What does this parable mean?
While most of us in the physical world are striving to be master - number one - the champion - the gold-medal Olympian - the owner of a successful business - the boss at work - or simply the boss of one's family (parent) - Jesus is speaking of assuming our natural roles as servant.
Yes, each of us is a servant by nature. This is why we cannot control things. This is why even those who achieve some kind of success in the physical world cannot control that success, nor can they retain it. Whatever success is achieved here - whatever notoriety - vanishes quickly.
In other words, a person might be a star for a short period but soon other stars steal the limelight and the stardom vanishes as quickly as it came. Another person might be a big business success but soon the business goes under as people want to buy something else. Another person might feel they are in charge of their children but soon the children grow up and want to get away from home. Eventually, they move away and then later, they end up forcing the parent into a retirement home.
No matter what the accomplishment, everything - even one's memory of it - is taken away following the time of death if not before. One's recollection of their accomplishments begin to fade with old age, and after the death of the body soon vanishes completely. This is why Jesus speaks of being ready:
"It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak."There is no question that we are not masters in this world. We have no real control, and no ownership - since we have to leave everything behind. Therefore we are not the masters or the bosses. We are not in charge. Rather, we are servants by nature.
Who will we decide to serve?
For those of us living in the physical world chasing dreams of stardom or business success or being a proud parent and grandparent - we end up becoming the servants of those we thought we'd be the bosses of. The star might think stardom will give them power over others but they later find the fans must be served. The business owner finds they must serve the stockholders and customers and even employees in order to keep the business going. And the parents find they must serve the children - from diaper service to taxi service.
Even dog owners - who get their dog with hopes of having an obedient personal servant and friend upon demand - find shortly after getting the dog they have become the dog's servant. They have to pick up the dog's poop, feed the dog, wash the dog, brush the dog - taking care of the dog's every need. Then they have to walk the dog. So who is walking whom? Who is the servant and who is the master?
In other words, no matter how hard we try to be the boss - the master - we end up being the servant. Even if we focus on sensual pleasures - we find we must then serve those senses and those who control the sense objects.
So - who should we serve? Should we serve our fans? Our stockholders, customers, and employees? Our children? Our senses? Our dog?
Yes, we can serve any of these - but each of these masters will be cruel to us in the end. They will eventually leave us behind with no joy, no love, and no mercy.
It is not that they will do this necessarily on purpose. But it is simply part of nature's course. By nature, these relationships are all temporary because they are all based on the physical body. They are all dependent upon the body staying healthy and alive. As such, we are in the end attempting to be self-serving, but instead becoming servants of the illusory energy of the physical world - the illusion that makes us think we are these physical bodies and these things will make us happy.
These are illusions because none of it makes us happy. And even if there are fleeting glimpses of temporary joy within our family relationships, these also disappear quickly - if they aren't replaced by bickering, they will eventually disappear at the time of death.
They won't be able to help us at the time of death
Yes, at the time of death none of these relationships - fans, stockholders, customers, employees, kids, parents, dogs - will be there for us. Yes, some might wait around our deathbed hoping for inheritance, but they will not protect us at the time of death. They will not be there for us as we leave this physical body and head to our next destination.
So who can we rely upon? Who can we love and serve who will be there for us - now and after our bodies die?
Jesus is teaching, through this parable and other statements, that our spiritual identity is eternal, and our eternal nature is to be the loving servant of the Supreme Being. This is why the Supreme Being created us. And this is why we are never satisfied with the temporary relationships of this physical world: Because we are looking for our eternal relationship with the Supreme Person.
We are each looking for a soul mate
This is also why people spend years looking for their soul mate. We look because we believe that he or she is "out there somewhere." We believe that there is a "special one" who will satisfy all our desires - and be the partner and companion we need to feel fulfilled.
And even when a person thinks they find such a soul mate - they soon find the person isn't quite what they were looking for. Often a person will realize - after looking for many years - that they aren't going to find much else among the people of this world so they "settle" for the person they are with. But they never really find that soul mate they were looking for.
This is because our real soul mate is not among the forms of the physical world. Our real soul mate is the Supreme Being. He is the Person we are looking for. He is the real Friend and Companion we have been looking for.
And He is the fair loving Master we have been looking to lovingly serve.
Yes, in this parable Jesus is speaking of a loving servant. Just consider the kind of servant who is "waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him." What kind of servant will wait for their master with such anticipation and enthusiasm?
And what kind of a servant would be ready, "even if he [the master] comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak"?
This is not the kind of servant most of us in the physical world think of - as servants in this world have mostly been the result of forced slavery of particular races or nationalities over the centuries.
Rather, Jesus is speaking of the kind of servant who enjoys a loving relationship with their master: An exchange of a loving relationship. This is the kind of service that we consider when a man chooses to do something for a woman - perhaps bring her flowers for example. This kind of service is not slavery. It is voluntary. It is based on love.
After all, love can never be forced.
Certainly, if God wanted to force us to be His servants He could do that. But He doesn't. He gives each of us the free will to decide whether we want to serve the Supreme Being or serve ourselves. Because He wants our love. And love requires freedom.
Thus we find Jesus is speaking of a servant who willingly wants to please their master out of love. This was, in fact, Jesus' position with respect to God, as he admitted it directly:
"By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me." (John 5:30)Is this not the position of a loving servant - someone who depends upon his master and seeks only to please his master - the Supreme Being?
Consider also this statement by Jesus:
"For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me." (John 6:38)Is this not taking the position of servant with respect to the Supreme Being? One who does someone else's will is certainly taking on the position of loving servant to that person.
Jesus also wanted those around him - and each of us - to also lovingly serve the Supreme Being:
"For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt. 12:50)Thus we find that Jesus, the founder of Christianity and its foremost teacher, considers himself God's loving servant. Where does that leave us?
We can follow in Jesus' footsteps and choose to become loving servants of the Supreme Being, by following Jesus' most important instruction:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’” (Luke 10:27)