A Sacred Trust
A Sacred Trust
Words of Faith 9-7-18
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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 Peter asked, "Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?"
 The Lord answered, "Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time?  It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.  I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.  But suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the menservants and 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 is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.
Jesus was in the midst of teaching about a life of readiness when Peter asked a question we may ponder as well. "Are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?" Who is this parable for? Does this really apply to us since we already know the Lord? Is this for us?
So Jesus clarified. He was especially concerned with leaders who do not live in readiness. Jesus was certainly talking to the religious leaders of the day who were in no way prepared for His arrival in Jerusalem. God had provided for very specific care of the people through religious leaders but they had abandoned this sacred trust. The abuse of the flock of Israel was very much a part of what Jesus abhorred in the practices of the first century.
But Jesus was also talking about a time in the future when the church would be awaiting the return of the Master. There will be some of the servants who are put in charge of possessions that belong to the Master for the care of the others. If these servants abuse the place of responsibility there is a dire consequence reflected in the story.
In a larger sense, the answer to Peter's question is that we who call ourselves followers of Christ are especially accountable because we have been left with the responsibility of feeding and caring for others. We might say that this teaching is for the pastor. We might also say this is for the teacher. Certainly it is. But we also must realize that this is for the church.
The church is entrusted with feeding the sheep. The church is left in charge of feeding the other servants. We are entrusted with resources and ministry gifts for the purpose of feeding others while we await the return of the Master.
So what happens if we abuse that place of stewardship? What if the pastor or teachers or leaders start to abuse their power? What if they start to abuse their authority? What if they start to abuse the servants who are in their trusted care? Sadly, this is one of the foibles of the human institution we call the church. Human institutions can abuse.
This is what happened with the religious leaders in the day of Jesus. This is one of the failures of human leaders. Human leaders can abuse. They can abuse their power, their gifts and their influence. Human leaders can badger people and beat them up and make them feel guilty. None of this is the intention of the Master who is coming back soon.
The truth is that all the things that we sometimes hate about “the church” come about when we lose sight of who owns the house, who is in charge, and who is the servant. Jesus had already said that if you abuse His children it would be better for you if you had a millstone tied around your neck and were thrown into the sea. Now we see why. The image here is so harsh that we would prefer to skip over it. Jesus says that the Master will cut the self-centered unfaithful servant into pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.
Now that sounds harsh, but the truth is that there are churches that abuse. Wretched things have been done to people "in the name of Jesus" through the centuries. There are individual crimes committed by priests, pastors and leaders and then there are the institutional cover-ups and payoffs offend just as deeply.
Hatred and tacit approval of atrocities have come from the church over the centuries. Some churches start out on the right track but when they see that the master is taking a long time in coming they see what they can get away with. Jesus is clear that the wrath of God is upon those who should know better.
Something might also be said here about churches that abuse their pastors and staff. This can happen because of overwork or underpay, or a general lack of support. Some churches are so toxic that they become known as "preacher eaters" because of climate of criticism and quick rotation of pastors. Surely this is not the plan of the Master during the time of waiting for His return.
So why not get rid of the whole idea of church as some have suggested? We must remember that even with her flaws, Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:25-27). It is the goal of Jesus to prepare His bride until the day of His coming. The good news is that God is not finished with us. He is working on us.
As we read this passage we might think that the text does not have much grace in it. But in fact, there is enormous grace here. The Master is overflowing with grace when He gives over responsibility for His house to servants. There is enormous grace in the trust of the Master to leave every provision in the hands of the servants. There is also enormous grace in the continued work of the Spirit to conform us to the image of Christ.
But we don't want to miss the warning here. We have every opportunity to receive forgiveness, grace and mercy, and every opportunity to live responsibly by the power of the Spirit. But when we cheapen grace or take it for granted, or worse, when we abuse grace or abuse others in the name of grace, when we abuse the sacred trust of God given to leaders or abuse the leaders, we assign for ourselves a judgment. It is not that God has no grace for us, but that we show we have no real place for God's grace in our lives.
As followers of the Lord Jesus, we are especially accountable because we know better. "That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows."
How do we respond to this? We take very seriously the people and the things that are entrusted to us as the church. These are His. We are His. We await His return and hold carefully what is entrusted to us.
Father God, help me in the time of waiting that I may be found ready and faithful. Show me how to encourage those around me who wait and how to support those You entrust as leaders. In Jesus' name.