And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
— Matthew 25:30
My grandfather was a German immigrant who spoke no English when he arrived at Ellis Island in New York’s harbor, so he had to work very hard to achieve anything in his new life in America. Because he had no time to go to school to learn English, the best job he could get was to work as a janitor. In the course of his janitorial duties, my grandfather pulled discarded tin cans out of the kitchen garbage in the tall skyscraper he cleaned every night. The cans had pictures of vegetables and fruit on them, and he found out that by comparing the words on the cans to the pictures, he could start teaching himself how to read and speak English.
As the years passed, my grandfather worked hard to educate himself and eventually received highest honors in his field of engineering. As he raised his son — my father — Grandfather went on to instill the principles of diligence and hard work into him. Afterward, my father passed those same principles on to me.
Through the years, our family has been very devoted to any task we’ve been given, believing that we have a responsibility to do the best job possible for the people we are called to serve. Because of this work ethic that was instilled in me by my parents, I find laziness to be completely intolerable. I refuse to permit lazy people to be a part of my team!
This intolerance for laziness must also have been the attitude that Jesus felt about lazy people. In His parable of the talents, Jesus told us of a master who, before embarking on a long journey, entrusted his money into the hands of three servants. The master expected the servants to increase what he had given them. However, Matthew 25:19-23 tells us that when this master returned, he found that only the first two servants had increased what He had entrusted to them.
In verse 21, the Bible tells us the master returned and discovered that the first servant doubled his investment. When the master saw this increase, he said, “…Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” In verse 23, the master was similarly thrilled when he found out the second servant had doubled his investment as well: “His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”
But why did the master call their success a “few things”? Their accomplishment wasn’t small. In fact, it was huge. Yet the master said to the first two servants, “…Thou hast been faithful over a few things….” His words “over a few things” seem to indicate that what they had done wasn’t such a big deal after all. I’m sure the servants were dumbfounded. What did their master mean? Was he belittling what they had accomplished?
What the first two servants had achieved was fantastic, but it was just the beginning. They had proven themselves to be hardworking and capable. They had demonstrated responsibility. The master now knew they could be trusted with true riches. Because these two stewards had proven themselves faithful, the master saw a bright future ahead for them. As is always true with God, faithfulness resulted in promotion and greater responsibilities. The first two stewards had passed a test on a lower level. Now their master was satisfied to thrust them upward into even more monumental life assignments.
But when the master came to the third servant and saw that he had done nothing with the money given to him, he told the servant, “…Thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury” (vv. 26,27).
It is obvious that this third servant was not ignorant of the master’s expectation. He knew that the master expected increase from him. In fact, he told them, “Thou knewest.” This means the third servant couldn’t pretend to be ignorant. He knew that the master expected him to do something significant with what had been entrusted to him.
This master would accept no excuses for a lack of increase. It didn’t matter how difficult the situation, how many odds were against his servants, or how impossible it seemed, the master still expected increase. His servants understood that this was his expectation. Thus, the servant who did nothing with his talent found himself in a horrible predicament.
His master called him, “Thou wicked and slothful servant” (Matthew 25:26). As if this isn’t bad enough, in Matthew 25:30 his master called him “the unprofitable servant.” Before we go any further, let’s stop to examine these words, for they vividly express Jesus’ personal sentiment toward people who possess great potential but never develop it due to laziness.
Let’s look first at Matthew 25:26, where Jesus calls the non-productive servant “thou wicked and slothful servant.” The words “wicked and slothful” are taken from the single Greek word okneros. This word means lazy or idle. It carries the idea of a person who has a do-nothing, lethargic, lackadaisical, apathetic, indifferent, lukewarm attitude toward life.
This is a strong word, chosen by the Holy Spirit to tell us how strongly Jesus feels about those who are apathetic and lethargic about their spiritual lives and life assignments. Jesus has no taste for lackadaisical people. People who are lukewarm about their God-given abilities or who are indifferent about their assignments leave a sickening taste in the Lord’s mouth. He loves the person, but He strongly dislikes the lazy attitudes that keep them from reaching their maximum potential.
In Matthew 25:30, Jesus continues by calling this non-productive servant “the unprofitable servant.” The word “unprofitable” is from the Greek word achreios, which literally means useless. A literal translation in today’s vernacular would be the good-for-nothing servant.
This word describes a person whose existence in life is absolutely pointless. He is an aimless, purposeless person who contributes nothing to life. This person’s value has never been realized because he does nothing but take up space on the face of the planet. But like everyone else, this person had a choice. He could have become something significant if he had used what was entrusted to him and had done what God asked him to do.
As I read these words of Jesus, it makes me personally thankful that my parents taught me good work ethics and ingrained in me the importance of doing a more than satisfactory job for anyone I am called to serve. This pertains to serving God, serving people, serving my congregation, or serving any purpose that is entrusted to my care. Jesus expects the best I can do. I know that if I do anything less than my best, I have not done what He expects of me. Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25 shouts this message to all of us!
Do you need to come up to a higher level by working on your work ethic? If so, make the decision to do so today. Jesus expects you to do the best you can do. Are you giving Him your best at church? Are you giving Him your best at the workplace, doing your job with the highest level of ability you possess? If Jesus came to evaluate your work, would He find it effective and satisfactory, or defective and lacking?
Never forget that Colossians 3:17 commands you: “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Why don’t you take a few minutes today to ask Jesus to help you be better at your job, to give more effort than you’ve ever given before, and to help you adjust your attitude so you can become a high-level performer at whatever task is assigned to you?
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I am sorry for any laziness that I’ve allowed in my life. Yes, I know I can do so much more than I’ve done. I haven’t applied myself with all my heart and strength; instead, I’ve permitted myself to slip by at a mediocre level. I have done enough to keep my job, but I haven’t done enough to deserve a promotion or a salary increase. Forgive me for complaining that I don’t make enough money when the truth is that I haven’t done my best work. I sincerely ask You to help me change my attitude and to increase my level of work performance.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I am a good worker and that I have a great attitude! I am exactly the kind of person God can use and bless — and I am exactly the kind of employee that my employer is thrilled to have in his department, organization, or business. I work so hard and do such good work that I bring many blessings and benefits to those who are over me in authority. Because I am around, I make them look better! God rewards me for being faithful. My striving toward excellence today will lead to my promotion and financial increase tomorrow!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. If Jesus were to come and personally inspect your attitude toward work and your actual work performance, what kind of evaluation do you think He would give you? (You may as well be honest, because Jesus is watching your attitude and your work all the time!)
2. If you were looking for someone to promote, would you want to promote someone who had an attitude like yours or who worked like you do? If your answer is yes, thank God for it! If your answer is no, why wouldn’t you want to promote someone like you?
3. What do you think are the top ten attitudes that make an employer so satisfied with an employee that he would want to promote him to a higher position? It would be a good idea to write down these “top ten attitudes” and then take some time to think about what you can do to better maintain these attitudes in your own life.