41 Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all? 42 And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? 43 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 44 Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. 45 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; 46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. 47 And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. (Luke 12:41–48)
In previous passage, Luke 12:35-40, Jesus told a parable concerning the servants who were alert and ready when their master returned—even if it was in the middle of the night. The lesson for the listeners was “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning” (Luke 12:35). Be ready!
Peter listens carefully to the parable, but has a question:
Luke 12:41 Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us [the disciples], or even to all?
Peter is wondering if these things apply to everyone, including unbelievers, or only to Jesus’s disciples—to believers.
How does Jesus answer this question? With another parable! There doesn’t seem to be a direct answer. But, as we’ll see, I think that Jesus’s response has application to everyone (unbelievers), and also to those who are disciples (believers). In other words, Peter, the answer is both!
Verses 42-46 seem especially directed to unbelievers, as it deals with with the two choices that every person has to make regarding salvation.
THE TWO CHOICES
Luke 12:42 And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?
Luke 12:43 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Luke 12:44 Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.
A “steward” (oikonomos) was a servant or slave who was left in charge of a household. He did not own anything, but he was in charge of and responsible for all that the master had.
A biblical example is Joseph, who was sold into slavery to Potiphar, and when he proved himself a worthy man, he was made a steward of Potiphar’s house (Genesis 39).
The faithful and wise steward will be blessed because the master will be pleased with him.
But, the steward could make a different choice:
Luke 12:45 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;
Without the master around, the steward thinks that he can get away with doing whatever he wants, including abusing the other servants and getting drunk. A modern-day example of this happened in 1989—
A family living in a home in West Palm Beach, Florida, told a film crew it was okay to use the front lawn as a set for an episode of the “B. L. Stryker” television series [starring Burt Reynolds]. They knew cars would be crashing violently in front of the house.
While the front yard was being blown up, the owner of the home was tipped off and called from New York demanding to know what was happening to his house.
It seems the people who were living in the house were only [caretakers] and had no right to allow the property to be destroyed as the cameras rolled. (Kevin S. Bidwell Vanceburg, Kentucky [https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/1989/summer/89l3042.html])
For being poor stewards, I imagine the family was kicked out of that home. Fairly mild stuff compared to what happens in the parable.
Luke 12:46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
So the servant has two ways that he could choose—that of being faithful and wise or that of being a disobedient fool. One way ends up being blessed. One way ends up in punishment.
God has given you—man, woman, boy, girl—above all creatures, the capacity to reason and make moral judgments. You alone have the capacity to believe in God—no other creature has that ability. You are a steward of this capacity of being able to reason and choose and believe in God. You have been given much…what will you do with it?
Listen to the call of God in Isaiah—
18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
God has provided a way for your sins to be forgiven. You can reason it out, logically, point by point—
1. God exists and is infinite, holy, just and loving.
2. God created you and loves you.
3. You have sinned against God (Romans 3:23).
4. Sinning against your Creator deserves the death penalty (Romans 6:23)
5. In love, God sent his Son Jesus to die for your sins on the cross (John 3:16).
6. Jesus rose from the dead as proof that he paid for our sins (Romans 10:9).
7. We need to receive the gift of salvation by faith in Jesus (John 1:12)
…we have been “entrusted with much,” in fact, with the greatest truth this world will ever know: the gospel. The scientific discoveries that have gotten headlines of late are amazing, but they are nothing compared with the eternal gospel. A new phone or a cure for this or that disease is “good news” but not of eternal consequence. We have this knowledge; now it is time to live up to it. (Grant R. Osborne, Luke: Verse by Verse…Osborne New Testament Commentaries [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018], 340)
You have two choices. Are you going to see the reasoning of salvation and receive the gift God offers? Or are you going to be like that servant that thinks that the master will never return and issue judgment for your sins?
TO WHOM MUCH IS GIVEN
In the last two verses, Jesus shifts gears a bit and, using the same illustration of a servant or steward, makes a point about acting on what we know.
Luke 12:47 And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
Luke 12:48a But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.
In both cases, the servant is punished. One is punished severely because he knew his master’s will, but did not do it. The other is punished less severely because he did not know his master’s will when he did wrong things.
A lack of intent or of knowledge does not excuse someone from being convicted of a crime. It will, however, affect the person’s punishment. This illustrates the principle that Jesus is teaching:
Luke 12:48b For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
Probably the main application that Jesus was making was to the Pharisees and other leaders who knew God’s word forwards and backwards and yet still missed the coming of the Messiah.
But I think there’s an also application that we can make as Christians. If we fail to be good stewards of the salvation and gifts that God gives us, we won’t lose our salvation or be cut asunder. At the same time, however, let’s not miss the main principle, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”
This is just one of several passages where the Bible teaches that we have been given opportunities, resources, or abilities by God to use for his kingdom’s benefit.
For instance, there is the Parable of the Talents, where Jesus describes three servants who were given money to invest (Matthew 25:14-30). Two of the servants invest their money by buying land or cattle or businesses or some such thing. They make a profit and are rewarded by the master when he returns. But the one servant who only takes the gift of money and sits on it is rebuked because he did nothing with it.
Are we good stewards of the gifts that God gives us?
The Bible teaches that Christians will be rewarded based on how we build on the salvation that God gives us by grace. Paul explains this in 1 Corinthians 3—
11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Note that our salvation is not by the works that we do. Our salvation is based on faith in Jesus Christ. That’s the foundation. But what do we do with that salvation that Jesus gives us?
12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
Note the decrease in value of the items. Also note that the first three are impervious to fire, while the last three are flammable. These represent the kind of works that we can do during our lives on earth.
13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
To be very clear—the reward is not salvation. Salvation is the foundation.
15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (1 Corinthians 3:11–15)
I know we tend to think of Heaven as the greatest joy we’ll ever have, and it will be. But there also seems to be a point where we could have had more rewards in Heaven. Paul says, “he shall suffer loss.”
What is the reward a Christian might receive for his good stewardship of gifts? The Bible gives hints—ruling with Jesus, different kinds of crowns—but it’s not exactly clear. Probably a good thing…we don’t need Christians saying, “I’ll be a missionary to Africa if I can drive a Ferrari in the new Heavens and new Earth.” Our materialistic culture affects our theology more than we realize.
For me, I would be happy to hear Jesus say to me what the master says to the servants in the Parable of the Talents—
23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. (Matthew 25:23)
Every Christian has resources given to us by God—time, money, talent and so on. Have we thought about how God wants us to use them? That’s what a steward does. A steward takes what is entrusted to their care and uses it to please the owner.
The principle Jesus is teaching is “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required:” The more resources we’ve been given—whether that is money or talent or abilities—the more is expected from us.
Some Christians instinctively sense this and try to lie low—they claim they have no talent or other resources, therefore no one should expect much of them. But why would a true Christian want to do this? Why would they want to cheat their Lord Jesus out of their service? The problem isn’t with a lack of resources or talent, the problem is with a lack of heart.
The missionary to China, India, and Africa, C.T. Studd, said this: “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”
The Christian who refuses to use the resources God has given them has a problem with their relationship with the Lord. They don’t care much about what the Lord has done for them.
Hiding your abilities and resources and talents might seem to exempt you from service in God’s kingdom, but you will be held accountable to God for the waste: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required:”
Adoniram Judson, a Baptist missionary to Burma, said:
A life once spent is irrevocable. It will remain to be contemplated through eternity. If it be marked with sins, the marks will be indelible. If it has been a useless life, it can never be improved. Such it will stand forever and ever . . . When it is once past, it is gone forever. All the marks which we put upon it will exhibit forever…
The future is in our power. Let us, then, each morning, resolve to send the day into eternity in such a garb as we shall wish it to wear forever. (Evan Burns and Jason Duesing, A Supreme Desire to Please Him: The Spirituality of Adoniram Judson [Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications, 2016])
Are you a good steward of the gift of salvation that God offers us?
1) A good steward will receive the gift of salvation.
2) A good steward will use the gift of salvation for the benefit of God’s kingdom.