THE FAITHFUL AND WISE MANAGER
Luke 12:35-53 (key verse: 12:42)
“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?’”
In last week’s passage, Jesus taught his disciples not to worry about what they would eat or wear, and instead to seek God’s kingdom. As he knew that the time was approaching for Him to leave His disciples and go to the Father, He wanted to prepare them to continue seeking God’s kingdom and ready themselves for His return. Today’s passage teaches us what attitude we must have as we wait for Jesus’ return and how we can be found ready and worthy of His calling when He returns. May the words of Jesus fill us with an eager longing for His return and equip us to be faithful to Him until He takes us to be with Him.
- WATCHING FOR THE MASTER’S RETURN
Lets read v35-36
35 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.
Here Jesus uses the illustration of servants waiting for their master’s return. The master had gone to a wedding banquet and it was not known when he would return. There was no set schedule for when the wedding banquet would end. It could be late evening, it could be midnight or even in the early morning hours. So, it would have been reasonable for the servants to wait until it turned dark and then turn off all the lights and go to sleep. [Those of us who have stayed up to prepare for an exam know how hard it is to stay awake late into the night. But we do it because we do not want to get an F. But would you stay awake even past midnight to entertain and serve someone? We would ask them to pick a better time to come.] These servants however were awake, dressed in appropriate clothes, had their lamps burning, and were ready to open the door the moment their master returned, no matter how late into the night it was and they were ready to serve Him.
What can we learn here about the kind of servants Jesus is looking for when He returns? Jesus teaches us in v37.
37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.
What sets apart the servants in this parable is that they were eagerly watching for their master’s return. They were not caught unprepared in their night clothes, they were dressed ready for service. KJV says “let your loins be girded about” – in other words, they rolled up their sleeves and were alert and ready to serve the master the moment he returned. The servants also kept the lamps in the house burning. To keep the lamps burning, they had to periodically refill them with oil, check that the wicks were trimmed and they made sure none of the lamps were blown off, so that the master would be welcomed to a bright, well-lit house. They actively prepared to receive their master.
What made these servants have such devotion and eagerness to receive their master? It could not have been fear or a sense of joyless duty. Rather their anticipation and preparation was motivated by their love for the master. [On Friday, I went to pick up Lydia from her daycare. When I got there, I saw her with her friends, listening to a book being read by their teacher. But as soon as she saw me, she left all her friends and came crawling and walking to the door to come and meet me. I cannot describe the joy I felt to see her rushing to me. The only reason why she would leave everything and run to me is the love relationship that we have as father and daughter.] The servants watched and waited for their master because they loved him. For the servants, receiving their master was their most important priority. They longed to be with Him, they found their greatest joy in serving Him. They could love their master because He first loved them. He was not a master who ordered them around or abused them. He was a master who would reach down to their level, who loved having a relationship with them, who took care of them and who would even give His life for them. For such a master, the servants could stay awake late at night, eagerly anticipating His return, so that they could be with Him again.
Our master Jesus is one who humbled himself and made his dwelling among us. He called sinful and unworthy people like you and me to know Him and to have a relationship with Him. He gave His life on the cross to forgive us of our sin and even now bears with our failures and weaknesses, He takes care of all our needs and fills our life with joy and peace as we fellowship with Him. Most of all, He has given us the privilege to serve Him and to be with Him forever. What a loving and gracious master we have!
[Fanny Crosby was a famous hymn writer who wrote such great hymns as “Blessed Assurance” and “To God be the glory”. It is said she wrote upwards of 8000 hymns in her lifetime. This seems incomprehensible to me considering that she was blind from the time when she was seven weeks old. One of the verses she wrote in the hymn “To God be the glory” goes like this:
Great things he has taught us, great things he has done,
and great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;
but purer and higher and greater will be
our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.
She could write such joyful and hopeful songs because despite her circumstances, when she tasted the love of Jesus for her, He became her greatest treasure and her hymns reflected her deep longing to see her Savior face to face.]
Do you love your master Jesus? Is he your greatest treasure? Then may we have a deep longing to be reunited with Him and let us eagerly watch and wait for His return.
How does the master respond to those who watch and wait for Him? Lets read v37b
Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.
When the master sees how the servants have waited for him in eager expectation, dressed ready to serve Him, He instead has them recline at the table, and dresses himself to serve and wait on them. Do you know of any master who would do this? Can you imagine your boss having you sit down at a table and serving you food and waiting on you? Only Jesus is the humble master who washes the dirty feet of his disciples. Only Jesus is the Son of God who came not to be served but to serve.
Rev 19:9 says
Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!
Those who love Him and eagerly watch for His return are blessed to feast at the table with Him in heaven. What a wonderful promise Jesus gives us! May we hold onto Jesus’ promise and watch with eager expectation for His return.
One of the challenges we face when we are waiting for Jesus is that we do not know when He will return. Jesus teaches us the importance of being ready for Him whether He comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. Lets read v39,40
39 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Jesus wanted his disciples to know that there was no precise timetable for His return. Instead his coming would be like a thief breaking into a house – unexpected and without warning. The only way to prepare for a thief is to be always alert and ready. In the same way, because we do not know the hour when Jesus will return, He encourages us to be spiritually alert and awake at all times.
What convicted me about the warning that Jesus gives us here is that often I don’t have this sense of urgency to be prepared to meet Jesus. Jesus taught his disciples that he was going to the Father to prepare a place for them (John 14:2). He taught them that He was coming back soon (Rev 22:12). The disciples eagerly waited for his return during their lifetime but Jesus did not come then. There have been many times in the past centuries when people thought that Jesus’ return was imminent. But it didn’t happen then. It has been more than 2000 years since Jesus’ promise and we are still waiting for His return. Because it has taken so long, we have the tendency to think that He may still delay and not return in our lifetime. Even as believers, we may become consumed with our daily routines and struggles – getting through this semester, finishing my task at work, making sure the kids have all that they need, etc. In our busyness, the coming of Jesus can become so abstract that we become spiritually complacent and live as if Jesus’ promise has no impact in our daily life. But this parable teaches us that Jesus’ return will be at a time when we do not expect. It could be anytime now. Are you ready if Jesus were to come today? So, Jesus calls us to be spiritually ready at every moment, to meet Him and be found ready to serve Him.
How can we then be ready for Jesus’ return at all times? First, we can only be ready to stand before Jesus if we are clothed in his righteousness. Jesus says in Rev 16:15
Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.
Without Jesus covering us, all our sin and shame would be painfully exposed. But thank God that when we trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins and put our faith in Him, we are clothed with His perfect righteousness and we become the children of God who can approach Him with confidence. Today’s passage also teaches us that being ready for Jesus is not only a passive act of putting our faith in Him and being clothed in His righteousness, but also an active preparation for His return through faithful service. Let us see what Jesus teaches us in the next part of the passage.
- FAITHFUL SERVICE TO THE MASTER
After Jesus spoke the parable of the watchful servants, Peter and others may have been wondering who Jesus was warning to be ready for His coming? Maybe they thought that because they followed Jesus and accepted Him as their master, they were already prepared for his return. So Peter asked Jesus to clarify who He was speaking to. But Jesus did not directly answer Peter’s question and instead helped him to see his role as a manager of Jesus’ servants and to see what was needed of him to be ready. Lets read v42,43
42 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? 43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.
This manager was not just any other servant. He was chosen by the master and put in charge of all the servants in the household. The duty given to the manager was to give the servants food at the right time, so they are nourished and healthy and can joyfully serve the master. The manager would need to be wise when managing the resources and make every effort to work for the good of the household. And most of all, the master desires the manager to be faithful and trustworthy in taking care of the servants and doing so when He returns.
Through this illustration, Jesus wanted Peter and the other disciples to see their privileged responsibility of taking care of those in God’s household and to understand what Jesus desired of them to faithfully do until He returned. We may ask: do these verses regarding the faithful and wise manager only apply to Pastor Jacob or Msn Ezra or to the fellowship leaders? Ofcourse, those who have been given spiritual authority and a place of leadership are answerable for the much that they are entrusted with. But each of us can examine what we have been given and who God has entrusted us with – whether it is serving your family, whether it is serving in various ministries in our church or whether it is serving our bible students. How can we then be prepared to meet Jesus in the place that He has appointed us?
First, we learn from the faithful and wise manager that our primary duty is to provide food to those that God has entrusted to us. The food allowance that Jesus talks about is not only physical support but more importantly it is providing the word of God. It is God’s word that nourishes his servants to know Him and have communion with Him and it equips them to love and serve Him. In this parable, the master’s main concern was that his servants were well fed and taken care of. Likewise, Jesus calls us to take care of his people by feeding them with the word of God.
Jesus said to Peter in John 21:15
“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
To be faithful and wise servants, we must share Jesus’ heart for his people and serve them with His love and compassion. As servants chosen by His grace, Jesus calls us to express our love for Him in taking care of the sheep he puts us in charge of.
Second, what does Jesus require of the managers that he appoints?
43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.
The most important attribute Jesus is looking for in his servants is faithfulness. He is looking for servants who faithfully keep doing their appointed duty, day in and day out, sunshine or rain, until He returns. Isn’t it encouraging to know that Jesus values your faithfulness, no matter how small or insignificant your task may be? Jesus is not expecting us to have great accomplishments or great acts of service on our resume. To Him, what counts is whether we have been faithfully doing what He has called us to do.
The bass guitar is one instrument that is very hard to notice when it is being played but you definitely feel its absence. Many of you may not know that Joseph Forbes has been playing the bass guitar in the praise team since 2008. I’m not sure how many times he has received any recognition or appreciation for his excellent playing skill but I have rarely seen him miss practices or miss playing for Sunday worship in all these years. Whether we recognize it or not, Jesus surely notices his faithfulness.
I am always encouraged and challenged when I see many examples of God’s servants in our church who faithfully serve their bible students day in and day out, and who commit themselves to serving Jesus’ will, no matter what circumstances they are in. This is not representative but one person that came to mind is Abe Lee. When I first started coming here, I attended bible study with Grace fellowship. I saw Abe to be this young person with long hair, with a baseball cap on, leading the bible study. I was surprised to know that he was the fellowship leader when I saw Msn Elijah and Msn Joshua sitting there who looked a lot older and mature. But I don’t forget the days when he gave me rides and bought me Gatorade inspite of not having a job around that time. He shared in our YDJ meeting recently that through all those years before he got the job as a diplomat, he and Kisung committed themselves to simply serving bible students and YDJ members faithfully. God blessed their faith and is now using them to serve many nations.
Jesus is pleased when his servants are faithful in the little things. And when he returns and finds his servants to be faithfully doing their duty, he says in v44
44 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
Jesus rewards those who look forward to His coming and commit themselves to faithfully serve His people, by making them managers over all his possessions. What a wonderful promise! Is there any greater reward than to hear Jesus say “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
May each of us be found faithful when Jesus returns so that we may share in the master’s happiness!
Jesus then warns that there is a terrible end in store for those who do not watch for the master’s return and give up on their assigned duty. Lets read v45,46
45 But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. 46 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.
Here we can see that the reason this servant became unfaithful is that he mistook the delay in the master’s return to thinking that the master will never come. Having no sense of urgency or accountability to the master, this servant fell into a compromised lifestyle. Instead of taking care of the servants entrusted to him, he abused and caused them harm. Instead of staying faithful to his duty, he began indulging in his selfish and sinful desires. The unfaithful servant started living for himself and not for the master. For such a servant, Jesus warns that his return would be sudden and when he least expects. Such a servant would be cut into pieces and assigned eternal punishment with unbelievers.
Just as this unfaithful servant, we can fall into the danger of becoming unfaithful to our duty and be caught unprepared if we start thinking that the master is taking a long time to come. 2 Pet 3:9 teaches us
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
The delay in Jesus’ return is an act of His grace and patience toward us, so that we may all repent and not perish. When we compare the faithful and unfaithful servants, we can see that the lack of eager anticipation of the master’s return and self-centered lifestyle lead us to be found unfaithful and unprepared when Jesus returns. So, while we patiently wait for Him, may we be watchful, as if the master may come at any moment and live a God-centered life by faithfully serving His will.
Jesus concludes the parable by teaching that each of us is accountable when He returns based on whether we do or do not do His will.
47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows.48 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.
Have you been given much? Have you been entrusted with much? Let us consider all that God has done for us in His love and grace. And let us respond to Him by faithfully doing His will.
In this passage, Jesus teaches us how we can be ready for His return.
First, 37a It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.
Second, 38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak.
Lastly, 42 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? 43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.
Let us pray that we may have an eager longing for our master’s return, and may God help us to be alert, to be watchful and prepare to receive Jesus as we love Him and faithfully serve His people and do His will until we see Him face to face.
42 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?