Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Faithful and Sensible Steward: The Adventures of Alfred the Butler, part 4

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"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

In case you're just joining us, we have taken a little segue for the story of Alfred the Butler. It's an allegory and it has surprised me as much as anyone. 

Alfred has been a butler for a long time. He has a great master who, earlier today, announced he was giving Alfred a new job. Instead of being a butler, he is now in charge of grain distribution. You might want to read the previous stories to get caught up. Alfred # 1, Alfred # 2, and Alfred #3

We pick up the story late in the evening of the first day. Alfred has just worked past his usual bedtime. He has been cleaning the garbage and filth of the grain warehouse, left there by his predecessor, for hours. He has cleaned 500 square feet of a 100,000 square foot warehouse. He has a lot of warehouse to go.

By 9:30 pm, Alfred notices a rumbling in his stomach. His mouth is dry, he's tired, and he's hungry. He had Eggs Benedict and a side of thick-sliced, maple-cured bacon for breakfast, but it's been a long time since breakfast. Alfred thinks of Cook with her snowy white apron wrapped around her stout waist, wooden spoon in her hand like a baton, orchestrating a culinary masterpiece. Whatever dinner she prepared would have been magnificent. At that memory, he's even hungrier.

Alfred has reached a decision point again, for decision points come fairly often in life, though we seldom realize it. Alfred can whine about the gourmet food he is missing and grumble about the master who has caused this culinary disaster or he can embrace the change the master has directed and the opportunity the master has given. 

For a lifelong "foodie", this is a harder decision than you might think. Alfred doesn't mind hard work, but he adores great food. Don't mistake the importance of Alfred's decision here. 

A good decision will allow him to continue in the master's path

A bad decision (grumbling, complaining) will lead to resentment, anger, and bitterness. It might not seem like it, but it will begin a detour off the master's path. 

What's difficult about this decision is that it will need to be made over and over again, every day, until it becomes a habit. At this particular moment, Alfred makes a wise decision. There's no guarantee that he will make a wise decision the next time though, for good decisions are made one at a time

"I miss Cook's dinners, but no matter. I saw a jar of peanut butter in a cabinet." Alfred doesn't know who used the jar before, nor how clean the spoon they used as a scoop, but at this hour, he doesn't care. Alfred washes a spoon, scoops out a spoonful of peanut butter and eats it. It tastes so good, he eats another heaping spoonful, puts the peanut butter back in the cabinet, and resumes his cleaning. There's nothing like hunger to sweeten a meal, he announces. 

Alfred washes his spoon and his hands, then scoops water from the faucet into his hands and takes a long drink. Ah. How refreshing! He splashes a little water on his face, dries his hands and face on his not-very-clean butler apron, and returns to work. He still has 99,500 square feet to go. 

As he picks up his broom, Alfred pauses to do a calculation in his head. If he can clean 1,000 square feet of this nasty warehouse every day, and if he works hard six days a week, he can be through by Christmas. He smiles at the thought of those thin children outside having a hearty bowl of cooked grain for Christmas and, at that moment, something changes in Alfred.

He's not just working to please the master. He's working to rescue the hungry children waiting outside the warehouse, too.  

What seems like a mundane task suddenly has a point, and he begins to understand why the master brought him to this place.

Alfred now has a vision and he's working to see it accomplished. 

When we find ourselves in difficult circumstances, we can grumble and complain or embrace the opportunity God has allowed into our lives. It's seldom that we understand all God has in mind at the beginning of our journey, but if we persevere, the difficulty will not be wasted. Like Alfred, as we work, we can often gain a glimpse of God's vision for our circumstances, an idea of what He hopes to accomplish, and it will help to carry us along.

Are you in a difficult circumstance? Has your life taken a different path from what you expected? Embrace the circumstances and serve God faithfully. He may have a bigger plan than you can imagine. At every decision point, make the pleasing-to-God choice, for every single decision adds up to a life spent as a servant of God. 

Choose faithfulness.

Choose sensibleness. 

Be the steward God called you to be.

Our Father in heaven, you are HOLY and WISE and JUST. Your plan for us is GOOD and we thank you, even when we don't understand. Help us to be faithful to the task you have given us. Help us to choose a Christ-like attitude and to persevere with joy. In Jesus' name, Amen.
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