The Danger of Faithless Fear

By  Fred O. Blakely

“And he also that had received the one talent came and said, Lord” I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou didst not sow, and gathering where thou didst not scatter; and I was afraid, and went away and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, thou hast thine own” (Matt. 25:24-25, ASV; cf. Lu. 19:20-27).
The attitude and conduct of the one-talent servant in Jesus’ parable of the talents demonstrate the grave danger inherent in unbelieving fear of Him by those of His household. The man’s allegation of austerity belies everything that is revealed in Scripture of our Lord as the Head of His body, the church. He is not a hard Man in His demands of His servants. Instead, He is “meek and lowly,” “very pitiful and of tender mercy,” and His “yoke is easy” and His “burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30; Jas. 5:11).
Projecting the point of the parable into the era of Christ’s present reign from the heavenly throne, as we are clearly expected to do, we can readily perceive the application. It can be said that the negligent servant simply did not believe “the record that God gave of His Son” (I Jn. 5:10). Hence, his fear of Him, with the failure which it prompted to use the trust committed to him. Herein lies a very sober warning to all today who call upon the Lord’s Name, and we do well, indeed, to take careful heed to it.

The Servant’s True Status. In anticipation of the lopsided theology which would disfranchise the rejected man as a bona fide servant in the divine household, we appeal to the words of Christ Himself. The master in the parable “called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods,” He declared (Matt. 25:14). Each one of the three men was a servant and each received of the master’s “goods” as a stewardship. There is every reason to suppose that, had the one-talent man increased his possession by a talent, he would have been commended by the goodman as the others were. In his record of the parable of the pounds, Luke represents the situation in the same way. The nobleman “called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds” (Lu. 19:13). Thus, without the parabolic drapery, we read from the Apostle of God’s having “dealt to every man” in the church “the measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3; cf. Eph. 4:7).  Again, “It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful” (I Cor. 4:2).

We also read from the Apostle that we are to “look diligently, lest any man [in the church] fail of the grace of God” (Heb. 12:15). Evidently, that is precisely what the unfaithful servant of our text did. He seems to have never come to know “the grace of God in truth” (Col. 1:6), and in that deficiency failed to bring forth the increase which is required of God’s husbandry (Heb. 6:7-12). The consequence was direful beyond words to contemplate. “Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” was the master’s sentence (Matt. 25:30). Those who think lightly of a proper knowledge of God, as He relates to His people through Christ, should be duly admonished by the fearful servant’s ruinous end.

The Ignorement of Truth. As we have said, when we adapt the condemned servant’s case to the present age, his restraining fear is perceived in the proper light. He had the wrong concept of Christ because he chose to not believe the revelation of Him which Scripture gives. And therein, if we may judge in view of the complete light of the new-covenant writings, was the ground of his rejection. Immediately, he was cast away for his unfruitfulness, but that had resulted from his fear, which in turn stemmed from his unbelief.

We repeat that the Lord Jesus Christ is very far, of a truth, from being a hard Master. He is “a merciful and faithful High Priest” over the church (Heb. 2:17), with the capacity to be “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (ch. 4:15). Accordingly, He “can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way,” in fulfillment of the Aaronic priesthood’s typology (ch. 5:2). “He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14; cf. v. 13). In His great love and tender mercy, He considers that “the flesh is weak,” though “the spirit indeed is willing” (Matt. 26:41).  Therefore, our Lord does not deal with us “after our sins,” nor reward us “according to our iniquities” (Ps. 103:10-11).

The Admonition to Us. The admonition to us from the one-talent servant’s failure is clear and strong. Although we certainly should fear God and His Son in that reverential way which is required (Heb. 12:28), we are not to have that cringing, hampering dread of Them that makes us afraid to throw ourselves into Their service. In Christ, God is our divine Father and Friend.  He gave His only begotten Son to reconcile us to Himself, so that He might indwell and work through us. In the provision of Christ as our great High Priest and Advocate, He has anticipated our mistakes, shortcomings, and sins after being brought into His family. We, thus, may boldly and freely exercise the enduements with which He has entrusted us in the divine service. He will accept our devotion, and will understand and forgive when honest errors are made. Obviously, this situation leaves us without excuse for withholding energetic use of our abilities for Him because of fear that we shall not be able to please Him.

“If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not,” says the Spirit (II Cor. 8:12). We so very badly need to remember that in our stewardship of what God has imparted to us. Do not permit unwarranted fear of Him to inhibit you from throwing yourself with abandon into His service. That was the unprofitable servant’s tragic error. Do not shrink from doing what you can for fear that you may not do it perfectly, or because you have not achieved moral perfection in your personal life. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do with thy might” (Eccl. 9:10). “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men, knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance; for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23-24). We have Scripture’s assurance that “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have shown toward His Name” (Heb. 6:10), and He will certainly accept it, as it is offered to Him in Christ His Son.

The Timeliness of these Considerations at the Lord’s Table. These considerations seem to be especially timely at the Lord’s table in the weekly assembly of the church. As we gather to participate in the communion of the body and blood of the Savior, we do so “with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22). Since His blood has purged our conscience from dead works and from all the defilement of sin, we now have boldness through Him to “serve the living God” in “newness of spirit” (Rom. 7:6; Heb. 9:11-14; 10:1-2).

“God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (II Tim. 1:7). The “sound mind” enables us to think of Him and kingdom relationships as they are represented in His Word. Hence, we “have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear,” but “the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Rom 8:15). In this spirit of sonship, we draw near to worship the Father through the Son. And from the table we go forth to serve Him as dear children, “without fear” (Lu. 1:74), freely “trading” in the marketplaces of life with our “talent” or “pound,” knowing that our God is gracious and will receive and bless our labor of love for Him (Lu. 19:13, ASV).