You may remember the story. Jesus tells about a man who had wealth and went away for a time. While he was gone he entrusted his wealth to his servants. To one he gave 5 “talents” (a monetary unit of the time), to another 3 talents, to another 1 talent. When he returned, the one with 5 had 5 more and the one with 3 had 3 more. To them the master said, “well done, good and faithful servant.” The one who had 1 had kept his hidden and did nothing with it. When he brought back that one the master was quite displeased. The servant could have done something with the money but did not. That story is in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 18.
I like that story because it highlights our call to be faithful with what we have been given. We are not required to meet a quota or attain a particular goal, we are simply called to do something with what we have been given. So, how do we get there? How to we become known as “good and faithful servants”? Here’s my take:
- Understand the story is about God and the Kingdom of God. That seems an obvious statement, but if we are to be faithful in serving then we need to acknowledge who the master is. To do good for the master depends on what matters to the master. To be “faithful” then is to be attentive to the will and work of God and to give ourselves to that work and vision.
- Realize that the story is not about money. So often this story is equated with how we handle money. Yes, the story does center on the master’s money and how the servant’s handle said monies. But, God doesn’t operate in that currency. In the Kingdom of God the currency is not money. I think about 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul writes, “Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:13) What God puts in our hands and asks us to watch over and be faithful with are FAITH, HOPE , AND LOVE. When we take those “kingdom valuables” and work to make them greater, then we are good and faithful.
- Keep in mind that the way we serve God’s purpose is not by doing our own thing. This is where I diverge from the parable as an analogy and use it instead as an illustration of bigger concepts. In the story there is one servant given a set amount of the wealth who goes off and then returns – each one separately working and accountable. Since I am already dealing with 1 Corinthians, I would flip back one chapter to chapter 12 where Paul talks about us all being part of one body. We serve God’s purpose together as a church in the context of THE Church. How each of us contributes to the work we do as a community to grow and develop “faith, hope and love” both within each person and in the world around us will determine our faithfulness in God’s eyes.
The importance of what we do together as the Church, as a local church community within the Church, cannot be overestimated. The Kingdom of God has been put into our hands when the Holy Spirit was poured out into our hearts. God won’t be asking us the average number of people who attended our Sunday services, or the number of people who served in missions and ministry, or the number of small groups we had working in the church. God will ask, How did you grow in faith and help others grow in faith? Where did you help others experience hope? Where did you love so deeply that love expanded in the lives of others?
So often we think that as pastors and leaders our job is to keep Sunday morning lively and engaging, to keep small groups functioning, to keep people coming back. But, while those things do need to be done, they are not the goal. Doing those things won’t make us “good and faithful servants”. Only when we do them in such a way that faith, hope and love become more active and more present in all our lives will we hear “well done, good and faithful servant.”
Are you working to “do a job” in the church? Or, are you working to help others grow in faith? Are you serving on a team in order to accomplish a goal of making the church a good organization? Or, are you serving God’s purpose by serving others? Are you in a small group or leading a small group so you can enjoy the fellowship? Or, are you there seeking to help others know more and more the great love of God?
When we seek to increase what we have been given: faith, hope and love – when we let the Spirit of God work in us to grow us and to grow others – then I believe we will hear our Heavenly Father say, “Well done, good and faithful servants.”
How will you seek to be faithful?
Holy high-five to you,