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In Matthew 25:24-26 we have this interchange:

24 “He also who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you that you are a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter.

25 I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the earth. Behold, you have what is yours.’"

26 “But his lord answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant. You knew that I reap where I didn’t sow, and gather where I didn’t scatter."

The worker seems to be defending why he buried the talent of coins, but I don't understand the thought he is conveying with his words (noted in the question). Can someone explain it? Is this an idiom and not to be taken literally?

  • This is my best understanding: "You are able to get water from a rock and squeeze blood from a turnip, so there's little I can do in comparison. Here, you can have it back." – Steve May 25 '18 at 5:16
  • What if the man with one talent was the one with discernment? He knew he was speaking to the anti-Christ who wanted to reap where he did not sow. Money-laundering in some way. Jesus is not interested in 'interest' from banks. The one-talent man gave back to 'Caesar' what was Caesar's, but did not validate it by increasing it. Plus, two-fold is not the true Jesus' way. – tblue May 27 '18 at 6:29
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    reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter - The other two servants each presented their master with double the amount of money they were lent, i.e, he took more from them then he gave them. – Lucian May 28 '18 at 12:17

10 Answers 10

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The "hard man, reaping where he has not sewn and gathering where he has not scattered" is a metaphor for Lord and His relation to humans. Now we are to crack this metaphor.

Actually, the talent given to man is His grace, and the grace is just a metaphoric name for Lord's operation/working in us, which working manifests the divine presence in our hearts (cf. Col. 1:29). But the nature of this operation is such that necessarily requires our co-operation in order not to diminish and not to be extinguished in us, for we can indeed, through our sloth make this divine operation/energy in us remain fruitless and wither.

Now, our co-operation depends on our freedom, our free response of love, and as the parable makes it clear, those responses can be of a greater or lesser intensity, which intensity does not depend already on Lord, but solely on us, for He is infinite, and that how much we co-operate with the Infinite, that is to say, the level of our exposure to Him, depends on our daring, our exertion, our loving response and initiative. And this is exactly the meaning of "you reap where you have not sown" - that is to say, He has not "sown" our free response, that is completely on us, but He "reaps" our free response, that is to say, takes us to a deeper embrace revealing to us His greater mysteries ungrudgingly.

In a way, He wishes to make Himself our infinite debtor, for He gives us the bestowal of His operation in us - the talent - and wants us to return more than what was given, so as to become our debtor and be "obliged" to give more grace, a more intense presence of His working in us, and so infinitely. This is the meaning of "who has, to him will be given more" (Matt 13:12). But the continuation is even more interesting and paradoxical: "who has not, from him will be taken also that which he has" - for how can something that is not possessed be taken? But this alogism contains a deep meaning that possession of divine grace is of such a nature, that we truly have it only when we cultivate it and co-act with it in us, but if we are lazy or afraid to do so, then the action of Lord in us is not automatic and self-imposing without our free response and co-action, and it will be taken away from us, that is to say, wither in us through atrophy. This exactly is the explanation of another metaphoric acclamation of the Lord - "hard": yes, indeed, He is hard in this sense, for He is ontologically unable to do our part of work, the our co-working Himself, for it is impossible even for Him, thus, He is "hard", because leaves us to deal with our horrible freedom and responsibility with regard of the grace He gives to us.

  • This is a beautiful spiritual illumination of the passage. But I was wondering what the man meant in his own physical context, not in an allegorical one. Thank you for replying. – Steve May 25 '18 at 15:15
  • @Steve Thanks for reading and giving your opinion. Sorry that I was not enough attentive to the nuance of your question. I cannot tell whether it was a certain idiom that had currency in those remote times, if I will get any info about this, I will write to you here. – Levan Gigineishvili May 25 '18 at 17:39
  • Indeed he is hard in the sense in which you have explained it. He gives a dream or omen warning of impending danger. If the recipient doesn't respond accordingly, he allows the evil to occur. He is a "Hard, no nonsense" master. +1 – user20490 May 27 '18 at 18:51
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Usury (charging interest) was forbidden among Jews but it was permitted, or possibly required for Jews to charge interest when lending to gentiles.

However this is not a loan situation, per se but rather a situation where a man's slave was being employed as his money manager (οἰκονόμος). He neither would lend nor give the money to his slave but instead committed it to him for his (the master's) purposes:

1Co 4:1-2 KJV - 1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers [IE: "servants"] of Christ, and stewards (οἰκονόμοις) of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.

Of course, while there is application regarding "filthy lucre" the intent of the parable is really about redeeming the time.

1Pe 4:10 KJV - 10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

It was his duty to put the money to work to gain more money. This is essentially the capitalist paradigm. People invest in a corporation for entirely selfish ends. The corporation then uses the money to make more money and return a dividend to the investor. If the corporation does not create more wealth for the investor then the investor takes the money he invested and invests it into a different corporation. And so on. This is a ruthless, greed driven enterprise, and in no way a charity.

The slave that buried the money blames his failure to profit on his master. Fear of his master's ruthless craving for profit motivates the servant to hide the money. However, the master is not pleased because he has no profit and correctly points out that he could have made a profit with no risk (or at least without taking a risk for which he would have been censured if the bank failed). Banks take money from risk averse investors and then turn around and invest it in riskier ventures at higher profit. Then they pay out at a lower rate.

Now, the slaves that returned a high profit to their master evidently took calculated risks by researching the market well and making informed investments. The risks reaped large rewards. The master took his investment from the one who was both risk averse and delinquent and invested it with the servant who took the greatest risk and reaped the greatest reward. The capitalist master wanted to hit it big on the latest dot com, not just get a 1% bank interest.

The reward to the master was only on paper. His money remained in the market. The reward to the profitable servant was not in money (since neither the seed money nor the profit belonged to him) but in the approval of his master and the ever increasing responsibility.

What is absent from the parable is a slave who took risk and lost the seed money. One can only speculate how the master might react which would depend on his character.

So what the slave was saying is this:

"[The reason I didn't make any profit for you is that I knew that] you are very demanding, expecting your money to bring you profits you didn't work for. [So I didn't take any chances and I protected your investment]".

The master responded "You knew I demanded a profit I didn't work for [which isn't an impossible demand in that] you could have at least put my money in the bank and I would have gotten my seed money back with interest. ["So the fault is not mine for demanding a return I didn't work for but yours for being too lazy and irresponsible to invest the money I entrusted to your management into a bank."]

God wants profitable servants, not excuses. And God's servants are given risk-free opportunities for investment. The bank here seems to be connected with the following section and so means that the lord's servant should, with the resources he has been entrusted, invest in the poor. Money invested in the poor is like money in the bank. At the lord's coming he will be found a faithful and gratifying servant to his master.

  • OK, but "what does ‘Lord, I knew you that you are a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter'" mean? What does this phrase mean, not what does the parable mean. – Steve May 28 '18 at 5:23
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It's a confusing passage because today the evils of exploitation "reaping where you did not sew" is generally seen as good (capitalism) whereas at the time the bible was written it was seen as evil, cheating, stealing etc.

See here for example:

https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/bible-interpretation/what-does-the-parable-of-the-talents-mean/

The king is a "hard man", like a criminal. He's a bad guy. That's why the third servant is afraid. Think of him like a mob boss. So obviously the king doesn't represent God because Jesus' view of God is not that God is an evil person that wants people to exploit others. The evil king even says to the third servant "if you knew I was a bastard why didn't you at least bank the money", because charging money on loans was also seen as evil and was something God told the Jews not to do (to their fellow Jews at least). Bad king says "if you know I don't care about morals why didn't you put the money in the bank at least? if you were too lazy or scared to use it to exploit others yourself then the banker would have done that for you".

So much is clear but was is not clear is what the point of the story is as far as Jesus telling it.

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I have read the passage and don't see that statement about the Lord being a harsh man as a question in my bible. Where did you see that at?

  • My question mark is outside the quotes, so it isn't part of the verse itself. Sorry for the confusion it caused you. And thanks for joining us. Please go below and click on the Tour link to learn how we are different from other sites. For instance, your statements were a comment and belonged in comment field below the posted question (through the "add a comment" link). Instead, you put it in an answer field as though answering the question itself. :) – Steve Jul 19 '19 at 14:58
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i feel like Jesus is saying that there are things in the world, as a result of the fall, that he hasn't sewn. but his intention is to reap the damaged harvest and put it to good use.

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It's quite telling that this parable follows the parable of the ten virgins. Just as a teacher will explain an idea in different ways, the idea in the previous parable is being explained in an alternate way. The important takeaway is that a believer needs to maintain a surplus of faith because the task he will be asked to do may require that extra faith.

How does a believer acquire faith?

There is information in the text that faith is initiated by God. It doesn't mean that faith is a gift, given as a final product or resource, to help in accomplishing the task (as Wallace and Mounce confirm, in their interpretation of the Greek of Ephesians 2:8). Rather, the idea is that a process that generates faith is started, and grows, depending on affinity with God’s character.

Explanation/demonstration

God created a crisis in the desert by not making arrangements to supply food and water to Israel. Israel panics. So far, no harm, no foul. God saves from the crisis.

God asks Israel to overcome the Canaanites and take possession of the Land. This is the task mentioned, that requires a prior exercising and building up of faith.

Different responses

  1. Joshua remembers the great works God did in Egypt and in the wilderness. He puts it all together. God had promised that the world would be blessed through Abraham's descendants. This will happen if the world sees God on Israel's side and believes in the benefit it results in, of leaving selfish living and turning to follow God, which in turn will make them blessings to yet more people like Rahab. God's command to overcome the Canaanites is the way He will deliver the world from harmful selfish living.

  2. Israel forgets the great works God did. This speaks a lot about her collective character, of trying to be God's sheep.

In not being God's sheep, not being clean, that the rest of Israel, that Judas, turned out to be, whatever faith they had from seeing the great works of the Son and the Father will be taken away. The world will see the negative model. Lacking strength and fortitude, the victims become easy pickings for Satan to lead into betrayal of God.

This is the opposite of the result of allowing mighty revelations to take root, and growing in faith, so that when called to manifest the privilege of being blessings, they have the benefit of having a faith reinforced by remembering God's great works, to follow through. Not allowing faith to be nurtured and nourished due to fear and cowardice and concern for interests of self leads to non fulfilment and experiencing of God's wrath. The negative example, the sight of those who fail, is a further incentive to the industrious believers to do even better.

The reference to reaping where seed is not sown, bread is not given, to dogs, yet still expecting the dogs to be fit, is because even the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from the masters' table. Although Cornelius was not having the benefit of Covenant membership, he would still be expected to conform, as one who would be judged outside the Law.

Romans 2:12 NASB For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law

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In Matthew 25:24-26 what does ‘Lord, I knew you that you are a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter" mean?

The worker seems to be defending why he buried the talent of coins, but I don't understand the thought he is conveying with his words (noted in the question). Can someone explain it? Is this an idiom and not to be taken literally?

Wrong reasoning by the wicked slave.

The two other slaves worked and each gained 100% on the money/ talents given to them by their master, His failure to increase was his own fault,he accepted the money in good faith, with the understanding that he was going to work and increase the profits of his master. He showed no respect or consideration for his master or his property. The slave at the same time enjoyed the benefits of his master,during his absence like the other two, this in fact caused a loss to his master.

Notice that on the return of the master (verse 19) to settle accounts he complained:

And answered his master , verses 24-25

"Lord, I knew you that you are a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter."25 I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the earth. Behold, you have what is yours."

He basically tried to tell his master that it was his fault and accused him of being a thief, getting crops from land that he did not sow and gathering crops that he did not winnow. And in verse 25, so what? he tells his master, I hid your money in the earth and I am now giving back to you, you suffered no loss.

The slave's master (Jesus) using the trumped-up excuse of the slave, replied to him:

Matthew 25:26-27 (NRSV)

26 "But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest."

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  • “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Luke 11:23 New International Version (NIV)

    And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:46 English Standard Version (ESV)

    This would be spineless disloyalty to values, as well as unfair to servants that comply with the necessary standards.

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Matthew 25:24-26
Here is what I get from the Greek:

24But when he also who had received the one talent came, he said, "Lord I perceived you as being a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering from where you have not strewn. 25So, being frightened, when leaving I hid your talent in the ground. Behold! You have what is yours."

26But after being answered his Lord said to him, "Wicked and slothful servant! As you had perceived I harvest where I have not sown and gather from where I have not strewn, 27then you ought to have put my money with the bankers and at my coming I would get back first what was mine, plus interest."

Details: (Click for a larger image) enter image description here

Firstly, the accusation leveled at his Lord by the wicked servant, was not true. How is the Lord giving a bag of his money to his servants to do with according to their ability, any different than giving each of them a bag of his seed to sew and strew his fields?

The servant didn't "know" his Lord at all. His "perception" was that his Lord was making himself rich by other men's efforts, and he wasn't going to be part of it.

This is borne out by the Lord's conclusion (paraphrased), "If you had truly been afraid, with no greater effort than digging a hole and burying my money, you could have left it with the bankers, then I would have gotten back not only my own, but interest as well."

The wicked servant wasn't afraid of his Lord, he was simply unwilling for his Lord to become richer by his efforts.

Additional Comments

The wicked servant is "a type". One who considers the profit from the glory of his flesh (his strength, his fortitude, his intelligence, his appearance, his life -- whatsoever he might boast of, which of course he never earned) belongs to himself alone. So, when called to give account for what he has done with it, he will make some lame excuse just like the wicked servant who intimated that doing anything with the money would somehow have supported his Lord's continued reaping where he had not sown.

The message of the parable is that there is nothing a man possesses that was not given to him by the LORD, or derived from what was given, and when called to give account, making lame accusations or excuses for not using it to profit (bring glory to) the One who gave it, will be met with the same judgment that befell the wicked servant ... there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth!

  • But his Lord agreed with his claims by saying: "You knew that I was a hard man reaping where I did not sow"..... So he seems to have gotten that right based on the text. – user20490 May 27 '18 at 18:54
  • @user20490 The Lord didn't agree. He simply reiterated the servant's words. I have chosen "peceived" instead of "knew" because it indicates better that the servant's "knowledge" was only how he saw his Lord, not how his Lord really was. The Lord gave HIS money to the servants to do with according to their ability, which is sowing and strewing in the same way as it would have been had he given them each a bag of HIS seeds to sow in HIS fields. Is the harvest any less the Lord's because his own hand had not sown or strewn the seeds? – enegue May 27 '18 at 20:52
  • OK, but "what does ‘Lord, I knew you that you are a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter'" mean?" What does this phrase mean, not what does the parable mean. – Steve May 28 '18 at 5:25
  • The phrase means "you are profiting from effort you did not make." The wicked servant was totally ignorant of the fact that whatever he had in his hand was given to him by his Lord, whether it be a bag of seeds to sow or a bag of money to invest in enterprise, his wages even. He didn't like the fact that his labour/enterprise would make his Lord richer, so he decided he wouldn't participate. – enegue May 28 '18 at 7:15
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I’m perplexed that many believers have missed an extremely important point in this parable, the phrase uttered by the master to the lazy servant is extremely revealing; ‘So, you knew me to be a hard man, reaping where I have not sown and gathering where I have not strewn ?’ is delivered as a QUESTION. This implies an almost sarcastic response from the master to the servant, the master in a more modern interpretation is saying something like this; “Are you for real ? YOU think I’m some overbearing tyrant who wants what is unreasonable? Sheez, that’s ridiculous! Okay then, even if you DO think I’m like that, then you should’ve had SOME motivation to do SOMETHING with my money !” Here’s the reality of this parable, in that day and age, it was unthinkable that a ‘Master’ of ‘slaves’ would EVER be so bold as to entrust his servants with such substantial amounts of his own possessions and property. Slaves were only there to take orders and NEVER to use their own initiative in their dealings with their masters estate, but this parable is meant to show the huge benevolence of a wonderfully kind master who BELIEVES in his servants. This is the problem with many as the Lords servants, there is the real sense of dread that they’re not doing all they can and that God will ultimately say something like this to them; “Well....you did that...but you could’ve done more !....oh,alright ...you can come in then..” Our whole concept of a Loving Father has been twisted and distorted by wrong teaching delivered by authorities who should reveal the Fathers heart but are guilty themselves of falling under this harsh spirit of legalism that completely robs Gods servants of the joy of serving their benevolent, very generous and kind master who wants to greets every one of his servants each day with the kiss of each sunrise. Jesus is the KINDEST person you will ever meet....listen to the joy and freedom of discourse in the first two servants; “hey master ! Thanks SO much for trusting me with this, I’m gonna get onto this and put your trust in me to work, because I’m grateful for your trust in me and want to be able to show you something for it !” That’s called enthusiasm!! En-theos or ‘in God’.

  • Please provide some support from other sources. As it is, it sounds like you are giving your own opinion. Besides, Matthew 24:45 has a master giving a servant rule over his household to make sure everyone is fed while the master takes a trip. Joseph in Genesis 39:5 became head steward over his master's household. That's a lot of responsibility to give to a slave. – Steve Jul 6 '19 at 13:18

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