The Wise and Foolish Servant



  I.            The Parable of the Wise Servant


1.      The Key Passage (Mat.24:45-51)

o    Mat 24:45  "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season?

Mat 24:46  Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.

Mat 24:47  Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.

Mat 24:48  But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,'

Mat 24:49  and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards,

Mat 24:50  the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of,

Mat 24:51  and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

o    This parable corresponds to Jesus teaching in Luke12:35-38….especially vs42 -48

Jesus is warning all believers, leaders and people to be prepared and ready for his coming


o    This parable reveals there are two different groups of servants at the Coming of Jesus

(i). One servant represents the Overcomers, who arise in the First Resurrection.

      These servants  enter rewards of Eternal Intimacy, Authority, and Glory

         (ii). The other servant represents believers who fail to overcome.

       These servants fail to watch and serve faithfully. They are overcome

       These servants suffer great loss, and are not counted worthy of the First Resurrection


2.      What is the Context of this Parable?

o    The context is the background or setting to the story

o    In Mt. 24-25 Jesus taught on the End Times in response to disciples question

o    Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" (Mat.24.3)

§ Jesus gave a detailed description of End Time events

False Christs, Wars, Rumours of war, famines, pestilence, earthquakes, sorrows(birth-pains)  and great tribulation

§  In Matt.24-25 He reveals Himself personally, as the Bridegroom(Intimacy),  The King (Power), and The Judge of the earth (Removing all obstacles to love)

§  This passage, part of a long section in Jesus‟ talk on end-time events, contains three admonitions to watch, or be on the alert, and be ready (24:42, 44; 25:13)


o    Jesus also taught parables that teach us how He expects us to prepare and to behave

    (i). Wise & Faithful Servant…..Do will of God in spite of difficulties….watch  

          …………………………………………Love and serve the people of God. (Heart free from bitterness)

    ii). Ten Virgins.      ………………..Cultivate deep personal intimacy with Jesus…be ready

   (iii) Talents.             ………………..Faithful and productive in assignment no matter how small

o    Note:

§ Each parable contains an instruction

§ Each Parable contains a promise of reward or loss

§ The Focus of each parable is the person who failed to prepare and engage

§ (In each parable there are more verses about the one who failed to prepare that about those who prepared and were ready.

 Jesus main attention is on the necessity to prepare and be faithful)

o    The Key Lesson: If we behave like that person we will experience what they experienced



3.      The Need for Faithful, Loving Service


   (i).   The Wise and Faithful Servant

                     Note the following features of the wise and faithful servant

§  He is a servant of The Lord, a believer

§  His heart is sensitive to the Master and His requirements. (He practices intimacy)

§  He is faithfully serving God’s people, caring for them and investing in them

§  He is fulfilling his assignment, doing the express will of his master

                     Meat in due season vs.45-46

                    Meat…means nourishment. It refers to spiritual food (wisdom) for mature believers


§  This servant is living with a passion for the Lord and is caring for and helping other servants prepare for the coming of the Lord                  

§  Due Season….. Means at the appropriate time.

§  He has an understanding heart and discerns what God is saying and doing   (1Chron.12:32)

                    He is aware of his responsibility to be watchful and faithful to his assignment

o     This Servant is wise because he faithfully serves and fulfills his assignment.


  (ii).   The Wise Servant’s Reward

§  “Make him ruler over His household”….and Make him ruler over all his goods”…

§  This servant is an Overcomer

§  His reward for overcoming and for faithful service is increased responsibility and authority

§  This wise steward will be made “ruler,” when Jesus returns

§  “Ruler”…Greek…Kathistemi….To set one over, to appoint to administer an office, to ordain

§  What is he made ruler over?

·         Over His Household………

This signifies he is made ruler over the extended family and servants of the house

·         Over all His goods…………

This refers to all the resources and authority of the master

§  This is a reference to the rights of the firstborn son…given rulership over the house

§  We know he must enter the first resurrection, for those who will rule and reign with Christ a thousand years enter by way of the first resurrection

§  Rev 20:5  But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

§  Rev 20:6  Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.


§  The wise steward is one who has learned to be a good servant, one who abides by the laws of the household and does the will of his Master.

§  He has learned that ruling does not mean having servants, but being a loving servant to others


II.            The Foolish and Unfaithful Servant

Note the characteristics of the foolish and unfaithful servant


  (i).    He is a servant of the Lord, a believer

§  The same servant who was rewarded in the previous verses could also act wrongly

           These wrong actions are connected to inner heart attitudes

  (ii)    His heart is hardened …he lacks intimacy and love and a servant heart     

§   Mat 24:48  But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,'

§   “Says in his heart”….refers to the heart attitude of the servant  towards the Lord

Our heart is the focus of God’s attention…..”out of our heart flows the issues of life” Prov.4:23

§  He has no sense of the great importance of the coming of Jesus and the need to prepare and serve diligently

§  He has lost passion and his first love

§  His wrong actions are the reflection of a wrong heart attitude

§  Jesus Warning in Luke:         

Luk 21:34  "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.

Luk 21:35  For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.

Luk 21:36  Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."

§  Jesus warns us to guard our hearts from becoming hardened and spiritually insensitive

§  Two key issues Jesus warns us of are being weighed down by the pressures and worries of daily living and turning to false comforts instead of to Him


  (iii).  He is unconcerned at the prospect of his Master returning

§  “says in his heart My master delays his coming”

§   When we lose passion and first love we become cold and unresponsive to the need to be

          ready…to live a life that honors Him

§  He loses sight of his Master’s return and his call to accountability for stewardship

§  He has no fear of the Master or of the consequences of of being unprepared for His return

§  He lives in a deception that the grace of God will cover his carelessness and failure

§  Living with a Hope of Jesus return and eternal reward deeply impacts our lifestyle and service

          Without this hope we can become careless, lukewarm and compromised

§  This means that once a believer loses sight of the imminent return of the Lord Jesus (which includes accountability for his believers) he can begin to mistreat fellow believers and become entangled in the world and its indulgent lifestyle


  (iv).  His Neglect of Love for the Master is shown in his attitude & behavior to fellow servants

§   Mat 24:49  and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards,

§  His words and actions are destructive towards the fellow servants

         Fellow servants refers to fellow believers, to people we is called to love and serve

§  Beat his fellow servants” means to mistreat or neglect other believers in words and actions

          ‘Beat”….to hit with repeated blows……it has become a habit, a lifestyle, a way of life

§  Eg.  Gossip, criticism, betrayal, disloyalty, unforgiveness, withholding,

§  Living prepared for the Lord’s return affects all our attitudes and relationships, how we treat people, and especially fellow believers

§  As sons and daughters of our Father we are called to  represent our Father and “to walk in 

          love” Eph.5:1-2           

§  This servant has mistreated fellow servants and used them for his own benefit

§  There was no transformation in his heart and character to become Christlike


 (v).   His lifestyle is entangled with ungodly people

          Mat 24:49  and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards,         

§  This lack of importance of preparation for the Lord’s return also causes the love of this world to creep into their lives.

§  The servant  begins to feed on the same pleasures and desires as the unbelievers of the world.

§  He desires a more comfortable lifestyle instead of being willing to sacrifice  in order to be  faithful to God and the call and assignment

§  The temptation of the “pride of life” can also influence pastors, causing them to seek fame through a wider “ministry” by adopting the world’s ways and methods.

§  2Tim.4:10  “For Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica”

§  It does not say that Demas left the faith or that he necessarily left being active in “ministry.” He only left Paul. He rejected the difficult lifestyle of apostolic ministry


 (vi).  He is totally unaware of the spiritual season and timing.

          (The Lord returns suddenly & unexpectedly)       

§  Mat 24:50  the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of,

Mat 24:51  and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

§  “not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of”

§  He will be totally unaware of the spiritual season, and the imminent return of the Lord

§  Perhaps he thinks that he will be given time to make the changes before the Lord returns

§  Perhaps he thinks the master will not require him to give account of his service

§  There will be no opportunity for last minute repentance to avoid consequences


 (vii). The Foolish Servant’s Loss


§  Cut in two (Lit. To flog severely)………...Refers to painful discipline because of his behavior

To “cut in pieces” is a figure of speech derived from an ancient method of punishment (“sawn in two,” Heb. 11:37).

§  This is a figure of speech that pictures a severe judgment by Christ upon a spiritual leader who has failed in this way.

§  We do not know with certainty the exact nature of this future punishment.

§  It would be a mistake to think that it will not involve painful discipline of some form

§  We need to understand both the goodness and the severity of God (Rom.11:22)


§  Portion with the hypocrites…………….….Excluded from all the celebration and reward

§  “Hypocrite” means actor, one wearing a mask and playing a role.

§  This word in the NT was almost exclusively applied to the religious Jews who practiced their religion outwardly, but whose heart was not right with God (Matt. 15:7-8).

§  This punishment and the Lord‟s assignment to a place with hypocrites are connected by the word “and.”

§   This indicates that they are connected, but the severe punishment seems distinct from the placement with unbelievers.

§  Being severely punished, as well as being assigned a place with the unbelievers, does not mean that a believer who fails in this way will go to hell for eternity. This would negate salvation by grace.

§  However, the strong language of this warning indicates that God requires faithfulness in leaders who act as His stewards, and with such great responsibility the real possibility of severe punishment exists for failure (1 Cor. 4:1-5; Jas. 3:1).

§  Where will the hypocrites and  unbelievers be when the Lord suddenly returns?

§  They will be here on the earth to experience the time of great tribulation and many judgments upon the earth.

§   In the alternative case in Luke this passage is warning us that those stewards of God who are alive at Christ‟s return, and who have not been faithful, will not only be severely judged, but will also be left with the unbelievers here.


§  Weeping and gnashing of teeth”………..Deep sorrow and anger at the greatness of his loss

§  Again we do not know all that this means

§  Weeping means a deep sorrow is experienced when the servant realizes the reward the master has prepared had been forfeited

§  Gnashing of teeth is an expression of great anger and frustration at his failure and loss

§  We do not know how long this will last but Jesus warning is clear


o     This servant fails to qualify for the First Resurrection


§  The servant who fulfills his responsibilities and prepares himself will be “put in charge of all His possessions” Luke12:44

§  Luk 12:44  Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. nKJ

This is directly related to the promise made to overcomers

§  Rev 21:7  He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My



o    Jesus reveals what it is to be and Overcomer who inherits the First Resurrection

We must faithfully fulfill our assignment, with loving service to the people of God

o    There is great blessing to be living prepared and expectant for the Coming of Jesus and there is great loss if we live unprepared, careless, and are unfaithful in our service


God’s dealings with every believer

o    In the passage in Luke 12 Jesus adds further details

o    Jesus had been warning about the need for His servants to be ready an watching for His return

Luk 12:40  Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."

Luk 12:41  Then Peter said to Him, "Lord, do You speak this parable only to us, or to all people?"

§  Peter enquires who this teaching applies to

o    Luk 12:47  And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.

Luk 12:48  But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.

§  “And that servant”……. Jesus applies his teaching to every servant of the Lord, every believer, not just leaders

§  Those believers who know their masters will but fail to prepare themselves and do is will, will experience Jesus disapproval and discipline

§  Beaten with many stripes”….refers to the Roman practice of beating slaves who did not fulfil their duties

§  We do not know what Jesus means by this. It is not literal, but the picture is clear.

§  Failure to fulfil responsibilities and prepare for Jesus coming will result in us experiencing painful loss

o    The Key principle: Those who are given much in terms of gifts, opportunities, assignments, revelation will have a higher expectation of faithful service


III.            For Personal Reflection and Application


1.      What has the Holy Spirit spoken though you about through this study?

2.      What personal action do you need to make in response to that?

3.      How can we know that this parable refers to believers and not unbelievers?

4.      What are the key characteristics of the wise servant?

5.      How is your personal relationship with The Lord connected to your service for Him?

6.      What caused the second servant to become unfaithful?

7.      How did this show up in his lifestyle and attitudes

8.      What seemed to be the core reason for this?

9.      How was the wise servant rewarded?

10.  What is the key message Jesus is trying to communicate to believers?