“But he that had received one
went and digged in the earth,
and hid his lord’s money.”
~ Matthew 25:18
Our text is a part of the parable of the talents. The Lord gave this parable to teach that not all servants have the same abilities. He taught that all servants are expected to work and equal diligence is equally rewarded despite differing gifts and gain. The wise man in the parable distributed his goods to his servants. “And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.” He administered the goods according to his servants’ ability to manage and use them. Though their amounts were different, they were each responsible for what they possessed. We see a difference in the greatness of the responsibilities, but no difference in the reality of the responsibility to each servant.
The parable tells us that a particular servant received one talent, one-half as much as another received and only one-fifth as much as even another servant received. Upon receiving the goods, the servants each set to work and began to gain. However, the servant in our text “went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.” From the judgment of his Lord, his error did not lie in not having as much as the others, but in the fact that he did not use what was entrusted to him, rather he buried it. Now, let us consider the actions of the unfaithful servant in our text and receive instruction from our Lord.
In the first place, we notice that burying the talent was not an impulsive or rash decision. According to verse 19, it was “a long time” before the Lord returned and reckoned with his servants. The servants were given plenty of time to make use of their capital. Even if he went out and buried it at first, he had plenty of opportunity to make good. He could have dug it up and redeemed the time. From his own testimony in verses 24 and 25, we see that he deliberated about his course of action.
He thought to himself, I could never gain five talents as the first servant. Surely, I could not gain two talents like the other servant when I have only one talent to work with. Furthermore, what if my enterprise fails and I lose it all?
He decided that having so little; he had better not risk the loss and displeasure of his Lord. He assumes his Lord will be more angry if he loses all than if he makes no gain. He confesses, “And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth.” He was afraid and ventured nothing.
In the second place, we take notice of where the servant hid the talent. He “digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.” He was not totally inactive. He went to great trouble to bury the talent. He “digged,” showing that he had some capacity to labor and “in the earth” was where he chose to bury his money. He chose the earth as a fit hiding place. I imagine that after the talent was “in the earth” for “a long time,” that it could not have been returned in the same condition in which it was given. It must have been stained with dirt and smelled earthy.
This language is very suggestive and symbolic of many Christians. The servant had been given a gift, which he was expected to use in his master’s service. He figured that his gift was small and there were plenty of others with more ability than he that would labor in the master’s cause. He gave himself a pass on greater responsibilities and hid his talent in the earth. How many Christians hide their talents in the earth? How many give their abilities to business, sales, recreation, acquiring possessions, houses and lands, instead of seeking to advance the cause of Christ? Just like the servants talent, they are sullied by the dirt of the world and smell earthy. Their works will not stand the test of fire, but will be burnt up. They themselves “shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15). Peter warned, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11). I pray to God that we may be ready when our Master comes.
Lastly, we see that it is not enough to simply maintain what we have. We must seek to utilize what we have been given and gain and improve it for the glory of the Lord. The Lord explained that we must never be satisfied with the present portion. At the very least, “Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury” (Matthew 25:27). If we try to just maintain and not to enlarge the Lord’s work, then we will waste the Lord’s substance. “He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster” (Proverbs 18:9).
We must not be satisfied to only hold the truth. Many make their boast of being sound, “but in works they deny him.” Jesus denounced the Pharisees because “they say, and do not.” We must be careful lest we “hold the truth in unrighteousness.” If we have received the truth, let us be thankful and careful to “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (Titus 2:10). Our conversation should “be as it becometh the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). We adorn the truth with godly, holy lives, and we shall be judged for our faithfulness and diligence.