Saturday

28 August 2010

"Well done, good and trustworthy slave." (v.21)

Background

This is a parable (a story with a meaning) about commitment and service. Set in the context of an employer commissioning his servants to do something worthwhile with his inheritance, he hands over to them various amounts of money. In those days a gold coin was worth 5 talents, 1 talent being worth 5,000 denari. This amount would in fact be what one worker would earn over a 15-year period as a rural worker.

On the surface it would be easy to assume that this passage was about attitudes to wealth and possessions. But it contradicts all that many of us have grown up with thinking: that this is the wrong attitude the Christian is supposed to have towards money. On a closer reading, however, we can detect that the employer is the Son of Man and that we do not know when he will come, so we must be constantly vigilant, continually making preparations for his return.

In today's world of quick turnarounds, rapid responses and instant benefits, this parable of commitment to the long haul, the long wait, is quite countercultural for us here in the West. So how do we approach a long-term situation when we may have no intention of staying in the same job for a lifetime, or of investing for a rainy day? This particular passage is encouraging us to watch and wait for a long time until the master returns...

Because the passage ends with the faithfulness of the workers being rewarded, it would appear that our waiting must be an engaged waiting. The workers who gained the master's pleasure were those who had been active in his absence, working at making things better, doing what they could with what they had until his return. They had not given up on his coming again but had stuck with the waiting.

But the true gem of this story is not in the amount the workers had added to the original sum - showing us that this is not a story about money and possessions - but what the employer said to the two workers when they met him on his return: "Well done, good and trustworthy slave". It was their faithfulness that earned them praise from their employer rather than anything else.

To Ponder

How do you dig in for the long haul when you don't know when the end will be? What sustains you?

When have you appreciated faithfulness, or when has someone mentioned to you their appreciation of your faithfulness? What is faithfulness about for you?

Bible notes author: Margaret Sawyer

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