Been given much? Much is demanded

Posted Apr 18, 2018

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Daily Scripture

Luke 12:35-48

35 “Be dressed for service and keep your lamps lit. 36 Be like people waiting for their master to come home from a wedding celebration, who can immediately open the door for him when he arrives and knocks on the door. 37 Happy are those servants whom the master finds waiting up when he arrives. I assure you that, when he arrives, he will dress himself to serve, seat them at the table as honored guests, and wait on them. 38 Happy are those whom he finds alert, even if he comes at midnight or just before dawn. 39 But know this, if the homeowner had known what time the thief was coming, he wouldn’t have allowed his home to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, because the Human One [or Son of Man] is coming at a time when you don’t expect him.”

41 Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?”

42 The Lord replied, “Who are the faithful and wise managers whom the master will put in charge of his household servants, to give them their food at the proper time? 43 Happy are the servants whom the master finds fulfilling their responsibilities when he comes. 44 I assure you that the master will put them in charge of all his possessions.

45 “But suppose that these servants should say to themselves, My master is taking his time about coming. And suppose they began to beat the servants, both men and women, and to eat, drink, and get drunk. 46 The master of those servants would come on a day when they weren’t expecting him, at a time they couldn’t predict. The master will cut them into pieces and assign them a place with the unfaithful. 47 That servant who knew his master’s will but didn’t prepare for it or act on it will be beaten severely. 48 The one who didn’t know the master’s will but who did things deserving punishment will be beaten only a little. Much will be demanded from everyone who has been given much, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be asked.

Reflection Questions

Jesus used this story to remind his disciples that we are God’s servants. We are responsible to use God’s resources according to God’s will, rather than our own. His story reflected the Roman legal system where, in most cases, masters held absolute, life-and-death power over their servants. Jesus was not saying God acted just as Roman masters would. He was emphasizing the importance that we be responsible stewards of whatever God gives us.

  • In Genesis 12:2-3, God said to Abraham, Israel’s founding father (and likely one of his day’s 1%), “I will make of you a great nation and will bless you…. all the families of earth will be blessed because of you.” Jesus continued to teach that with blessing comes responsibility: “from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be asked.” What are your biggest blessings? In what ways are you using them to bless others?
  • “Punishments [in Jesus' story] vary depending on how much the disciple knows; but none of Luke’s readers who hear these parables could claim they didn’t know the master’s will.”* Jesus said a great deal more about the proper priority and uses of wealth than about many other topics on which most Christians claim certainty. If last weekend’s sermon (you can click here to watch it) or this week’s GPS readings have challenged you, then you clearly know the master’s will. What will you do about it?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, I know what you taught about how I should relate to my possessions, and how I should use them to bless others. Give me the inner freedom to act on your teaching. Amen.


* Richard B. Vinson, study note on Luke 12:47-48 in Joel B. Green, gen. ed. The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 139 NT.

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Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality, teaching at several seminaries. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. Her latest book (Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness, Abingdon Press, 2017) traces ancient mindfulness practice for Christians today.

When I consider what Jesus has to say to the 1% of the world, I think about the Jesus-followers across history who warned about the dangers of power and wealth. Today we tend to assume that power and wealth provide security, the opposite of danger. Yet, along with Jesus, the Christian tradition teaches that it’s not that simple. Here are two examples:

  • John Chrysostom, a fiery preacher in the 300’s in the capital of the Roman Empire, challenged the suspicions that many of his wealthy parishioners had about the poor. He says his parishioners are too quick to accuse those asking for help of “being idle” or “not willing to work.” Or, he says, the well-off refuse to share their resources because the needy are “just pretending they have need in order to get more than they deserve.” He closes his sermon with “We have not been made judges into other’s lives, because then we would have compassion on no one. . .   Inquire, if you will, how Abraham showed hospitality towards all who came to him (Genesis 18).  If he had been over-curious about those who fled to him for refuge, he would not have ‘entertained angels.’” *
  • Another story is told about a bishop in the 700’s who spent the day going through the city giving out alms to the poor. In the afternoon, as he reached into his bag to give coins to a bedraggled man with an outstretched hand, the bishop’s assistant stopped the bishop and took him aside. “This man is trying to deceive you! You gave money to this same man in different clothes this morning on another street corner. He has changed his garments and rushed here to trick you into giving him an extra alms portion that should go to someone else!” The bishop replied, “Do not fear. I am happy to give, for it may be my Lord Jesus, coming to me as a stranger!” *   

These stories illustrate Jesus’ message that power and wealth can become hiding places from God, where we cling to false security with closed hands and hearts. It does not have to be so! The Jesus Way is an open-handed, open-hearted life where we root our security in the One who is the Source of Life.

* adapted from Amy Oden, And You Welcomed Me: Sourcebook on Hospitality in Early Christianity, Abingdon Press, 2001.

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