A parable is a figure of speech, an extended metaphor, a story using common actions or circumstances designed to illustrate a spiritual truth, a principle or a moral lesson. The word parable comes from the Greek word parabole, which means to place beside or side by side for the purpose of comparison. A parable can usually be identified by the use of the word “like.” This was the method of teaching Jesus used most often.
In Luke 12:35–48, Jesus teaches about preparedness. “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching… And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.”
Girding the waist indicated the use of a cloth or leather belt to hold in loosely flowing garments, enabling a man to work or move without restriction. Lamps burning signified sufficient light in order to see. To be “like men who wait for their master” is typified in Psalm 123:2: “Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until He has mercy on us.” The manservant or maidservant would always keep their eyes on their master, and all it would take would be a glance, a gesture or an expression of the master and the servant would respond.
In New Testament times, there were four watches, listed in Mark 13:35: evening or sunset, at approximately 6pm, midnight, which was 9pm to 12:00am., cockcrowing, which would be midnight to 3am and the morning watch, 3am to 6am. A watchman would never fall asleep during their shift, especially in the early morning hours when everything was still and quiet. To fall asleep during any watch was a serious offense.
“But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Jesus was certainly not a thief, but referred to the time of His second coming as coming like a thief in the night. “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches…” (Revelation 16:15; also 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10)
“Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few.”
The steward and the servant are one and the same, working for the master. Their job is well-defined, and their responsibility is great. If they get lazy and apathetic about their duties, and fail to do what they were called to do, there are consequences. And this is the point of the parable: “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”
Although Christians don’t have to worry about being beaten (remember, it is a parable), still the Christian is called to be a disciple, and ultimately, a bondservant. The message of the parable is to be mentally and spiritually prepared, awake and watchful, and be ready. God has provided all the necessary resources and equipment. Be faithful.
Hebrews 12:1, 2: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus...”