Responsible Servants

Bible Book: Luke  21 : 15-17
Subject: Servanthood; Stewards; Stewardship; Judgment

Luke 21:15-17 and 1 Peter 5:2-3

Last week we learn that Jesus’ disciples are to be alert, expecting His return. Not only are we to be watching and waiting for Jesus, we are to be working for Jesus. So here Jesus encourages His disciples to remain faithful to that to which they have been called. If we are faithful to our calling, He promises us a reward.

God’s servants are to be responsible with the life He has called us to live and the ministry He has called us to do. Yet because the Christian is unsupervised, irresponsibility is a great possibility. Jesus tells us this parable so we will be encouraged to faithfulness and warned against unfaithfulness (CIT).


Peter’s question in verse 41 combines the previous with the following parable. “Peter said, “Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?”

Peter understands the importance of Jesus’ teaching and wants to know the extent of the first parable’s meaning. Was it addressed only to the disciples or to everyone? [Both groups mentioned throughout the chapter (vv. 1, 13, 22, 32).] Jesus will talk to both groups or to both saved and unsaved, both follower and leader.

To illustrate more clearly what He means Jesus tells another parable, which begins in verse 42. “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?”

Jesus did not directly response to Peter’s question. Instead Jesus tells another parable. The parable uses a picture of a steward or manager placed in charge of the master’s household. “Puts in charge” seems to indicate those given the responsibility of direction or leadership.

Notice what THE AREA for this steward or manager responsibility is. He is “Put in charge... to give them their rations” or food allowance. This ration seems to reference the responsibility of feeding the sheep (John 21:15-17; 1 Peter 5:2-3). This steward’s area of leadership responsibility, what He was put in charge of, is feeding the sheep at the proper time. The steward was to continue faithfully in this task of giving them their ration [until God returns to bring in the kingdom.

This giving them their ration or feeding of the sheep may not seem like an important task, but it is vitally necessary for the life of the sheep. Let me ask you do you remember what you had for supper last month on Tuesday? Well you may not remember what you have eaten everyday last month, but if you had not eaten it you would have starved.

The same is true with the ministry of the Word of God. You may not remember every sermon you heard last year, but if you had not received a portion of the Word you would have been starved spiritually. Feeding or nurturing the sheep is an important task if the sheep are going to have the opportunity and ability to not only to survive but to thrive spiritually.

Verse 43 again proclaims God’s future blessing upon His faithful servants. “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.”

Jesus pronounces a blessing on that steward whose behavior is faithful [apart from any calculations of the early or late arrival of the master]. This is the third time in this section that Jesus promises blessing to those who live their life preparing for Jesus return. Blessed is the one living daily in the expectation that the Son of Man might return.

The good servant is the one who living his life in expectation of his master’s return. This steward is faithfully serving his master’s interests during his master’s absence. He will be the object of the master’s special favor or grace.

Verse 44 indicates the promised reward for the faithful steward. “Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.”

“I tell you the truth” indicates a solemn vow. Jesus uses th phrase “puts in charge of all his possession” to describe the reward coming to those who by faithfully serving the Lord are preparing for His coming (12:21, 33, 18:22, 30, 19:17, 19). Christian stewardship brings the potential for great reward (12:46, Jas. 3:1).

So again Jesus promises to reward those who have been faithful to Him. While we sometimes experience immediate and material rewards for our obedience to God, this is not usually the case. If so, we would be tempted to do good only for our earthly prosperity. Jesus implies that if we look for rewards now, we will lose them later (see Mark 8:36).

So Jesus states that those who are presently preparing for His return will, in the ages to come, hold positions of authority. In other words, what we do now affects what we’ll do in heaven. Our heavenly rewards will be the most accurate reflection of our earthly faithfulness, and they will be far greater than we can imagine. [Life Application Study Bible. Zondervan. 1988. Grand Rapids, Mich. p. 1830]

Maybe there are interests or desires God has placed on your heart that have yet to be worked out or realized. It is very likely that when you get to heaven, those will be the very areas that will come into fullness and fruition in your life.


Of course, not all stewards will be faithful. What if the steward’s service is blatantly unfaithful? An unfaithful manager’s response his lack of direct supervision is given in verse 45. “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;

Jesus is addressing a stewardship that is opposite of a faithful steward. They think to themselves that what they think and what they want is what is important. They not concerned about answering to God but only about getting their way, about controlling others to get them to do what they want. Even if it takes some intimidation or hard hammering to get them under their will or control. Instead of [loving &] caring for others, they abuse others.

Ascertaining the time of the Lord’s return as far away or unlikely has a negative influence on behavior. These leaders or pastors failed in their primary task of feeding the sheep with the Word of Life because they were not looking expectantly toward the next kingdom, but establishing their kingdom on earth.

The result of saying the Lord won’t come today causes a two-fold tendency: self-importance and carnality. How would we treat one another if we truly believed Jesus would return in the next twenty-four hours? One may lash out at people or beat up on people [verbally or otherwise] if he or she thinks they’re not answering to Jesus today. A daily awareness of the return of Christ or the Rapture is not escapism. Quite the opposite. Jesus said a realization of His return leads one to living rightly and He will eternally reward such stewardship of life.

The penalty exacted on leaders or shepherds who fail to portion out the Word of God to the people is stated in verse 46. “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.

Again we have the thought that Christ’s Parousia occurs at an unannounced point in the future. This false steward is given a mortal blow that separates him from God eternally. Because of the penalty exacted, Jesus must not have been speaking about believers who were not ready. The evil servant here is doomed to hell. This punishment is the most severe possible.

To argue that this verse is about a steward (NIV servant) who has no reward and is judged with the unbelievers is not to argue that one can lose one's salvation. The servant's attitude indicates that he did not know the master or even care about what the Master desired (Mt 7:21-23). This steward had no faith in the master, only selfishness. He lived his life just as he wanted and had no sense of responsibility toward God.

The fact that his stewardship was totally the opposite to the master's request evidences his lostness. There had been no heart-change indicative of a genuine faith. Instead the unfaithful steward seems to represent someone who had associated with the church community without any genuine, heartfelt commitment. To feel no accountability to Jesus in light of His return is evidence of an absence of relationship with Him. The fruit indicated what the heart had always lacked (Mt. 7:16-23). [Bock, p. 234 ]


In verses 47 and 48 Jesus elaborates on the degrees of discipline [or punishment]. Two types of servants are mentioned with verse 47 referencing servants who exercise poor stewardship. “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,

As for leaders (those who know the master’s will, Luke 12:47-48), their privileges and responsibilities are greater, but so will be their punishment for unfaithfulness. This servant suffers many blows, but apparently he is saved and does not suffer eternal separation like the blatantly disobedient and unbelieving or lost manager in verse 46. This punishment is the discipline of an unfaithful steward with some knowledge of what he should do but who refused to do it.

Verse 48 provides the principle on which recompenses are differentiated. “but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”

The second type of unfaithful steward does not know or understand what his stewardship was to be about. This servant is still guilty for his failure, but his punishment is a few blows. [Bock, Darrell. The IVP NT Com. Luke. Inter Varsity Press, Dover Grove, IL. p.234] This compares with Paul’s remarks in 1 Corinthians 3:15 as those who will be saved but through fire.

The servant who knows what to do but refuses to do it is more culpable than the one who does not know what to do. [The presupposition is that the servants entrusted with tasks are also offered the ability to carry them out.] Faithless ones will be judged more severely than those who, though unfaithful, do not know about godly responsibilities or the stewardship of life. Believers with a great knowledge or a great opportunity to learn of God’s revelation will answer for their lack of response to that revelation. [Walvoord, John & Zuck, Roy. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983, S. 239.]

Jesus has told us how to live until He comes: we must watch for Him, work diligently, and obey his commands. Such attitudes are especially necessary for leaders. The more opportunities, resources, talents, and understanding we have, the more we are responsible to use them effectively. God will not hold us responsible for gifts he has not given us, but all of us have enough gifts and duties to keep us busy until Jesus comes.

To be a follower of Jesus is to be responsible or accountable to Him. Those who are preparing for His return will serve Him faithfully. God will richly reward the faithful. Those who take this accountability less seriously will be sorted out according to their deeds. Those who never really responded to the Master and ignored His return by doing the opposite of what He asked for will seal their place among the unfaithful. Those believers who are knowingly negligent will be disciplined, while those who act in ignorance will be less severely disciplined.

The end of the passage helps to explain its start. We should live with expectation, sensitive to the accountability of discipleship. We should wear our work clothes and keep the lamps burning, looking for the Lord's return by serving Him faithfully.


Being a member of a visible Christian community does not guarantee eternal reward. In fact it does not even guarantee salvation. Fake discipleship does not fool Jesus. Jesus expects dedication from His servants. Christianity involves the responsibility to do what you know you should do.

The responsibility of Christian leadership is a serious one. Since we have been given much, much will be required of us.