Blessed is that servant, whom when his Lord shall come he shall find watching: amen I say to you, he shall place him over all his goods.
45. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his houshold, to give them meat in due season? 46. Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 47. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. 48. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; 49. And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; 50. The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, 51. And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
HILARY. Though the Lord had given above a general exhortation to all in common to unwearied vigilance, yet He adds a special charge to the rulers of the people, that is, the Bishops, of watchfulness in looking for His coming. Such He calls a faithful servant, and wise master of the household, careful for the needs and interests of the people entrusted to Him.
CHRYSOSTOM. That He says, Whom think ye is that faithful and nine servant, does not imply ignorance, for even the Father we find asking a question, as that, Adam, where art thou? (Gen. 3:9.)
REMIGIUS. Nor yet does it imply the impossibility of attaining perfect virtue, but only the difficulty.
GLOSS. (ord.) For rare indeed is such faithful servant serving his Master for his Master’s sake, feeding Christ’s sheep not for lucre but for love of Christ, skilled to discern the abilities, the life, and the manner of those put under him, whom the Lord sets over, that is, who is called of God, and has not thrust himself in.
CHRYSOSTOM. He requires two things of such servant, fidelity and prudence; He calls him faithful, because he appropriates to himself none of his Lord’s goods, and wastes nought idly and unprofitably. He calls him prudent, as knowing on what he ought to lay out the things committed to him.
ORIGEN. Or, he that makes progress in the faith, though he is not yet perfect in it, is ordinarily called faithful, and he who has natural quickness of intellect is called prudent. And whoever observes will find many faithful, and zealous in their belief, but not at the same time prudent; for God hath chosen the foolish things of the world. (1 Cor. 1:27.) Others again he will see who are quick and prudent but of weak faith; for the union of faith and prudence in the same man is most rare. To give food in due season calls for prudence in a man; not to take away the food of the needy requires faithfulness. And this the literal sense obliges us to, that we be faithful in dispersing the revenues of the Church, that we devour not that which belongs to the widows, that we remember the poor, and that we do not take occasion from what is written, The Lord hath ordained, that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel, (1 Cor. 9:14.) to seek more than plain food and necessary clothing, or to keep more for ourselves than we give to those who suffer want. And that we be prudent, to understand the cases of them that are in need, whence they come to be so, what has been the education and what are the necessities of each. It needs much prudence to distribute fairly the revenues of the Church. Also let the servant be faithful and prudent, that he lavish not the intellectual and spiritual food upon those whom he ought not, but dispense according as each has need; to one is more behoveful that word which shall edify his behaviour, and guide his practice, than that which sheds a ray of science; but to others who can pierce more deeply let him not fail to expound the deeper things, lest if he set before them common things only, he be despised by such as have naturally keener understandings, or have been sharpened by the discipline of worldly learning.
CHRYSOSTOM. This parable may be also fitted to the case of secular rulers; for each ought to employ the things he has to the common benefit, and not to the hurt of his fellow-servants, nor to his own ruin; whether it be wisdom or dominion, or whatever else he has.
RABANUS. The lord is Christ, the household over which He appoints is the Church Catholic. It is hard then to find one man who is both faithful and wise, but not impossible; for He would not pronounce a blessing on a character that could never be, as when He adds, Blessed is that servant whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
HILARY. That is, obedient to his Lord’s command, by the seasonableness of his teaching dispensing the word of life to a household which is to be nourished for the food of eternity.
REMIGIUS. It should be observed, that as there is great difference of desert between good preachers and good hearers, so is there great difference between their rewards. The good hearers, if He finds them watching He will make to sit down to meat, as Luke speaks; but the good preachers He will set over all His goods.
ORIGEN. That he may reign with Christ, to whom the Father has committed all that is His. And as the son of a good father set over all that is his, He shall communicate of His dignity and glory to His faithful and wise stewards, that they also may be above the whole creation.
RABANUS. Not that they only, but that they before others, shall be rewarded as well for their own lives as for their superintendence of the flock.
HILARY. Or, shall set him over all his goods, that is, shall place him in the glory of God, because beyond this is nothing better.
CHRYSOSTOM. And He instructs His hearer not only by the honour which awaits the good, but by the punishment which threatens the wicked, adding, If that evil servant shall say in his heart, &c.
AUGUSTINE. (Ep. 199. 1.) The temper of this servant is shewn in his behaviour, which is thus expressed by his good Master; his tyranny, and shall begin to beat his fellow servants, his sensuality, and to eat and drink with the drunken. So that when he said, My Lord delayeth His coming, he is not to be supposed to speak from desire to see the Lord, such as was that of him who said, My soul is athirst for the living God; when shall I come? (Ps. 42:2.) This shews that he was grieved at the delay, seeing that what was hastening towards him seemed to his longing desires to be coming slowly.
ORIGEN. And every Bishop, who ministers not as a fellow servant, but rules by might as a master, and often an harsh one, sins against God; also if he does not cherish the needy, but feasts with the drunken, and is continually slumbering because his Lord cometh not till after long time.
RABANUS. Typically, we may understand his beating his fellow servants, of offending the consciences of the weak by word, or by evil example.
JEROME. The Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for Him, is to rouse the stewards to watchfulness and carefulness. He shall cut him in sunder, is not to be understood of execution by the sword, but that he shall sever him from the company of the saints.
ORIGEN. Or, He shall cut him in sunder, when his spirit, that is, his spiritual gift, shall return to God who gave it; but his soul shall go with his body into hell. But the righteous man is not cut in sunder, but his soul, with his spirit, that is, with his gift, spiritual enters into the kingdom of heaven. They that are cut in sunder have in the in thenceforth no part of that spiritual gift which was from God, but there remains to them that part which was their own, that is, their soul, which shall be punished with their body.
JEROME. And shall appoint him his portion with the hypocrites, with those, namely, that were in the field, and grinding at the mill, and were nevertheless left. For as we often say that the hypocrite is one who is one thing, and passes himself for another; so in the field and at the mill he seemed to be doing the same as others, but the event proved that his purpose was different.
RABANUS. Or, appoints him his portion with the hypocrites, that is, a twofold share of punishment, that of fire and frost; to the fire belongs the weeping, to the frost the gnashing of teethk.
ORIGEN. Or, there shall be weeping for such as have laughed amiss in this world, gnashing of teeth for those who have enjoyed an irrational peace. For being unwilling to suffer bodily pain, now the torture forces their teeth to chatter, with which they have eaten the bitterness of wickedness. From this we may learn that the Lord sets over His household not the faithful and wise only, but the wicked also; and that it will not save them to have been set over His household, but only if they have given them their food in due season, and have abstained from beating and drunkenness.
AUGUSTINE. (Ep. 199 in fin.) Putting aside this wicked servant, who, there is no doubt, hates his Master’s coming, let us set before our eyes these good servants, who anxiously expect their Lord’s coming. One looks for His coming sooner, another later, the third confesses his ignorance of the matter. Let us see which is most agreeable to the Gospel. One says, Let us watch and pray, because the Lord will quickly come; another, Let us watch and pray, because this life is short and uncertain, though the Lord’s coming may be distant; and the third, Let us watch, because this life is short and uncertain, and we know not the time when the Lord will come. What else does this man say than what we hear the Gospel say, Watch, because ye know not the hour in which the Lord shall come? All indeed, through longing for the kingdom, desire that that should be true which the first thinks, and if it should so come to pass, the second and third would rejoice with him; but if it should not come to pass, it were to be feared that the belief of its supporters might be shaken by the delay, and they might begin to think that the Lord’s coming shall be, not remote, but never. He who believes with the second that the Lord’s coming is distant will not be shaken in faith, but will receive an unlooked for joy. He who confesses his ignorance which of these is true, wishes for the one, is resigned to the other, but errs in neither, because he neither affirms or denies either.