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“End of the Age” or Beginning of Hope?

Buddy Spaulding

Wise and Unwise Employees:


In Matthew 24, after explaining the signs of the coming “end of the age” to his disciples, Jesus warns them always to be ready – for they would not know the day and hour of His coming: “Therefore, you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (v. 44).


Jesus then tells several parables about servants who were not ready. The first was a wise servant who was put in charge of the household. The master would be pleased to see that man “giving the other slaves their food at the proper time” (v. 45). If the master were away and delayed in his return, a wise servant would be found tending to business. An unfaithful servant, however, would only notice that the master was away and delayed! What an opportunity to be abusive and lazy!


Investing in Extra Oil:


The next parable is more familiar. Ten young women went to meet a bridegroom with personal invitations to attend his wedding feast. Five were wise enough to realize that in this broken world “stuff happens”, and the bridegroom might possibly be late. Being wise, they brought extra oil for their lamps. The other five apparently didn’t consider that the bridegroom might not arrive exactly when expected: “No need for extra oil; too heavy to carry, anyway.” They were unable to respond in a timely fashion when the bridegroom finally did show up because they had run out of oil. They kept their eyes on where they were going instead of being ready to be received.


Their unpreparedness and laziness excluded them from enjoying the good things they had anticipated. They didn’t even get a “Sorry” from the bridegroom – just a closed, locked door and, “I have no idea who you are.”


Investing Wisely What Has Been Entrusted to Us:


Jesus then tells a parable of three servants who were given stewardship of their master’s wealth, apparently each according to ability. The servant with the most doubled the value of what had been entrusted to him. Another servant was given less to manage but still doubled what he had to work with. The master gave the same commendation to both: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You did well with a little. Here’s a lot.”


Unfortunately, there was a lazy servant in this group. Too fearful to invest in anything that might pose a risk, this guy dug a hole and buried the gold the master had entrusted to him. When the master returned, he made a show of dragging it out and returning it: “Here! I saved it for you!” His excuse for lack of investment and stewardship was, “I was afraid to risk losing it!”


Investing in the Needs of the “Least Among Us”:


Finally, Jesus separates sheep from goats. What is striking is that neither the sheep (those commended) nor the goats (those condemned) seem aware of the good/bad that they had done. Whenever we meet the needs of “the least of these”; whenever we advocate for the weak and the powerless among us, Jesus apparently considers that we have done it to Him! When we ignore the weak and the poor, we also do the same to Jesus.


Why Does it Matter?


What is preventing us from doing the actual Kingdom work of caring for others and loving our enemies? Is it because the Master’s return is so far into the future that we feel we have all kinds of time?  Or, is it because His coming likely will be so soon that it doesn’t matter anyway? Are we afraid of being seen as condoning and enabling sinners? Are we worried that, in the minds of some so-called Christians, we might be labeled as liberal or woke?


“Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives.” – Matthew 24:46 NRSVUE.

 

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