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Weekly Devotionals

Know God, Know Peace

“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?” – Matthew 25:24-26 (NIV)

This is an excerpt from one of the parables Jesus told His disciples to illustrate what it will be like when He comes again, often called “The Parable of the Talents.” In it, before going away for an undetermined amount of time, a Master entrusts a different amount of money to each of three servants until his return. The first two each offer him double of what he initially entrusted to them, and he commends and rewards them each as a “good and faithful servant.”

The third servant simply buried what he was given and returns the same. Instead of being praised for his conservationist approach which safeguarded what his master gave him — rather than, say, trading or investing with it and inviting risk of loss — the Master angrily denounces him as lazy and wicked, and orders him cast out “into the outer darkness.”

Whether it’s because I’m a Christian who grew up going to church, or just my personality profile, I’m a great rule-follower and a hesitant risk-taker. For years when I heard this parable it perplexed and challenged me. I worried that I was prone to act like this third servant, and clearly Jesus would be unhappy with such a servant at His return. Fearfully I turned it over and over in my mind for insight about how to I could avoid disappointing the Lord.

The knot began unraveling as I learned more about who Jesus is. As I studied the Bible more, I found a clearer picture through what God tells us about Himself. The Lord gave me more insight into the stories I’d known a long time, connecting them to my life and deepening with this the passages I read and the sermons I heard.

Learning about Jesus’ perfect knowledge, wisdom and love helped make more sense of the differences I could hope for between me and the unfaithful servant. Jesus is determined to help the struggling, not to condemn.

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” (Isaiah 42:3, NIV)

This parable didn’t mean He was determined to misunderstand me. Rather, perfectly knowing me, He will judge accordingly. This is comforting in that if I’ve acted in faith and love in Him, He won’t turn me away for my mistakes. It’s also sobering to know that He is not fooled by appearances: I must remain watchful not to fall into behaving in ways that look right on the surface, but that stem from self-centered motivations.

Things also got clearer once I understood Jesus’ grace better. First, like with the Master, all that’s entrusted to me comes from Him. “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.” (Romans 12:6, NIV) As His children, we’re each given something to employ for His kingdom. No matter how small it seems, it’s important to Him. How wonderful it is to be entrusted with a gift to offer Him! Second, His grace means that the success of His purpose doesn’t depend on my worthiness or perfection. He alone is able to see it done. What matters as His servant is that I act in in faith, with hope, to love Him and other people. I must choose to try and I leave the results to Him.

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” (2 Timothy 1:9-10, NIV)

Knowing these things helped me notice the verses above and finally understand this parable. The third servant’s problem was not conservatism, but that he persisted in misunderstanding his Master. He made every worst assumption about His character and motives, and decided he himself was a wiser and better person than his Master. His prideful overestimation of himself shows in his words and actions, and caused the servant to make choices that fell short of his responsibility and his capability. To know God rightly is necessary to be able to serve Him well. Fortunately, He gave us all we need to know Him in His word and through prayer and the guidance of His Spirit.

Knowing more about God helped me love Him more, rather than misunderstand Him and suffer in my ignorance. This showed me that it isn’t difficult to become a good and faithful servant because He is such a good and faithful Master. We have to get to know Him, love Him as best we can and keep that relationship alive, pursuing knowing Him more. If we put our hearts into it, how can we fail?

After all, “the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9a, NIV)