Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology

The Accountability of Man

by Thomas R. Thompson

April 11, 1998

The Doctrine Stated - Introduction

Being lazy Christian has a certain appeal to it. Their is no labor involved, no muscles to become sore, no suffering, no pain, and no risk of failure. It seems like the perfect plan. And many agree, for many do sign up for it. The plan seems fool proof. Turn from sin to Jesus and then relax. Just wait for him to take you to heaven. It seems like such a great plan. I've even considered it myself many times.

Being lazy Christian does not involve not taking risks, and that sounds very attractive to me. For with risk, comes increased potential for failure. And failure is something I try to avoid. In fact, it would be much easier for me right now, to not be delivering this message to you. I could be sitting where you are letting someone else do it. But I cannot, for there exists a scripture that tells me

For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: [Luke 12:48]

Tonight I would like to open up to you the doctrine of The Accountability of Man.

The Doctrine Established

In Matthew 25, we are given a parable concerning the kingdom of heaven. The parable involves a master giving three of his servants talents. A talent was a measurement of money. But to open further this parable to us, let us think of the word talent to be spiritual ability. Every person is given different spiritual abilities, and God has a purpose to accomplish with the spiritual abilities he gives. Just as the master in this parable gave different talents to his three servants, so God also gives different spiritual abilities to his servants.

The 5 Talent Man

The first servant was given 5 talents. I think the servant thought to himself, "five talents I bet my master is expecting something big from me. I'm not sure I can handle all five, but I've got no choice. There were given to me, and now I must put them to work."

The 2 Talent Man

The second servant was given 2 talents. I think he thought to himself, "two!, there is no way I can handle two. But since I've got them, I have no choice and must now put them to work."

The 1 Talent Man

The last servant received one talent. I think he said to himself, "how am I going to find time to put this talent to work?" And then thought to himself, "this was a gift given to me, it's mine to do as I please. Maybe if I just keep it in a safe place, and not loose it, my master won't mind."

The Master Returns

Their master then went to a far country and stayed a long time. When he returned he asked his servants to show how they used the talents they were given. The first and second servant gained a talent for each talent their master gave them charge over. The last servant did nothing with the talent entrusted to him. He was lazy and did not put to work the talent he was given. He was thinking to himself I know I will not get any praise from my master when he gets back, but that is alright with me. I can live without hearing "well done thou good and faithful servant". That is a small price to pay for all the hard work I'll escape from.

But the third servant made a costly error. He was correct in thinking he would not hear "well done". But his was incorrect in thinking he would hear "that's ok, at least you did not loose the talent I gave you". Instead he heard:

Thou wicked and slothful servant [Mat 25:26]

Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. [Mat 25:28]

And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: [Mat 25:30]

This parable was used by Jesus to encourage us to use each talent given to us for our master's glory. In addition we are warned of the dangers of not using the talents God gives us. In fact, if one is not using the talents God has given him, he may actually have a different master than he thinks. He may still be serving his master the devil.

The lazy servant though for sure he was on his way to heaven, for he had a gift personally handed to him by Jesus. The servant was going to hold on to that gift and present it back to Jesus when needed. But we find that the servant's laziness actually made know to others his wicked heart. If the one talent man used the talent given him just like the other two servants, he would have heard "well done thou good and faithful servant" also. But what went wrong for the one talent man? He bought the lie that "it was good enough to just make it into heaven"?

If one receives a gospel that does not cause a desire to increase what God has given, he has not received the true gospel. He has received some counterfeit. The true gospel always transforms the heart unto good works. Both the 5 talent man and 2 talent man were equally glad in the gain they obtained. The 2 talent man was not envious of the gain the 5 talent man obtained. The two talent man said with great excitement

Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. [Mat 25:22]

The 2 talent man had his eyes on what Jesus had given him, and to whom he was going to give account to one day. He was pleased at what he was given, and excited in what he accomplished with them. He used everything the Lord gave him. If the 2 talent man only put one of the talents to work, I do not believe the Lord would have said "well done thou good and faithful" servant.

The Doctrine Cleared

Someone might say, "if I believe what you say is true, then I'd be better off ignorant of what talents I have". If by discovering a talent God has given me, I'm responsible to use it, I'm better off not looking. I'll therefore mind my own business and therefore not be accountable for much.

Don't believe such a vain argument. Whether you discover what talents you have is not the issue. Your are just as accountable to used ones that you know about, as ones you don't know about. The lazy servant was looking for a way off the hook. It did not work for him, and it will not work for you either. You are already more accountable than you can imagine. God has given you a life, and for that life you are going to give him account as to how you used your time

So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. [Rom 14:12]

Another may think to himself, its not fair that God has required so much from me. I never asked for 5 talents, I'd be much happier if I only had one talent to put to work. After all, I'm not a real ambition person.

Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? [Rom 9:20]

If you noted in the parable the talents were given out based on the secret will of the master. This is God's universe, and He is free to do as he pleases. God is accountable only to himself. The servants were not consulted about what they wanted, nor were they given a choice in the matter.

The one talent man represents the wicked sons of men. This man had a plan constructed in his mind on how he was going to justify his disobedience. He knew their would be a day of accounting for the talent, but he still tried to find a loop hole. And we see many around us doing the same thing. They are going to vainly give God a list of excuses for not doing his will. They will invent lies like "I wasn't sure if it was you God", or "I did not have the ability needed" as if to impress God with their spirituality. But the Judge was not impressed with the one talent mans excuses. In fact, the Judge catches the crafty in their own craftiness.

He taketh the wise in their own craftiness: and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong. [Job 5:13]

His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. [Mat 25:26-27]

God is not accountable to any creature. We are all accountable to him. He dispenses his grace as seen fitting in His sight. Our job is not to determine if we received the talents we wanted. Neither is it our job to determine if we want to used the talents we were given.

I know a man I would classify as a 5 talent servant. He did not like the talents he was given, and He complained to God. This 5 talent servant was given some speaking orders. The orders were very clear, and the servant knew exactly what he was to do, but still the 5 talent man gave God reasons on why he was not properly equipped for the job. The 5 talent man saw someone much better for the job, and suggested God send him. God was not amused by the 5 talent man's rebellion.

And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? [Exo 4:11]

And neither will God be pleased with our excuses for not using the talents given us. We may momentarily convince ourselves that we are not accountable, but that will never excuse us.

The Doctrine Applied

Use Faithfully what you have

God is not interested in what you would do for him, if you had more. If He wanted you to have more, He would have given you more. Nor is he interested in the results of putting talents to use. What he is interested in is your faithfulness. I have heard people speculate at all the good things they would do for God if they had a million dollars. God is not interested in what you would do with the million you don't have. He is only interested in the ten you have in your pocket.

Others talk about what they would do for God if only they had more time. If their work load was lighter they could name many things they would be doing for the kingdom of God. But again, God is not interested in what you would do for him if you had an extra two hours a day, he is only interested in how faithfully you are using the time he has blessed you with.

The 5 talent man and the 2 talent man each received different amounts. When the time of accounting came, the Lord did not say "you gained 5 talents- great", or "2 talents- good job". He completely ignored the results and said well done based solely on their faithfulness. I'm confident God has many 5 talent servants who are unfaithful in what they were given and may only deliver back to the Lord 1 talent to their own shame. Whereas a 1 talent servant could enter joyfully into the Lord's presence saying "Lord, thou deliveredst unto me one talent: behold, I have gained beside it one more." I think that was Paul's attitude towards the talents God had given him

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? [1 Cor 3:5]

Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ [1 Cor 4:1]

Paul is saying "I'm a nobody, just a slave faithfully pulling my oar for Jesus". What Paul! Just a slave? No! You are the great apostle to the gentiles. Paul says, no I'm not, I'm just pulling the oar Jesus put in my hand.

For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? [1 Cor 4:7]

We too must look at our talents the way Paul did. God chooses the tasks for his servants, and gives them the talents to perform it to completion. These talents are not given based on past performance, or any kind of merit. There is no room for any of God's servants to boast about talents they were given, nor the result obtained from using the talents. Jesus is not going to ask about any results. He is simply going to ask, were you faithful in using what I gave you? Results are all in God's hands. We just carry our orders.

Live faithfully where you are

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. [Eph 5:22]

For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. [Eph 5:25]

Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. [Eph 6:1]

Wives cringe today at the thought of submitting to their husbands, husbands cringe at the though of having to loves their wives as Christ loved the church, and children hate obedience. Everyone wants their rights, and to do as they please. But each one is going to have to give account to God for their own life. No one will be able to blame anyone else for their behavior. Certainly others can greatly influence the direction of your life, but it is your life that you must give account for. You may be able to shake your responsibilities before men with fine sounding arguments, but not before God. You may even think to yourself, "well if he was doing what he is supposed to do, than I would do what I'm supposed to do". But the bible warns us against such foolish arguments.

So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. [Rom 14:12]

If the whole world falls into a certain sin, the whole world is accountable for that sin. Somehow we tend to get into our minds that someone elses sin, is a licence for us to commit a sin. Such foolish thinking will not stand up and any court, nor will it stand in the high court of heaven. Each person is alone accountable for every action to God. God is not going to be well pleased with your silly excuses for not doing what he commands you to do. The test is did you obey. Their is no legitimate excuse for disobeying God, every single excuse is illegitimate.

Rejecting the Gospel

Rejecting the gospel because of never hearing it is no excuse. God has made his law of righteousness plain to everyone. You can plead "I never knew", but God says you knew. And I'll believe God over mans testimony any day.

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: [Rom 1:19-20]

But for those who have heard the gospel, and reject it, how much more shall God require of you. To whom much has been given, much shall be require. You can list for me 10 reasons why you have rejected the gospel, and I will call you a liar 10 times. God has given you a command, and it is foolish to try to contrive a valid reason for being disobedience.

And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. [1 John 3:23]

To tell God you cannot do something he has commanded you is wicked. Why not abandon every excuse you have given before for rejecting the gospel, and obey God right now.


This article was written in April of 1998 by Thomas R. Thompson. He is a Reformed theologian and writer of Biblical essays. He is owner of the sovereign grace website called, "Strong Preaching."

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