41Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?” 42And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? 43Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. 44Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. 45But if that slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. 47That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. 48But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.
Peter then asks if the parable Jesus just told was for the people or for them, the disciples – And Jesus told a second parable, about a slave whom the master put in charge as manager of his properties while he was away. Travel in those days was unpredictable; whether the master traveled to Jerusalem for a religious observance, or to Rome for a political reason, there would be no precise date and time for his return. As we read about Paul’s journeys in Acts, we see that they often were delayed for an entire season, putting up in port for the winter. It would have been important for a person who must travel on important business to leave someone at home who was reliable, to be in charge of his home and business there. In this case, he appointed a manager to be in charge of his household slaves – he was to see that they were fed and clothed and continued their work for the household. If the master returns and finds that person doing a good job, the household managed well, then he will likely give the manager greater responsibilities, with greater rewards. (The slaves in the first century were quite different from slaves in the southern south – they often earned their freedom and that of their families and were respected members of the household. They were often teachers or managers of the household.) But if the master returned and found that manager beating the other slaves, and partying in the house, getting drunk on the master’s wine, he would beat him and take away his responsibility.
Jesus is saying that leaders in his household, the church, have a greater responsibility – not less – to take care of the other “servants” of Jesus, to care for the church, to be ready when the true Master returns. And those who know what the Master wants (his disciples) but did not prepare for doing those things, and indeed, did not do them; those of us who know that Jesus teaches us to love God and love our neighbor, who know how to follow God’s will, but do not do so; those who succumb to the lure of power, and abuse that power (beating the other slaves) – for them, for us, the consequences would be severe. A servant found in such a position would be severely beaten. For those who try to follow the Master’s will, but do not understand it; for them there would still be consequences, but less severe.
From those to whom much is given, much will be required – the servant put in charge, the leader, is expected to respond with faithfulness and not on calculations of when the Lord will return. From the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded. God gives us gifts – in another parable these are called “talents” – entrusting us with them, and he will demand to see the results on his return. It is not just the leaders in the church to whom this applies, it is everyone, for the Spirit gives gifts to all.