When I was in 7th grade and attending a parochial school, our teacher had us act out the story of Palm Sunday. He picked different students to play different roles and gave them the scripture to look up for their part. Phil Dean was chosen to play one of the disciples. Phil Dean was an odd kid – absolutely brilliant when it came to math and science, but socially awkward and hyperactive long before we knew what ADD was. After a short time to study the parts the impromptu drama began.
Someone played the role of Jesus and sent Phil Dean into the village to prepare the way for his arrival. Phil Dean went to the student playing the owner of the donkey. In a loud voice and with the index finger of his right hand lifted high above his head he declared, “The Lord is in need of your ass!”
There was a deafening silence in the room for several seconds. Students exchanged glances with each other in shock. I’m pretty sure it was our teacher who broke that silence with his laughter and soon after we all joined in.
Phil Dean was totally sincere and had obviously been using the King James version of the Bible to research his part. But I love how his choice of words really ring true in today’s vernacular.
I read Luke’s version of this story this morning. Ironically… or perhaps not, it follows Jesus’ parable of the ten minas. (Luke 19:11-27) In that parable, a nobleman goes to a distant country to receive a kingdom. Before he leaves he calls ten of his servants and gives them each 1 mina (about $17 today) to do business with while he is gone. When he returns he asks for an accounting. We only hear about three of the ten servants. The first returns with $170, ten times the amount he was given. He is rewarded with authority over 10 cities. The second comes to him with $85, five times what he was given. He is given authority over 5 cities. The third servants comes to him with the original $17 he was given. He explains he had kept it in a handkerchief and buried it while the Master was away. He claims that he was afraid of his Master. He claims he knew he was serving someone who was demanding and expecting a profit from everything, someone who even took what didn’t belong to him. So, instead of risking his money, he just hid it. The Master responds with condemnation for this servant. He even says to him, “Do you really know me? Because you sure don’t act like it. If you knew I was so tough wouldn’t you at least put it in the bank to earn a little interest? You didn’t even do that!” (My paraphrase.) He took away what he had given this servant and gave it to the servant who had earned ten times what he had been given.
So how does this parable fit in to Phil Dean’s impactful words, “The Lord is need of your ass?” Jesus is our Master and we are His servants. To each of us He has given gifts that He asks us to use for the furtherance of His kingdom until His return. Does He truly “need” us? Of course not, He’s God. But He asks us to be stewards of what is His. Not only are our finances His, or our property, but the gifts He has given us our His too. So how are we going to use those gifts?
There are lots of lessons to learn from this parable but I think the most prominent to me is the relationship between the Master and the third servant. He servant claimed to know him, but did he? He certainly didn’t feel the need to obey him even though he had been given the same instruction as the other servants. He didn’t trust the Master. He felt the Master was a thief, taking what he hadn’t earned. The result was, what he had been given was taken away from him.
I know of someone who was one of the most giving, caring people I’ve ever met. She had been given so many gifts – gifts of compassion, love, care-giving. Her life ended unexpectedly and I don’t know what her relationship with the Lord was. She touched the lives of many people but I wonder if that touch was given as a servant of the Master. Was she representing Him and His kingdom to those she served? What will her account to the Master be? Did she know Him? Does it matter?
Some may argue, what does it matter? What matters is that she loved people. And she did. And I am sure God used her in a mighty way in those people’s lives whether she partnered with Him or not. He is the author of love. He is love. So what does it matter?
What matters is our relationship with the Master and His reward for our faithfulness. When we know Him, truly know Him and partner with Him His reward to us is more service. Anyone who has been given gifts of compassion, care-giving, hospitality, love – they usually can’t get enough of using those gifts. They want more and more opportunities to share those gifts. God is the one to reward the use of those gifts with more opportunities to use them. So the benefit – the “why does it matter?” – is that even more can be loved, even more can be touched with God’s love, and we can be the chosen servant to do that.
So as Phil Dean would say, “the Lord is in need of your GIFTS!” Do you know Him? Will you use those gifts He has given you in His name and according to His purpose? Or will you do what you want with them? Will you bury them in your own priorities, using them as you see fit? Or will you allow Him to multiply those gifts with more opportunities to serve. We never know when we will be called to give an accounting of what we’ve been given.
Lord, help us to be faithful with the many gifts you have given us. Thank you for trusting us your servants to be good stewards. Direct us. Guide us. Teach us how best to use all that you have given. May many more than we can reach on our own be touched with your love through us. In Jesus’ name, amen.