Given a choice, would I rather be faithful or fruitful? My heart says “fruitful” while my head says “faithful.”
Why the discrepancy? Probably because I know that while God honors faithful service, people celebrate fruitful results. If I’m honest, I long for the applause of the crowd more than I desire to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” from the audience of One.
I have reflected on this issue the past couple of days after preaching on the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) this past Sunday. The passage teaches that God entrusted each one of us with talents, gifts, and abilities, and that they are specifically tailored to us (verse 15). He has given us neither too much nor too little. Rather than compare ourselves to others or complain about what we have or don’t have, we are to get busy and use our talents for God’s kingdom. At an appropriate time, God will open the ledger and hold us accountable for what we have done with his gifts (verse 19). Faithful service will be rewarded (verses 20-23) while unfaithfulness will be punished (verses 24-30).
It strikes me as interesting that God rewards faithfulness, not fruitfulness. In the case of the parable, one person brings back 2 1/2 times the result of his compatriot (verses 16-17). And yet they both receive the same three-part reward. They receive the same praise–“Well done, good and faithful servant,” the same promotion–“You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much,” and the same invitation–“Enter into the joy of your master.”
God expects fruitfulness, but he rewards faithfulness.
If that is true (and I believe it is), then why am I not content pastoring a small church? Why do I round up our attendance figures when people ask how large our church is? Why do I look with envy at larger congregations?
Do I really believe that God rewards faithful service? Or am I too concerned about how others evaluate my ministry? Maybe I need to go back and study the passage again.