God’s Servants - The Faithful and the Evil
“Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 24:45-51)
In these verses our Lord gives us a parable in which he describes two servants, one faithful, the other evil. This parable is a word of instruction, inspiration, and warning to those men who stand in the house of God as his servants. It speaks of both the faithful and the evil as the Lord’s servants. The fact is all things serve the gracious purposes of God toward his elect (Pro. 16:4; 21:1; Ps. 76:10). Satan is as much the servant of God, though unwillingly, as Gabriel is willingly. The fallen angels, the very demons of hell, are as fully the servants of God, though they despise him, as are the angels of heaven who adore him. Every human being is the servant of God, too. Some of us rejoice in that fact. What a privilege it is to believing men and women to serve the living God! Others despise the thought of God’s dominion; but they are, nonetheless, under his dominion and serve his purposes (Rom. 8:28; 11:36; Eph. 1:11). Our God rules everywhere, everything, and everyone, totally and absolutely. Even those evil men who are false prophets and messengers of Satan, deceiving the souls of men with their perverse doctrine, are the servants of our God, sovereignly used by him to accomplish his purpose (1 Cor. 11:19).
In verses 45-47 our Lord gives us a description of God’s faithful servants.
“Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.”
Without question, the instruction of this parable may be applied to every believer in his particular calling in life. We who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ gladly bow to his dominion as our Lord. We are his servants. Our lives are spent in his service. Whatever your particular gifts are, whatever your station in life may be, that is the place of your calling and service in the kingdom of God, the place in which you are to use your gifts for the glory of Christ and the good of his people. Be God’s faithful servant where you are.
Those men who are gifted of God to be preachers and teachers in his church, but are not called and gifted as pastors are also his servants, and ought to be highly regarded as such. God sometimes gives a congregation men who are clearly gifted by his grace as preachers and teachers of the Word, gifted to preach the gospel of his free grace in Christ. They are gifted teachers in his church, though not called of God to be pastors. They are to be heard and treated with the respect that their gifts demand as the servants of God. But, in this parable, our Savior is talking about that specific group of men who are trusted with the care of God’s household as pastors of local churches (v. 45).
You may never be a pastor; but you will as long as you are in this world need the services of a faithful pastor. You will be wise to know what to expect from God’s servant, how to pray for him, and how best to assist him in the work God has put in his hands. And you need to know how to recognize and distinguish between a faithful and an evil servant. So the message of this parable is a message of importance to you.
In these verses our Lord Jesus Christ describes his faithful servant, a faithful gospel preacher, a faithful pastor by four things in which he is distinguished from a self-serving false prophet. These four things describe and are characteristic of God’s true servants in every age of the church and in every place where gospel churches are found.
God’s servant is here described as one “whom his Lord hath made ruler over his household.” The church of God is his household, the household of faith, and the household of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is God’s family and God’s church, not the pastor’s, not yours, not this or that denomination’s, but the Lord’s! It is God’s house and God’s temple (1 Cor. 3:16-17; Eph. 3:15; 1 Tim. 3:15).
In the family of God there are fathers, young men, and children. There are some who are strong and some who are weak. There are some who are very independent and need little attention, and some who need a good bit of attention. Each one has been placed in his house and family exactly according to the Master’s will. God ordained pastors have been placed by him as rulers over his household. They are not tyrants, dictators, or lords over God’s household, but rulers placed over the house to govern it as stewards under Christ (Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 3:4-5; Heb. 13:7, 17).
In Kentucky, we have June bugs every summer, big green beetles that appear in June. When I was a boy in North Carolina, we had them, too. Us boys loved to catch them, tie strings around one of their legs, and fly them. The bugs flew with great eagerness; but they could not fly anywhere the boy holding the string did not want them to fly. Most preachers these days are what I call, “June bug preachers.” The church, the deacon board, the board of elders, or the denomination has a string tied to their legs and controls everything they do, like a little boy ties a string around a June bug’s leg. Not God’s servants. God’s servants serve his people; but they are not controlled by them.
Where in the Word of God can you find a prophet, or a preacher who was ruled, governed, or even influenced by the will of the people to whom he was sent to preach? The only preacher like that you can find in this Book is a hireling prophet. God’s servants are responsible under God to rule his house in exactly the same way as a husband is responsible under God to rule his household (1 Tim. 3:4-5). They rule the house of God by the Word of God, according to the will of God; and do so in love for Christ and his people; but they rule.
A faithful steward rules his Master’s house exactly according to his Master’s will. As he does, all in the house are expected to honor and obey the steward in charge of the house. And that household is most honorable and most happy that is well-governed, with each member of the family knowing his place, working together with every other member in love, for the welfare of the whole family.
The pastor’s work is “to give them meat in due season.” It is the work, the calling, and the responsibility of gospel preachers to feed the church of God with knowledge and understanding, with the meat of gospel truth (Jer. 3:15; Acts 20:28). It is not the pastor’s work to be a good socializer, an analyst, a therapist, a counselor, a priest, or a community door knocker. God’s servants are preachers! They feed the house of God by preaching the gospel, by opening the bread of life and dispensing it to the family. If a pastor does that, he has to spend his time in his study, not running the roads (2 Tim. 2:15). It is the work of the pastor “to give,” not to take (Ezek. 34:7-8). And that which is to be given is meat, “meat” of grace.
It is not our business to enact laws, but to give meat. It is not our business to regulate the lives of men, but to feed their souls. And that with which God’s servants feed his children is the sweet meat of the gospel, not the husks of intellectualism, the mists of mysticism, the stones of useless doctrinal speculation, or the poison of heresy. God’s servants come with the meat of saving grace in the knowledge of Christ, declaring ruin by the fall, redemption by the blood, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit!
The pastor is to feed the saints of God with “meat in due season.” The Word of God must be rightly divided; and each member of the family must be fed with the meat that is suitable for him at the time: grace for the guilty, pardon for the fallen, redemption for the ruined, righteousness for the wicked, cleansing for the defiled, reproof for the wayward, comfort for the troubled, strength for the weak, and Christ for all.
Our Lord describes his servants as men with these two traits of character: “faithful and wise.” God’s servants are faithful men (1 Cor. 4:2). They are stewards of the mysteries of God, of the manifold grace of God, the unsearchable riches of Christ (1 Cor. 4:1; 1 Pet. 4:10; Eph. 3:8). John Gill wrote, “They are faithful to the trust reposed in them... They preach the pure gospel of Christ, and the whole of it; conceal no part, nor keep anything of it; seek not to please men, but God; neither seek their own things, their ease, honor, and profit, but the glory of God, the honor of Christ, and the good of souls; and abide by the truths, cause, and interest of the Redeemer at all costs.” Matthew Henry’s comments on the faithfulness of God’s servants are of equal importance. — “A faithful minister of Jesus Christ is one that sincerely designs his Master’s honor, not his own; delivers the whole counsel of God, not his own fancies and conceits; follows Christ’s institutions and adheres to them; regards the meanest, reproves the greatest, and doth not respect persons.”
As they are faithful, God’s servants are wise. They are neither faithful nor wise by nature; but God has made them both faithful and wise by grace and by his gifts upon them, making them fit and able ministers of the gospel. They are well instructed in the things of God, given a clear understanding in the doctrines of the gospel, and wisely exercise their talents and gifts for the glory of God. They seek constantly to improve their knowledge, make the best use of their time, and manage their lives to best serve Christ and his people. God graciously gives his servants wisdom to guide and direct his people, and to care for them, like a father guides and cares for his family.
The faithful and wise pastor is a man who is doing what God called him to do (v. 46). He always has something to do; and he is always found doing what he has been sent and called of God to do, doing his Master’s will and work, feeding his sheep. The faithful and wise servant is constant in his labor, persevering in the work God has put into his hands.
“Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods” (v. 47). — The Scriptures nowhere teach, or even imply, that there shall be degrees of reward in heaven. That is contrary to everything taught in the gospel (Rom. 8:17). Certainly, our Lord does not exalt one servant in his kingdom above another. But God does reward faithfulness, both in this world and in the world to come. Those who are faithful over a few things shall be made Lord over many things (Luke 19:17). Frequently, God honors faithful service by giving greater service to perform. God’s servants shall find immensely great reward in seeing those for whom they have labored around the throne of Christ in glory (1 Thess. 2:19). And God’s faithful and wise servants shall themselves inherit all things with Christ in glory (John 17:5, 20).
In verses 48-50 our Lord describes those men who are evil servants in the house of God.
“But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of.”
Here, again, our Lord gives us four things, which are descriptive of that man who is a false prophet, an evil servant in the house of God. First, he is a man of unbelief, saying “My Lord delayeth his coming.” That is his character.
Second, in his conduct, he is abusive. The unfaithful servant is judgmental. Presuming he is superior to those he serves, rather than feeding them, he beats them (v. 49). Because he can be controlled and motivated only by law, he beats others with the threats of the law, trying to get them to serve him. The false prophet has no interest in persuading anyone to serve God. He only uses the name of God to get people to serve him, and calls serving him honoring God.
Third, when the Lord Jesus comes, he will be taken by surprise. The faithful servant labors for Christ upon the tip-toe of faith and expectation, “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 1:21), “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). But self-serving, unfaithful servants, while they may talk much about his coming, do not look for his coming (v. 50). They are only looking for what they can get for themselves.
Fourth, he shall be cast into hell when the Lord comes. — “And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v.51)
In the light of these things I urge you, “to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thess. 5:12-13). Pray for them, “that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you” (2 Thess. 3:1). Faithful gospel preachers are God’s gift to his church. They are to be highly esteemed for their work’s sake. They are men God has set as watchmen over your soul upon the walls of Zion. They never hold their peace, but ever preach Christ to you (Isa. 62:6-7).
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion.” (Isaiah 52:7-8)
The evil servants, self-serving false prophets, are messengers of Satan, “transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Cor. 11:15). They are well described by Isaiah. — “His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter” (Isa. 56:10-11).