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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 recently announced he was giving Alfred a new job. Instead of being a butler, he is now in charge of grain distribution. The warehouse is in such a mess that he has to clean and straighten before any distribution can begin. You might want to read the previous stories to get caught up. Alfred # 1, Alfred # 2, Alfred #3, Alfred #4, Alfred # 5 and Alfred #6.
In yesterday's story, Alfred's Master brought much-needed supplies and worked side-by-side with Alfred. He explained that his plan in leaving Alfred alone in the midst of the mess was so that he could understand the severity of the problem and the importance of good stewardship once it was solved.
We pick up with Alfred as he and Master are heading into the bedroom to clean it. "I'll retrieve a couple of garbage bags and the broom. It's quite the mess, Sir."
"I'll get the mop and the bleach. That room needs to be sanitized. It looks like mouse heaven in there."
The two men get to work in the bedroom. First, they gather all the trash in the bedroom. Alfred is horrified at the mess the last warehouse steward has left. He slept here? Didn't his mother teach him anything?
It's a decision point for Alfred. After all the work he's done cleaning up, and that difficult night spent sleeping on the floor, Alfred thinks he's entitled to a little hard feelings. This decision point threatens to defeat him, and nearly does, but Alfred's Master is by his side. He doesn't want to displease the Master, so he makes a good choice. He lets it go. He's not responsible for what his predecessor did, even if he does have to clean it up. Maybe there's something he doesn't know.
He chooses not to criticize. He chooses to focus on the job ahead of him rather than on the job behind him.
"Alfred, let's move everything out of this room. We'll scrub it down before we bring the furniture back." Alfred grabs the bedside table and Master grabs the lamp. They carry it to the hallway and push it into a corner.
Alfred goes back for the bed linens. The sheets are filthy. It looks as if they have never been washed. "What should we do with these?" he asks.
"Put them in a garbage bag and I'll take them to be washed. Hot water and detergent might make more of a difference than we expect. It's worth a try."
When the room is cleared, the two men attack the filth like whirling dervishes. They sweep, scrub, mop. They don't just mop the floor. They mop the walls and scrub the baseboards. This takes longer than the kitchen did, but the little bedroom is spotless before they're done. They wipe down every piece of furniture before they return it to the room.
The mattress is hopeless. Mice have been gnawing on it and have made a bed in its recesses. It goes to the Master's truck to be hauled to the dump.
"Hey, anybody here?" they hear a man's gruff voice calling.
"Sounds like the mattress is right on time," Master says. "In here," he calls and hurries to direct the delivery men. They not only have a new mattress and box springs, they have a little table and two chairs for the kitchen, too. Alfred won't have to eat sitting on the floor anymore.
While the men set up the bed, Master hauls one of his boxes to the bedroom. He unpacks clean cream-colored cotton sheets, a chocolate brown comforter, a new pillow (still in the bag), and brown and burgundy throw pillows. There's even a deep burgundy crocheted afghan for the foot of the bed and a rug for the floor.
Alfred chokes up again. The horrible bedroom suddenly looks like home.
Master's box is still not empty. Shower curtains, towels, bath mat. Light bulbs. He has thought of everything.
When he can speak again, Alfred turns to the Master. "You didn't have to do all this. I would have cleaned this room and made do with what was here. I don't deserve all this."
Master puts his arm around Alfred's shoulder. "I know you didn't expect all this. I know you would've made do with what was here. It's not a question of what you deserve, Alfred. You're a good servant and I love you. You've been with my family a long time and you're like family to me. Don't you know that yet? I'm doing this because I want to do it. I love you, Alfred."
Alfred doesn't know what to say. LOVE? The Master loves me? He doesn't trust his voice so he nods. Finally, he whispers, "Thank you, Sir. I love you, too."
Alfred has just encountered a truth that will rock his world and change his life. His Master loves him and it's not because of something Alfred has done. He has chosen to love Alfred because love is what the Master does.
"Let's get the delivery men to take a picture of us cleaning up, Alfred. I want to have something to help remember this great day. Let's get our scoops and stand in the midst of the trash."
That sounds like a whacky idea, but Alfred will do anything the Master says. The two men get their scoops and stand side-by-side as the delivery man takes their picture with the Master's phone. They both have grins that spread all the way across their face.
When the delivery man returns his phone, the Master looks at the time. "Oh, my, Alfred. It's getting late. I'll be back tomorrow. I think you're set for today. Have a good night." They shake hands and man-hug, then the Master leaves.
Alfred walks through the warehouse, incredulous at the very surprising day. Master loves me. Master cares about me. I'm not just a face in the crowd. He provides everything I need. He glances at his watch. It's 4:30 pm. There's still time to clean the bathroom and still clean some in the warehouse. Alfred gets back to work, humming a tune the entire time. He's never known such joy
Alfred has learned something we all need to understand. Our Lord loves us and His love makes all the difference. It was His great love that took Him to the cross for us. It was His great love that conquered sin and death and the grave. It is His great love for us that makes discipleship possible. It's that great love that motivate us to obey and draws up into the depth of His love.
His love for us is a fact. Our response to that love is a choice. How will we respond to the great love of God?
For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly suppose those who heart is completely His. 2 Chronicles 16:9 NASB
Our Father, whose love knows no bounds, forgive us for our lack of love, our lack of faithfulness, our lack of obedience. Draw us closer to you and help us to love You as You love us. In Jesus' name, Amen.
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