Gospel Words: 9. Household Servant Faithful or Evil

Matthew 24:45‑51  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 8
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IT is the first part in our Lord’s prophecy at Olivet which bears directly on Christian profession. This therefore is wholly distinct from the parable of the fig-tree which refers to Israel, as all the preceding discourse did, and accordingly from ver. 15 occupied with the land and the sanctuary, the sabbath day, and the tribulation without parallel for the Jews, with signs before and after, heed being expressly claimed to Daniel the prophet, and illustration drawn from the deluge in Noah preserved through it, not from Enoch caught up before it.
Here begins that which is so general that it applies wherever the Lord’s name is called on, Jewish peculiarities being quite dropt. The Lord takes the place of other objects. His service in His house is without restriction or addition the prominent character. Relationship to Him and His rules exclusively. We shall find in the third and last parable of the series His gifts conferred on His servants according to His sovereign will, with which each is called to trade according to the figure of talents committed for profit. But here it is the supply of His house with food in season.
“Who then is the faithful and wise bondman, whom the lord set over his household to give them food in season? Blessed [is] that bondman whom his lord on coming shall find thus doing. Verily I say to you, that he will set him over all that he hath. But if the evil bondman say in his heart, My lord delayeth [to come], and begin to beat his fellow bondman, and eat and drink with the drunken, the lord of the bondman shall come in a day which he expecteth not, and in an hour which he knoweth not, and shall cut him in two, and appoint his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth” (vers. 45-51).
It is clear that the Lord looks for faithful and prudent stewardship in His absence from him who is entrusted with the charge of His household, and that, when He is come, He will deal with this responsibility. Did the bondman dispense food in due time? Blessed that bondman whom his Lord on coming shall find thus doing! It is His mind and will and grace about His own. Already elsewhere He had assured His own sheep that entering by Him they should be saved, enjoy liberty, and find pasture. It is in the last particular that the bondman is here made responsible; and this would test him. Faith and love alone render any one faithful and wise; they attach the heart to the household through devotedness to the Lord. Loving Him leads out to feeding His sheep and His lambs; as the Lord puts it to Peter, restored and reinstated after his fall: which by grace would only make him more tenderly considerate of others. And him who thus nourishes duly Christ’s household He will set at the head of His inheritance by and by, when He returns the Heir of all things. It is only Christianity which is based on the Lord already come and about to return, while His own serve during His absence; and hence the prominence given to this in the third parable.
But solemn beyond expression is the doom of the man who, professing to be his Lord’s bondman, arrogates to himself dominion, and is no model to the flock, but lords it as his possession. What can be conceived more opposed to the mind which was in Christ Jesus? He in infinite pity to the lost and to the glory of God the Father emptied Himself, taking a bondman’s form, coming though yet in the likeness of men; and found in figure as a man He humbled Himself, becoming obedient as far as death, yea, death of the cross. The evil bondman, oblivious of all and heartlessly inconsistent, seeks a place of power and pride; he courts the world as one who never died to flesh nor was crucified to the world, but begins to beat his fellow bondmen, and eats and drinks with the drunken. There is both ecclesiastical oppression and commerce with the world, even in its self-indulgent dissoluteness.
Such is just the general aspect of Christendom for long ages, as at the present moment. There may be differences of degree here or there. But the picture applies to Catholics and Protestants, nationals and dissenters. They are not separate from the world; nor do they walk in the Spirit, as those that crucified the flesh with its passions and its lusts; they boast in man and his literary elevation and his scientific inventions, like heathen that know not God.
And what does the Lord indicate as the occasion if not cause of so ruinous a departure? “But if the evil bondman say in his heart, My lord delayeth [to come].” No one betrays the evil of his unfaithfulness so much as a faithless professor of Christ. And here the Lord puts His finger on his heart putting off His own coming again as a living practical truth. Abandoning that hope, the heart can soon learn to value and associate with the world, to slight and ill-treat Christ’s household.
What is the end? “The lord of that bondman shall come in a day which he expecteth not, and in an hour which he knoweth not, and shall cut him in two, and appoint his portion with the hypocrites; and there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.” God’s wrath is revealed from heaven upon all impiety, and unrighteousness of men holding the truth in unrighteousness. The Jew if wicked is worse than the Gentile; the professing Christian if evil is more guilty than either. His portion shall be, not with bondmen only, but with the hypocrites.
How is it with you, my reader? You, most of you, are neither Jews nor heathen; are you not a professing Christian? Do you not then own your evil if you slight the word of God, and especially the gospel? Any one who disregarded Moses’ law died without mercy on the strength of two or three witnesses: of how much worse punishment, think you, shall he be judged deserving that trod under foot the Son of God, and esteemed the blood of the covenant whereby he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? But the door of grace is still open. Oh flee for refuge to Him Who is set before you, the only yet sure Savior of the lost. Delay is proverbially dangerous; and nowhere is danger so great as in putting off the word of salvation which God has sent you. For as He was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, when He sent Him into it, so even when Christ was rejected, God made Him Who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made divine righteousness in Him.