Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
Then Peter said, “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?” And the Lord replied, “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so. Truly, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful. That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.Luke 12:39-48
Wise and Foolish Stewards
Faithful and wise stewards “tend the Lord’s vineyard with delight.” Adam’s original vocation in Eden—to serve and keep the Lord’s garden—applies to every state in life. In the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Stewards, the manager of a large household of servants is responsible for distributing their food at the proper time.
Faithfully fulfilling the master’s will, the vigilant steward has the house running smoothly upon his return. The foolish steward, lacking reverence for the master, mistreats his servants while carousing.
The Weight of Responsibility
Jesus’ parable recalls Isaiah’s censure of abusive leaders in Israel:
The Lord enters into judgment
with the people’s elders and princes:
You, you who have devoured the vineyard;
the loot wrested from the poor is in your houses.
What do you mean by crushing my people,Isaiah 3:14-15
and grinding down the faces of the poor?
says the Lord, the God of hosts.
“Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?” Peter, the leader of the disciples, asks. Jesus responds, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” Responsibility depends on knowledge or ignorance of the master’s will.
The Master’s Will
Actions have consequences. Luke 12:46 literally says that the unjust steward will be “cut in two” (dichotomeó). The New American Bible (Revised Edition) translates the word as “beaten severely.” Like being cut in two, the unjust steward turns his back on the God who is Love and falls into the abyss of self-will.
Where there is oneness of will, the master is never far away, but always in the heart, here and now.
Day in and day out, morning til night,
We tend the Lord’s vineyard with delight.