We’re the Third Servant

By Campus Missionary Mary Rowley, based on Matthew 25:14-30

As I read through the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, I’m struck by the third servant. I almost feel sorry for him. After all, what did he really do wrong? He just wanted to make sure that nothing happened to his master’s money. He had been entrusted with it and he didn’t want to break that trust, so he did the most logical thing: he buried it. That way, he could make sure it was safe. Why did this upset his master so much that he threw the servant “into the outer darkness” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (verse 30)?

The third servant interpreted his master’s command differently than the first two. They saw this as an opportunity for them to increase upon their master’s talents. They were go-getters who took risks and succeeded beyond expectations. The third servant was afraid of his master and so refused to take any risks at all. He took the command at its base meaning: take care of this money. That’s what he did. He took care of the money, but that wasn’t all his master wanted.

In the back of his mind, as he saw his fellow servants investing their money and making profits, I’m sure he figured out what his master wanted. But he doubted himself enough that he left the money where he had hidden it. He thought that keeping it to himself and returning it to his master when he came back would be enough. Obviously, it wasn’t.

God gives us much and commands us to use it, but often we are afraid. Maybe we’re scared of doing the wrong thing, or we doubt that we could ever succeed. We know what God has given us, but we choose to keep it to ourselves. We choose to misinterpret God’s command. He trusts us with the gifts he has given, so we should take care of the gifts. Right? We should make sure nothing could ever possibly go wrong.

God tells us that’s the wrong answer. He has given us much so that we can increase upon it, and when we do, he will give us even more. But if we choose to keep it hidden, even what we have will be taken away. The point of the story is that we have been given much, and one of the things we’ve been given is the ability to do the right thing with what we have. God will lead us, and if we make mistakes, he will guide us onto the right path. The problem is when we don’t take the first step.