A man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them… [The third servant said] “Master, I knew that you were a hard man…” Matthew 25:14ff
That third servant based his decision on what he knew. And what he knew about his master was apparently correct. When he describes his master as a hard man, the master does not deny it. He agrees with the servant. The servant had his facts in order.
The problem was the conclusion that he drew from those facts. The information he had about his master scared him. He took steps to try and protect himself from his master’s hard nature. I find it hard to blame anyone who tries to protect himself from the things that scare them.
I assume the two other servants also knew what the master was like. They also knew he was a hard man. He was the kind of guy who wanted his servants to do what he told them to do. Perhaps you have met people, employers, bosses like that.
The difference with the first two servants was, they knew the master was a hard man, but they listened to what he told them as he put his own money into their hands. Then the first two servants went out and did the best they could with it.
All three servants knew the master. They knew what he was like. And they all thought they knew what the master wanted. They thought the master would want to earn a little profit, a little interest, on the money he’d put in their hands. That is what all of them were thinking about when they made their reports.
But that is not what the master wanted. That is not what he was thinking about. The master was screening for people he could trust with more responsibility. Other versions of this parable mention that the assignment was not to take charge of more money, but to take charge as administrators of entire cities.
That’s what the master wanted. But he didn’t say anything about that at first.
And I would point out, the servants really didn’t need to know what the master was up to. They just needed to do something with the immediate task the master gave them. By doing that, they were getting a job interview with much greater significance than they realized.
What is going on here?
Isaiah 55 has one of the foundational insights about God and our ability to understand what he’s doing.
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. God is running things in ways that will always surprise you because he’s not thinking about things the way you are. The plan he is following in running his kingdom is not the way you would run things. But this is okay, because the things God asks you to do are always possible, even if you don’t understand why God wants things done that way. And the results are going to much more fabulous than you have imagined or can imagine.
What is important is not so much whether you understand all that is going on. God puts very simple instructions out there for us. Forgive others the wrong they do to you. Let it go. Show kindness, undeserved, unearned favor to people – give more than is asked – keep no record of wrongs.
The Psalmist wondered “who may dwell in your tabernacle, upon your holy hill?”
The answer is, the people who have it figured out! The people who have all their information in order!
No. That is not how God is doing it. Instead, he is looking for
“Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right… whoever does no evil to his friend… whoever has sworn to do no wrong and does not take back his word…” (Psalm 15)
With all his servants, knowing what the master is like is not the most important thing. The most important thing is what the servants DO.
The world and its desires, even the desires to understand, to figure it all out – those desires pass away. But whoever does the will of God lives forever.