Wickedness in High Places

“Wicked” is a strong, soto-obey-is-better-than-sacrificeme would say harsh, word.  It’s not a word most of us would want applied to us.  Yet it’s exactly the word Jesus used to describe a certain kind of servant who for all intents and purposes appeared outwardly loyal and dedicated.  In Luke 19:11-27 Jesus tells one of His frequent parables.  This particular parable has many rabbit trails down which we could wander, but for now I want to focus specifically on why Jesus singled out this servant with such strong language (v.22).

The parable relates the story of three servants whose master departs to receive a kingdom, promising to return as a king.  Before leaving he entrusts ten of his servants with a substantial amount of money and commands them “Carry on business until my return.”  There are others in the story also who openly rebel against the man’s rule over them and pursue him with a bold message that they reject his kingship. More about them later.

On the man’s return he calls three of his servants and requests an accounting of how they have managed his investment in them.  The first produces ten times the amount he was given and is warmly commended for his stewardship.  The second, similarly, has multiplied the original amount by five and is also warmly commended.  As the master has returned as a king, he bestows on each of these servants authority to help him rule his kingdom.

A third servant now appears and declares: ‘Master, I hid your money and kept it safe.  I was afraid because you are a hard man to deal with, taking what isn’t yours and harvesting crops you didn’t plant.’  (Luke 19:20-21 NLT)

But the master is not at all pleased, stating:

You wicked servant!’ …‘Your own words condemn you. If you knew that I’m a hard man who takes what isn’t mine and harvests crops I didn’t plant, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’  (Luke 19:22-23 NLT)

“Really?” we ask.  “Isn’t that reaction a bit over the top?  After all the servant didn’t lose the money by bad investment or gambling.  He simply kept it safely out of respect for his master.”

Well, that’s how it appears on the surface.  But the master’s reaction is not ‘over the top’, nor is it unjust, because this servant does not respect his master at all.  His piety is a sham and his estimation of his master is false.  His words are deceptive and his actions are self-serving.  Yet he pretends his motives were pure in wishing to safeguard his master’s property.  In other words he is wicked!

As the master wisely discerns, this servant is hiding behind a mask of pious compliance in order to excuse his blatant disobedience.  He had been equipped with all that he needed to obey his master’s command.  Instead he had chosen deliberately to apply his own reasoning to the situation.  By the way, very often ‘reasoning’ is the way we justify ourselves to ourselves.  The servant had so justified his disobedience to himself that he believed he had done his master a favour by disobeying him.

Now here he stood, not only justified in his own eyes, but in effect blaming his master for his own actions, because his master is such a hard man to please.  It is, as his master declares, his own words that condemn him, for his words reveal the condition of his heart, which is nothing less than wicked.

The servant is divested of his position and that which was entrusted to him given to another who was faithful.  He shall have no part in his master’s kingdom.

The wicked servant is still among us.  He lurks in the inner chambers of our minds arguing against radical obedience.  He sits regularly in our church pews convincing us he is the very model of piety.  He thunders religious lawkeeping at us from our pulpits, while in his heart he spurns the law of Christ.  He is loudest at the prayer meeting, first to arrive on Sunday morning, active in the most notable church programs and has worked hard to earn the pastor’s ‘ear’.  Yet he is the greatest of hypocrites for his life is a charade whose purpose is self-preservation and personal power.

His wickedness is rooted in disobedience. He pays lip service to the word of God while doing whatever he likes. Scratch the surface and you will find the god he pretends to serve is a god of judgment and legalism. In reality, however, he is his own god.  Why?  Because he has never yielded, totally yielded, sovereignty over his own life to the One who rightfully claims it.  Outwardly he appears to be a faithful servant.  Inwardly he is no servant at all.

You’ve met this wicked servant within churchianity, and so have I….more times than I care to remember. We live in a day when this personality not only parades himself in our local churches, but also masquerades on the world stage proudly displaying his false servanthood to much acclaim. Such wickedness in high places will be fully dealt with by our King whose return grows closer by the hour.

But if we’re honest we’ve also met the wicked servant within our own hearts.  He is there waiting in the shadows of doubt, fear, man-pleasing and self-will.  There is only one way to destroy this wicked servant’s influence on us. It is to cultivate the yielding of our own will to Christ in both the small and the great, in whatever way He shows us, hour by hour, day by day.  This is what Jesus called faithfulness and faithfulness is just as valuable in the small as it is in the great.

Some things do not change:

What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.  Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.  1 Sam. 15:22-23 (NLT)

The two servants who obeyed, not even knowing the time of their master’s return, were called faithful and were entrusted with greater authority.  The wicked servant, however, was rightfully exposed and cast out as unfaithful.  In his heart he really was no different to those rebellious citizens who openly rejected the rule of their new king.  In fact he was worse, because he sought to hide his rebellion in a cloak of obedient servanthood.

And that is indeed profoundly wicked.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2014   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.



Categories: Life in Christ, The Bride of Christ, The Kingdom, Words of Grace and Truth

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12 replies

  1. I find a bit of a paradox in this writing and in the general discussion around this matter, not just here but often in Christian circles.

    On the one side we say that a person is legalistic, but then here we see a person who is said to be condemned for his lack of obedience. Can one be free from legalism yet condemned for not obeying some new law in Christ? Condemned fro not listening?

    Thou shalt listen to what I tell you to do?

    We are freed by the blood of Christ, and live in his body, only so long as we are obedient? Well none of us got there by our obedience, but now we must remain obedient to stay? Is that Good News? It makes me nervous if we are still fighting to stay true when we have never been true of anything without the Grace of Messiah.

    As for me, I know I will never be anything close to perfectly obedient, even if I could discern what that is and what God really wants in terms of actions (if any). How many of you do things because you feel compelled to even though you do not really desire to do it? Is that not the definition of legalism? Well, if being obedient is still a constant struggle than we are not free of legalism or much else.

    I feel that the servant is wicked purely because he still believes that he can fail, and that he can be punished for failing. Not his action obedience, but as Paul says,his “obedience to the Gospel/Good news.” Peter defines this good news to Cornelius in the most succinct place I have ever seen in Acts 10, “Shalom through Jesus Christ, this one is Lord of all.” If the man believed that Truth why would he fear, and hide his coin?

    Note that in this parable, just as the one in Matthew, there is no scenario where the servant tried and came back with nothing or even the same thing. The point is that If you truly believe that God loves you, and that he remembers your sins no more, than how can you stumble or fail? If God is with you who can be against you? Shalom through Jesus Christ this One is Lord of all!

    The one who truly believes this is set free by the truth, and since God never loses, of course he comes back with more. Have you noticed that God never takes the money back, but leaves it with them (he does not reap where he did not sow). You know this because he says “take the talent from the one and give it to the one with ten.” The guy who succeeded the most has the most, he does not return it to God but becomes the dude with 10….now 11!

    God never takes his gifts back he only gives more, except if the one did not believe that God never takes his gifts back, and thus does not believe the Gospel to begin with. That one must be wicked for he is not washed in the blood, he is still dirty in his mind and thus says, in effect, that Jesus is nothing and that His father is a liar.

    So how can God remember your sins no more but remember your disobedience sin?

    I would say that it is only in that you never really believed that he remembers your sins no more to begin with. You still matter to you and so you think that your performance matters to he who made you from dirt. That is what this man did, he said, in essence, that God craves to hurt his kids and that he will hold all failure against them. By that very definition from his own mouth this man has not accepted Jesus Christ!

    The first two men, in both parables, moved without fear, and why is that? Well, John said it this way:
    “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” I John 4:18

    I know this is not typical thought because I hear so many talk about a day when Jesus will judge us all, but what brought me to Jesus was not his purported coming judgment but this promise:

    “Most assuredly, I am saying to you, He who habitually hears my word and is believing in the one who sent me has life eternal and into judgment he does not come but has been permanently transferred out from the sphere of death into the life,” (John 5:24 WuestNT)

    And again…

    “Stop working for the food which perishes, but work for the food which abides for life eternal which the Son of Man will give you, for this One the Father sealed, even God.

    Then they said to Him, What are we to do as a habit of life in order that we may continually be working the works of God?

    Answered Jesus and said to them, This is the work of God, that you continually be believing on Him whom that One sent off on a mission.
    John 6:27-29 (WuestNT)

    Believe “Shalom through Jesus Christ, this One is Lord of All”

    Good has always meant being connected to God, for “only God is Good,” Evil has always meant being cut off from God and thus dead. That is what Adam learned at the tree, what being cutoff looks like (knowledge of it)…what evil looks like (in Hebrew the word evil means calamity, strife), and when Adam learned he could be in calamity, he first noticed he was naked and then he hide from God–he hide is coin in a bush and behind a fig leaf”

    ” He who places his trust in Him is not being judged. He who is not believing, has been judged already, and is as a result under judgment, because he has not put his trust in the Name of the uniquely-begotten Son of God, with the result that he is in a state of unbelief.

    And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the universe and is here, and men loved rather the darkness than the light, for their works were pernicious. For everyone who practices evil things hates the light, and does not come and face up to the light lest his works be effectually rebuked. But he who habitually does the truth comes and faces up to the light in order that his works might be clearly shown to have been produced by God.
    John 3:18-21 (WuestNT)

    Two men came out to show that their works “have been produced by God,” One man was not believing, even stated it, and his word showed that he was still under judgment because “he has not put his trust” in Jesus Christ.

    Wickedness means thinking with an evil mind, a cutoff mind, thinking with calamity as your center, instead of obedience to the truth of Shalom in Jesus Christ, this One is Lord of all!

    I worry that anything else will only lead us all to judgment of ourselves and that to judgement of others, and that to fear, and that to true disobedience and the command of Jesus , “Fear not!”.

    In the end, fear is just a litmus test that we do not believe….i pray that we all stop fearing!

    Like

    • Hi Rob, Thankyou for your comments on this post. I have replied in stages to make easier reading.
      I find a bit of a paradox in this writing and in the general discussion around this matter, not just here but often in Christian circles.
      On the one side we say that a person is legalistic, but then here we see a person who is said to be condemned for his lack of obedience. Can one be free from legalism yet condemned for not obeying some new law in Christ? Condemned fro not listening?
      Thou shalt listen to what I tell you to do?

      He was not condemned for his lack of obedience. He was condemned for his deception. The point of the post is this servant knew exactly what he was doing. Of course we can be disobedient because we miss the Holy Spirit’s leading, or are afraid or confused etc. We are not ever condemned for this. This servant was judged and condemned because his disobedience was a result of deliberate choice and therefore rebellion.

      We are freed by the blood of Christ, and live in his body, only so long as we are obedient? Well none of us got there by our obedience, but now we must remain obedient to stay? Is that Good News? It makes me nervous if we are still fighting to stay true when we have never been true of anything without the Grace of Messiah.

      None of us came into Christ by obedience to the Old Covenant law and none of us can stay by obedience to the Old Covenant law. You are absolutely right it is by grace we are saved and by grace we are sustained. That is indeed good news. There is nothing in the post that implies we must ‘fight’ to stay true to Christ. Fighting is quite different to yielding.

      As for me, I know I will never be anything close to perfectly obedient, even if I could discern what that is and what God really wants in terms of actions (if any). How many of you do things because you feel compelled to even though you do not really desire to do it? Is that not the definition of legalism? Well, if being obedient is still a constant struggle than we are not free of legalism or much else.

      Yes, striving to do things because we feel compelled to do something we do not desire to do is a very good definition of legalism. Being obedient in Christ is NOT a constant struggle. It flows out of our ever deepening relationship with Him. The New Testament has a term for it: ‘rest’. As we become one with Christ our wills are more and more conformed to His will out of a spiritual place of rested love. In Him we begin to live and move and have our being. Christ enables those who are His to obey Him through His Oneness with them. I disagree that you will never be close to perfectly obedient if you choose to make Him pre-eminent in all things. I believe He is quite able to bring each of us to a place where our wills and His will align, and He does it from love, not from law.

      I feel that the servant is wicked purely because he still believes that he can fail, and that he can be punished for failing. Not his action obedience, but as Paul says,his “obedience to the Gospel/Good news.” Peter defines this good news to Cornelius in the most succinct place I have ever seen in Acts 10, “Shalom through Jesus Christ, this one is Lord of all.” If the man believed that Truth why would he fear, and hide his coin?

      Yes, that is how it appears on the surface, that the servant is merely frightened of the master because he does not yet have a revelation of grace and is living under the fear of law. However, remember it is his own words that condemn him. Think about that. He was not judged and condemned by the master either for failure to obey, or for being afraid. He was judged and condemned because his words were not true and the master knew it.

      Note that in this parable, just as the one in Matthew, there is no scenario where the servant tried and came back with nothing or even the same thing. The point is that If you truly believe that God loves you, and that he remembers your sins no more, than how can you stumble or fail? If God is with you who can be against you? Shalom through Jesus Christ this One is Lord of all!
      The one who truly believes this is set free by the truth, and since God never loses, of course he comes back with more. Have you noticed that God never takes the money back, but leaves it with them (he does not reap where he did not sow). You know this because he says “take the talent from the one and give it to the one with ten.” The guy who succeeded the most has the most, he does not return it to God but becomes the dude with 10….now 11!
      God never takes his gifts back he only gives more, except if the one did not believe that God never takes his gifts back, and thus does not believe the Gospel to begin with. That one must be wicked for he is not washed in the blood, he is still dirty in his mind and thus says, in effect, that Jesus is nothing and that His father is a liar.
      So how can God remember your sins no more but remember your disobedience sin?
      I would say that it is only in that you never really believed that he remembers your sins no more to begin with. You still matter to you and so you think that your performance matters to he who made you from dirt. That is what this man did, he said, in essence, that God craves to hurt his kids and that he will hold all failure against them. By that very definition from his own mouth this man has not accepted Jesus Christ!

      Now you’re getting it.

      The first two men, in both parables, moved without fear, and why is that? Well, John said it this way:
      “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” I John 4:18 I know this is not typical thought because I hear so many talk about a day when Jesus will judge us all, but what brought me to Jesus was not his purported coming judgment but this promise:
      “Most assuredly, I am saying to you, He who habitually hears my word and is believing in the one who sent me has life eternal and into judgment he does not come but has been permanently transferred out from the sphere of death into the life,” (John 5:24 WuestNT)
      And again…
      “Stop working for the food which perishes, but work for the food which abides for life eternal which the Son of Man will give you, for this One the Father sealed, even God.
      Then they said to Him, What are we to do as a habit of life in order that we may continually be working the works of God?
      Answered Jesus and said to them, This is the work of God, that you continually be believing on Him whom that One sent off on a mission.
      John 6:27-29 (WuestNT)
      Believe “Shalom through Jesus Christ, this One is Lord of All”
      Good has always meant being connected to God, for “only God is Good,” Evil has always meant being cut off from God and thus dead. That is what Adam learned at the tree, what being cutoff looks like (knowledge of it)…what evil looks like (in Hebrew the word evil means calamity, strife), and when Adam learned he could be in calamity, he first noticed he was naked and then he hide from God–he hide is coin in a bush and behind a fig leaf”
      ” He who places his trust in Him is not being judged. He who is not believing, has been judged already, and is as a result under judgment, because he has not put his trust in the Name of the uniquely-begotten Son of God, with the result that he is in a state of unbelief.
      And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the universe and is here, and men loved rather the darkness than the light, for their works were pernicious. For everyone who practices evil things hates the light, and does not come and face up to the light lest his works be effectually rebuked. But he who habitually does the truth comes and faces up to the light in order that his works might be clearly shown to have been produced by God. John 3:18-21 (WuestNT)

      Two men came out to show that their works “have been produced by God,” One man was not believing, even stated it, and his word showed that he was still under judgment because “he has not put his trust” in Jesus Christ.Wickedness means thinking with an evil mind, a cutoff mind, thinking with calamity as your center, instead of obedience to the truth of Shalom in Jesus Christ, this One is Lord of all!

      We’re on the same page. This is exactly the point of the post.

      I worry that anything else will only lead us all to judgment of ourselves and that to judgement of others, and that to fear, and that to true disobedience and the command of Jesus , “Fear not!”. In the end, fear is just a litmus test that we do not believe….i pray that we all stop fearing!

      Rob, not sure what you mean by ‘I worry that anything else will only lead us all to judgment of ourselves and that to judgment of others, and that to fear, and that to true disobedience and the command of Jesus.” Not sure what the ‘anything else’ is that you are referring to? Maybe you could clarify?
      Thankyou for sharing!
      CM

      Like

      • Thanks for all the comments, despite a reply that may have been longer than the original post…LOL!

        First, I confess, that since I do not feel at rest, thus I probably missed the point of your message about yielding versus striving. Well said, I think this is the area I need more Grace from the Holy Spirit on. Good food for me, thank you.

        As for the comment about “anything else,” I was just finding the piece making me be introspectively judgmental and possibly judgmental of others as to integrity or truth. I struggle to judge or discern the “wicked servant” for I know that his only hope for salvation is the divine will of Jesus’ Grace. Faith, the gift of God, lest any man boast….

        I think the toughest part of this whole life is believing that it is all Jesus and to rest in that. I believe that is an impossibility except for Jesus personally making it so. When one sees the failure of another human (the wicked guy here), one called a slave of the master (like us), condemned because of whatever reason, it brings fear. Only the grace of Jesus places me this side of darkness, yet for the wicked guy not so much. Hope I am not the wicked guy, just deceiving myself.

        I mean the depravity of the wicked guy is not stronger than Jesus Grace, right?

        To say that the first two men had some innate character that made them have the ability to choose a better path, to see Jesus for who he is, than the wicked servant means that they do have the right to boast, unless that ability is just Grace. Then why less Grace for the wicked guy…
        .
        That is the “anything else” slippery slope to me. I just believe these parables are to show man’s futility, and what would be if there is no Jesus Christ. Wicked must just mean “without the Grace of Jesus.” So I do not look forward to a coming day that those lacking in grace will be judged to have been under judgment. Rather, I set my sights on the fact that only God is good and that I am not God and that I desperately need him.

        Conversations about the wicked can make my desperation turn to fear. As the famed story goes, “I believe, help me with my unbelief.”

        I apologize for any misinterpretation of the piece or going off on an unintended ramble, I am just writing what I felt. I love your Spirit filled work, thank you so much for it.

        Like

      • Hi Rob,
        The only hope of salvation for any of us is Jesus’ grace. And yes, I believe we are in our natural state so self focused that coming into a true revelation of spiritual rest is just that: revelation. But it comes with the deepening revelation in us of exactly who Christ is, not by any other means, and yes I believe that is grace also.

        When one sees the failure of another human (the wicked guy here), one called a slave of the master (like us), condemned because of whatever reason, it brings fear. Only the grace of Jesus places me this side of darkness, yet for the wicked guy not so much. Hope I am not the wicked guy, just deceiving myself. I mean the depravity of the wicked guy is not stronger than Jesus Grace, right?

        Again, I think you need to distinguish between failure and self-will. God does not judge or condemn for failure. But wilful rejection of Christ’s grace will cause us to condemn ourselves. The depravity of the wicked guy is not stronger than Jesus grace, but Christ will not violate free will. If He did so He would be an abuser.

        There is no less grace for the wicked servant. In the parable each servant was given exactly the same amount to invest right at the beginning. It’s a level playing field. The two servants who were commended did not have any innate character advantage over the third ‘wicked’ servant. They were not commended because of anything at all that relates to their character or personalities. They were commended for faithfulness. And faithfulness is a decision, not a character trait. The only difference between the two who were commended and the wicked servant is faithfulness. The wicked servant chose unfaithfulness when he chose his own will over the revealed will of the master. Again, it’s important that you see, he was not punished for failure or for not understanding. This servant absolutely understood, was given the same grace and equipping as the others, but consciously decided “No, I will do my own thing.” His wickedness was compounded because he thought he could hide from the master what was really in his heart.

        I don’t think Jesus’ parables were only to show man’s futility. I see them as also showing the way out of our futility. That it is faithfulness He is looking for in His followers and if we are willing He is able to keep us faithful. Wicked does not just mean ‘without the grace of Jesus”. Wicked means ‘wilfully, continually, consciously rejected the grace of Jesus”.

        I don’t think any true Christ follower looks forward to a day when those who rejected Christ will be judged. The great beauty of truly seeking to follow Christ is that we are being continually and ever more deeply conformed to His character, His nature, His way of thinking, His way of doing things, His way of life. And we know that neither He nor the Father are willing for any to perish. Therefore it is a matter of sorrow to think of others being judged. (The basis of all godly judgment is rejection of Christ.) At the same time, there is a place of assurance for those who are ‘in Christ” that they will neither be judged or condemned, in this life or the one to come. My prayer is that you will come into the deep rest of knowing that for yourself. As you have said ‘perfect love casts out fear’. I do believe that He has you in His grip and He will complete what He has begun in you.
        I very much appreciate your open communication.
        CM

        Like

  2. “this servant is hiding behind a mask of pious compliance in order to excuse his blatant disobedience.” – WOW – good word – i always liked Malachi’s definition of wicked -in Mal 3:18 – wicked are the ones who don’t serve God!

    This is good stuff Cheryl!

    Like

    • Ben, thanks for the pointer to Malachi 3:18. Throughout church life I (and I suspect many others) had been led to believe this parable was about stewardship only. It is about stewardship to a certain extent, but there’s a deeper message about human will and the sovereignty of Christ that I wanted to bring out. Thankyou for your encouraging comments!
      CM

      Like

  3. Cheryl – and the answer is for each one of the bride to wake up, cross her personal Jordan River and enter into His Rest… only there will they find their true purpose in His Kingdom and be empowered to use the gift(s) He has given them to advance His Kingdom in a fruit filled, victorious life. To arrive at His throne “so as by fire” cannot be an option for His bride. Blessings. Pastor Tom

    Like

  4. Cheryl, thanks so much for telling the thing as it is and yet with love. Imho, much blogging and face-booking today doesn’t bring this balance.

    And I think you’re so right when you say ‘We do not understand true spiritual wickedness because we do not yet understand that Christ is King.” In my own opinion that has resulted from preaching/teaching a shallow ‘gospel’ (over generations) that doesn’t tell the whole story of Jesus and that doesn’t understand the lordship of Christ (for me 1 Cor. 15, the whole of it, is key to understanding the gospel). Fortunately this issue of the King and the Kingdom is being more and more addressed by respected writers like Scot McKnight (‘The King Jesus Gospel’), Len Sweet and Frank Viola (‘Jesus Manifesto’), among others.

    And thanks for challenging me to look into my own heart…

    My penny’s worth, and bless you!

    Like

    • Erroll, Your penny’s worth is always welcome! I absolutely agree that for far too long in church history the emphasis has been solely on the gospel of salvation, which is only a part of the whole. Christ preached and demonstrated the gospel of the Kingdom. His Bride will preach and demonstrate the gospel of the Kingdom. Thankyou for your input!
      CM

      Like

  5. Thanks. I always thought “wicked” was a pretty harsh word, but I see the reasons behind it now.

    Like

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