HAVE YOU ACTED THE FOOL?
"When He had their attention and because they were getting close to Jerusalem by this time and expectation was building that God's kingdom would appear any minute, He told this story: "There was once a man descended from a royal house who needed to make a long trip back to headquarters to get authorisation for his rule and then return. But first he called ten servants, gave them each a sum of money, and instructed them, 'Operate with this until I return...'
"When he came back...he called those ten servants...to find out how they had done.
"The first said, 'Master, I doubled your money.'
"He said, 'Good servant! ...I'm making you governor of ten towns.'
"The second said, 'Master, I made fifty percent profit on your money.'
"He said, 'I'm putting you in charge of five towns.'
"The next servant said, 'Master, here's your money safe and sound. I kept it hidden in the cellar. To tell you the truth, I was a little afraid. I know you have high standards and hate sloppiness, and don't suffer fools gladly.'
"He said, 'You're right that I don't suffer fools gladly -- you've acted the fool! Why didn't you at least invest the money so I would have gotten a little interest on it?'
"Then he said to those standing there, 'Take the money from him and give it to the servant who doubled my stake.'
"They said, 'But Master, he already has double.' He said, 'That's what I mean. Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of. Play it safe and you end up holding the bag...' Luke 19:11-27 (The Message).
Another kingdom story that turns what we value on its head and exposes some of the faulty thinking of the church!
Jesus told a number of stories about noblemen or landowners who entrusted their property to servants before going away for a period of time and then returning. To His disciples He spoke plainly of His return to the Father for an interval before He came back to claim His kingdom and restore all things to their original perfection.
This same idea is reflected in the Hebrew marriage custom where the bridegroom-to-be, after proposing to his prospective bride, returns to his father's house to build his bridal chamber in preparation for the consummation of his marriage. After his father has approved his work, he is released to marry his bride and carry her over the threshold into the bridal chamber to become one with her.
What is the significance of the interval before His return? In this story, Jesus focussed on the responsibility of the servants to carry out the Master's instructions while He was away. To every believer He assigns a task in keeping with his gifting and role in God's kingdom.
His commission to every believer is to know Him and to make Him known wherever He has placed us in the world. He has woven into every person unique abilities in seed form. Like the sums of money given to the servants in our story, we can either multiply or bury what we have been given, but we will not escape accountability. We are not only given gifts, but we have also been given time...time to use those gifts to make His name known in our world.
Unfortunately there has crept into the church's thinking an escapist mentality -- the world is bad so let's just hole up and hold on until Jesus comes to get us out of here. This mind set is in keeping with the general attitude of the world -- we do not take responsibility for what we think, believe and do. We are merely the victims of other people's actions or our circumstances. We are part of the 'White Knuckle Club" that cowers in the corner and waits to be rescued!
This is so contrary to Jesus' intention for His church. His idea is that we are serving our apprenticeship in the interval until He returns. What we do with the resources He has entrusted to us will determine how much responsibility He is able to give to us in the life to come.
So what is our job in this life? To develop our unique gifts so that we may know Him and make Him known. "Now this is eternal life that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." John 17:3 (NIV). "He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.'" Mark16:15 (NIV). This involves making all sorts of sacrifices; time, money, name, reputation, comfort, ambitions, family, or whatever else it may cost to obey the Master.
As always, Jesus takes the long look, taking into account the eternal rewards for present suffering. Is the sacrifice worth it? It all depends on where your focus is -- you can rationalise and take your ease now, like the third servant in the story, but there is a terrifying price to pay for this kind of faulty thinking. The servant blamed the Master for his laziness but his reasoning didn't stick.
So, what's the bottom line? Jesus didn't intend for us to spend the time in between desperately hanging on, waiting for Him to pull us out of a bad situation. He left us here with a commission to live out our lives where He has put us, in the energy of His Holy Spirit, and to do whatever we can, through our unique abilities, to show the world what what He is like. When He comes, will He find the resources He has entrusted to us much more than we started with, and will He, with confidence, be able to entrust greater responsibilities to us according to our faithfulness in the small things?
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