Summary: 1. Christ’s delay should cause watchfulness, not forgetfulness. 2. Faithfulness is measured in terms of relationships.
“[Jesus said,] ‘You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.’ Peter asked, ‘Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?’ The Lord answered, ‘Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, “My master is taking a long time in coming,” and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:40-48).
Newsweek (11/19/90) ran an article titled “Letters in the Sand.” It was a collection of letters written by military personnel to family and friends in the States during the Gulf War. One was a letter by Marine Corporal Preston Coffer, who wrote to a friend saying: “We are talking about Marines, not the Boy Scouts. We all joined the service knowing full well what might be expected of us.” He signed off with the Marine motto, Semper Fi, Latin for “always faithful.” The Bible says, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). In the parable we have just read, Jesus asks the question: “Who then is the faithful and wise manager?” As Christians, what is expected of us, and what does it mean to be faithful to Christ?
The interesting thing is that the servant, or manager, in the story considers himself to be a member of the Master’s household, even when his lifestyle does not match his claim. He calls the owner “master.” But he does not act like one of the master’s servants. He neglects his responsibilities. It is implied that the man takes the food and drink that he should have given to his fellow servants and consumes them himself. He becomes engrossed with satisfying his appetites and living for pleasure. He is distracted from the task the Master gave him to do. Not only that, but he begins to mistreat his fellow servants. He seems to have forgotten the responsibility that he has been given and lives only for himself. He is living as though his master will never return and that he alone is in charge of the entire estate.
Is this not a perfect description of the condition of human beings living in today’s world? They have the responsibility to care for the world and others, but they are self-centered and live only for their own pleasures. They do not consider themselves to be lost or outside of God’s kingdom. They will even say they belong to God. But they do not act like a servant of God. They have neglected their responsibilities and become engrossed with satisfying their own desires. They have forgotten the responsibilities that God has given them. They even mistreat their fellow servants. They live only for themselves and have forgotten that the Master is coming back, and in so doing, they do not meet Jesus’ definition of faithfulness.
What are the messages of this parable? I would suggest that the first message is this: Christ’s delay should cause watchfulness, not forgetfulness. The problem we have is that the New Testament is filled with promises concerning Christ’s imminent return. We read verses like: “The end of all things is near” (1 Peter 4:7). Several times in the book of Revelation, Jesus says that he is coming soon (3:11; 22:7, 12, 20). But it has been 2000 years now and he still has not come. People are saying what the man said in the parable: “My master is taking a long time in coming.” And the thought in the back of their mind is: “Maybe he isn’t coming at all.” Peter predicted this when he wrote: “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation’” (2 Peter 3:3-4). After the realization that the Lord’s coming is delayed, their mind follows with other thoughts: “It’s party time! There is not going to be a second coming. There is not going to be a judgment, and there is no one to answer to. Maybe the Owner does not even exist. I’m on my own, therefore I can do as I please.”