But know this, that if the manager of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched…
The "household" of God is his Church (see Ephesians 3:15). In the professing Church there are two classes of persons, viz. the "wise" and the "evil." In minor particulars there may be an infinite diversity, but ultimately all will be visibly separated into these great classes. This will hold in respect to both ministers and people.
I. "WHO, THEN, IS THE FAITHFUL AND WISE SERVANT?"
1. He that watches for the return of his Lord.
(1) "Wisdom" is a synonym for "religion." In this sense the term is commonly used in the Proverbs of Solomon. The "wise" servant, therefore, is he that has repented of his sin and has accepted his Saviour.
(2) True Christians are "of the day," and are instinctively watching for "that day" in which the Lord Jesus will appear in his glory (see 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6; 2 Peter 3:10-12).
(3) To such the advent of the Master can be no surprise. If Jesus threatens the angel of the Church at Sardis to come on him as a thief, it is because he was neither penitent nor watchful (see Revelation 3:3).
(4) "If the master of the house had known in what watch," etc. (ver. 43). Life, like the night, is distributed into watches. A watch in Old Testament times was four hours; at this time it was three. The Christian's vigilance should be unslumbering.
2. He that is "ready to welcome that return.
(1) Therefore be ye also ready (ver. 44). Readiness is now substituted for watchfulness. To be ready we must not only look for the coming of Christ, but so to look as to be prepared for it (see 2 Peter 3:11-14).
(2) To be ready is to have such an assured faith in Christ as a present Saviour that whensoever he may come in his Lordship he will be welcomed.
(3) But the service of God is not limited to trust and worship; obedience is the complement of these. When the Master comes the servant must be found doing." Doing the will of Christ is watching for him in readiness.
(4) He must be found "so doing." Note: There are activities in the Church which are mischievous. Ministers are in the Church rulers in the sense of being bishops or overseers to direct the work of Christ (see Hebrews 13:17). They have also to "give" or dispense the bread of life (see Ezekiel 34:8; Acts 20:35). For this they must not substitute the "stone" of profitless doctrine or the "serpent" of poisonous error. The "bread" must be sound and wholesome. It must also be given in fitting "portion" and in "due season." Note: There are certain portions of the bread of life which lose their effect by being administered to improper persons and out of proper season.
(5) He must be "found so doing," viz. when the Master comes. This implies constancy and perseverance. "It is expected of the steward that he be found faithful," so faithful that he cannot be surprised (see 1 Corinthians 4:2; 1 Timothy 1:12; 1 Timothy 4:16; 1 Timothy 6:14; Hebrews 3:2; Revelation 2:25).
II. WHO, THEN, IS THE EVIL SERVANT?
1. He that has little faith in the speedy coming of Christ.
(1) (Ver. 48.) This is one who is nominally a Christian, but really a hypocrite. The first manifestation of the hypocrite is the heart reflection, "My Lord tarrieth." The thought, is in the heart; it is the offspring of desire. As when Jesus said to John, "Behold, I come quickly," meaning certainly, so the hypocrite saying, "My Lord tarrieth," expresses secret disbelief that his Lord would come at all.
(2) Christ knows what men say in their hearts.
(3) The evil servant through his unbelief neglects to get ready. Note: Faith influences practice.
(4) "But know this," etc. (ver. 43). This is a description of what a man would do rather than of what he should do. He would indeed watch at the hour if he knew it, but not till then. The teaching here is a discouragement of death bed repentances. It is against all procrastination. Religion is not to be separated from the duties and enjoyments of common life. He leads a heavenly life who sanctifies his earthly deeds to heavenly ends.
2. He that governs with oppression.
(1) "And shall begin to beat his fellow servants." Here is the Ishmael in the family of Abraham.
(2) Evil ministers strike their fellow servants with the fist of office. They lord it over God's heritage. Fellow service is forgotten.
(3) Rich men tyrannize over their poorer brethren sometimes by shaking in their faces the golden fist. "Do not rich men oppress you?" Here also fellow service is too often forgotten.
(4) Could such things happen but for a disbelief in the speedy coming of the Lord? The dignity of the kingdom of Christ is service. Christ was among his disciples as one that served.
3. He that leads an irregular life.
(1) He does not love the company of the children of God. Their spiritual fellowship is distasteful to him.
(2) But he "eats and drinks with the drunken." Feasting together is the sign of fellowship.
(3) The fellowship of wickedness tends to wickedness. He becomes "drunken." Perhaps not with wine. All wickedness is intoxication.
(4) The evil minister "feeds himself without fear." So does his evil lay fellow servant.
(5) Could these things take place but for a disbelief in the speedy coming of the Lord? When the Israelites concluded that Moses, through his long absence in the mount, might never return, they set about making to themselves gods.
(6) The coming of the Lord in his mercy is indeed delayed by the wickedness of his professed servants, but his coming to them in judgment is thereby hastened.
III. HOW WILL THE LORD DEAL WITH THESE SERVANTS?
1. The faithful he will promote to honour.
(1) "Blessed is that servant." He is happy in the approbation of his Lord. The question, "Who is that wise and faithful servant?" may, perhaps, be taken as though Jesus had said, "I should very much like to know him, so rare, so valued, are such in my sight."
(2) Not only is he blessed in his present sense of the approval of Christ, but the happiness is reserved for him of a public approbation before an assembled universe: "Well done."
(3) He is blessed in the promotion which depends upon that public approbation. Having been faithful in his earlier opportunities, he is further trusted. "Verily I say unto you, He will set him over all that he hath." The bliss of heaven is not the fancied bliss of inactivity. The bliss of heaven is still the bliss of service.
2. The evil will be relegated to punishment.
(1) His death will be a degradation. It is separation from the communion of saints, and from all the gifts he had abused.
(2) "I will cut him asunder." Stone take this in the sense of severe scourging (see margin, Revised Version). It may be taken in the sense of discerning and exposing the thoughts of his heart. So the Word of God is compared to a sharp sword, which "pierces to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). Such exposure to a hypocrite is a terrible mortification. Note: Death literally cuts asunder the animal soul and the rational spirit.
(3) "And appoint him his portion with the hypocrites." The hypocrite will be punished with his kind. The associations of perdition are monotonous. "If the devil ever laughs, it must be at hypocrites. They are the greatest dupes he has. They serve him better than others, and receive no wages; nay, what is still more extraordinary, they submit to greater mortifications to go to hell, than the sincerest Christian to go to heaven" (Colton).
(4) "There shall be weeping." Not, however, the weeping of contrition. It is the weeping that is associated with "gnashing of teeth." It is the weeping of helpless rage and of hopeless despair. - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.