29 “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. 32 So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. 34 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. 35 Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks. 37 The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat! 38 He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready. 39 Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would not permit his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”
41 Peter asked, “Lord, is that illustration just for us or for everyone?”
42 And the Lord replied, “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 43 If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. 44 I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. 45 But what if the servant thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? 46 The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant in pieces and banish him with the unfaithful. 47 And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. 48 But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.”
What we have been reading for the past several days all goes together. Jesus encouraged his followers (us!) not to fear. At first, he talked about not fearing death or adversaries who could only harm the body but no more. Then he moved into not fearing to lose possessions. The best human wisdom (including some very popular Christian leaders) encourage us to save, prepare for retirement, build up wealth. What we read yesterday calls all that into question. The wealthy landowner who prudently planned to save for his retirement – Jesus called him a fool.
But wait, you might say, we need to qualify what Jesus said there; we don’t need to be reckless and unreasonable. Maybe, but I think we are usually to quick to reach for the reasonable and in the process we become unable to hear the radical, reckless message Jesus has for us here. Luke continues Matthew’s message about not worrying over possessions or provisions, but then Luke adds a direct statement not found in Matthew: sell your possessions and give to those in need. Dispossessing is a central, essential act every disciple of Jesus must perform.
Let me say that again – if you are going to follow Jesus, you have to sell your stuff and give the money to the poor. This is a command straight from Jesus. The path of the disciple, the path toward Jesus, involves stripping off and leaving behind a lot of stuff. I know that’s hard to hear in our materialistic, consumer culture. But we need to hear and obey this now more than ever. Your stuff will keep you from drawing close to Jesus. It will get in the way. Get rid of it. Sell it on Craigslist and give the money to people who need it. Feed hungry people with the money. Purge most of your clothes and give the excess to those who need clothes. The more you give away, the lighter you will feel and the easier your spiritual journey will become.
And instead of a retirement plan, Jesus talks about working diligently until the master returns. Not at building wealth, but at building the kingdom. It seems like most of us think we have to do one or the other – have a career that makes money or go into vocational ministry (and for a few who prostitute the faith these can be one and the same). But it’s time for us to rethink the way work and faith function in our lives. Most often work consumes us (especially in the U.S.) and faith is a side project. Maybe our faith makes us a better person at work, but less often do we ask if our faith is even compatible with the work we are doing or how we are participating in the economic structures of our society. If your work facilitates the abuse or mistreatment of others, you are not free of responsibility for that just because you are not directly abusing them. If you work for a company that extorts money from people, then you may have to leave that job to keep following Jesus.
I use the word “may” there because nothing in the above paragraph is meant to be a rule you have to follow. There are times to gather into barns. And there are times to walk away from bad companies. Only the Holy Spirit can tell each of us when those times for each of us are. My point here is not to set some standard you must adhere to, but to open your ears to what God might be saying to you. Don’t let the financial planning seminar you went to at church make you miss what Jesus is saying here. What Jesus says comes first. Don’t let the sweet job you have (and the bad economy) keep you from hearing if the Spirit is telling you to put in your notice. Sweet jobs are great – unless they are disobedience for you. Then they’re bad.
Church leaders and pastors should pay close attention to that last part. Jesus describes the master coming and reversing roles to wait on his servants (nice foreshadowing here of the footwashing in John 13). Then Peter asks who this was for, the Twelve or everyone. Jesus responds by carefully describing how head servants are responsible to serve the other servants, to care for them, not to take advantage of them, abuse them, or sit around being served by them. The message here is clear. If you are a follower of Jesus, then you are a servant of the Kingdom, you have been called to minister to others. If you have been placed in leadership in this group of servants, you have been called to serve them, prefiguring the reversal the master will enact on his return. Because the master will return. And he won’t care about our 401k when he does.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.