One such gifted individual was delivering his first sermon to his new congregation. Intermittently, he helped himself to a drink of water. One parishioner had invited her neighbor and at the conclusion of the service asked for her opinion. Her answer was, “This is the first windmill that works on water.” The people who had selected that person were looking for wind and not calm weather. In another case, by the time the wind stopped blowing the membership had dwindled down to eleven hardy souls. Fortunately, another humble servant came and allowed the Spirit of the Lord to move hearts to take a stand for Christ and not for the man with the special gift.
What is so amazing about so many of these cases is that the same congregation allows itself being led into repeated mistakes with the same results. In the above Church, two or three such bad match-ups occurred. It was always due to the same lay leaders, who claimed to possess some special gift, which they wanted the minister to have. One person asked, “What went wrong? We prayed and laid our hands on the man. He was so much what we looked for in a minister.” Yes, he was what they looked for and he told them what he thought the Lord was saying to them, but the results were not reciprocating. They wanted to measure success by the number of souls they would add and not by how the individual Christians were edified and fortified to face life. They wanted many souls, but not strong souls. How little did they realize that strong souls attract other souls, especially those who are in need? In their endeavor to count new heads, they catered toward people who showed no loyalty or any persistency. As long as their needs were met by the faithful ones, they stayed around. But as soon as they were asked to contribute, they blew away with the wind. And when they departed, they always seemed to manage to take one of the old established ones along. They always knew where there was another Church ready for the picking. How could the Lord possibly have a hand in such underhandedness?
The returning master had a very special surprise for those who were ready, faithful, and prudent in their service to him. In the parable, the owner promotes the loyal servant over all his possessions and over all his servants. In fact, the grateful master will make this servant recline, gird himself, and serve him. In other words, he will hold a special feast in his honor and become his servant for that occasion. The master will do for his servants what the servants had done for their master. Some of them would not be quite sure what they had done. There may be one person who was being remembered for having given a glass of water to a thirsty soul. There may be a poor widow who had parted with her last two coins for others poorer than herself. There may be a needy widow who had persisted in obtaining justice from an indifferent judge. There may be a thief who had merely believed in the innocence of his master. Some may be remembered because they fed some hungry, visited some sick, clothed some naked, and cared for some prisoners.
The master, in the parables, is a reference to the Lord and He has an awesome memory. The Lord remembered one man whose companions in life were dogs. A rich man did not regard him as fit to enter his home. He welcomed back a young man that ended up feeding pigs. Five young maidens, the master recognized for showing others the way in the dark by carrying lanterns. Honest investors were among the master’s guests. One lady was remembered for sharing her precious oil. An entire family was there because of their hospitality and friendship to their traveling lord. The list went on with people who had done things the world had not noticed. Yet, in this feast that the Lord had prepared for those servants, who were doing what they were supposed to do, without anyone telling them what had to be done.
There was another special group. These were uninvited guests or people who were not intended to be at this celebration. Originally, the party was intended for the establishment or the elite. But when the time of the party was announced, they considered their personal affairs more important and asked to be excused. They had ample time to take care of their marriage, their oxen and their land; but, like the foolish virgins, they waited to the very last moment. Their common human problem was that they had their priorities mixed up and had not set their house in order. They knew that they had been invited ahead of time and that the celebration was immanent; yet, they were unprepared or unwilling to be present at the party in their own honor. There was one individual who must have had a change of heart and attended without having time to dress for the occasion. Unfortunately, he stood out like a sore thumb and was evicted. But what is so amazing is that those, who replaced the original guests, were all dressed for the occasion. They came form the highways and byways, or from that part of humanity, that was neglected and regarded as unworthy to be present at the Lord’s party. They were the ignorant and common people, who in the eyes of the elite knew nothing. How then, did they know enough to be ready when the call came to come to the great banquet immediately? Apparently, they had been prepared and stood on the sideline hoping that somehow the door to the kingdom would open and they could come in like a flood. Praise to the Lord of the feast, who sent out his servants, and who allowed the uninvited guests to come in and celebrate with Him! And what is so marvelous is that whatever their deeds may have been, they were remembered for it.
Once, Peter asked the Lord, “What will we get for having left everything to follow you?” Jesus reassured him and the others that their service to Him would not be forgotten. Even in this life, they would be compensated with earthly possessions. The disciples would be honored as governors over the people of God on earth. The real award, however, would be a life that lasts forever in eternity. Only, it would not be one of rank and file, but one of humble service where the last shall be first (Mt. 19:27-30). The Lord does not place the same value on prominence that human beings do, even Christians. The Lord appears to judge us more for what we have done than for who we are. Beware of the teaching that we need not do anything, but believe in the grace of God. It is true that His grace is more than sufficient for our salvation; but we are not being saved to sit back and wait for a call from heaven to do something. We are left in this world to do some good and it better be the kind of good, which the Lord will remember. It will not be for making a name for ourselves, as preachers with power to heal or cast out demons, but for the simple and essential needs that we serve with where the left hand does not know what the right is doing. In the end, the Lord remembered those who did not remember what they had done for Him.
The servant is blessed when he is found so doing. It was a very significant emphasis in the early Church. Christians believed that their Lord was coming back any day. It was no longer important to work, marry, or even to make plans for the future. People sold their properties, and they lived off the sale of their properties until they ran out of money. The Church in Jerusalem became so destitute that they solicited help from the Gentile Christians. Then somebody began to ask what Jesus would have done. Some began to remember that Jesus taught that servants had to serve whether their Master returned or not. And that there had to be one supervising servant, who handed out rations even if they were for one day at the time. Basic service had to be performed whether the Lord came back immediately or in some distant future. Even the Apostle Paul began to teach that those who do not work, do not deserve to eat. It was a strong language, but it was necessary to awaken the sleeping Christians, who had settled in at the expense of others, waiting for the immediate return of their Lord. They were not found doing, but waiting and when we wait nothing happens.
It has been said that those who wait also serve. There are times, when our hands appear to be tired, but if they remain tired, then something definitely is wrong. Nothing, in this world, can go on without trying or doing something. Without actions there are no reactions. There are days, when we feel we would have served others better, had we stayed out of their way. Even their negative response has brought about some action that may turn into a benefit down the road. Not everyone will be satisfied with the service we render. But, if we do not serve even those, who do not appreciate it, what other service will they get? I recall when I had asked a friend for some help on a problem. I was upset with my friend’s answer. It took several days for me to get my composer. Then, I followed my friend’s advice and reaped benefits for many years. His criticism turned into a harvest of blessings for me. I, too, liked being complimented. Fortunately, there were critics in my life that loved me enough and told me how I could become a better servant.
Man is measured by what he does with what he has. It is when he attempts to do more than he is able that he gets into difficulties. Far too many of us are unhappy with what we are doing. In our discontent we reach for other things to do and leave undone what we were meant to do. The undone thing will do us in. For every time we quit, we leave some one hurt and that goes on our record. It is important in life to finish what we start and we must do what we can today. The amazing thing is that when we finish one task, another one is waiting in line. A “makarios” does what he can today, for tomorrow may no longer be his. John Oxenham penned these memorable words:
“Is your place a small place?
Tend it with care!
He set you there!
Is your place a large place?
Guard it with care!
He set you there!
What’ er your place, it is.”