There are many people who attend church, and who may even claim to believe in Jesus Christ, but neglect serving Him out of laziness, carelessness or stubbornness (there is even a term for such individuals – “pew-warmers”). According to the late bible teacher, Derek Prince, the bible warns that such individuals are in danger of outer darkness. Below are excerpts from the book The Spirit-filled Believer’s Handbook.
We shall now consider in greater detail the principles by which believers will be rewarded for their service. These are set forth by Christ in the form of two parables: the parable of the talents (see Matt. 25:14-30) and the parable of the minas (see Luke 19:11 -27).
The central theme of both parables is the same. Each concerns a man of wealth and authority who commits a certain sum to each of his servants to administer on his behalf and then takes a journey to a distant country. After a considerable lapse of time, this wealthy man returns and holds an individual reckoning with his servants as to the way in which each has handled the money committed to him.
In both parables three servants are mentioned individually: the first two are faithful in administering their master’s money; the third is unfaithful. This is how the money was distributed in the parable of the talents:
And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability (Matt. 25:15).
(A talent was a considerable quantity of money, perhaps as much as fifteen years’ wages.)
Notice that this verse reveals the principle according to which the talents are distributed: “to each according to his own ability.” That is, God distributes to each believer the maximum number of talents that his own ability will permit him to use effectively. God does not give to any believer either more or less than he is able to use effectively.
In this parable the first two servants each achieved an increase of 100 percent. The servant who had received five talents gained five more; the servant who had received two talents gained two more. The lord assessed the faithfulness of these servants not by their net gain but by their percentage increase. The servant who gained five talents was not considered more faithful than the servant who had gained two talents, although his net gain in talents was greater. Rather, each of these servants was considered equally faithful because each had achieved the same proportionate increase: 100 percent.
This is indicated by the fact that the words of commendation spoken to these two servants, recorded in Matthew 25:21 and 23, are exactly the same in each verse.
His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.”
Each of them had originally received the maximum number of talents that his ability would allow him to use effectively; each of them had achieved the maximum gain possible – 100 percent. It is on their faithfulness, as expressed in the percentage increase achieved, that their judgment is based. The fact that one man originally received five talents and the other two is not the basis on which their faithfulness is assessed.
In this parable of the talents the third servant merely hid the one talent he had received and later brought it back to his lord in exactly the same condition in which he had received it. For this he was not only deprived of any reward, but he was also totally and finally rejected and cast out from his lord’s presence.
But his lord answered and said to him, “You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. Therefore you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 25:26-30).
There can be no doubt whatever about the meaning of these words. This third servant not only received no reward; he was actually deprived of the one talent which he had originally received, and he himself was cast out from his lord’s presence.
Let us now tum to the parable of the minas in Luke 19. (A mina was a quantity of money equivalent to about three months’ wages.)
In this parable ten servants are mentioned, although only the cases of three of them are described in detail. Originally, all ten servants received the same amount committed to them by their lord: one mina each.
Of the three servants whose cases are described, the first gained ten minas, the second gained five minas, and the third merely hid his mina away and eventually brought it back in the same condition in which he had received it.
It would appear that each of these three servants possessed equal ability, since each received the same amount committed to him. However, they were not equally faithful. The first gained twice as much with his mina as the second. For this reason his reward was twice as great.
Then came the first, saying, “Master, your mina has earned ten minas.” And he said to him, “Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.” And the second came, saying, “Master, your mina has earned five minas.” Likewise he said to him, “You also be over five cities” (Luke 19: 16-19).
We notice that, in two respects, the reward of the first servant was greater than that of the second. First, the first servant was specifically commended by his lord as a good servant; the second servant received no such special commendation. Second, the first servant was given authority over ten cities; the second servant was given authority only over five cities. That is to say, their rewards were in exact proportion to the increase which each had achieved.
One further conclusion we may draw from this parable is that rewards for serving Christ faithfully in this present age will consist in positions of authority and responsibility in the administration of Christ’s kingdom in the following age. In other words, faithful service in the present age leads to continued and extended opportunities of service in the next age. For those who truly love Christ there can be no greater joy or privilege than that of continuing to serve their Lord. For those who are faithful, this privilege, begun here in time, will be extended throughout the ages of eternity.
In this parable of the minas, as in that of the talents, the third servant was condemned for being unfaithful and failing to make any use at all of the mina committed to him.
And he said to him, “Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow. Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?” And he said to those who stood by, “Take the mina from him, and give it to him who has ten minas” (Luke 19:22-24).
In this parable, as in that of the talents, the unfaithful servant not only received no reward, but even the one mina he had originally received was taken away from him. The final end of the servant with the one mina is not revealed in this parable. However, it seems reasonable to conclude that, like the unfaithful servant in the parable of the talents, he was rejected and cast out from his lord’s presence.
In both these parables alike, failure to make active use of the talent or mina committed to each servant is described by the very strong word wicked. In each case the lord commences his judgment of the unfaithful servant by the phrase “you wicked servant.”
From this we learn that, by God’s standards, wickedness consists not only in actively doing that which is bad, but just as much in the failure to do good when it lies within our power to do it.
Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin (James 4: 17).
In other words, the sins of omission are no less serious than the sins of commission.
The same thought is contained in Malachi’s prophetic revelation of God’s judgment.
Then you shall again discern
Between the righteous and the wicked,
Between one who serves God
And one who does not serve Him (Mal. 3:18).
Here we find a clear and sharp distinction made by God between the righteous and the wicked. The righteous are defined as those who serve God; the wicked as those who do not serve God. Once again the lesson is plain: Not to serve God is in itself wickedness.
It was this wickedness that led to the condemnation and rejection of the unfaithful servant in each of the two parables we have studied. In neither of these parables did the rejected servant do anything evil; in each case the ground of his rejection was merely that he failed to do the good which it was in his power to do. In both these parables Christ indicates that this same principle of judgment will be applied to all those who claim to be His followers and servants.
In the previous chapter we examined the passage that speaks about the Christian whose works are rejected and burned up in the fire of judgment, yet he himself is saved (see 1 Cor. 3: 11-15). On the other hand, in the parables which we have now considered, it appears that the unfaithful servant is not only deprived of any reward, but he himself is rejected and cast out forever from his lord’s presence.
This naturally leads us to ask an important question: What is the difference, in God’s estimation, of these two cases? Why should it be that, in the case described by Paul, the man’s works are rejected but he himself is saved, whereas in the parable of Jesus the unfaithful servant not only loses his reward but is himself also rejected and cast out?
The difference appears to be this. In the case described by Paul, the man actually did try to do something active for his master; in fact, the examples of wood, hay and straw suggest that he did a great deal. However, his work was not of the kind or quality that would stand the test of fire. Yet this activity of his – though misguided and unrewarded – did at least serve to prove that his actual faith in Christ was genuine. For this reason the salvation of his soul was assured even though his works were burned up.
On the other hand, the unfaithful servant with the one talent did nothing at all for his master – either good or bad. This failure to act at all showed that his profession of faith and service was vain and insincere.
Faith without works is dead also (James 2:26).
A faith that does not result in activity of any kind is a dead faith; it is empty, worthless, insincere. Not only does it fail to produce any works of service which can be rewarded; it even fails to secure for the one who professes it the salvation of his own soul. A person who professes faith in Christ without ever seeking to serve Christ actively is a hypocrite.
For this reason, the judgment of such a person is to be cast “into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” A careful examination of passages concerning similar judgments (see Matt. 24:51 and Luke 12:46) shows that this place of outer darkness, with its weeping and gnashing of teeth, is the place reserved for the hypocrite and the unbeliever. The unfaithful servant who does nothing at all for his master must take his place in this same category; he is in reality a hypocrite and an unbeliever. The place appointed for him is outer darkness.