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God’s Word for You

Luke 12:41-48 Who is that faithful manager

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, August 20, 2018

41 Then Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable only to us, or to all?”  42 And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his household, to give them their portion of food when the time comes?  43 That servant is blessed whom his master will find doing so when he returns.

Peter asked this following Jesus’ parable about the watchful servants (Luke 12:35-38) and the corollary parable about the master and the thief (Luke 12:39-40) which Peter understands correctly to be “this parable,” that is, one unified teaching point about being prepared for the return of Jesus. What Peter wants to know is simply: Is this about us disciples, or about all Christians?

Jesus answers for our sake with another illustration rather than a simple reply. Instead of “the faithful one is you, Peter,” which would not help us at all, Jesus says, “the faithful one is the one who is faithfully carrying out his Christian role until I return—or until I call him home in death.”

This answer is excellent because it does not limit the forms of service within the church. Many people have been carried away by two extreme views of ministry, neither of which are based on Scripture. The one view is that only ministry that is connected to the office of the Apostles (the so-called Apostolic Succession) is valid. “Rome asserts there is no other way of becoming a priest than through ordination received from a bishop created by the Pope. Those called and appointed merely by the Christian congregation are not servants of the Church, but are to be regarded as thieves and robbers (Council of Trent, de Sacrum. Ord., Sess 23, c. 4)” (Pieper, Christian Dogmatics Vol. III p. 455). On the other extreme are those who claim that there is no public office of ministry at all, and that the offices described in the New Testament are only temporary offices with no correlation to ministry in the present day (Hoefling of Erlangen, etc.).

The “wise and faithful manager” here is therefore everyone who holds a position of responsibility in the Church: apostles, ministers, deacons, elders, professors, teachers, officials of a synod, parents, church members: “in short” (says Pastor Wenzel), “all Christians, for no Christian can be found who does not carry some responsibility” (Commentary on the Gospels p. 470).

44 Truly, I tell you that he will make him ruler over all that he has.

Since this is based on the return of Jesus at the Last Day, we cannot say what kind of reward is meant here, but other passages also describe varying degrees of glory in heaven (Matthew 19:28, 25:20-23; Luke 19:16-19). We do not need to wonder and write volumes of speculation about this. We need to make every effort to avoid the punishments of hell, and to bring everyone in our care along with us to heaven through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is is taking a long time to return,’ and he starts to beat the male and female servants, and to gorge himself and drink until he gets drunk,  46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not expecting him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and he will cut him in half and give him a place with the unbelievers.  47 So that servant who knows his master’s will but does not get himself ready or do his master’s will shall be whipped with many lashes.

This is the opposite side (antithesis) of the Lord’s point. If there is someone who should have been a faithful servant but made a conscious choice not to be, he will be punished. The vivid expression is “he will cut him in half” (διχοτομήσει, lit. “dichotomize him”), an expression used in the Old Testament for dismembering an animal (Exodus 29:17) and used in Greek literature for the hideous and most severe punishment of a criminal (“punish them severely with the sword and with death” 3 Baruch 16). Finally, someone who knew his duty and responsibility in the Church but abandoned it to live a life of sin and abused the privileges he received through the Church but had no faith will be given a place “with the unbelievers,” which is hell.

48 But the one who did not know yet committed things that deserved punishment shall be whipped with fewer lashes. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be demanded, and to whom much has been entrusted, of him much more will be asked.

This passage very clearly shows that there will be a difference in the many punishments of hell. For an unbeliever, hell will be a miserable, empty place with no comfort or relief. For someone who once had faith in Christ but let go of it, hell will be far worse, an agony that will be excruciating. Luther said simply, “It is better to be a condemned Gentile than a condemned Christian.”

Is there a difference between the one “to whom much is given” and the one “to whom much as has been entrusted”? Yes. A Christian who has been given much might have been given wealth, energy, spiritual gifts, abilities, compassion, or even many children. This Christian must learn to use these gifts wisely, for the good of the Church and for the good of their children. A person who has been entrusted with much is one who has the care of souls. This also reaches into the realm of parenting, but even more so of the called pastor or teacher. The salvation of souls is the true work of the Church. The minister is constantly asked to do more, and he must learn to consider the good of the souls under his care over against the needs or even advice of all others. He will have certain people who are his friends or associates who will say, “You must learn to say ‘no’ to those people!” But those friends and associates are not called to care for those souls. Even the one who gives all, even his own health and life, for the care of the souls entrusted to him, has only done his duty (Luke 17:10).

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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