Serving Upward and Downward (Matthew 24:45-51)

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project

This parable is about a slave who has been put in charge of the entire household. This includes the responsibility to give other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time. Jesus says, “Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives” (Matt. 24:46). That slave will be promoted to additional responsibility.  On the other hand, Jesus observed,

But if that wicked slave says to himself, My master is delayed, and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 24:48-51)

In a modern workplace context, the slave would be equivalent to a manager with a duty to the owners while managing other workers. The owner’s interests are met only when the workers’ needs are met. The manager has responsibilities to both those above and below him in authority. Jesus says that it is the servant leader’s duty to look to the needs of those under him as well as those above him. He cannot excuse himself for mistreating those under his authority by claiming it is somehow for the benefit of his superiors. He depicts this reality dramatically in the punishment meted out to the worker who cares only for his own interests (Matt. 24:48-51).