Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Seven Letters, Part 5: Incomplete Works

"And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: 'The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'" Revelation 3:1-6


The master of the house was back!

He had arrived late, in the dark quiet of the night. Immediately, the whole house was awakened. It was slightly chaotic as everyone rose, dressed, and rushed to meet the master.

For now that the master had come back, it was time to settle accounts with his servants.

Poneros should be heading towards the courtyard. Instead, he was in the master's grain field digging.

He clawed at the earth like a dog searching for his buried bone. Frantically, he dug, deeper and deeper, until he tore at the old, weathered bag. Sighing in relief, he extracted the talent from its hiding place. Then, Poneros arose, and ran.

Poneros smiled. I have the master's money. I have done well.

Poneros rounded the side of the house, and raced into the back of the courtyard. No one noticed him.

Trying to regulate his breathing, Poneros took deep breathes. The master moved about elegantly. Talking to his servants individually. He came the group where Poneros was standing.

The first man spoke. "Master, you gave me five talents. It took a lot of hard work, but I now have five more talents to give to you in addition to the first five talents."

The master beamed like a proud father. Clapping the servant on the shoulder, he said, "Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over little, so I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master."

The man beside Poneros was next. He looked nervously at the first man's ten talents, but took a deep breath and plowed ahead. "Master, you gave me two talents. I was able to earn you two more talents." He motioned to his feet, presenting the four talents resting there. Humbly bowing his head, he waited for the master's response.

The master looked just as please with the second man's offering. It was six talents less, considerably less money, but he looked overjoyed, and proud of his servant regardless. Looking straight into his eyes, the master said, "Well done, my good, faithful servant. You have been faithful over little, and I will set you over much more. Enter into the joy of your master."

The man looked overjoyed at the master's response. Poneros breathed easily. If the master was happy was him, then surely he will be happy with me!

It was Poneros' turn to present the account's the master entrusted to him. "Master, I knew you were a hard man. You reap where you do not sow, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. I was afraid I would let you down, and loose all you had entrusted to me. I hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours."

The master was angry, that was plain to see. Poneros was terrified. What he had done wasn't enough. Why, he had done nothing. Now the master was back, and Poneros had let him down anyways.

"You wicked, lazy servant! If you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed, then why didn't you at least put my talent in the bank? Then I would have received what was mine with interest." The master eyes were full of disappointment and pain. He motioned to the servant standing behind him, attending him. "Take the talent from him, and give it to the servant with ten talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. However, from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away." With one last look at Poneros, the master seals his fate. "Cast the worthless servant into outer darkness."

Based on Matthew 25:14-30

The letter has done it's work. It's reprimanded, condemned, built-up, and encouraged. However, the messenger hasn't finished reading the letter, and it's come to the next point. The words hit everyone square in the heart. Everyone looks around, but it's not out of judgement, but stunned realization. They had been doing the bare minimum. Their works were not complete in the sight of God.

The wicked servant in the parable of the talents, did the least that he could do. He was lazy, afraid, and kind of stupid. He put no work into his task. He didn't live up to his responsibility. He never tired to reach his full potential in service to his master.

Are we like that? Is our service to God the bare minimum, or worse, is it empty service? The church has become so distracted with activities, small groups, soup kitchens, and outreaches, that sometimes we forget the point, and just go through the motions.

"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." Colossians 3:23-24

"Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Corinthians 9:7

Take a look at your heart, your motives. Are you serving God fully? Are you doing the least you can do in service? Do you volunteer for every church function, but it's only out of obligation, not a desire to serve? Don't let your service be dead, empty, or nonexistent. Like in the parable of the talent, Jesus will come back to settle accounts and judge the earth. It could be when we least expect it. Don't wait. From this day forth, serve God truly, in spirit and in truth.

V. Joy Palmer

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