When ‘Leaving a Light On’ is the Wrong Thing to Do

October 19, 2016

Matthew 25:19-30

19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’


I have reached the unfortunate age where before telling a story I now say something to the tune of, “Now you stop me if I’ve told you this story before.” Unfortunately, you can’t exactly stop me. I suppose you could just stop reading. So I guess I’m telling you this so you will know that I know I may have told you this before and so you will know I’m not slipping that badly just yet. ;0)

Now to the story. Back when I first began to understand I was being called to serve the church as my full time vocation the church gave me my first job. I was a security guard. Yes, my job was to make the rounds around all the buildings at Central United Methodist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and make sure the lights were out and the doors locked. It was easy enough, but a bit of an onerous process to turn off a light in one of those buildings. It required disarming the alarm, walking up flights of stairs, turning off the light, arming the alarm again and so forth. And it was cold.

I will always remember late one night during my rounds I noticed a single light on in the education building. It was in a janitor’s closet in the back corner of the men’s restroom on the top floor at the opposite end of the building from the security entrance. Eager to get back to my living room on time to catch Sports Center, I made the easy decision to let it go that night. It was just a light, after all. The next night it happened again. Having “let it go” the night before made it all the more easy to let it go again. Days past, and then weeks and that blasted light was still on. In my mind I shifted the blame to the janitor. I thought sure it would finally burn out. It didn’t.

Finally, the night came I am convinced changed my life forever. I had once again passed on my responsibility to turn that light off, when I was stopped cold in my tracks. I think it was the Spirit of God. A whisper of conviction came into my consciousness. I remember the message as clear as if it were yesterday. “John David, why would I ever trust you with the sacred care of the souls of people if I can’t trust you to turn off the lights?” The literal meaning of the word “repentance” entered the lexicon of my life in a new way on that cold night so many years ago. I turned around, disarmed the alarm, walked up the stairs, made my way to the back corner of the building, entered the men’s restroom, opened the closet door, unscrewed the light bulb and threw it in the trash. JUST KIDDING! I turned off that light (or as we might say where I’m from, I “cut off” the light!).

So why this obscure story in the wake of today’s “Judgment” text? Here’s why:

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Yesterday we addressed the calling and commission of Jesus to venture the capital of the gift of our lives and the gifts in our lives for the sake of the already-not yet Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. Today, let’s turn our attention to the calling to be faithful in the smallest of our entrusted responsibilities—to the inglorious unseen tasks that don’t seem to matter that much in the scheme of things and to the marginalized and forgotten people we so readily and easily look right past. (More on that tomorrow).

Finally turning off that light on that cold winter night as a security guard for the church that would go on to dramatically change the course of my life—it may be the most important thing I have ever done.


Lord Jesus, have mercy on me for all the small things I have neglected in my life. Forgive me for thinking there is such a thing as small things where you are concerned. Open my eyes to those places and people in my path today. Show me the sacredness of even the smallest tasks you would have me fulfill in your name. Yes, Lord. That’s it. For my good and the glory of your name, Amen.


1. Can you remember a “faithfulness in the few or the small things” story in your past? Might one of those be in the making right now?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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