Jesus said: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’ Peter said, ‘Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?’ And 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? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But 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, 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, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But 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 one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.
A manager or steward was a slave who was left in charge of domestic affairs when the owner was away. His responsibility was to care for the other servants' welfare, especially to allot food to them. His job was to serve, not to exercise power.
This is a telling parable for all who hold leadership positions in the Church. When James and John were dreaming of power, “Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognise as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.’” (Mark 10:42-44). And he added that even he himself came “not to be served but to serve.”
Power holds a dangerous fascination for many people, and the world has reason to know about it. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, it is said. Now I ask (and it may seem a strange question): where does that leave God?
It is we who call God ‘Almighty’. But God chose to become powerless in Jesus. “Though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). God is love, and love is powerless. We have all known powerful leaders who imagined that they were “strengthening their brethren,” but who were actually weakening them. This is the distinctive blind spot of the extravert. If we love God, or anyone, because they are powerful, we are alienating our own power. Love empowers, it does not disempower. St Paul learned even to talk about the powerlessness of God (1 Cor 1:25). “There is something about God,” wrote Simon Tugwell, “that is better expressed in weakness than in strength.”
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