Monday, July 20, 2015

"How To Not be a Fool" School

     Let's put the parable of the "wise and faithful servant," in Matthew 24:45-51 into context.
     Jesus excoriated earlier the Pharisees for their willingness to burden people with rules that they themselves do not follow.  He presented His case against them as "woes," telling what they do and how this doesn't square with what the Scriptures say.
     He then leaves the Temple.  His disciples excitedly point out the beauty of this structure to Jesus, joyful at seeing the permanency of God's House.   
     The disciples are looking for something that pleases God in all of this.  Jesus has effectively dismissed the religious leaders as non-viable leaders in God's kingdom.  The disciples are saying, If the religious leaders are not worthy servants in God's house, then let's look at the Temple itself, and be thankful that God's house stands!  Here is something we can be proud of, right, Jesus?
     Jesus, in response to their confidence, says that every stone will be "thrown down."  The Temple itself will be dismantled.
     They all walk up to the Mount of Olives and gather around Him. I am sure while they were walking, the disciples were disconsolate; this beautiful Temple, God's own house, will not forever stand.  How could this be?  By the time they are able to sit down, and ask Jesus to explain, their hearts are very troubled, but open.
     Jesus explains what signs will precede the end.  He gives His disciples information empowering them to not fear and to continue what He has begun.  The Temple, the religious leaders and what they see will all soon disappear.    

     So, who will carry on God's work on this earth?  Who will staff and run what You have begun, Lord?
     Jesus then teaches, by way of several parables, what a citizen of God's new kingdom will be as the old order passes away:
  • Willing to have a servant's heart ("The Parable of Wise and Faithful Servant")
  • Willing to get ready and stay prepared for His arrival  ("The Parable of the Ten Virgins")
  • Willing to use whatever God bestows to further His Kingdom ("The Parable of the Talents")
  • Willing to serve God by serving the "least of these" ("The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats") 
      Here's the text: “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 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 hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
     To be an active member of the newly arriving God's Kingdom, your status is one of a servant.  But, you have a choice of what kind of servant you'll be.  
     OK, class.  Here we go.  The faithful servant will:  Take care of the other servants, even down to serving them their daily bread.  This servant will be attentive to others' needs, making sure that they are taken care of, so they can go out and do the work that the master requires.  This servant isn't obedient just when the master is watching or is in residence.  This servant is dutiful all the time, doing what is necessary all the time and cheerful all the time.  Why?  Because this servant, heart and soul,  wants to please the master.  That is the servant's only motivation. 
     This servant lives a key element in the Kingdom:  You serve the Master by serving others.
     The Pharisees served God, but in reality, they were serving themselves.  Their motivation was one of personal aggrandizement.  They wanted the accolades of others, and their service to God was a means to that end.  Serving God alone was not enough.
     A true servant serves God because it is extension of that servant's love for Him.  Love alone is enough to serve.  Why?  Because the servant knows the Master deeply and thus loves the Master deeply.  Service is based on a relationship, not an obligation.
     The master, seeing the servant's love played out in selfless service, hands over his possessions to this servant.  He trusts the servant without reservation and likewise the servant to the master.  Mi casa su casa:  All I have is yours, and all you have is mine.
     Now, let's look at the foolish servant.  
     His love for the master wanes as the master is away.  It's a kind of proximity love:  I love you when you're around, because it meets a need in me.  When you're away, I look elsewhere.  My love is not based on who you are but on what you can do for me.  So, with you away, I am in charge.  I am not acting on the master's behalf; I am taking the reins of the master and acting as if I am the master.  So, I will beat offending servants, not take care of them.  I will go where and when I please.  Besides, the real master is taking his sweet time...Why can't I? 
     Because this servant is so busy serving himself, he won't notice the signs.  The master's absence has caused this servant's heart to grow cold.  And hard.  This servant is not just hanging out idly; he's actively beating his fellow servants and getting loaded with a questionable crowd.
     But the master does return.  He is appalled by such hypocritical behavior.  The master hears this servant's heart:  Hey, yeah, I am your servant, but I while I like the title, I do not like the responsibilities.  I am serving myself, because I tried the servant thing, and that grew boring.  The other servants didn't appreciate all my hard work on your behalf.  You didn't appreciate all my hard work, either.  I should get something out of this service thing.  I like it when the other servants shrink away in fear, and act as if I am the master.  It's good to be king.
     Sounds like the Pharisees, doesn't it?
     Leaders in this new Kingdom will be servants who wash others' feet and give of themselves
wholeheartedly.  They will do so for one reason:  their love of God.
     The fate of this foolish servant is a "place with the hypocrites."  Pride will be traded in for tears, and disobedience for regret.
      The Temple will soon be gone.  The old order of sacrifice will soon be gone.
       The new temple will be each servant's heart, a new house of God, indwelled by the Holy Spirit.  The sacrifice will be Jesus on the cross, and His death will satisfy God's demand for justice for all time.
      Class dismissed.
       Now, go choose. 



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