Friday, August 15, 2014

A Life Lived Well, Part 2

"Well done, good and faithful servant!"
Matthew 25:21

I am sure you are all familiar with these words.  They are found in a parable Jesus tells in the book of Matthew.  Three servants are given some of their master's money or "talents" before he leaves town.  I won't recap the whole story, you can read it yourself in Matthew 25:14-30.  But within this parable the servants who properly manage what they have been given are rewarded and praised with these words, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

They are words I dream of hearing some day as I stand before my master, my God and King.  I pray the life I am living is one that is being lived well; that I am properly managing what I have been given; and that one day I will be told these words.  

I think a lot of people dream of hearing these words.  I think some people even expect to hear these words.  Honestly, most of us would probably say we are pretty good people.  Sure we might sin a little, but the Bible says we ALL sin, so we can't really avoid that.  Besides, we're supposed to be humble so we better say we're sinful even if we don't really think we are!  

If we get down to it though, I wonder just how many of us bank on hearing these words of praise at the end of our life?  It's not like we expect the master to say, "Perfectly done!"  No one expects him to say, "Really, AMAZING job!  You couldn't have done better!"   All we are asking for is a little ol', "well done."  That's hardly too much to ask!  Or is it?

In the parable there are three servants, only two of them hear these words.  One of them does not.  It wasn't until I really started studying this passage that I began to get concerned about the third servant.  I mean, what did he do that was so wrong?  It's not like he squandered the talent. He wasn't like the Prodigal son who spent what wasn't even his. The prodigal son was welcomed back with open arms.  But this poor servant, who gave back EXACTLY what he was given, was punished.  I don't get it!  What did he do wrong? And more importantly, how can I make sure I don't do the exact same thing!!

I have thought A LOT about this.  I have read this passage over and over, I have prayed about this passage, asking God to show me He wanted me to learn from it.  And here is what I think He has been telling me.  Here is what the third servant did that was so wrong...

He didn't know his master. 

He didn't know him.  The servant tried to justify his actions by explaining that he knew the master was a hard man who harvested where he did not sow and gathered where he did not scatter seed.  The servant was scared of him.  So rather than risk losing what wasn't his in the first place and angering the hard master, the servant hid the money, and when the master returned he gave back to him exactly what he had been given. The master responds with this comment, "...So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?"  It's the question mark I have never noticed before.  

The master isn't agreeing that he is a hard and wretched man.  It's more like he is saying, "That's what you think of me, huh?"  But the fact is, he was neither hard nor wretched.  He gave three servants an opportunity to do something great, to do something for him and only two of them did.  Those two he generously rewarded, not the actions of a hard or wretched man.  The other servant had a distorted view of his master.  He didn't really know him. And he didn't take the time to find out what the master expected of him.  

Had he spent more time in his masters presence, had he paid more attention to his master's actions and his expectations of those who worked for him, perhaps the servant would have acted differently. 

It wasn't that the master expected the same return on his investment from this servant.  He didn't expect this servant to earn him five talents or even two, it wasn't about how much he  could earn for the master.  It was simply about taking what the master had blessed him with and doing something good with it.  It was about knowing the master enough to recognize he wouldn't be mad if there wasn't a bountiful harvest as long as there was something!

Our master has given us all a lot.  He has given us giftings and resources and love.  And he expects us to know Him enough to know how to use these gifts and to know what exactly it is He expects of us.  He doesn't care how talented we are, he doesn't care how much fruit we bring in or how many people we reach.  He doesn't care if my talent is kindergarten work and yours looks like a PhD in perfection!  He is pleased with both efforts!  And if you take the time to get to know your Master he will show you EXACTLY what he wants you to do with what he has given you.

How sad if at the end of our life we meet Jesus and say, "Thank you for all that you gave me.  I so appreciate it.  But, I didn't really use it, so you can have it back, exactly what you gave to me.  It's in mint condition, 'cause again, I didn't really use it."

You have been given much, but you are expected to use it.  You are expected to use it for His glory and not for your own.  But in order to do that, you have to know your master.  You have to spend time in His presences, listen to His word, and do what He asks.  That is the key to a life lived well.