The Worthless Servant – Part 1


Months after I surrendered my life to Christ, my sisters started attending a Christian church in Lompoc, California, partly motivated to seek whatever caused such a transformation in my life. A few months later, each accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior, which generated increasing dialogue with me about the changes they were experiencing. During one of our discussions, my younger sister abruptly, but gently, asked; “Manuel, how do you love God?”

Until perhaps a year before this question, I lived life as a “nominal Catholic”. I partook in some of the traditions, learned the Catechism of the church, attended Mass on Sundays, but rarely read the Bible itself, relying mostly on the “missalette” booklets kept in the pews. I developed a general understanding about God as someone who holds people accountable after death. He seemed someone to be feared, but not necessarily one to be loved on an individual level, nor as One who wanted us to love Him. So my sister’s question took me a bit by surprise. And, understandably so. I had to think back and ponder on things that lead to someone loving another. It was not easy for me, for I don’t think I loved much as a youngster.

An experience that came to mind was the funeral of my baby sister, six-month old “Rosita,” who died of an illness during one of my father’s winter visits to our home in Mexico. I was 5-6 years old at the time. One morning when I opened our front door, I saw my mother walking home from a visit to a nurse. She was wailing, clutching her dead baby. My father later bought a white casket in which to put her. I recall the open-casket wake we held in our house, and seeing my baby sister lying in the tiny coffin. My father later set it in the back of a pickup truck and, with us kids also in the back, we led the funeral procession. I remember much commotion surrounding the event, and relating the news (almost excitedly) to neighbors and friends.

But what left the deepest impression on me was how I failed to feel anything. Later, I was haunted by guilt over my lack of emotion through that experience.

Was it because I was too young to understand? Maybe.

Not long after the funeral, some Catholic nuns made their way up our street, looking for unconverted “pagans” I suppose. We qualified. My parents rarely took us to church, unless it was for a wedding, baptism, or some other festive occasion. My mother agreed to have the nuns teach us the Catechism, Catholic teachings about God and how we are to live in obedience. At six years of age, and my older sister at 7, we were told we were finally ready to receive our First Communion (after a Saturday sin confession).

There must have been hundreds of other kids similar to us in age participating in their First Communion, all dressed in formal wear fit for a wedding. So many were the candidates that the event was held outdoors. At some point, we were all asked to kneel, then each received a host (wafer) to let melt in our mouths (representing Christ’s body); and that was it.

I waited for something to happen. Nothing. People began drifting away, to resume their normal affairs. I recall no laughter. No emotion. No joy. No celebration. No music. No – nothing. Thankfully, the nuns had taught me there is a God, a Creator of all things, who sees all things from Heaven, expecting obedience. But I felt no emotional tie, no feeling whatsoever — no love in either direction.

Years later, during my high school years in the U.S., our family traveled back to our former hometown in Mexico. Coincidentally, one of my uncles – named Salvador (which means “Savior”) and whom I never got to know personally – died. My grandmother held an open-casket wake for him in her house. I stared at my uncle in the coffin, noticing how much he resembled one of my other uncles, whom I did know well. But, again, I did not “feel” anything for him, nor did I feel any sense of loss. The lack of feeling (while those around me seemed to feel since I heard lots of sobbing) caused me to experience guilt. Why did I have this sense of emotional detachment in both cases? Could it be as simple as I never really got to know them well enough to love them?

So, when my sister asked me “how do you love God,” it was a pivotal moment for me. No doubt through God’s grace, I was able to share about that topic just by reflecting on my own conversion, and following it up with a later phone call after I’d done more thinking on it.

It seems that one can’t really learn to love someone deeply until we know them. We may hear things about them and grow interested, maybe develop a curiosity, and even admiration for them. But to really love them requires more – developing a relationship with them. God provided several ways for me to know Him. He gave me visible, tangible evidence of His design, including patterns in the natural world that evince His deliberate (not random) creation. He placed His mark in my mind by giving me a conscience. He gave me His written, living Word, the Bible. He has given us His son (“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.” (Colossians 1:15).[1]

Through studying and meditating on His Word, I learned more about who this Lord is whom I serve. I grew to understand how big and how holy He really is, how depraved and undeserving we humans are, and how much He loved us first. Through prayer and putting into practice what I learned, I developed a closer relationship with Him, and a dependence upon Him. I was able to look back and recognize His hand at work in past experiences, as well as in the lives of people I knew. God communicated with me through other believers; believers who reflect His love by attempting to emulate Christ. He communicates with me through circumstances, be they joyful or tragic.

I came to the realization that, in the past, I had been Biblically illiterate, despite excelling in my Catechism classes up to the high school level, and having graduated from a Catholic university (Loyola). On those past occasions when I did read the Bible, I approached reading it as though it were merely a reference book, an “encyclopedia” of sorts. I hadn’t read it from the perspective that it is the writing of a loving God revealing Himself to me and communicating directly with me through the Words He inspired. I hadn’t the Holy Spirit living within me, to help me understand His Word and its application to my life at the moment.

The Bible had seemed too confusing, too long. I easily lost interest when reading it, and found it easy to set down. I had not read the Bible cover-to-cover – that is until after I was “born-again.”

Since then, the Word has come alive with meaning, and it is much easier for me to read and understand.

The Parable of the Talents is often used to teach how we should use the time, talents and treasures with which God entrusts us. But contained within that account is another perspective about loving God. In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus told the following parable to illustrate how it will be on the day He returns:

Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.” 

His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

The man with the two talents also came. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.”

His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

Then the man who had received the one talent came. “Master,” he said, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.”

His master replied, “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.”

 “Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

I now recognize that, before giving my life to Christ, I too was a worthless servant. This parable is one of the few with which I had some familiarity, and had read it numerous times. Yet, each time I read it in times past, I felt sorry for the servant given the one talent. It seemed that he was treated unfairly. I thought, Wait! No one told him that he was supposed to invest the one talent when he received it! How was he to know? And, didn’t he at least take care of the money by keeping it safe so it wouldn’t be lost, kind of like putting it in a safe? And, at least he gave it back to his Master when he returned. It just didn’t seem fair that he would get thrown out into the utter darkness (symbolic for Hell) where there is suffering.

On the other hand, how is it that the other two servants knew they should invest the talents the Master gave them? No doubt they had made efforts to learn about their Master – who He is, what He wants, and how He conducted His business. They learned what pleased Him. They learned from Him how to invest in their Master’s kingdom. They must have learned to love their Master, and that the Master loved them. Otherwise, they would not have been motivated to do anything on their own without being explicitly asked. After all, the passage explains that he gave each one an amount commensurate with their skills, talents and abilities (to each “according to his ability”), and therefore the Master must have made efforts to know them.

The Master knew and loved them (all three servants), and two of the three servants knew Him, and loved Him. So, it should not be surprising that, as soon as the Master left on his journey, the one given five talents “went at once” and invested the money – as though he couldn’t wait to do those things that he knew would please his Master.

The third servant did not love his Master. How can we know? Aside from not making diligent efforts to know the Master and to learn His will, consider how he reacted upon the Master’s return. The third servant was asked to give an account after the other two had given theirs. Did the Master do this randomly? Not likely. Letting him go third gave the third servant time and opportunity to recognize and acknowledge that he had failed, to repent, to ask for forgiveness, and to request another chance.

Instead, he responded first by insulting his Master, effectively saying that He was impossible to please:, that He expected to reap the harvest without doing any of the planting. Didn’t that servant grasp that sinners (like us) are the ones who “reap where we have not sown”? (John 4:34-38)[2] Why didn’t he comprehend that the Master is the one who gives each person the ability to produce wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18), and that only through the Master’s efforts do we even breathe? (Matthew 4:4; Genesis 2:7) Whom did he think earned the one talent he was given to invest?

To add further insult, the wicked servant gave back his Master the one talent, saying, “Here is what belongs to you.” Was it merely the single talent that belonged to Him? No! Did the worthless servant forget that the Master not only owned the talents, but owned each one of the servants too?

Finally, the worthless servant was disobedient. Even though he was not told explicitly that he should do something with the talent his master had entrusted to him, the context of the parable shows that he knew this implicitly. Yet, he neglected to do for his master what he intuitively knew he should do. Dr. Michael Youssef has commented: “When we live in disobedience, we become a fruitless and joyless Christian. Jesus warned against fruitlessness: ‘No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5)’.”

There is every reason to believe that we were created by God to (among other things) bring Him glory, to become Christ-like, to serve Him, to continue Christ’s mission on earth, and to “bear fruit.” Is it unfair that the separation caused the third servant to be banished into darkness and suffering? Hardly. The worthless servant demonstrated that he despised his Master. Light, comfort, peace, joy, providence, etc., are all attributes of the Master, the Almighty God. To be separated from the Master, the worthless servant must necessarily abide in a place where all the Master’s attributes are absent.

Thus, the third servant in the parable was indeed “worthless,” and wicked. Justifiably, he got what he deserved – separation from the comfort of his Master’s dwelling place.

I recall with sadness hearing discussions between young delinquents saying words to the effect that, “Well at least if I go to Hell, I’ll be with some of my buddies.” Or, “I’ll be in good company.” What tragic misunderstandings! How can they assume that the “comfort” they anticipate in being in the company of fellow-criminals will be available to them in Hell? Rather, no comfort will await those arriving there. Comfort is available only from the “Comforter.” (Jeremiah 8:18; 2 Cor. 1:3; Luke 16:23-25) What assurance is there that they will even be able to see their buddies in what the Bible calls “utter darkness?” I’ve heard that in places like caves, where there is absolutely no light, that one can’t even see one’s hand in front of them. What if Hell is so huge that their buddies land light years’ distance from each other? No, there will be no comfort in Hell, and no rest from the torment, because of course there is no relief and no “sweet sleep.” (Ecclesiastes 5:12) The Bible describes Hell as conscious, eternal torment.

I was headed there – into the utter darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. In fact, I was worse than the worthless servant in the parable.

(To be continued . . . in “The Worthless Servant” – Part 2)

Manuel M. Melgoza © Copyright


[1] For unto us a child is born, unto us a son [Jesus] is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name is called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6, Darby Bible translation)

[2] My food, said Jesus, is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work . . . I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s