From Chris Dodds
In the chapter so far, Jesus has warned his followers to be vigilant with respect to persecution (vv 1–12), and vigilant in their use of possessions (vv 13–35). In the final part of the chapter he adds a warning to be vigilant in our faithfulness within the household of God. His clear instruction is that we be ready for service with our lamp lit. It’s not just any service though. To identify myself as one of the faithful in the house of God, I must be able to identify myself with the slaves in Jesus’ example.
If we reflect on this metaphor we ought to be struck that implicit within it is the notion that we are not free to serve ourselves, or to pick and choose occasional acts of service when it suits us. A slave within a household serves the master’s interests and not his or her own. There is not the sort of self-serving, do whatever you want freedom our culture sells us today. I wonder, does our modern understanding of discipleship make it clear that we are not our own and that we have been bought at a price. Can we, like Paul in his letters, identify ourselves as servants of Christ? The call to follow Jesus is one that costs us our life, but then offers us new, fullness of life in service. The good news, revealed in this passage, is that when the master returns, he will himself prepare and dress himself for service and then serve the servants! Talk about a reversal of hierarchies and social norms!
Further reflection reveals that there is both certainty and uncertainty in this passage. The certainty is that the master is going to return. The uncertainty is that no one knows his timing. The question this teaching forces us to ask ourselves is will we be found working when he returns? This text challenges me – and it ought to. Will I be found serving faithfully or will I be found using the Master’s resources for my own interests? I’m pretty sure that on a global scale the resources I have put me in the category of people who have been given much. I also have too much access to scripture, commentaries, sermons and faithful teaching to plead ignorance of what the Master requires. I’m called to be vigilant, ready for service and with my lamp lit.
So I ask myself, what might distract me from this? Three things come to mind:
- Complacency about the Lord’s delay in returning that leads to a laziness in my prayer life and other spiritual disciplines.
- A lack of accountability through strong Christian community in NG’s, Triads and intentional discipleship relationships.
- A failure to reflect on the beauty, goodness, hope and joy of the Kingdom of God.
For me, the third one is the big one and the one we need to be honest about. What is my greatest desire? Is it the temporal wealth, or honor, or security that comes through material things, career and relationships, or is it Christ and his Kingdom? Is it the image of the man on the magazine cover, shop window, or playing field, who promises an alternative version of life and success if I serve him and conform to his image, or is it the image of the man on the cross who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And who being found in human form humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Am I serving the false gods of my age or the true God? Am I focused on the temporal and perishable, or the eternal? If through the practice of spiritual disciplines, worshipping in and participation in Christian community and the sacraments I keep before me the glory and beauty of Christ and his Kingdom, then it is a joy and a natural response to seek first this Kingdom and to serve him. But if take my eyes off Him and get distracted by the temporal there’s a far greater chance of being found wanting when the Lord returns.
We don’t know when, but the master is returning. Let’s urge each other on, serving together faithfully and awake. And let’s look forward to the banquet that will follow!
I’m part of the great New Zealand diaspora and married to my beautiful wife Kara. My favorite day off would include a good drink, a seat by an open fireplace, and time to contemplate life and write.