do not know why, but the resurrection of the dead seems to have faded from the
list of popular sermon topics. This is all the more strange considering our
fascination with end time prophecy. Perhaps it is because we like to hear
stories with happy endings, but perhaps not so anxious to be warned concerning
what we need to do about it.
Mat 24:45-51 NASB "Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom
his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper
time? (46) "Blessed
is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. (47) "Truly I say to
you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. (48) ''But if that evil
slave says in his heart, 'My master is not coming for a long time,' (49) and begins to beat his
fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; (50) the master of that slave will come
on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, (51) and will cut him in
pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be
weeping and gnashing of teeth.
is an old precept: the man in charge is responsible. As they say in the
service, “it happened on your watch.” How then is a steward of the things of
God to behave – since he will be held accountable?
difference, I submit, is the difference between authority and tyranny.
Authority in the faith comes from responsibility, and is to be exercised in
servant leadership. Tyranny is the abuse of that authority, for the purpose of
one’s own pleasures. All of us are sinners, and the warning against being a
tyrant is a necessary one.
warning is a very simple one: the day of reckoning is coming. It may not be
in your lifetime, but it will come. For the good steward, reward. For the
evil steward, fate.
is to be noted that the good steward is to be both wise and faithful.
The ancient church quickly noted that the union of the two is relatively rare;
it seems that if you acquire wisdom there is a tendency to exempt yourself from
it. Perhaps it is better to encourage the faithful to such tasks, knowing that
wisdom is readily available.
then, is demanded of the good steward? He is the one who provides food at the
proper time. This may be taken in two ways:
can be taken literally. The church is to provide for the poor, to feed
the hungry. But note the phrase: “at the proper time.” I submit that
the proper time is when the poor are hungry – not just at Thanksgiving.
The food pantry should run year-round.
can be taken figuratively, as our Lord often did. It carries a warning to
the leader in the church: you are to provide spiritual nourishment at a
time that wisdom commands. It is of no use providing a sermon of pious
platitudes which fill no one. We feed the Christian so that he might
grow. Junk food is easy.
is quite true: a price must be paid for evil. Unfortunately, the price paid
in this life is usually paid by the flock assigned to the evil steward. But
there is a day of reckoning; the price will be paid – and bitterly.
if you will, the two fold sin:
evil steward fails to feed the flock of Christ. He starves them of
spiritual nourishment, and they suffer for it.
evil steward also abuses his authority, and turns his
responsibilities into a platform for his own vices.
greater the crime, the greater the punishment justice demands. The phrase
translated “cut in pieces” actually should be translated “cut in half” or
bisect. The ancient church held that this meant the sinner’s life and soul
would be cut away from all spiritual gifts, which would return to God who gave
them – and thus the sinner would face eternity without a single gift from God.
Self-reliance, at last.
Mat 25:1-13 NASB "Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to
ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. (2) "Five of them were
foolish, and five were prudent. (3) "For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil
with them, (4) but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. (5) "Now while the
bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. (6) "But at midnight
there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' (7) "Then all those
virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. (8) "The foolish said to the prudent, 'Give us some of
your oil, for our lamps are going out.' (9) "But the prudent answered, 'No, there will not be
enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' (10) "And while
they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who
were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. (11) "Later the
other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, lord, open up for us.' (12) "But he answered,
'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.' (13) "Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day
nor the hour.
of the reasons, I suspect, that we preach so little on the perils of the coming
of Christ is that our practice of the doctrine of marriage has greatly
declined. The early church would have instantly understood this to be the
wedding of the Christ and his bride, the church. As such, they would have seen
that this would apply to all of us.
was, to them, a homey picture of wedding customs of the time. Weddings were
celebrated over a week to two week period. The real beginning of the
festivities came when the bridegroom banged on the young lady’s door and
“kidnapped” her. It was considered good luck if the bridegroom did so at a
time when the household was asleep – usually in the middle of the night. The
bride and her wedding party would then go to the bridegroom’s home (usually his
parents’ home) and the party would begin.
oil referenced here would be well understood by Christ’s hearers. They would
see it as a reference to many good things, in particular the “oil of gladness.”
The church would later see it in a different way:
is burned to bring light – and Christ told us that we are the light of the
in that same sermon, Christ tells us to let our works shine before
note: the difference between these two groups is not holiness, in the other sense
used for oil, the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Holiness is God’s gift to us.
Preparation for His return is our gift to Him.
wedding guests awake from natural sleep; the guests at the wedding of the Lamb
awake from the sleep of death. Their lamps are trimmed – and we discover that
some have nothing left to burn. They have prepared the catalog of their good
works on earth, and found that all the benefit was received in their own
lifetimes – there is nothing left for the wedding.
you not see it? Both groups were virtuous, righteous people. But only the
wise coupled them with the good works which should flow so naturally from the
Christian’s hand. The foolish did the minimum necessary; the wise overflowed.
Do not just prepare for His coming; prepare abundantly.
you notice that the foolish ones still call Him, “Lord, Lord?” Such He is.
But it’s too late to claim Him; He sees no fruit in the life, and therefore
such a branch must have been cut off from the True Vine. The resurrection is
His, and we shall participate – for which we need to anticipate!
Mat 25:14-30 NASB "For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted
his possessions to them. (15) "To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to
another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. (16) "Immediately
the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained
five more talents. (17) "In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. (18) "But he who
received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. (19) "Now after a long
time the master of those slaves *came and *settled accounts with them. (20) "The one who had
received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying,
'Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more
talents.' (21) "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.' (22) "Also the one who had
received the two talents came up and said,
'Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.' (23) "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.' (24) "And
the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, 'Master, I knew
you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you
scattered no seed. (25) 'And I was afraid, and
went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.' (26) "But his
master answered and said to him, 'You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap
where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. (27) 'Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my
arrival I would have received my money back with interest. (28) 'Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it
to the one who has the ten talents.' (29) "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 have shall be taken away. (30) "Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness;
in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
might be called the parable of the fearful servant, or the parable of the
selfish servant. Whatever the cause, this is one who takes God’s gift – and
does nothing with it.
you ever had a white elephant gift? One that you must keep to avoid giving
offense to the giver? The orange and lavender scarf, hand knit by Aunt
So-and-So? You fear to give it away and offend her; you fear to wear it and
offend the rest of the planet.
what is this man afraid of? I suggest to you that he is afraid of the
comparison with the other two. They obviously started with much more, and he
knows his Master is one who demands results. How can he possibly compete?
Better not to play at all than lose for certain, right?
neglects the starting point. I suspect the Master gave him less because he
knew he wasn’t capable of handling it. We often forget that we cannot compare
ourselves to others; our gifts are different. My pastor is famous; I am not.
He travels the world for Christ; I’m stuck where I am. But the question is not
about him; it’s about me – what am I doing for Christ’s sake?
is a secret in this: “perfect love casts out fear.”
If I work for the sake of comparison, if I work for fame, then fear enters.
But if I work for the love of Christ, what should I fear?
lazy and worthless
suppose that God has given you the gift of being able to get rich – and nothing
else. God’s command is simple: be generous. You may not be able to teach or
preach, sing or otherwise serve, but you have a checkbook. If you use it
wisely for His kingdom, even if that means simply giving to Christian
charitable organizations, you will be rewarded for that. But if you say, “I
can’t keep up with all those other people; I have nothing of real value, I will
do nothing,” you yourself can see that this is wickedness. At least buy some
church building fund bonds! This is obvious.
not so obvious is that if you are a “one talent” Christian with some other
gift, you are equally wicked if you refuse to use that. With money it’s
obvious; maybe your gift of calming small children it’s not so obvious. But
the reasoning is still the same. The reckoning is not immediate – to allow you
time to repent.
done, good and faithful servant
what I’m trying to achieve: that He will pronounce me both good and faithful.
Whatever my abilities might be, it is my intent to use them for Him – so that I
might deliver results, not excuses. I know how He rewards the faithful – for
little, He gives much. Keep your eye on the prize,