We all know the verse, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” We lump it together and forget that Jesus could have used other words to describe what He was commending. In fact, if we as Americans were to commend someone, the words would be more like:
“Well done, thou hast accomplished a lot.”
“Well done, you crossed off all the items on your to-do list.”
At least, that’s what I would have valued.
But the context of Jesus’ statement is the Matthew 25:14-30 passage about the Parable of the Talents. You’ll remember that Jesus gave three different people three amounts: 5 talents, 2 talents and 1 talent “each according to his own ability” (verse 15), and then went on a journey.
First of all, the landowner/Jesus is realistic in His expectations. He didn’t expect everyone to be a “five talent” person. He knew their abilities and didn’t expect more from them than reasonable.
Then when the five-talent-person earns five more, He says, “well done.” When the two-talent-person earns two more, He says, “well done.” Only the one who does nothing is not commended.
The “well done” compliment has nothing to do with the amount. This tells me a lot and it goes along with the wording of the affirmation. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Jesus is ultimately commending goodness and faithfulness. Although He mentions the amount earned, His real compliment’s focus is on “being” and character, not “doing” and accomplishment. If the comment were about accomplishment, he would have given the five talent person a bigger compliment because that person earned more.
But the five-talent and the two-talent people received equal compliments. They were good and faithful. Goodness, I think, refers to the quality of their heart, their motives. They wanted to please their Master. And faithfulness, I think, refers to their consistency of actions. They weren’t deterred from wanting to please their Master. They took action that was consistent with following the Landowner’s directions. And they took action even though they risked not knowing what results they would earn. They trusted their Good Landowner’s Heart that He would know their own hearts.
The one-talent-person wasn’t good and faithful. He wasn’t good because his actions were all about protecting himself: “And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground.” (verse 25). He didn’t trust the Landowner’s good heart. He called God “a hard man” (verse 24). His heart and motives were all about himself, not God’s glory.
He wasn’t faithful because he did nothing. He didn’t make any effort, because again, he wanted to protect himself. He didn’t risk because he didn’t trust the Landowner’s good heart to value whatever effort he made, even if he only gained a single talent additional. I even wonder if he had put effort into earning more but somehow the economy suddenly fell, I think the Landowner would have understood. He still would have called him “good and faithful.”
I’m still meditating on the messages from this parable and Jesus’ commendations. For sure, I’m encouraged to know that Jesus values my heart more than my accomplishments. He sees my desire to please Him, even if things “earn” more or few talents. He wants me to succeed, not so much in results, but in character growth, in spiritual growth, and in expressing the fruit of the Spirit. That is what He values the most.
What speaks to you about these verses?
Do you think the Landowner would have called the one-talent-person “good and faithful” even if he hadn’t earned anything additional?
Isn’t it amazing how the Word of God speaks to us in deeper and deeper ways every time we seek Him in a passage?
Let me know what you think.