‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
‘But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’
Peter said, ‘Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?’ And the Lord said, ‘Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says to himself, “My master is delayed in coming”, and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.
The Parable of the Faithful, or Unfaithful, Slave in Luke’s Gospel develops the similar parable in Matthew 24:45-51. Both evangelists present us with a double-minded slave, entrusted with the management of his colleagues by an absent master. The manager might choose either to faithfully perform his duties pending his master’s return, or alternatively take advantage of the master’s absence to mistreat his colleagues and consort with the dissolute (Matt. 24:48-49//Luke 12:45). When the master returns without warning, and discovers how the manager has abused his position, he enforces a gruesome punishment (Matt. 24:51//Luke 12:46).
Luke expands on the story of the double-minded slave by describing two further slaves. One has a clear idea of the master’s requirements. Because he has less responsibility than the manager and doesn’t abuse his position to the same degree, he receives a lesser punishment. The other doesn’t know what is expected. He is guilty of wrongdoing, but because of his ignorance, this incurs a lighter penalty again.
Luke’s parable teaches that our accountability to God as servants is proportionate to our awareness of what is required. As those with insight into God’s love, justice, mercy and peace, we find ourselves in the position of Jesus’s disciples, and are required to be in a state of perpetual readiness for Jesus’s return. Being entrusted with knowledge and understanding of the gospel is a privilege which carries substantial responsibility with it. ‘From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.’
Loving God, thank you for entrusting us with the good news of Jesus. Help us to be faithful witnesses to the gospel in our words and deeds. May we always and everywhere seek opportunities to share your love, justice, mercy and peace. Stir us from complacency and strengthen our commitment to live whole-heartedly as your people in the world. Amen.