Imagine working at a company where the boss has traveled to another country to conduct business. He was unsure of the duration of this particular trip, so there is no designated coming back date. The person he left in charge seemed reliable enough. You know, when the boss was around and keeping track. But this time, as soon as the boss was gone, this left in charge person experiences a power trip that leaves the employees in quite a lot of trouble. They need this job. Their pay is being withheld; their lunch break disappears; their safety is in jeopardy. And we are not talking Alex Trebec here. When the boss does come back, do you hope the left in charge person experiences consequences? Or, do you hope the boss pats them on the back and says, “Look at you; being all true to yourself and becoming a happy soul”? I would be shouting, “Consequence it up!” Consequences are important. Without them, people tend to run amuck. Crazed elephant run amuck. People are getting trampled and hurt run amuck.
Luke 12:41-48 is the third and possibly the fourth parable on donning your ready clothes. It begins with asking Jesus, “Lord, are you addressing this parable to us, or to everyone as well?” At this point, many will try to figure out which parable he is talking about. The nearest antecedent is the man who is prepared against thievery. But this is the same message with a different view or emphasis. Peter is asking who needs to be prepared? Who gets to sit at the banquet of God? Who needs to prepare themselves against possible loss? And which “us” is Peter talking about? The Twelve, which seems to be the most common suggestion, or all disciples? I think the twelve fits Jesus’ answer better.
Jesus responds with a question of his own. And this is just like Jesus, isn’t it? Who is the faithful and wise steward? Notice we have shifted from slave to steward. Was Peter thinking about how they have more responsibility; more blessing? What makes someone who is put in charge of the whole house faithful, reliable, and wise – able to make good decisions in the chaos of home life? Who will be responsible enough to make sure that the other servants are properly cared for? The person who is ready to serve at all times; the one who is already taking care of the others. This is the person who be put in charge of everything; the steward. On the other hand, if the one in charge takes advantage of the master’s absence and his position by striking the other slaves and neglecting them, there will be some consequences. The master is coming home and will not announce his arrival.
And the caught unaware, taking advantage servant, will be severely punished. And the punishment is so severe that many have changed it or said that it must mean something else. The master will cut him in two and assign him a place with the unbelievers. For the Jewish people, unbelief was the greatest sin because all other sins spring out of unbelief. So, the offending servant is cut in two (there really isn’t a better translation) and then placed with unbelievers. I’m thinking if you are cut in two, you probably won’t care where you are placed at that point. Being cut in two was a punishment reserved for the worst offenses. Legend has it that King Manasseh cut Isaiah in two. Being assigned to the place of unbelievers was like begin relegated to being the same as a Gentile. The worst possible outcome physically and spiritually. Maybe the point is not to take this literally. It is a parable after all. The point is that this is the heaviest of consequences reserved for the worst of offenses.
Verses 47-48 may be another parable, but it seems more likely a commentary on the parable just told. If you know the masters will and are not ready to act, there will be consequences. Even if you don’t know the masters will and fail to be ready and to act, you will receive consequences, but they will not be as bad. This has caused a lot of discussion. And rightfully so. It is important to note that in this scenario, we are talking about servants. I don’t think this parable deals with those outside of the household at all. Some servants are going to be aware of the master’s wishes more than others. This is about responsibility more than honor. The more you know, the more you are intended to respond appropriately. Even if you don’t know, you should spend some time finding out. There be consequences either way. And here is the thing: Jesus taught this parable. This is important because some think the message of Jesus is to live your life and be happy. Nope! It is be ready to serve the master at all times. Be faithful and wise and ready. And the more you serve, the more you will be asked to serve; to take care of others. Grace and peace.