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  Back To Articles »

Stewardship Of Talents

Matthew Henry

"Well Done Good and Faithful Servant"

The meaning of the famous parable in the Bible ( Luke 25 ) about the talents and the good and faithful servant and unfaithful servant in the kingdom of God. Jesus explanation of this parable explained by Matthew Henry in his commentary.

Matthew Henry's commentary on this chapter is quite long and detailed, so I have just taken a few key excerpts that deal with this subject......

The Excuses of the Unfaithful Servant

"... those who have least to do for God, frequently do least of what they have to do. Some make it an excuse for their laziness, that they have not the opportunities of serving God that others have; and because they have not wherewithal to do what they say they would, they will not do what we are sure they can, and so sit down and do nothing; it is really an aggravation of their sloth, that when they have but one talent to take care about, they neglect that one.

...He hid his lord's money; had it been his own, he might have done as he pleased; but, whatever abilities and advantages we have, they are not our own, we are but stewards of them, and must give account to our Lord, whose goods they are. It was an aggravation of his slothfulness, that his fellow-servants were busy and successful in trading, and their zeal should have provoked his. Are others active, and shall we be idle?

The Servants Giving up the Account

It is good to keep a particular account of our receivings from God, to remember what we have received, that we may know what is expected from us, and may render according to the benefit. ...We must never look upon our improvements but with a general mention of God's favour to us, of the honour he has put upon us, in entrusting us with his goods, and of that grace which is the spring and fountain of all the good that is in us or is done by us. For the truth is, the more we do for God, the more we are indebted to him for making use of us, and enabling us, for his service.

...God's good stewards have something to show for their diligence; Show me thy faith by thy works. He that is a good man, let him show it, Jam. iii. 13. If we be careful in our spiritual trade, it will soon be seen by us, and our works will follow us, Rev. xiv. 13. Not that the saints will in the great day make mention of their own good deeds; no, Christ will do that for them (v. 35); but it intimates that they who faithfully improve their talents, shall have boldness in the day of Christ, 1 John ii. 28-iv. 17. And it is observable that he who had but two talents, gave up his account as cheerfully as he who had five; for our comfort, in the day of account, will be according to our faithfulness, not according to our usefulness; our sincerity, not our success; according to the uprightness of our hearts, not according to the degree of our opportunities.

The Bad Account of the Slothful Servant.

Observe:
His apology for himself, v. 24, 25. Though he had received but one talent, for that one he is called to account. The smallness of our receiving will not excuse us from a reckoning. None shall be called to an account for more than they have received; but for what we have, we must all account.

He owns the burying of his talent; I hid thy talent in the earth. He speaks as if that were no great fault; nay, as if he deserved praise for his prudence in putting it in a safe place, and running no hazards with it. Note, It is common for people to make a very light matter of that which will be their condemnation in the great day. Or, if he was conscious to himself that it was his fault, it intimates how easily slothful servants will be convicted in the judgment; there will need no great search for proof, for their own tongues shall fall upon them.

What he makes his excuse; I knew that thou were a hard man, and I was afraid. Good thought of God would beget love, and that love would make us diligent and faithful; but hard thoughts of God beget fear, and that fear makes us slothful and unfaithful.

His excuse bespeaks,

1. The sentiments of an enemy; I knew thee, that thou art a hard man. This was like that wicked saying of the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal, Ezek. xviii. 25. Thus his defence is his offence. The foolishness of man perverteth his way, and then, as if that would mend the matter, his heart fretteth against the Lord. This is covering the transgression, as Adam, who implicitly laid the fault on God himself; The woman which thou gavest me. Note, Carnal hearts are apt to conceive false and wicked opinions concerning God, and with them to harden themselves in their evil ways. Observe how confidently he speaks; I knew thee to be so. How could he know him to be so? What iniquity have we or our fathers found in him? Jer. ii. 5. Wherein has he wearied us with his work, or deceived us in his wages? Mic. vi. 3. Has he been a wilderness to us, or a land of darkness? Thus long God has governed the world, and may ask with more reason than Samuel himself could, Whom have I defrauded? or whom have I oppressed? Does not all the world know the contrary, that he is so far from being a hard master, that the earth is full of his goodness, so far from reaping where he sowed not, that he sows a great deal where he reaps nothing? For he causes the sun to shine, and his rain to fall, upon the evil and unthankful, and fills their hearts with food and gladness who say to the Almighty, Depart from us.

This suggestion bespeaks the common reproach which wicked people cast upon God, as if all the blame of their sin and ruin lay at his door, for denying them his grace; whereas it is certain that never any who faithfully improved the common grace they had, perished for want of special grace; nor can any show what could in reason have been done more for an unfruitful vineyard than God has done in it. God does not demand brick, and deny straw; no, whatever is required in the covenant, is promised in the covenant; so that if we perish, it is owing to ourselves.

2. The spirit of a slave; I was afraid, This ill affection toward God arose from his false notions of him; and nothing is more unworthy of God, nor more hinders our duty to him, than slavish fear. This has bondage and torment, and is directly opposite to that entire love which the great commandment requires. Note, Hard thoughts of God drive us from, and cramp us in his service. Those who think it impossible to please him, and in vain to serve him, will do nothing to purpose in religion.

His Lord's Answer to this Apology.

His plea will stand him in no stead, it is overruled, nay, it is made to turn against him, and he is struck speechless with it; for here we have his conviction and his condemnation.

First, His conviction, v. 26, 27. Two things he is convicted of.

1. Slothfulness; Thou wicked and slothful servant. Note, Slothful servants are wicked servants, and will be reckoned with as such by their master, for he that is slothful in his work, and neglects the good that God has commanded, is brother to him that is a great waster, by doing the evil that God has forbidden, Prov. xviii. 9. He that is careless in God's work, is near akin to him that is busy in the devil's work. Satis est mali nihil fecisse boni--To do no good is to incur very serious blame. Omissions are sins, and must come into judgment; slothfulness makes way for wickedness; all become filthy, for there is none that doeth good, Ps. xiv. 3. When the house is empty, the unclean spirit takes possession. Those that are idle in the affairs of their souls, are not only idle, but something worse, 1 Tim. v. 13. When men sleep, the enemy sows tares.

2. Self-contradiction (v. 26, 27); Thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not: thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers. Note, The hard thoughts which sinners have of God, though false and unjust, will be so far from justifying their wickedness and slothfulness, that they will rather aggravate and add to their guilt.

"If thou didst think me to be a hard master, and therefore dared not trade with the money thyself, for fear of losing by it, and being made to stand to the loss, yet thou mightest have put it into the hands of the bankers ..... and then at my coming, if I could not have had the greater improvement, by trade and merchandize (as of the other talents), yet I might have had the less improvement, of bare interest, and should have received my own with usury;" Note, If we could not, or dare not, do what we would, yet that excuse will not serve, when it will be made to appear that we did not do what we could and should have done. If we could not find in our hearts to venture upon more difficult and hazardous services, yet will that justify us in shrinking from those that were more safe and easy? Something is better than nothing; if we fail of showing our courage in bold enterprises, yet we must not fail to testify our good will in honest endeavours; and our Master will not despise the day of small things.

The Slothful Servant is Sentenced

1. To be deprived of his talent (v. 28, 29); Take therefore the talent from him. The talents were first disposed of by the Master, as an absolute Owner, but this was now disposed of by him as a Judge; he takes it from the unfaithful servant, to punish him, and gives it to him that was eminently faithful, to reward him. And the meaning of this part of the parable we have in the reason of the sentence (v. 29), To every one that hath shall be given.

This may be applied,

(1.) To the blessings of this life--worldly wealth and possessions. These we are entrusted with, to be used for the glory of God, and the good of those about us. Now he that hath these things, and useth them for these ends, he shall have abundance; perhaps abundance of the things themselves, at least, abundance of comfort in them, and of better things; but from him that hath not, that is, that hath these things as if he had them not, had not power to eat of them, or to do good with (Avaro deest, tam quod habet, quam quod non habet--The miser may be considered as destitute of what he has, as well as of what he has not), they shall be taken away. Solomon explains this, Prov. xi. 24. There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, and it tendeth to poverty. Giving to the poor is trading with what we have, and the returns will be rich; it will multiply the meal in the barrel, and the oil in the cruse: but those that are sordid, and niggardly, and uncharitable, will find that those riches which are so got, perish by evil travail, Eccl. v. 13, 14. Sometimes Providence strangely transfers estates from those that do no good with them to those that do; they are gathered for him that will pity the poor, Prov. xxviii. 8. See Prov. xiii. 22; Job xxvii. 16, 17; Eccl. ii. 26.

(2.) We may apply it to the means of grace. They who are diligent in improving the opportunities they have, God will enlarge them, will set before them an open door (Rev. iii. 8); but they who know not the day of their visitation, shall have the things that belong to their peace hid from their eyes. For proof of this, go see what God did to Shiloh, Jer. vii. 12.

(3.) We may apply it to the common gifts of the Spirit. He that hath these, and doeth good with them, shall have abundance; these gifts improve by exercise, and brighten by being used; the more we do, the more we may do, in religion; but those who stir not up the gift that is in them, who do not exert themselves according to their capacity, their gifts rust, and decay, and go out like a neglected fire.


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