Earlier this week, I pointed out that we must be ready for the Lord’s return (Luke 12:35–40). I showed that because we do not know the timing of His coming, we must always be ready. Then I argued that being ready means faithful service to Christ. Here, I want to give motivation for faithful service while the Master is away.
The Motivation for Being Ready
In Luke 12:41–48, there are two primary motivations for being ready: the Master will reward faithful service, and the Master will judge unfaithful service.
The Master will reward faithful service
The first motivation for faithful service is that Christ will reward those who are faithful (vv. 41–44). In these verses, Jesus says that the reward for faithful service is greater service. This reward is consistent with the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. Jesus entrusts some money to three different servants. To one, He gave five talents, and to another, He gave two talents, and to the third servant, He gave one talent. The first two servants doubled their Master’s money. And the Master responds: “Well done, good and faithful servant, you were faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21). The reward for faithful service is future (eternal) service. And this is the same reward promised in Luke 12:41-44.
The Master will judge unfaithful service
The second motivation for faithful service is found in verses 45–48. We must be ready for the Master’s return, so that we will avoid being judged for unfaithfulness (vv. 46–47).
The Master will come unexpectedly and will judge the servant who fails to obey the command from verse 35. This judgment is described as cutting him into pieces, assigning him a place with unbelievers (v. 46b), and receiving many lashes (v. 47b).
It is amazing to me that the servant is not described as one who overtly defies Christ’s command. He wasn’t a man who raised his fist in the face of the Master and said, “I hate my Master, and I will not listen to and obey His voice.” The mindset of the unfaithful servant is not one of defiance. It is the mindset of delay: “My master will be a long time in coming” (v. 45). The reason that he fails to serve the Master is that he delays serving the Master.
Have you ever had that mindset yourself—the mindset where you know what the right thing to do is, but you delay? You think, You know what? Christ has delayed in coming this long, and people for centuries have been expecting Him to return at any time, so I should be okay. I have plenty of time before He returns. So I’ll continue on in this sin just a little longer. I will continue to neglect my responsibility to be holy. I will delay in reaching people for Christ. I will serve the body of Christ a few years from now. I know that Christ told me to serve and be ready, and I will do it . . . but not right now. Maybe I will obey my Master when I get past this obstacle that I am facing right now. Then I will get things cleaned up, and be ready for the Master. I have watched other people delay, and God was merciful to them. So I will be okay too.
Hell will be full of people who had good intentions to serve Christ. They will talk about all the great things they had planned to do for God. And yet they will be shocked when the Master finally does come, and their good intentions never resulted in actual service. If you think that I am overstating this idea, consider the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1–13. Five of them trimmed their lamps and were ready for the Master, but five of them did not. When the Master returned, the five virgins who did not trim their lamps still wanted to get ready, and still tried to get ready, but it was too late. They had known what the Master wanted, and their desires coincided with the Master’s desires. But they delayed.
The difference between eternal life and eternal death is not necessarily the difference between those who know God’s will and those who don’t. Consider Luke 12:47: “And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes.” Did you catch that? Those who will receive many lashes are people “who knew the Master’s will,” but they delayed. For all who know the Master’s will, the difference between eternal life and eternal condemnation is going to be the difference between doing the Master’s will and delaying.
Jesus is serious about His return. He is serious about the imminence of His return. He is serious about His disciples working while He is away. Why do you think it is okay for you to delay? Did you have plans last week or last year to work for the Master? And how did that work out for you? Why do you think that you will be more fervent about serving Him tomorrow if you are unwilling to serve Him today?
The warning about Christ’s imminent return is a message of grace for you. Will you hear and respond to Him this time with faithful service? “For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, while it is said, ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me’” (Heb. 3:14–15).
The Master is coming. Are you ready?
Jacob Elwart is associate pastor of Inter-City Baptist Church, Allen Park, Mich. This article was first posted to the blog of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary and is reposted here by permission.