for people of various types.  They are different from each other in key ways, but they all alike are servants.  What they have is their master’s money, not their own.  They have been given a great amount of freedom, and their lives arranged so their master will not stand over them watching each move and demanding that it be correct.  They will have the liberty of making their choices from day to day, but they all will be called to account for their decisions on some day that is not announced for a long time.  None will be held to account for more than he has received.  But for what he has, each will be required to answer.


              Jesus is describing our lives.  We all have something of great worth under our control.  In the story, even the poorest servant has one talent.  We’ve brought that word talent into our languages, but we use it in Japanese to mean a person with great ability.  In English it is sometimes used like that but probably more often to talk about the special skill itself.  You may hear, for example, “She is a very talented singer.”  But in Bible times a talent was a unit of measuring something—for example silver or gold.  And even one talent of silver was worth about 20 years of an average person’s wages, according to Dr. Don Carson.  Gold was worth far more.  So every servant in the parable has a remarkable amount under his control.  If you ever get the ridiculous thought in your head, “I don’t have anything.  I’m not worth anything,” remember how silly that is according to Christ, the One who understands you most completely. 


But, again, we are all managers, stewards, not owners.  He has put us in charge of handling and using goods that do not belong to us.  They have been entrusted to us, but only for a limited time.  We do not decide to be born, then just create the particular looks, health, personality, and so on that we have.  They are gifts.  We may like them or not, feel comfortable in them or not, but they are given to us by our Maker.  So we are to live with His approval in view. 


The master knows what he is doing when he chooses how much each servant can handle.  He does not give them all the same number of talents, but he gives each the right amount for him.  God knew what He was doing when He made you, me, and each person.  That includes our family backgrounds, personalities, and orientations.  We are hearing more and more recently about people who struggle mightily with feelings of dislike toward their sex or gender.  An increasing number are going through drug and surgery treatments to change their appearance in attempts to make their bodies match the transgender person they believe they are on the inside.  Yet many still report feeling very unsatisfied with their lives even after years of going through these changes.


The God of the Bible teaches us that no one is a mistake in His eyes.  He does not give anyone the wrong body.  If He chose to give you a male or female body, that was an important part of the good plan He has for you.  Probably nearly everyone feels uncomfortable in our body at some time, especially when we are teenagers and change comes hard and fast.  For some, the feeling that they were born in the wrong body is deeper, stronger, and longer-lasting.  We should not fail to take people seriously if they struggle with this.  Our God expects us to treat them with understanding and respect, as we would want people to treat us if we were in the same situation.


But rather than trying to create or recreate ourselves, we find our greatest and most lasting peace in accepting ourselves as we are, as God has made us.  God loves you as you are.  He will never love you more than He does right now.  That is true whether you are LGBTQ, straight (“cis-gender”), or whatever.  It is true no matter how many good or bad things you do.  Again, the way He made you is part of His good plan for you.  Fighting against His design and plans for our lives in the end leads to less peace, stability, and mental health, even if recent cultural trends tell us otherwise.    


              As I’ve noted here recently, this view of human beings is different on a basic level from the idea that “expressive individualism” is the highest good.  We do not belong to ourselves but to the God who made us and continues to support and guide us throughout our lives.  We are His servants.  If this is true, then what I feel about myself or my situation is not the ultimate authority as to how I should act.  For example, a husband may feel like giving up on a marriage relationship into which God has led him, but that is not the way to go.  The wife in that relationship may feel attracted to this person or that person, but if she and her husband are in a committed relationship with another one, real freedom does not lie in abandoning their promises, following their feelings, and going after someone else. 


              Laura Perry Smalts’ story can teach us about the freedom that is found in being a servant of Christ.  She was born female biologically but at a young age began feeling very bad about being a girl.  You might hear people say that she was assigned a female gender at birth.  From a Bible-based viewpoint, you could say that God assigned her the female sex at conception.  She says that she grew up feeling that her mother loved her older brother more than her.  Also, she was sexually abused by a boy at age eight.  Under these and other influences, she came to feel that being female meant being weak, unimportant, and unloved.  It became extremely painful for her to be a girl, and she wanted to change.  At age 25, after only a few hours under a doctor’s medical care, she began taking hormones to transition into a man.  She later had her female sex organs removed, took a male name, and did all she could to become a man.  She felt some temporary freedom from her deep psychological pain with each step, but it did not last.  Eventually, she realized that what she was doing was fake.  She would never become a real man.  When that became clear to her, the inner pain was worse than ever.


              That is when she began to turn to God.  Her parents were Christians and had never stopped praying for her.  Even when she was very angry at them, for example for not calling her the male name (Jake) that she had taken, she always knew they loved her.  Her mother was in a Bible study group that continued to pray for Laura, too.  Through letters they wrote to her and in other ways, Laura came to feel the healing power of love.  The people in her community did not agree with some of her actions, but she knew that they wanted the best for her as a person and sincerely cared for her. 


She opened her heart to God and began to be released from her inner pain, especially through learning the teachings of the Bible.  Her mother’s personal growth from an immature Christian into a more mature one helped Laura greatly.  Their relationship became a much healthier one.  Eventually, Laura reclaimed her identity as a woman, married a man, and is now raising a step-child with him.  She has also written a book, Transgender to Transformed, which tells her story as a de-transitioner.  Her life is an example of the paradoxical but real freedom that is found in placing our lives under God’s control, as His servants.


              In Jesus’ story, the first two servants use their resources well.  They put the master’s money to work and earn more with it.  We may see an example of capitalism in this story and like it, especially as people from capitalist countries.  The Bible certainly does not teach against capitalism here.  Investing wisely can be a way of honoring God by using His gifts responsibly and sharing with others what we receive in the process.  But that does not seem to be the point of Jesus’ story, really.  And, as Sasaki-san pointed out recently in a message on Acts 2, early Christians held their possessions in common rather than separately.  That sounds more like socialism or communism, though the story does not say that they gave control of the means of production to the government.  That difference is important, isn’t it.  People freely chose to take part in this arrangement, and they apparently could leave it if they liked.


It’s difficult to see in the Bible a clear teaching for one form of economy or political system over the others.  It is very clear in teaching that human sin can ruin any economic or political arrangement when we fail to respect and cooperate with people and begin acting selfishly.  And God is fully able to work in and through social systems that are far from His ideal plan for us.  He seems much more concerned with the inside of human beings (our hearts and minds) than with the outside (the power structures of society). 


We can learn a great deal from the third servant, as from the first two, but in the case of the one who hides his money in the ground, we learn from his mistakes. 


            Reading how he handles the opportunities placed in his hands, I can’t help but think of Adam and Eve in the famous Genesis 3 story after they have chosen to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit.  It says in verse 8, “Then the man and his wife heard the LORD God walking in the garden. It was the coolest time of the day. They hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”  Hiding from God. 


              Many years later, Jesus says something similar in Matthew 5:15.  “Also, people do not light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand. Then it gives light to everyone in the house.” 


Why would people hide from the One who gave us our life in the first place, put our light under a bowl, or hide our treasure in the ground? 


A characteristic of a life without faith is hiding.  Secrets.  Whispers.  Things often come out in the open later in damaging, destructive ways when we choose not to act openly and honestly.  But we are willing to keep things from view.  We may even praise ourselves for it sometimes, for instance how kind we are to avoid criticizing people openly.  Yet keeping things hidden has a steep price sooner or later.  On the other hand, an ability to face facts as they are, admit the things about ourselves and our lives that are not comfortable to confront . . . these are signs of a healthier life, a life of faith.     


              Again, why would we spend our lives trying to find ways to hide from God?  More on that later.  But let’s hold this question in our minds.


Jesus continues in v. 19, “After a long time the master of those servants returned. He wanted to collect all the money they had earned.”  The first two have been out actively using their gifts.  They hear the words that it has been their deep, continuing hope to hear (v. 21b): “You have done well, good and faithful servant!”  He uses exactly the same words to praise both of them.  The one who earned 10 talents is not praised more than the one who earned 4.  God is not always looking at us comparing us to someone else and measuring us against that person’s performance.  He understands us each and looks at us in light of what He has made each of us able to do and be.  If He is not worried about comparing us to others, then doesn’t it make sense for us to take a hint from Him and look at ourselves and others without comparing?   


Let’s also note that the master does not say, “You have done well, good and successful servant!”  Neither does he say, “. . . Good and hard-working, or clever, or well-connected servant!”  “. . . Good and faithful servant!”  I know of a Christian organization which has written here and there in its offices the goal that its founder set for them, made plain for them to keep in view and in their minds: “Faithfulness, not success.”  Wouldn’t our Lord be pleased if we would make that a habit for ourselves as we go through each day?  “Faithfulness, not success.”


Yes, that’s why the master praises the servants.  In vv. 21 and 23 he notes, “You have been faithful with a few things.”  A few things.  So whether we think we are super-talented people or not very impressive in this life, from God’s point of view, even the most gifted people have only “a few things.”  I may think that 20 years’ wages, multiplied by 2, 4, 5, or 10 sounds like a lot.  But the master (Jesus, the Son of God) uses exactly the same words to describe all these amounts.  To Him, they are all “a few.”  The point seems to be that the next life in the kingdom of God is so much greater, that what we experience here in this one doesn’t really compare.  In light of that, it makes no sense at all for us to think too highly of ourselves or anyone else who has considerable talents, or to look down on anyone who has few talents.  In the end, we’re not really all that different from each other.  As someone put it, God’s relationship to us is a lot like Albert Einstein’s relationship to ants crawling on a sidewalk.  To those ants, which one is a little bigger or smaller or whatever may seem really important, but that’s really a pretty narrow view of things.  Raising our eyes and living with God’s glory in view makes a lot more sense.


The good and faithful servants continue to hear thrilling words (vv. 21 and 23): “Come and share your master's happiness!”  The New King James Version has it: “Enter into the joy of your lord.”  The happiness is the master’s.  The joy is the lord’s.  Our greatest happiness doesn’t come from us, our circumstances, or anything besides God Himself.  Again, it’s not about finding what we really like and doing it.  Our deepest happiness and joy are possible inside a relationship of love and trust with the living God, our Heavenly Father.  Let’s look for it there.


God believes that is possible for us, with His help.  So we can find great hope in Jesus’ story.  But it is also possible for people like us to end up like the servant given only one talent.  In the end, he is thrown “outside” . . . “in the darkness” (v. 30).  That’s hell, isn’t it. 


How could he go so wrong?  His trouble seems to grow out of a basic misunderstanding of God.  He reports to the master (v. 24b), “I knew that you are a hard man. You harvest where you have not planted. You gather crops where you have not scattered seed.”  A master who harvests where he doesn’t plant is a thief, isn’t he.  This servant seems to be accusing his master (Jesus, or God) of being a criminal.  Maybe he thinks the master is impossible to please, and it is a waste of time to try to serve him.  So instead of working to make more money with that one talent, he’s been wasting his opportunities, wasting his life.


              I wonder how he came to have such a negative view of the master.  Some of us have parents, or bosses, or others, who seem impossible to please.  We may resist working for them or becoming the people they want us to be because we see them this way.  It’s even possible to mistakenly understand our Heavenly Father to be just like our earthly father, or mother, or boss, or someone else in authority.  If we do, trouble will follow.  


The servant confesses his real reason for not making the most of his gift.  In v. 25 he says, “. . . I was afraid.”  There it is.  The spirit of a slave, not a trusted servant.  Again, back to Adam and Eve’s story in Genesis 3:9b-10.  There with the two of them hiding from God, we read: “But the LORD God called out to the man. ‘Where are you?’ he asked.


‘I heard you in the garden,’ the man answered. ‘I was afraid. I was naked, so I hid.’” 


Afraid of God.  When does that describe us?  When might we be making important life decisions based on fear and an inability to trust in our Heavenly Father’s goodness and love?  Where does fear work in your life to limit you, close you down, and keep you from the active, positive, forward-looking life that you could be living if you weren’t spending it in fear?  On the positive side, what would it look like now for you to step out on faith and begin acting like a person who knows his or her life is in the hands of the all-wise and all-loving God? 


              For whatever reason, this servant does not understand the love of God.  That’s why taking the money and burying it seems to him like the most sensible thing to do.  If he understood the mercy that is at the heart of God’s love, he would not be afraid to go out and invest the master’s money.  Even if he fails in business and loses the money, we have no reason to think that the master will be angry or punish him for that.  But the servant defeats himself by giving up before even trying and letting his own experience show him what the master is really like.  When you give up on accepting the saving love of God into your life, there’s nothing left to save you.  That’s the painful reality that sends this man, and everyone who follows his path, apart from God and apart from life. 


              Again today, as we so often do in wrestling with Bible stories, we have to ask ourselves, Where am I in Jesus’ parable?  Am I living my life in a way so that I could expect God to say to me when I reach the end of my life’s journey someday, “You have done well, good and faithful servant”?  Or am I burying my talent in the ground?  Am I living a life that seems safer in a short-sighted way but really is far less than it could be?  Happily, Jesus’ stories are designed so that they don’t really end when we finish reading them.  We actually finish them (at least one chapter of them) with the way we live our lives each day.  The choices we make in our relationships with God and other people in the end show where we are in the story.  Let’s ask God to help us learn to be like the two good and faithful servants who receive their master’s praise and a hearty welcome into a life of joy in his presence.


              Loving Father, none of us knows how long our lives in this world will last, but we know that you in your great love have given all of us gifts to use for your glory and our good.  Help us to have the wisdom and will to know how to take the next step of faith, and then the next, and then the next, so that we will use our gifts in ways that bring you joy.  Free us from fear, and help us each in our unique ways to live actively and lovingly day by day, so that when we meet you before your throne someday, you will welcome us with the words, “Well done!”  This is our prayer, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.




Carson, D. A. (2012). The Parable of the Bag of Gold. The Gospel Coalition. Michigan              

Regional Conference., L. P. (2024).

Focus on the Family. God’s Amazing Grace in a Transgendered Person’s Life.  Part 1 

Part 2