Friday, August 21, 2015

The Faithful and Sensible Steward: The Adventures of Alfred the Butler, part 2

courtesy free

"And the Lord said, 'Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.'Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few." Luke 12: 42-48 NASB

Yesterday, we met Alfred the Butler and he returns today to help us with our lesson. 

Alfred, as you may remember, has worked for his employer for years. He's a steady, stiff, faithful butler. He anticipates his master's needs and meets them before the master has a chance to ask. Alfred is terrific and he loves being a butler. Alfred gets to dress up in a nice suit every day and sometimes he wears a tuxedo. He greets all the important people who come to visit his master. After all these years, Alfred knows many important people, too. Alfred's master likes gourmet food. Since it's as easy to cook for several as to cook for one or two, the cook prepares the same thing for Alfred as for the master. As a result, Alfred eats gourmet food every day. He lives in the master's mansion in his own quarters. Alfred has a cushy, interesting job. He works long hours, but what does that matter? Alfred is important.

Alfred has a problem. 

Earlier today, Alfred's master made an announcement. "Alfred, old boy, I'm giving you a promotion. I'm putting you in charge of grain distribution."

What? "Grain distribution, Sir? I'm not sure I understand." Surely not grain distribution, Alfred thinks. 

"Oh, yes, Alfred. I need someone to distribute grain to the workers. It's a big job but I know you can do it."
"Would I work in the warehouse?"

"Definitely, Alfred. I have a little apartment for you on the side of the warehouse. It's not much, but it has a ceiling fan and a space heater. The bed has a memory foam mattress. You'll be comfortable enough, I expect."

Memory foam? Alfred has grown accustomed to down, not foam. Ceiling fan? Space heater? It's been years since he lived without central air conditioning. This does not sound like a promotion. Is there gourmet food in a warehouse? Alfred thinks not.

"Could I think about it, Sir?"

"No thinking needed, Alfred. I've already decided. You start tomorrow."

Alfred stands at a crossroads. He has two choices. He can embrace the change, organize the grain, and establish a workable method of distribution. For today, that's the choice Alfred will make. 

"Well, Sir, this is quite a surprise. I never expected to work in the warehouse, but I trust you. You've always been a good master, so I accept this job. Let me get packed and I can start today if you'd like." 

"Good show, Alfred. That would be great. Let me know when you're ready, and I'll drive you myself." (Which is helpful because Alfred has always driven the master's car when needed and doesn't own a vehicle.)

Alfred hurries to his bedroom. He looks around the lovely room, sits once more on the bed with the down comforter, and gathers his thoughts. "I will do my best," he decides. Alfred pulls out his suitcase and begins to pack. He puts his silk pajamas and robe in the case, his underwear and toiletries. Alfred reaches into the closet for his suits. I don't guess I'll wear suits in the warehouse, but it's all I have. He folds the suits and his butler aprons and puts them in the bag, too. 

When the suitcase is full, he adds a few family photos, closes the bag and goes downstairs to his new life. "I'm ready when you are, Sir."

"Great, Alfred. Let's get going."

As the car enters the parking lot, a crowd is milling about. Everyone in the crowd is thin. Some are holding their stomachs. The children are crying. He notices one mother holding hands with two little girls. They are all terribly thin. Nothing but skin and bones, Alfred thinks. The children are crying. Tears trickle down the mother's cheeks, too. Someone needs to fatten those children up. They look hungry. 

At the warehouse, Alfred is shocked. The last grain supervisor must've been a slacker. The warehouse is dirty and in disarray. Alfred runs his finger along a counter and lifts it for a look. Black slime. Now I see why master wanted a new supervisor. The bags of grain are jumbled haphazardly and some have been gnawed by mice. Grain is spilling on the floor. This is such a waste. No wonder there are children starving.

Alfred stands at the entrance to the warehouse and looks across the vast room. There is filth and waste everywhere he looks. "It wasn't vandals who did this. It was the master's own employees who did it," Alfred realizes. They didn't take their job seriously. 

They should've gone to butler school. Then they'd have known better. 

Alfred is right, isn't he? It's not the master's enemies who have made such a mess of things. It was his employees. The waste and destruction is all because they failed to be faithful in the one job entrusted to them. Distributing grain.

When we fail to be faithful in the work to which God has called us, it has far-reaching consequences for those who depend on that work to be done. People perish without it, sometimes physically and sometimes spiritually.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations..." (Matt. 28:19)

"He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much..." (Luke 16:10)

To what work has God called us? How are we making a difference in the kingdom? What is the result of our work left undone? 

For today, let's ask God to show us where we've been unfaithful and help us to see the results of our failure, then ask His forgiveness and get started, doing the work that must be done.

Almighty God, forgive us for our failure to be faithful. Help us to see the tasks to which You have called us and to be faithful to the work You have for us to do. In Jesus' name, Amen.