Do your duty

The apostles asked Jesus to show them how to increase their faith. He replied “Would any of you tell your servant to come and sit down to eat when he comes in from a hard day of plowing or tending the sheep? Wouldn’t a master say this instead – ‘Make something for me to eat and then wait on me. After I’m through you can have your supper.’ Do you think he is going to praise the servant for doing what he was commanded to do? Just like that, when you do everything you are commanded to do, you should say ‘We are merely lowly servants; we’ve only done our job.”

LK 17:7-10

Persecutions predicted

“Don’t worry if the world hates you. It hated me first. The world would love you if you were worldly. However, you aren’t worldly because I have called you out of the world – this is why the world hates you. Remember my teaching that “A servant is not above his master.” Since they persecuted me, they will persecute you. They will keep your teaching if they kept mine. But anything they do to you will be because of my name, because they don’t know the Father who sent me. They would have been free of sin if I hadn’t come and taught them. But now they know better, they have no excuse. Anyone who hates me also hates God. They would also be free of sin if I hadn’t performed any miracles before them that nobody else had ever done. But now they’ve seen them and they hate me as well as God. But this fulfills the prophecy that says ‘They hated me without reason.'”

JN 15:18-25

Christlike love

“I have loved you in the same way that the Father has loved me. Abide in my love. You will abide in my love if you follow my instructions, just as how I have remained in the love of my Father and kept his instructions.

I have told you all this so that you may be completely filled with my joy. This is my command of you – love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to sacrifice your life for your friends. If you do what I have commanded then you are my friends. You can no longer be called slaves, because a slave has no idea what his master is doing. I call you friends because I have told you everything the Father has told to me. I chose you – you didn’t choose me. I selected you so that you could go out and produce fruit that lasts, in order that the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. My only commandment is that you show love to each other.”

JN 15:9-17

Rewards and punishment

Peter asked, “Lord are you saying this parable just for our benefit or for everyone?”

Jesus answered “Who is the kind of person who his master would put in charge of his household to make sure that everyone who lives there gets fed on time? It is the wise and faithful servant who the master finds working when he comes home. Mark my words, the master will put that kind of servant in charge of everything he owns.

However, if a servant starts to think to himself ‘My master won’t be back for a long time,’ and begins to beat the people he is supposed to look after, and to spend his time getting drunk at parties, the master will return at a surprise day and hour. He will discipline the servant severely and put him with other untrustworthy people, and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The servant who knew what his master wanted him to do and didn’t rise to the occasion or act upon his master’s wishes will be severely punished. However, the one who didn’t know what his master wanted and acted badly will be beaten less severely. More is expected of those people who have been given a lot. Even more than that is expected for those who have been entrusted with more.”

MT 24:45-51, LK 12:41-48

Who is our master?

The prophet Hosea speaks to us right now, warning us about our love of money.

Hosea 8:4
They made kings, but not through me.
They set up princes, but without my knowledge.
With their silver and gold they made idols
for their own destruction. (RSV)

This could be read as literally making idols – of melting down the silver and gold to reshape them into sculptures to worship. But I think it is deeper than that, and more immediate. What if it is about worshiping silver and gold themselves, about thinking that money will keep us safe?

When we think that our pension plan, our savings, our get-rich-quick schemes will save us, we are putting our faith in money and not in God. We are saying that we are in charge by all of our money-gaining efforts. But we forget that the bank can default on its loans, an economic depression could happen, embezzlement – anything.

Our house could be leveled by a tornado and we’d lose all the money we’d sewn into the mattress. It would go flying away with all the other debris of our lives. Our treasure would turn into trash in an instant.

Jesus knew about this verse. He often quoted from Hosea. He referred to his own resurrection with this previous verse –

Hosea 6:2

2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him. (RSV)

He referred to this next verse often to try to teach people what really matters isn’t following the rules but following God.

Hosea 6:6
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings. (RSV)

So what does Jesus say about the worship of silver and gold as idols? Jesus is all about not worrying. Of course, don’t worry about money. Don’t worry about your future. But further – don’t worry about anything. Worry can make you sick.

Matthew 6:25-34
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. (RSV)

This doesn’t mean that we should think that the future is going to be perfect. It doesn’t mean that all followers of God will have wonderful houses and perfect health. What it means is that we don’t need to worry about it – whatever happens is whatever needs to happen. It is when we struggle against God that we get hurt.

The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:28
28 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. (RSV)

Hear that? God works for good.

So what do we do? How do we know how to act? Jesus was asked that very question by a lawyer – someone who was all about following rules. This is in Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (RSV)

Part of loving God is trusting that God has it all under control. Part of loving your neighbor is serving. Part of both is not worrying about it. I don’t mean don’t worry in the sense of don’t do anything about it, or forget about it. But don’t stress over it. God is in charge. Let God rule your life instead of you trying to.