The Talents & the Minas (3)
The Parable of the
Talents shows that
a genuine child of God
may for a time be cast
into the outer
“Cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness! There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
— Matthew 25:30
In the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 the unfaithful servant is cast into the outer darkness. Some feel this means he is “cast forever out of the Lord’s presence,” as one commentary says, and thus he must never have been a real believer in the first place.
To take such a view, however, is to try to force a certain theology on the Scripture, rather than allowing the Scripture to speak for itself to learn what it is showing us.
If instead we simply look at the parable as it is, it becomes clear that the Lord, as pictured by the master in this parable, certainly recognized him as a genuine believer, or servant, even if others do not. First of all, the master gave him a gift for service, just as he did the other servants. Moreover, even though the master later took his gift away (v. 28), he never disowned him as his servant or say that he was a false servant. To the contrary, he still acknowledges him as a servant, though one that is “unprofitable.” Even when he rebukes him directly and severely, it is still as his servant:
“You wicked and lazy servant!”
— Matthew 25:26
With the master, it was not a question of whether this servant was genuine or not—he knew that he was, just as the others were also. Rather, the issue regarded how he discharged his responsibility for the gift he had been given.
His status as a genuine servant becomes even more clear when we compare him to the unfaithful servant in the Parable of the Minas. In that parable the unfaithful servant also has his gift taken from him (Luke 19:24), and his master, the nobleman, also tells him he is a “wicked servant” (v. 22). Again, however, the master does not indicate that he is anything other than a genuine servant. In all these respects the two unfaithful servants are exactly the same.
In this parable, however, while the nobelman has ten servants, there is also a group of “his citizens” that says, “We will not have this man to reign over us!” (Luke 19:14). The nobleman pronounces their fate after he returns from his journey:
“Bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.”
— Luke 19:27
So there is no question as to the fate of this group: they are slain, which shows they do represent the unbelievers. Therefore, the fact that the unfaithful servant in this parable is among the servants, rather than the slain, fully proves that he represents a genuine believer. And it is another strong indication that the unfaithful servant in the Parable of the Talents, whose situation is the same as his in several ways, also belongs to the Lord.
There is, however, a very significant difference between the two servants. That is, in the Parable of the Minas, the unfaithful servant receives no punishment beyond the Lord’s rebuke and losing, for a time, the opportunity to reign with his master. (To be clear, though, as mentioned in the previous Note, this is already very serious.) In contrast, as noted above, the unfaithful servant in the Parable of the Talents is cast into the outer darkness.
And why is his punishment so much greater? Because the gift he received, one talent, was so much greater in value than the gift the other servant received, one mina. (Many commentators say a talent was worth 6,000 denarri—a denarri was equal to a day’s wages—while a mina was worth only 100 denarri. See).
This exactly matches the Lord’s own word regarding His servants:
“That servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.
— Luke 12:48
The Lord here is not using a parable; rather, He is speaking a direct word, one which few Christians today seem to be aware of, or at least, take seriously. He is warning us that at His return those of His servants who did not do His will, will face the prospect of being beaten, either with many or with few stripes, depending on the measure of their responsibility before the Lord.
This does not mean they will lose their salvation, but that they will suffer some significant, though temporary, discipline at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). This will include, for some at least, being cast into the outer darkness for a period of time, before being brought back into the enjoyment of the Lord’s eternal salvation.
We need to ask in a serious way, then, just what is the “outer darkness?” That is what we will consider in our next note.
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— 5 April 2023 —