Faithfulness is the attribute of a servant that towers above all others. It is the one thing that makes a servant good. But it isn’t so much in the moral sense that faithfulness makes a servant good (although it can). Rather, it’s that it makes a servant good in the practical sense. A servant who is inconsistent, who never shows up for his duties, who says he’ll do one thing, but then doesn’t follow through, is not a good servant no matter how humble, prepared, or persevering he is. A faithful servant is one who can be trusted to look after the business of his master with intentional awareness.
This faithfulness, manifested in an intentional awareness, is the element Jesus highlights in his parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). In that parable, a master figure doles out units of money to his servants. To one servant he gives five units, to another he gives two units, and to a third he gives one unit. The first two servants invest the portion they are given — effectively doubling their master’s money. The third servant buries his money so that none is lost, and so that what he has been given can be returned fully to his master. When the master comes to collect the return on his money, he is angry at the third servant for not attempting anything with his share. He seizes the money from him, and gives it to the first servant. He calls that third servant wicked (Matthew 25:26) and worthless (Matthew 25:30). In other words, the master considers him to be an annoyance, and good for nothing. The third servant had not been faithful to his master’s business. When you read the parable, you discover the third servant’s intentional awareness was focused on himself instead of on his master’s interests.
The first two servants, the master calls “good and faithful.” He calls them good, because they were useful. He calls them faithful because they had enough intentional awareness to proactively look after their master’s wealth and to grow it. It is that intentional awareness of their master’s business that makes them useful, and therefore good servants.
Are you faithful? Can you be trusted with your master’s business? Do you make yourself aware of things that need to be done? How would you define the servanthood you offer to the master?