Words of Affirmation
Having read this parable told by Jesus, which words of Jesus most captured your attention? Was it the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” or, was it “you wicked lazy slave”? I do not like to think about the words, “you wicked, lazy slave.” I am much more motivated by the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” This truth was brought home to me recently by one of my supervisors in an annual evaluation. In his report to his own superiors, he bragged about my work and recommended me with the highest affirmation. The words of affirmation were encouraging because I believe in the ministry of the organization where I am involved. I believe strongly in the mission and purpose. Positively contributing to that ministry helps me know that I am being faithful.
The looming question of this story is, how do you gain the affirmation of the Master when he returns? How can you come to the place that your ears will hear those desired words of our Lord when he returns? The answer is found in the parable and it relates to faithfulness in using whatever resources God has entrusted into your hands. The affirmation of the Lord was given to the servant who used the resources entrusted to him resulting in gain. Here are a few key observations about the passage:
- The resources were given provided by the Master.
- The servant understood the resources belonged to Jesus and were only entrusted to him.
- The servant had an expectation or belief that the Master intended for the talents to be used for gain.
Having identified the principles of the parable, the task for the believer reading this word is to draw parallels between the story given and the relationship between Jesus and his servants. The obvious comparison here is between the master of the story and Jesus as well as that between the servant and a believer in Christ. Jesus is the good Master who has given resources to his followers. His expectation is for his servants to use the resources entrusted to them to produce an increase in the Kingdom. According to Matthew 28, the increase in the Kingdom has to do with making disciples. There is not space or time in this portion of the study to detail what all it means to be involved in making disciples. However, it does mean more than evangelism and teaching a class. It takes a church to complete that disciple-making process. For the purposes of this study, the focus is on the resources given and the actions of the servant to exercise faith in the Master by using every resource provided for an increase in the Kingdom. The servant in the story is to be compared to the one who believes in Christ.
In order to be found faithful, the servant must realize that every asset in his life is entrusted to him by Jesus. Whatever talents one has, whatever monetary assets, positions in vocations, standing in a community, and relationships with others are all resources belonging to Jesus that have been entrusted to his servants.
Take a little time and perform and inventory of assets that God has entrusted to you.
Spiritual Gifts ________________________________________________________________________
Vocational Abilities ____________________________________________________________________
Vocational Position ____________________________________________________________________
Relationships (include parent child relationships, etc.)__________________________________________
Positions in your church_________________________________________________________________
The second principle leading to words of affirmation by the Master is to realize all these resources actually belong to him and are merely entrusted to you. This may be somewhat of a new concept or one that you may not have applied to all areas of your life. Review the inventory above and put a check mark by those you have viewed as a resource entrusted to you by the Lord. Put an asterisk by those you have not really considered to be possessions of the Lord. As an act of worship, make a fist with your right hand. Imagine that you have the resources you listed in your inventory contained within your fist to indicate personal ownership. Now open your hand as a sign of releasing these resources to the Lord while you make a commitment to view them as resources entrusted to you by the Lord.
The third principle leading to words of affirmation by the Master is an expectation that the resources have been entrusted to the servant in for the purposes of producing gain in the Kingdom of God. That means the servant may use some of the resources to meet their own needs. Financial resources can certainly be used to provide food, housing and other essential needs. You see, the greatest resource given is God’s work within an individual to shape him into a servant who influences others. On this point, there are so many ways to influence with the Gospel. They all must flow out of a heart that loves Jesus and loves others. If you are a gifted teacher it might be teaching. But what if God has given you an ability to sew and a spiritual gift of helping? Is there some way God might use the talent of sewing and the spiritual gift of helping to produce gain for the Kingdom?
Applying this final principle has everything to do with focus and direction. The servant must be aware that the focus of using resources is to produce gain in the Kingdom. This focus of direction helps the servant to see opportunity. It changes his view of others. Instead of seeing people as a bother as with the unrighteous judge, the servant of Jesus will begin to see every individual as one in need of a touch from Jesus and see themselves as one entrusted with the resources of heaven to be a participant in that touch.
As you think about the inventory above and you think about Jesus returning to offer words, how do you see him responding to your use of those resources? Go back and circle those that Jesus could say, “well done good and faithful.” Go back and underline those that he would say, “you lazy wicked slave.” Now, enter a time of prayer with the Lord. You might want to begin with thanksgiving for the resources He has placed in your life. Rejoice with him for those areas where you would hear the words of affirmation and repent in those areas where the words might be a rebuke.