Remember “Well done, thou good and faithful servant….” (Matthew 25:21)? These words may have comforted us when we’ve wondered if our lifework was worthy of God’s commendation. The usual interpretation of *The Parable of the Talents (or the Three Servants) revolves around reassurances that good deeds or high integrity eventually meet with God’s approval. (Although comforting, this blessing also skates right up to the leading edge of works-righteousness or self-idolatry.)
We may question whether we’re good enough to be named as good-and-faithful-servants. As imperfect, not-yet-fully-mature people, have we accomplished what God has expected of us? Thankfully, the answer is probably “Yes”, because God’s favor is always unearned, and comes to us instead because it’s framed by God’s love and grace.
An added hyphen gives “well done” another meaning: “Well-done” might refer specifically to folks who have been around awhile. And seasoned might be a suitable adjective to describe us, even if we’re not yet completely mature. That word choice invites another reverie: What if we older adults thought of ourselves as seasoned? Flavorsome? Salty?
That makes sense. It feels uplifting, too. Those of us who know we’re not perfect—perhaps still seeking maturity—have come through any number of life’s ups-and-downs. We’ve traveled along enough of life’s paths to have gathered a measure of practical wisdom or usefulness. In our older years, could we be described as “well-done”—like well-aged, well-cooked meat—because we’re well-seasoned?
As always, God’s grace stands next to our undeservedness as witness to this possibility: God’s rich, zesty seasoning has flavored our lives for many seasons. It’s always good to remember that our well-done-ness doesn’t come from our efforts, but from God’s recurring actions in our lives.
So, in case you’re wondering, remember this reassurance: “Well done, thou good, faithful, seasoned and well-done servants.”
*Current interpretations of this parable now suggest that the “man” who returns to get an account of his servants’ stewardship was, in fact, one of the corrupt elites in Jesus’ time. His lifework? To exact exorbitant repayments of his loans to subsistence farmers. Thus his “good and faithful servants” were more like loan-enforcers than worthy stewards. (See William Herzog’s Parables as Subversive Speech for an interpretation of this parable in its likely first-century context.)
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