Taking Grace for Granted: #16

Do Not Take Grace For Granted?

We continue with Luke’s Account of the duty of a servant with the question, will my Lord say to me, “Well done, good servant?” (Luke 19:17). For me, grace has and grace is the means and the way I served and still serve Christ, daily. Yet, at ninety years old, am I missing something that I must pass on? Have I been negligent in my duties and taken grace for granted? I, too, went through a time when I wanted to receive and be served, rather than give and serve myself. Jesus had that concern in his day. Jesus did issue some warnings.

But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will punish him, and put him with the unfaithful  (Luke 12:45-46).

Will any one of you, who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep, say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit at the table’? Will he not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, and gird yourself and serve me, till I eat and drink; and afterward you shall eat and drink”? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that is command, you say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’ Luke 17:7-10).

Tend Not to be a Recipient, But a Servant of Grace.

Our Lord Jesus experienced what we experience ourselves. Most of us want more than we ourselves can give. The reason is that we have not planted, nor have we sowed enough to harvest sufficiently for ourselves. Jesus gave us such a lesson in one of his parables.

And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:34-38).

For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more. So also, he who had the two talented made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth’ (Matthew 25:14-30).

What Does this Parable Say to Me?

It is a summary of an organization, established by Christ on earth called: “the Kingdom of heaven.” And Jesus Christ is the Owner of this organization, large company, and huge holdings. Jesus had to leave and return to heaven. And so Jesus put the management of “His Estate” into the hands of his disciples. In Jesus’ own Words their mission was: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

The meaning of “to observe” does not mean “to watch!” It means “to take hold” (terein), and to make it our own, so that we have something to pass on. The disciples were with Jesus for three years to learn the meaning of grace and to learn to apply grace to themselves and pass it onto their disciples (students). Christ’s Command is wrapped in one word: “Love” (agape), and the content of love is “Grace” (charis). Grace is the character and nature of Christ. I had to assume that nature to become a “vessel of grace” (II Corinthians 5:17). It is my practice of grace in and for Christ’s Church that also prepares me for heaven. If I am not fit for the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, what right have I to think that I shall be accepted in heaven? To my understanding, the Kingdom of God was brought into the world so that I could learn the manners of heaven. It was God’s Love that made this possible. Barnabas was such a man in whom and through whom grace was manifested at Antioch. This was how Jesus put it:

Jesus answered Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:5-8).

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another (John 15:12-17).

For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For ever one who does evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God (John 3:16-21).

News came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace (work) of God, he was glad; and exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a large company was added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church, and taught a large company of people; and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians (Acts 11:22-26).

With what Group in the Parable of the Pounds Do I Rate ?

The Evangelist Paul held that God knows exactly how much we can endure and carry (I Corinthians 10:13). Where do I place myself on the scale from ten to one. Jesus only used scales five, two, and one. Apparently, Jesus did not expect anything more from anyone than a five. Those of us, who measure up to only one talent, can do sufficiently well to please Him. But, you or I must receive and give back our talent with interest; and if you or I want to be rewarded and move on. The five pounder talent and the two pounder talent of grace doubled their output. In the Lukan Account, these faithful servants were rewarded and promoted, and they were given greater and better responsibilities (Luke 19:15-19). Even the world will choose such a laborer over one that only takes.

“He who is faithful in very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they scoffed at him. But he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

The law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and every one enters it violently. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one dot of the law to become void” (Luke 16:10-17).

In this world, mammon has the power and Christians depend as much on mammon as the world does. Mammon controls our necessities, which sustains our bodies so our spirits can function and keep this world running. Even a reformed and reborn body and soul are subject to mammon (John 3:5). To love our enemies (Matthew 5:44) is the same as the command to make friends with mammon (Luke 16:9). It is being gracious that can gain us some favor when such is needed to survive. Jesus used this example:

“There was a rich man who had a steward, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Turn in the account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ And the steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that people may receive me into their houses when I am put out of the stewardship.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe?” He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest steward for his shrewdness; for the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations (Luke 16:1b-9).