One servant, two paths (part 1)
The disciples wanted to know when Jesus would return to set up His kingdom. Near the end of His ministry, just before the Passover, the Last Supper, and the cross…they plucked up the courage to ask Jesus about it. Matthew 24-25 records His answer. Jesus finishes with three parables to illustrate the importance of being ready for His return. But interestingly enough, the first of the three is something He has told them before. Since Matthew 24:45-51 is a condensed version of His earlier teaching, it will be more instructive for us to look at Luke’s record.
Luke tells us that Jesus was teaching both His disciples and a crowd numbering in the thousands. His teaching would ebb and flow, with some things directed toward His disciples and other topics were addressed to everyone present. When Jesus transitioned to the topic of being prepared for His return, He told a story about slaves anticipating the return of their master. Jesus said that “Those slaves the master will find alert when he comes will be blessed.” (Luke 12:37). Immediately, Peter asked Jesus for clarification. He wanted to know who, exactly, was going to be in line for this blessing – the disciples or everyone in the crowd. I suspect Peter wanted to make sure that he was in the front of the line for this reward.
Instead of directly answering his question, Jesus give Peter a second parable – and this one contained both the promise of a blessing and the warning of punishment.
The Lord said: “Who then is the faithful and sensible manager his master will put in charge of his household servants to give them their allotted food at the proper time? That slave whose master finds him working when he comes will be rewarded. I tell you the truth: he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and starts to beat the male and female slaves, and to eat and drink and get drunk, that slave’s master will come on a day he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.
Wow. You asked a big question there, Peter. And Jesus certainly gave you a big answer.
Let’s use our observation skills and determine who Jesus is referring to and what kind of reward is offered.
The master in this parable clearly refers to Jesus. It would make little sense for Jesus to refer to someone who has not placed their faith in Him as faithful and sensible, or to put that person in a position of responsibility over those in the master’s household. So clearly, the slave in this parable refers to someone in the family of God, someone who has responsibility here on Earth towards others in the family. This servant isn’t in charge of everything on the master’s schedule, but he has an important supervisory job to do – one that directly influences the well-being of his fellow servants.
After this faithful and sensible manager has been given this responsibility, his course of actions have two possible outcomes: either the master will find him dutifully performing his task, or the master will return to find him derelict in his assigned duties. We’ll examine the negative outcome next time.
However, if that slave is found to be continuously faithful in his allotted tasks until his master returns, Jesus says the slave will be rewarded by the master. The Greek word for rewarded means to be supremely blessed, fortunate, or well off. This reward comes in the form of a promotion within the master’s household. No longer is the slave responsible for mealtime; instead, he going to oversee what the master owns, along with the status and privilege a position like that entails.
Our application is to look at the servant responsibilities God has given us. Are we doing our part within the body of Christ? If Jesus came back today, would we be ‘caught in the act’ of doing what he asked us to do?
There is great reward in taking our responsibilities seriously.