by Martin G. Collins
The first and last parables in Matthew 13 are key parables. The first, the Parable of the Sower, introduces and anticipates the whole series of parables, and the last, the Parable of the Householder (Matthew 13:51-52), concludes and reflects on them. When Jesus finishes giving the first seven parables, He asks His disciples, "Have you understood these things?" They reply, "Yes." Their comprehension allows Jesus to give one more illustration to reveal their responsibility as scribes being instructed on the subject of the Kingdom of Heaven.
In this eighth and last parable of this chapter, Jesus educates His disciples in their roles as students, teachers, and leaders. The householder represents the true minister doing the work of feeding the household of faith. Our Savior shows that a minister of God's household has a truly rich, inspired storehouse of essential spiritual treasures from which he can draw to perform his duties.
1. What is the function of a scribe? Matthew 13:52.
Comment: A "scribe" in the first century had an important position in the Jewish community. Almost five centuries earlier, Ezra the priest had been the archetypal scribe (Ezra 7:6), trained and skilled in the Law of Moses, which God had given Israel. He read the law before all who could hear with understanding on the Feast of Trumpets, helping the people to comprehend it (Nehemiah 8:2-8). In this, we see the function of a scribe—and similarly, the function of what we call a "minister" of God. A minister is a man who dedicates his life to studying God's written Word so he can expound and illustrate the Bible's laws, statutes, and principles to help people live God's abundant way of life.
The word translated instructed is from a Greek word meaning "to make a disciple" or "to become a pupil." Verse 52 could easily read, ". . . every scribe who has been trained for the Kingdom of God is like a master of a house." In this light, we see the scribe as a student who has been taught and is continuing to be taught. Not only is he a teacher, but he is also learning at the same time. He must continue to learn so that he can continue to teach.
Jesus left an example of sending out His disciples after teaching them to preach the Kingdom of God (Matthew 10:5-7; 28:19-20). In this way, the gospel is spread around the world and God's flock is fed.
2. What is the householder's responsibility? Same verse.
Comment: The scribe is compared to "a householder." The Greek word translated householder means "the master of the house." "Master" implies great authority as well as responsibility over his house. The master of the house has the final say in deciding what is best for his household.
In terms of government in the church, the minister of God has been commissioned as an authoritative teacher of Holy Scripture (I Corinthians 4:1). This parable suggests that God has granted His ministers authority to expound His Word, calling them "masters of the house." A minister is thus a student, a teacher, and a leader. Paul expresses in Ephesians 4:7-13 Christ's view that the ministry is His gift to the church, and that He gives them to do the work of preaching the gospel, equipping the saints, and helping to bring people to the measure of the stature and the fullness of Christ. He does these things, Christ says, by bringing "out of his treasure things new and old."
3. What is the new and the old that comes out of the treasure? Same verse.
Comment: The word treasure in verse 52 means something slightly different than it does in verse 44 in the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, where it implies gems and other precious things. In verse 52, it means a place for treasure, not the treasure itself. In other words, Jesus refers to "a treasure house," "a treasury," "a storehouse," or "a storeroom" where a person would keep necessary items like food, clothing, supplies, and family valuables for safekeeping. In context, then, the minister is to use what he has learned and experienced for the benefit of his spiritual family—he is to use as resources all the things he has stored away from his study of God's truth and his know-how in living God's way to lead and provide for his flock.
The "new and old" refers to food stored in a storeroom. The master of the house is in charge of ensuring that his storeroom contains everything needed to feed his family. A prudent householder balances serving his oldest store with the new. In this sense, seeing the value in the old, he wisely serves his family old store as well as the fresh "off-the-vine" food, mixing them in balance so that neither is wasted.
Jesus wants His ministers to teach their spiritual families by carefully balancing the teaching of the Old and the New Testaments (Matthew 5:17-19; Acts 26:22-23). It does not mean that the old is thrown away or is wrong. In the parables, Jesus did a similar thing by taking the old understanding of God's Kingdom and focusing new light on it to expand the people's understanding of its character and future course.
Ministers of Christ may not grasp and understand all the wisdom of God, but having received His instruction and sufficiently understood His message, they are commissioned to make use of this spiritually rich treasure to enrich others (Galatians 6:10). Taught by Jesus Christ and inspired in understanding His Word, ministers are to reflect that knowledge to their spiritual families, their fellow members of the church.