At the graduation ceremony at Dallas Theological Seminary, an allusion was made to “Well done, good and faithful servant,” at least three times. This phrase is from a parable Jesus told in Matthew 25 in which a man entrusts money to three servants in the hope that they will use it well in his absence. The two who invested are rewarded by their master and told, “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!”
If we are the servants and God is the master, it’s a nice thought that we might be greeted by him in our resurrected bodies with this kind of affirmation. But the near obsession evangelicals have with this verse concerns me. It feels very close to a works-based faith and a desire that God see our actions, our ministry, our goodness, and commend us for it.
Or maybe I’m just wired differently, because if there is one thing I want to hear God say, it is, “I love you.” I’ve spent my whole life working to impress people. I live for approval, and I’m just self-conscious enough to crave constant compliments. That kind of affirmation is fleeting, and I am never satisfied. I don’t want to work for God’s affection. I don’t want his affection to be based upon my work.
And it’s not. It absolutely is not. That is the whole beautiful point of Christianity. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We are sinners and saints, a mess of humanity that trips over our feet even as we work for the God who loves us. And while I do think that God desires our obedience and loves to see us use the gifts and talents he has given us….I don’t want to hear any of that when I first see God face to face.
Let someone else hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I want to make eye contact with Jesus, God made flesh, and I want him to hold his arms wide so I can sprint into his embrace. I want him to whisper, “I love you,” into my hair as I cling to him. I don’t want a performance review. I want love.