Lazy Wicked Servant (1 of 2)

parable talents 1

Q. In Matthew about the wicked lazy servant: “So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Does it mean being a complacent Christian leads to hell?

A. The key rests on whether the wicked lazy servant is a genuine Christian, and what does the outer darkness mean. Some believe the one-talent servant to be a complacent Christian because:

• He was a servant, just like the other two;
• He was entrusted with one bag of gold or one talent.

They believe the Lord would not entrust His wealth to unbelievers. Therefore the worthless servant must be a Christian. Those who subscribe to “once saved always saved (OSAS)” believe he lost his reward, and the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” meant remorse at his loss. Those who don’t hold to OSAS believe he lost his salvation, as “outer darkness” meant hell. Who is correct?

I do not hold either of these views. I believe the third servant is not saved at all. Here are my reasons:

1. Immediate Context. The parable of the talents in Mt 25 is sandwiched in between the parable of the 10 virgins and the parable of the sheep and the goat. I’ve argued in an earlier post that the five foolish virgins were not Christians because they had no oil:
and won’t repeat myself here. The goats were not Christians either. So based on the pattern contrasting the saved versus the unsaved, the third servant should be a non-Christian.

2. Text. The interpretation turns on the differences between the 3 servants. The amount the master entrusted to each, according to his ability, is different. However, since the first and second servants, who got 5 and 2 talents respectively, received identical commendation from the master for the same 100% return, I believe the key is not in the dollar amount received. The crux is in the effort in relation to the amount received, which in turn is dependent on the servant’s attitude towards the master.

The third servant’s opinion of his master is that:
• He was a hard man;
• Unreasonable – harvesting where he had not sown.
As a result he was afraid of losing the gold and hid it in the ground. I believe that’s only an excuse, because if he were truly afraid he would have done something to avert the master’s reprimand e.g. depositing the money with bankers to earn some interest. But he did nothing.

(To be continued)

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