What comes to your mind when you hear the word faithfulness? How do you picture it? This is one of those words that seems to involve so many things that it’s difficult to grasp. But in reality, it’s quite simple to understand.
Consider the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25. I would like to expose three aspects of faithfulness—three elements that can be seen in this parable. Let’s look at verse 14 first.
For it [that is, the kingdom of heaven] is just like a man about to go on a journey and he called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them.
The Greek word (paradidomi) means to entrust or commit—to give someone a responsibility. The first thing you (and your counselees) have to understand about faithfulness is that it involves responsibility. God has entrusted you with a variety of specific responsibilities. The responsibilities may be in the form of gifts or abilities or talents, tasks, vocational duties, or ministries. So we all have responsibilities that have been assigned to us by God or indirectly by His agents.
Someone has defined responsibility this way – “knowing and doing what God and others are expecting of me.” Do you know what God and others are expecting of you? With what stewardships have you been entrusted? What responsibilities do you have right now? Ask your counselee whether he sees any of these as his divinely appointed responsibilities.
- To grow in Christ
- To be the loving leader of your home
- To be a helper to your husband
- To honor and obey your parents
- To be a faithful employee or employer at work
- To serve others in ministry
- To balance your checkbook
- To actively participate in your local church
- To study and do your homework
- To obey and honor your parents
Let’s look next at verse 15.
To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one. Each according to his own ability and he went on his journey.
It is really not ability that counts (because God has given each of us gifts and talents as the text says, according to our abilities; c.f. Romans 12:3-8, James 1:17). Rather, it is what we do with these abilities that God has given us that matters in God’s economy.
Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them and gained five more talents. In the same manner, the one who had received the two talents gained two more, but he who had received the one talent went away and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time, the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.
The words in italics disclose the second building block of faithfulness. It is the principle of accountability. The King James Version renders the phrase “settle accounts with them” (Greek: sunario + logos) as “reconneth with them.” You and I will be held accountable for faithfully fulfilling the responsibilities with which God has entrusted us. This same phrase is translated in Matthew 18:23 (in the parable of the unforgiving servant) as settling accounts—“For this reason, the kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slave.”
Now, one of the most important things, or significant things, about principle number 2 is that without it there would be or could be no principle number 3. And principle number 3 is arguably the best of the three principles. It is the principle of rewards.
You and I will be rewarded according to our faithfulness or according to our unfaithfulness.
And the one who had received five talents came up and brought five more talents saying, “Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.” His master said to him, (here comes the reward) “Well done, you good and faithful slave.” He gets commended. “You were faithful over a few things. I will put you in charge of (note that phrase) many things. Enter into the joy of your master.” The one who had received the two talents came up and said, “Master, you entrusted to me two talents. See, I have gained two more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.” Good has to do with what I am, including my motives. Faithful has to do with what I do, assuming that my motives are right. So he says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Part of our reward is commendation, but there is another part of our reward. A much more important part of our reward, when we execute our responsibilities faithfully, and really even if we don’t, has to do with additional responsibilities — whether or not we get additional responsibilities.
If you don’t get anything else from this article, please make sure you understand this: Faithfulness involves a future reward based on the fulfillment of past responsibilities. If you faithfully fulfill the responsibilities that God has given you, you will be honored, not only in the sense of commendation, but you will be rewarded with additional responsibilities. And that begins the next phase of the process—the next step up the ladder of being “found faithful” (c.f. 1 Corinthians 4:2).
Reward: (additional) Responsibility
If you don’t faithfully fulfill the responsibilities you have been given, you will not be entrusted or rewarded with greater responsibilities. You see, there is a negative side of this principle as well.
Look at verse 24.
The one who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man. Reaping what you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed, and I was afraid and I went away and I hid your talents in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered and said to him, “You wicked, lazy slave. You knew that I reaped where I did not sow and gathered where I scattered no seeds. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore, take away the talent from him.” And give it to one, to the one, who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who does not have, even what he does not have shall be taken away. Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness—in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
The unfaithful slave received condemnation rather than commendation. Instead of receiving additional responsibilities, the few responsibilities that he had were taken from him (Greek: airo, to remove from).
So here is a working definition of faithfulness extrapolated from the aforementioned passages: Faithfulness is demonstrating to God and others that I can be trusted with more and more responsibilities based on my past performance.
As Jesus said, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:28b).
When you read the word faithful in your Bible from now on you will know exactly what it means. It means to be trustworthy. It means to be dependable. It means to be reliable. As a rule, whenever you see the word faithfulness, in the Scriptures, you can substitute any one of those synonyms and you will get a pretty good picture of what the word entails.
 This definition of responsibility is from the Institute in Basic Life Principles Character Bookshelf Series game titled Character Clues, © 1974, Oak brook, Illinois, Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts.
 The Greek word for “put you in charge” in verses 21 and 23 (καθίστημι) means “To set in an elevated position, in an office.”