After we repent and receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we become, among other things, his servants. At the end of the age as servants we will stand before our Master. There will be an accounting of what we have done or not done in response to his commands. Scripture teaches that some of us will be judged to be “wicked servants” by the Lord. What will befall such servants?
In the parables of the kingdom of heaven taught in Matthew’s gospel, the term “wicked” is applied on three different occasions to refer to the master’s servants. On the first occasion, it was applied to the servant who refused to forgive his fellow servant.
Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants…
… 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
Our Master commands us to forgive our brother from our heart. If we disobey his command, we will be turned “over to the jailers to be tortured” until we pay back to the Lord what we owe him. Whatever being “tortured by the jailers” actually encompasses we do not know and do not want to find out for ourselves. Forgiving others is not optional for a servant of God.
The Parable of the Talents
Matthew 25:14 “Again, it [the kingdom of heaven] will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15 To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17 So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18 But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’
21 “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!’
22 “The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’
23 “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 first two servants who had earned profit for their master were praised and rewarded. But it was not so for the third servant.
24 “Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26 “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? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
… 30 …throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The third servant was afraid of losing what the master had entrusted to him, so he did not invest it. He failed to earn any profit for his master. It does not say here that he was engaged in any kind of sin. But he was thrown into the darkness where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Jesus’ parable teaches us that this will happen to some servants of God.
The parable of the servant who loved his life in the world
Matthew 24:42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.
… 45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
There will be wicked servants who become complacent during the master’s long absence. They begin to mistreat the other servants who are under their authority. The love of money and the love of the world take root in their hearts, and their work of feeding their master’s servants suffers. They use some of the funds entrusted to them for feeding the servants to enjoy life in the world instead—eating and drinking and getting drunk just as unbelievers and hypocrites do. With fewer funds available, he provides poor quality food to the master’s servants.
In this parable we learn that there are servants of God in the Church who indeed actually do this. They do not realize how close the Lord’s return could be. They are drawn to the world and to the comforts it offers. They take offerings from God’s people to finance a very comfortable and even luxurious lifestyle. They justify it by saying that their Father owns everything and loves them and wants to bless them with earthly comfort.
They feed God’s people a diet of sugary soft drinks—God loves them and wants to bless them with “success” in this life. The solid food of holiness and sacrificial obedience and self-control is mostly withheld. If indeed it is offered, it is only as a carrot to lead God’s people to more earthly blessings. It is not for the sake of pleasing the Lord to maximize our heavenly reward.
Such servants of God have become friends of the world and love their lives in this world. They are hirelings who care not for the sheep. The Lord will send these wicked servants to the place reserved for unbelievers and hypocrites where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. This will happen to some of us who serve God in the Church today.
We have learned in this study that there are three things which spell disaster for servants of God.
Jesus’ command to forgive one’s brother is applicable to everyone who calls himself a disciple of Jesus Christ. Those who will not or cannot forgive are judged to be wicked in the sight of God and will be “turned over to the jailers to be tortured.”
Fruitlessness due to fear
This applies to disciples to whom are entrusted resources to be invested for the kingdom of heaven. It would appear that many of not most disciples of the Lord are entrusted by him with resources or talents of some kind or another. If we produce good fruit for the Lord with these resources, he will be pleased and will put us in charge of many things. If we fail to bear fruit because of fear of failure and end up doing nothing, we will be judged to be wicked servants in the sight of God and thrown outside into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Failure to watch and to be ready for the Lord’s return by becoming a friend of the world (James 4:4)
The third parable is given for those to whom is entrusted the feeding of servants of God, that is, other disciples. In general, pastors and ministers are those who provide spiritual food for God’s sheep and teach them the Word of God. Those who fear the Lord and anticipate his return will watch their lives and doctrine closely. Look how Paul taught Timothy, a minister of the gospel discipled by Paul.
1 Timothy 4:16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
But some pastors and ministers do not take seriously the return of the Lord. They enjoy their lives in the world, eating and drinking and living as the unbelievers do. Often they will emphasize material prosperity on earth in their teaching for God’s people as well as for themselves personally. They violate the trust that the Lord gives to pastors and ministers and servants of God.
2 Timothy 2:3 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.
1 Timothy 6:9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
These ministers will be judged to be wicked in the sight of God and assigned a place with the unbelievers and hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
What Scripture teaches us here stands in shocking contrast to the teachings we usually get in church Sunday after Sunday—teachings which make us feel nice and warm and comfortable, and render us sleepy, complacent, and unprepared for the Lord’s return.
Yes, we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). But faith without works of obedience is dead (James 2:17). All believers must forgive others as God has forgiven us through Christ Jesus. Those believers who have resources must use them wisely and produce fruit for the Lord. Those who are in full-time ministry will be judged by especially high standards, and must watch their lives and teachings closely in anticipation of the Lord’s return. If we fail to obey the Lord in these ways, we will suffer in the next life.
Let us be sober in view of what Scripture teaches. Church tradition cannot save us, but obedience to the Word of God will.