The Christian life requires diligent stewardship, for we shall all give an account of our lives to the Lord. In this sermon, R.C. Sproul continues his expositional series in the gospel of Luke, calling us to live faithfully in light of Christ’s promised return.
This morning, we will continue our study of the Gospel According to Saint Luke. I will be reading Luke 12:35–48. I would ask the congregation please to stand for the reading of the Word of God:
“Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, then blessed are those servants. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Then Peter said to Him, “Lord, do you speak this parable only to us, or to all people?”
And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you that I will make him ruler over all that he has. But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”
This teaching comes to us carrying the full weight of the authority of God Himself, so please receive it as such.
Let Your Waist Be Girded
Throughout Luke 12, we have seen a common theme in which Jesus speaks forcibly about the focus of our lives. He followed this instruction with a couple of brief parables, beginning in verse 35, where He gave this command: “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning.”
Jesus was speaking to people of the ancient world whose customary mode of dress involved long, flowing robes. The robes made it cumbersome to move with any alacrity, unless they were first hitched up above the knees. A large belt would encircle the waist and the lower portion of the robe would be tucked in, giving the legs freedom to move rapidly. We find a similar admonition elsewhere in Scripture, where men are told to gird up their loins, to prepare themselves for action—soldiers for battle and others for labor.
Jesus said: “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning. The darkness has come, the night has already fallen. It is the time to light the lamp.” As the evening progresses and weariness comes in, the tendency is to blow out the light and retire to your bed. Jesus said: “There are certain circumstances where you don’t put on your pajamas. Instead, you put your belt on and keep your lamps lit.”
“Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately.” Do you see the picture? The master of the house has gone to a wedding. The wedding is being held in the evening. His servants are at home waiting for him to return. They do not know what time he will be back.
It is almost certain that the master will not return during the first watch, because the wedding will still be happening. The servants do not know whether he will come in the second watch or if the wedding will go into the wee hours of the morning all the way into the third watch. The point is that even if it takes all night, it does not matter what time the master returns. Whenever he comes, it is the duty of the servants to be awake, to be dressed, to have the lights on, and to be ready to answer the door as soon as the master knocks.
An Astonishing Master
Jesus said, “Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching.” In this text, Jesus pronounced His benediction upon servants of the master who are ready for their master’s return at any moment—morning, noon, or night. This could be a new beatitude: “Blessed are those servants who are ready when the master returns.”
The next statement coming from Jesus is almost unbelievable. It is astonishing. Yet, as much as it strains our ability to comprehend, Jesus prefaced it with words of total assurance, saying, “Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.”
When the master of the house, for whom the servants labor, comes back late at night and finds them ready for him such that they open the door immediately, he comes in, girds his loins, invites the servants to sit down, and prepares a meal for them. What a master. Instead of bouncing in the door and saying: “I’m hungry, get me something to eat. I don’t care what time it is,” he says: “Be at peace. Sit down. Let me serve you.”
We talk regularly in theology about being justified by faith, that it is by faith in Christ that we are redeemed, and that we are called to be faithful to Him. At the same time, we often forget the other side of the coin, namely His faithfulness to us. Christ asks us to put our faith in Him and promises that He will be faithful to all who are His, even as the master who comes late at night and serves his servants.
“Know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched.” If the master knew that at two o’clock in the morning his house was going to be burglarized, he would not go to bed at ease at twelve o’clock and set the alarm for six o’clock. The master would stay up and be ready to repel the invader when he tries to break into his house at two o’clock in the morning. If he knew what hour the thief would come, he would watch and not allow his house to be broken into.
Here is the conclusion of the brief parable: “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” This last warning that Jesus gave has to do with His appearing.
I do not know if Jesus was speaking to His first-century contemporaries as to the suddenness of the judgment coming that would come upon Israel in the year 70 A.D., or if He was speaking about His final consummate return at the end when He will establish the fullness of His kingdom. In either case, the admonition remains the same. You do not know when He will come, which means there is no time that you can relax. You must be ready and prepared at any moment.
Peter was puzzled: “Is this a warning You’re giving to us as Your disciples, or is this a message that You mean for everybody?” Jesus responded to Peter’s question with another parable: “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season?” Then, another beatitude: “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.”
Jesus’ first parable was about watchfulness. The second one had to do with faithfulness, particularly concerning stewardship. Jesus talked about a master who appointed a steward over his house. That is what a steward was in the ancient world. He ruled and managed the affairs of the house. He was the one who managed the staff of servants in the house. The steward did not own the house. He did not own any of the things that he was called to manage. All those things belonged to the master, but it was the task of the steward to take care of them in a wise, gracious, and godly manner.
By extension, the concept of stewardship affirms that everything we own belongs to God. Everything He entrusts to us, He gives to us as stewards, always with a responsibility of due diligence and of honoring the Master with how we handle the things He entrusts to us. My money is His. My house is His. My life is His. We are stewards of the very air that we breathe because it all belongs to Him.
Jesus said: “Blessed is that servant whom the master will find being a good steward. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has.”
The Foolish Steward
Jesus also mentions a servant who says in his heart: “My master is delaying his coming, so while the cat’s away, the mice will play. He hasn’t come yet. In fact, it’s been two thousand years, and he’s still not here. Why should I expect Him tonight? Why should I expect Him tomorrow? It seems to me that his delay may continue. So, instead of caring for the male and female servants, I’ll beat them, abuse them, and use them for my own glory, and I will eat and drink and be drunk.”
The unfaithful steward is a mirror image of the rich fool who said, “I’m going to eat, drink, and be merry.” The unfaithful steward added to his frivolous life of partying and hedonism the element of cruelty to others.
The master of the unfaithful servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him. He will come in an hour when the servant is not aware. Will the master say: “I’m disappointed in you. I really expected greater things from you. You really let me down”? No, that is not what Jesus said. The master is not even going to have a conversation with this man. He is going to cut him in two. That is a bloody judgment if there ever was one. Jesus said, “He will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.”
This is where it gets scary: the one who will be cut in two, who will have been a poor steward, was obviously one who professed faith. He was not numbered with the unbelievers. He was not a rank pagan. He did not distance himself from church and the things of God.
The poor steward probably was in church every Sunday, maybe he even taught Sunday school. Possibly, he was the pastor who gave no real commitment to the stewardship entrusted to him, to the care of the master’s sheep while the master was in a far country. When the master comes back, he not only cuts him in two, but he sends him out to be numbered with the unbelievers, because, beloved, an unfaithful steward is an unbeliever.
You cannot have saving faith and live like the unfaithful steward. You can pretend to have saving faith and you can profess to have saving faith, but you are altogether unconverted and on your way to hell. There are worse things than being cut in half. What could be worse than, on the day of judgment, to be numbered with the unbelievers? But wait, there’s more. It gets worse. Not only will the poor steward be numbered with the unbeliever on the day of judgment, but his judgment will be worse.
“And that servant who knew his master’s will and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”
No Neutrality with the Word
Hearing the Word of God never leaves anyone in a neutral situation. You are either blessed by it or you are cursed by it. The more you keep hearing the Word of God repeatedly and remain hardened in your heart, the greater the stripes you will receive on judgment day.
The people who are in church all the time hearing the Word of God and are unfaithful stewards are in a far worse situation than people who never darken the door of a church. That is what Jesus was saying. That is what is so scary about this text. There is no neutrality with the Word of God. You hear it to your joy, to your delight, to your everlasting felicity, or you hear it to your judgment for everlasting darkness.
This is not just a preacher’s warning. This was Jesus talking. This was His warning. Friends, I hope that you will think today about this question: How much has God given you? God grant that your hearts will be fully inclined to make your entire lives a message of “thank you” to the God of grace who has redeemed your soul.
This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.