Posts Tagged ‘Elders’


Advent series: Parables of faithful waiting

We are beginning Advent today. The word comes from Latin and means arrival or coming. We use it to refer to the first coming of Jesus that we celebrate at Christmas time – and the Advent season ahead of this is a way of preparing ourselves to celebrate this.

But of course, as we think about how to prepare ourselves to celebrate Jesus’ first coming,  it also makes us think about how to prepare ourselves for his second coming.

After all, many among the people of God were not ready for the first Advent of Jesus. And in the same way we have to ask, “will we be ready for his second Advent?” (Luke 2:34-35.)

We will be looking at three parables from Jesus about faithful waiting, and the first today is the parable of the slave left in charge, found in –

Matthew 24:45-51

 The question here is, will this slave be ready when his master returns? We begin with what it looks like if the slave is faithful and wise.

45“Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time?” (I have changed ESV’s “servant” to “slave” throughout).

The situation is that the master has gone away for a time and has placed one of his slaves over the rest of his fellow slaves in his household. As such, he is in charge and has the responsibility of administering the affairs of the house. Specifically, his task is to give everyone in the household their food at the proper time.

Now this parable is certainly talking about pastors or elders in the church.

  • These are the ones Jesus has set over his household while he is gone (fellow slaves – v. 49).
  • And the imagery of feeding in Scripture is one that is associated with teaching – a chief role of a pastor or elder (e.g. Proverbs 10:21; Jeremiah 3:15; John 21:15, 17; 1 Corinthians 3:1-2; Hebrews 5:11-14; also Matthew 4:4).

(1 Timothy 3:4-5 speaks of elders as those in charge of the household of the church. I would argue that the presence of the words “not a drunkard, not violent” in the list of qualifications for an elder in 1 Timothy 3:3 reflects the influence of this parable. Luke uses the word “steward” in his version of this parable (12:42-48) which is used in Titus 1:7 for an elder. The context in Luke 12 points to this parable as focused on leaders. Peter says in v. 41, “Lord are you telling this parable – about the master and the thief – for us or for all?” Jesus then responds by telling our parable about leaders.)

So I’m preaching to myself this morning for sure. But this parable can also have application to anyone who has responsibilities in the community of Jesus.

46Blessed is that slave whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.”

So this is a trial run for this slave; a test. The key phrase is, “will find him so doing.” If the master finds him doing what he told him to do, which is the test, he is blessed.

Specifically, he will get a promotion: his temporary position will become permanent and he will gain more responsibility and honor, since he will now be over the household and all that the master possesses.

Our life in this world is a trial run for life in the world to come; the kingdom of God on this earth. And if we are doing what we are supposed to do when Jesus returns, we too will be blessed.

For pastors and elders this means exercising the authority they have rightly (Matthew 20:25-28) and being busy to lead and teach the church in the right way. For everyone it means doing all that Jesus has told us to do, whatever our role is. This is the mark of a faithful and wise slave, which we are called to be.

Next we turn to the other possibility, if the slave becomes wicked.

48But if that wicked slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eats and drinks with drunkards . . .”

 This isn’t another, different servant, but the same one (as we see in Luke 12:45). If he chooses to be wicked instead of faithful and wise, this is what will happen. (The word “that” points back to the previous slave. The word “wicked” is anticipatory of the bad things that will be described shortly.)

The problem is that the master is delayed. So this parable forewarns us that there may be a delay in Jesus’ coming. So the wicked slave thinks that because of this he can do whatever he wants and get away with it. And so instead of being faithful to his task he misuses his authority – beating his fellow slaves and neglects his responsibilities – going off and living it up with the wrong crowd. Instead of a focus on feeding the household, his job, he is busy feeding himself and drinking and partying.

Again our life in this world is a trial run. And if we think Jesus won’t come because it has taken so long, or that we have time to be irresponsible or if we entertain any other thought that would lead us to stop doing what Jesus has told us to do – there will be consequences when Jesus returns.

50the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

 Jesus is saying, there will be consequences, because the master will return! And since the slave thinks his master won’t come or not anytime soon it catches him off guard.

v. 51 says literally he will “cut him in two.” He will be chopped in half. Jesus is getting our attention here. Just as he misused his authority to be violent to his fellow slaves, the master will use his rightful authority to violently judge him. Notice the symmetry. And he will be put with the hypocrites (a term Jesus uses for leaders who are false – Matthew 23. Luke 12:46 has “the unfaithful” or unbelievers). Just as he negligently associated himself with drunkards and partied, the master will rightly put him with the hypocrites where there is much suffering – weeping and gnashing of teeth. Again notice the symmetry. This latter phrase most likely means grinding one’s teeth because of pain. This is an image of Gehenna or hell.

This parable teaches us that if a pastor or elder misuses their authority and neglects to teach and lead their people – there will be judgment. And for anyone who is not doing what Jesus has told them to do – there will be judgment. Jesus will return on a day when we do not expect him and at an hour we do not know and we will be judged (the language of “day” and “hour” echoes 24:36, 44).

Well, just as this slave had a choice – to be wise and faithful doing what his master said, or to be wicked – not doing, or doing the opposite of what his master said, so –

We have a choice

What will yours be?

Many were not ready when Jesus came the first time. Are you ready for the master’s return at his second coming so that you will be blessed and rewarded? Are you faithfully doing what Jesus has told you to do, as we await his second advent?


Read Full Post »

This was a team sermon from Proverbs by our Elders: Paul Nolt, Tim Mangan, Kevin Baer and myself. The audio is available, but I am just posting my input.

Paul Nolt: Proverbs 2:1-8 – 1My child, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, 2making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; 3yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, 4if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, 5then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. 6For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; 7he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, 8guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.”

William: 1. Proverbs 10:19 – “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his (or her) lips is prudent.”

The meaning is straightforward – too much talking gets us into trouble. There is a correlation between the amount we speak and our susceptibility to sin with our words. This is because, as James says, the tongue is a “restless evil, full of deadly poison” – 1:8. And also, I think, the more we speak, the more easy it is to become careless with our words. We don’t use our filter. Proverbs  15:28 says, “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.” Are you a ponderer or a pourer when it comes to your words?

This is why we need to be “slow to speak” as James says in 1:19. We need to think before we speak. Our proverb talks about “restraining” our words. We need to pause and consider before we open our mouths. This is the way of wisdom.

When we don’t restrain our words it leads to lots of problems: things like gossip, breaking confidences, angry speech, critical speech, boastful speech, impure speech, and so on.

Now, I’m a fairly quiet person, at least when it’s not a Sunday morning. But this verse still challenges me. Here’s one example – I like to think that I’m funny or at least I try to be funny at times. I especially like to have a clever quip here and there. But this verse teaches me to be very careful with this, because in my desire to be funny, and it requires that I speak quickly, I can and have said things that are hurtful to others or things that are not edifying. So I still need to learn wisdom in this area, and to choose wisdom over trying to be funny more often.

Tim Mangan shared on:

2. Proverbs 12:25 – “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” 

3. Proverbs 16:9 – “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

Kevin Baer shared on:

4. Proverbs 20:25 – “It is a snare to say rashly, ‘It is holy,’ and to reflect only after making vows.” 

5. Proverbs 16:2 – “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.”

William: 6. Proverbs 14:4 – “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.”

The phrase “the manger is clean” can also be translated, the manger is “empty,” or there is “no grain” in the manger. I am going with the ESV here because it makes good sense of the Proverb.

I am a perfectionist, at least at some things in life (I’ve been told I have a bit of OCD). By and large I like things in order and nice and tidy.

I wasn’t always like this for sure. I used to be a real slob. When I went to college my freshman year, I had one of the  messiest dorm rooms at my school. But I guess I got it out of my system and have learned to like having things in order.

So this Proverb challenges me because there is very little that is orderly and nice and tidy in pastoring. This is one reason I have this Proverb posted in my office, so that I can see it regularly.

Here’s the meaning: If you want a good crop, you need oxen. But to have oxen means cleaning up some manure. So you have to pick – have things nice and clean, but no harvest. Or have a good harvest, but clean up some messes.

More generally, if you want to get something done in life – or in the work of God – you need people, you need to take risks, and you need to be open to some chaos, and so there’s going to be some “manure.” So I have to choose: have things nice and tidy, but get nothing done. Or get things done, but clean up messes like: conflicts, misunderstandings, failures, making people mad, and dealing with some craziness.

Wisdom calls me to accept this, so that God’s work can be done.

Paul Nolt: Proverbs 3:13-15 – 13Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, 14for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. 15She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.”

Read Full Post »