“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming... Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.” Matthew 24:42, 45-46 NASB
Because we do not know when the Lord will return, and it can be easy to wonder how we should spend the time we have here on earth. What does it look like to "be on the alert?" And what should I do, knowing that He is coming back? This passage has really encouraged me because it says very plainly what I should focus on while I'm waiting for Him to return.
Jesus told His disciples that when He returns, He will be looking to see whether His disciples are "giving His household their food at the proper time." What this means practically to me is that I should be diligent to encourage the brothers and sisters whom God has placed in my church. We often speak of our church meetings as "potluck dinners," and as each person brings a dish, we can have a feast together.
What does it mean to give the household of God their food "at the proper time?" Hebrews 3:13 says to "encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." So today is the "proper time" to encourage others. As long as it's still called today, I should be diligent to encourage others. And I can be confident that this is well-pleasing to my Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, Who is looking to see whether His disciples will be giving His household their food at the proper time.
In fact, in Luke 12:36-37 (just before Luke's account of the same parable from the Matthew 24 verses above), Jesus says, "“Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them.”
Jesus appears to be saying that, when He returns and finds His servants "dressed in readiness," He actually decides to turn the tables and serve His servants. I do not pretend to fully understand this statement theologically, but what a beautiful picture! One thing I do see clearly is that it must bring true delight to the heart of the Lord to see His servants doing what He has asked -- encouraging each other daily -- when He returns.
This lines up with what Malachi prophesied in Malachi 3:16 (TLB): "Then those who feared and loved the Lord spoke often of him to each other. And He had a Book of Remembrance drawn up in which He recorded the names of those who feared Him and loved to think about Him." I want to always have such an eagerness to speak of the Lord with my brothers and sisters who love to hear about Him. It brings me such joy to see that when God sees such conversation, it delights Him so much that He takes special note of the disciples who live this way.
This is how I want to be found living when He returns! Always encouraging the household of God, as long as it's called "Today," confident that it brings the Lord great joy to see us love to speak to one another about Him.