What to Do While Waiting for Jesus—Matthew 25:30
Near the end of his life on earth, Jesus told a series of parables of a later time. He’d explained to his disciples that he would die, go back to heaven, and then return one day to gather his people and judge the world. This meant that the disciples would soon be waiting for his return. The parables are about that time of waiting.
You and I are still waiting for Jesus’ return, so those parables are for us. One parable says we should be prepared for the return to take awhile. Another says we should also expect it at any moment. But I think the most useful parable may be the one that tells us what we should do in the meantime, while we wait.
That parable is about a master who goes away on a long trip—like Jesus has gone away. The master entrusts his money to his servants while he is gone. The most able servant receives five bags of silver, another receives two bags, and a third receives one bag. The first two servants work with the money and double it. But the third servant, afraid he might lose his master’s money and get punished, digs a hole and safely buries it.
When the master returns, he rewards the first two servants. He gives them even bigger responsibilities and invites them inside to celebrate with him. But when the third servant presents him with only the original bag of money, the master gets angry. He calls the servant wicked and lazy. He explains that the money should at least have been deposited in the bank for interest. And he ousts that servant: “Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30, NLT).
The point of the parable
What do you think of that? Many people get uncomfortable with that parable. The gnashing-of-teeth bit sounds cruel, and the master seems less understanding than he ought to be. So what if the servant got scared and made a poor choice? Was it that bad?
Yes, it was, and the reason why is in the master’s sharp words. The servant was wicked because he was lazy. He wasn’t just scared—his attitude was wrong. He refused to act like a servant.
Servants are supposed to work. They’re supposed to think of their master’s interests instead of worrying about themselves. But the servant in the story resented being a servant at all. He’d rather have never received any money in the first place. As a servant, he was both useless and sour.
The point of Jesus’ parable is this: In these days of waiting you and I must work as servants of the Master, knowing we’ll have to account for our efforts someday. Undoubtedly, my work for Jesus will look different from yours. But this doesn’t mean that just any work will count. Our attitude must be that of a servant. We must look for ways to make Jesus’ cause our own. We must spend our lives for him.
The point of my life
I don’t always have that servant attitude. Instead, I live for selfish things that I try to pass off as being for Jesus but that are really for me. Or I do just enough churchy things to make me look committed to God and, I imagine, to keep him from getting upset with me. It’s the equivalent of burying my bag of money.
When I get this way, two things can help. The first is to remember that my Master, Jesus, is like none other. He is also a servant. He gave up self-interest and gave away his life in a ministry of healing and teaching. Then he died for me in order to pay the price for my failures. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28, NLT). Serving Jesus is no disgrace. It’s an imitation of him—and love for him.
Second, the reward Jesus promises me is also like none other. Look at what the good servants in his parable got. They got to celebrate with the master and serve him more. That’s an odd reward. It suggests that nothing is better than being with the master himself and that no work is more rewarding than his.
Indeed. When you have a Master like mine, there’s no greater joy or honor than serving him and drawing near to him in the process. As I wait for his return, what else could I possibly want to do?
Jack Klumpenhower is a writer and children’s ministry worker living in Colorado.