A Hard Man to Do Business With

“Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man…” (Mt. 25:24).

There are three parables set in order in Matthew 25:  Foolish Virgins who knew better but did not prepare, a lazy servant who knew his Lord but did not invest and oblivious goats who knew there were people in need and did not care.  Neglect, laziness and apathy are hated by God and they are sure factors that exclude people from the Kingdom of God.

In Matthew 25:14-30 there is a parable about a master who was going away for a long time who entrusted three of his servants with his goods or his wealth and property.  The word talents refers initially to the measurement of coins given to these servants. But it is also a reference to the gifting or skills of people. It is the clear teaching of scripture that not only do we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in regeneration (Acts 10:45; 11:17) but it also teaches, “…every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.” (1 Cor 7:7).  We are responsible to guard those gifts (2 Tim 1:14) and invest them in other brethren for edification (1 Cor. 14: 12). We are never to neglect those gifts at any time (1 Tim 4:14). 

The Master desired his servants to invest and trade money for profit. That is good business.  Two of the three servants did well in their business transactions and the other was comatose.  Eventually, the Master came back to settle their accounts. Things were going well until the last servant met with him. The Master was not surprised and I can almost  hear the Master shouting. “Nothing?”  “You made nothing and you did nothing!”

Remember his Master was gone away for days, weeks, possibly months and the servant just buried the talents.  If he would have invested and lost the money at least the master would not have called him evil and lazy, maybe a few choice words for being  foolish. But he may still have kept his job. This guy had no sense even to walk down to the bank and invest in a mutual fund so at least he could have made some interest.  This set the master on fire and he was livid, “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.” (Prov 25:19).

Lazy probably thought that he needed some “Me” time. It was a while before the master came back and he began to think that something is holding his master up or in his twisted mind maybe he was never coming home and he could continue in his career of lollygagging.  That was a big mistake.  The Bible warns that Christ’s coming will catch many people by surprise, “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” (Mt 24:44).  We should be alert and prepared for his coming! I have to say this is not just the second coming or the rapture. Christ said he would come to his church in other ways (Rev. 2:16). Peter speaks of  “the day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:12).   Thayer says it is “that act by which God looks into and searches out the ways, deeds character, of men.”  That is why fiery trials come our way (1 Pet 4:12) to reveal and to refine. But they also burn away worthless things. In fact, Christ will sit in judgment and  inspect and test our work by fire (1 Cor 3:10-17) when interpretd correctly gives proper understanding to being saved by fire.

If talk is cheap his words are on sale.  His lame, pitiful excuses do not even make sense. It seems he thinks that his master works magic, “harvesting what he has not planted” to make money rather than plain hard work and elbow grease.  It is like he is saying, “I am not like you, and beside you will make money somehow, it’s not like I lost the money.”  Some of God’s servants are just plain lazy and full of excuses. That is characteristic of slothful people (Prov 22:13). They make everything hard (Prov. 15:19) and are  a liability. What is worse he is a talented but lazy man. You have to wonder if his Lord knew about this servant from the beginning. But as tough as the master is, he gave him an opportunity-a simple responsibility. He must have known the character of this servant before hand, thus he gives him a small amount, the least responsibility and if he proves himself he will get credit and be given more authority and all the benefits.

But he did not.  All he got was canned.

Jesus says, “The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.” (Luke 12:45-46).  There are those among the church who are hypocrites and play the role of a Christian but they are not.  Newsflash: laziness is not a fruit of the spirit. One day the Lord will come and see this counterfeit lifestyle and it is not going to be pretty. Being cut to pieces is also not very promising prospect. For those who only see God as a harmless tamed Deity-this is the red-letter section of the Bible that some Bible have that highlight the words of Christ. Jesus is speaking here.  No, this is not the Old Testament as many people whine when they see anything to do with justice or sentencing of evil doers. In this case,  our Master Jesus wants to be in the black, not the red. He wants the investment he has made in us to pay off in a life lived to the glory of God. He will see anything else as being ripped off.

You can hear the servant nervously saying,  “Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate.   I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.”(25:24 NLT). The lazy servant says, “I knew thee..”  This is when things got ugly. The lazy servant professes to know what kind of master he serves.  He is the only servant that says anything in this parable. The others are basically quiet and received a promotion from their employer for a job well done.  But this man knew how to talk.  He knew how to make excuses.  He was a servant who was a master at rationalizations. He did not say that he was not feeling well, he had a family issue or his vehicle was giving him problems. These are all the unforseen circumstances which employers expect.

The real conflict in this passage is not just the laziness. This man makes it personal with his Master. He said, “I knew thee.”   That comment crossed the line and ticked the unnamed Master off  and almost smacks of this lazy servant blaming the Master for his actions.  If I may paraphrase the unnamed Masters reply, “If you knew me you would have done this or that, but you did not, so do not know me as well as you think.” 

The servant was not incorrect in his view. The man he worked for was a harsh businessman. He was not only an austere investor (Luke 19:21) he was “hard” and callous. This does not mean that because the master was so hard he was unrighteous.  He trusted his servants to manage his affairs.  He gave them responsibility which he thought they could handle.  He was not so harsh that he did not pay and reward his servants in fact, we only see him harsh on the laziness of the last employee.

The master does not disparage his servant’s comments and say,  “No you are wrong, I am a kind, loving and laid back individual.  I am really hurt.”  The master expected that servant to invest His Lord’s money!  The Master Christ says, “The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him” (John 13:16).  It is like he tells the servant, “I work and so should you. You see here is how we are different, you bury, I plant. I work in such a way that everything pays off.  You acted like this money was yours and extension of yourself. But it was not. It was my money. I wanted you to do with it what I would do with it. You could have easily made a return on what I gave you.”

His language was the bottom line and he rewarded those that spoke it fluently.  “He says, Lord, you are a hard man to do business with.” This “hard”  view of  Our Lord and God is one the truths that most ministers bury beneath their pulpits. The Lord is tough. He saves us by Sovereign Grace, but he expects a one hundred percent return on his investment in our lives. Jesus teaches “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.”  (Luke 12:47-48). The idea of punishment set forth here presents an attribute of God often set aside or ignored, but it must be seen. God is holy, He is no joke, he means business and plays for keeps.

I think this is a problem for many so called Christians. You can hear the shouts, “God is a merciful God”  and people picketing such teaching in the church parking lot. They are confused about the “god” they serve which is more characterized by the sinful culture in which they live rather than the God of the scriptures. They have created a mental idol that is a  permissive, tolerant God, which is not his true nature. God says of his people in the Old Covenant that, “they know not me…” (Jer. 9:3).  You see that people today, especially in Christianity are just as or more ignorant of God, less conversant in scripture than at any period of history before. “For the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land…My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee. (Hosea 4:1,6). 

It sickens me how we will chant and sing, “I am a friend of God, he calls me friend”  and live in such disobedience.  But Jesus Christ tells us, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” (John 15:14-15).  Well, there you go. As a servant, he DID NOT know what his master was doing. You must be a servant before a friend. There should be a sense of duty before devotion. You may be saved, but growing in friendship with Christ, means becoming more sanctified. Running around and calling yourself a justified sinner or telling everyone, “I know the Lord” gets old if you live in such a way that evidences no growth or deeper love for Christ!

There is a sense of finality in this passage that is inescapable especially after he takes the one talent gives it away to the man who has ten talents and kicks the man out in the dark unemployed and broke and weeping. That is sad.  My suggestion is start using and investing your talents and grow in Kingdom business because from what I see the Master is a hard man to do business with.

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