The Shepherd of Hermas: Accomplished

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Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you” — when you already have it with you. Proverbs 3:27

“There was a person who owned a field and many slaves, and he planted a vineyard in part of the field. And he chose a certain slave who was most trustworthy and pleasing to him; and when he was about to go on a journey, he called him in and said to him, ‘Take this vineyard that I have planted and build a fence around it before I return, and do nothing else to the vineyard. Do what I have commanded and I will set you free.’ And the master of the slave went away on his journey.

When he had gone, his slave took the vineyard and built a fence around it. And when he finished the fence he saw that the vineyard was full of weeds. And so he reasoned to himself, ‘I have finished what the Lord commanded; so now I will dig in this vineyard. Once it is dug it will be more attractive, and without the weeds it will give more fruit, since it will not be choked by the weeds.’ So he dug the vineyard and removed all the weeds that were in it. And that vine­ yard became more attractive and flourish­ing, since there were no weeds that could choke it.

After some time the master of both field and slave returned and came into the vineyard. When he saw that the vine­ yard was attractively fenced and even more that it was dug, with all the weeds removed, and that the vines were flourishing, he was extremely pleased with what the slave had done. So he called his beloved son, who was to be his heir, and his friends, who served as his advisors, and he told them everything he had commanded his slave and everything he found accomplished. And they congratulated the slave for the good testimony that the master had given him.

He said to them, ‘I promised to free this slave if he did what I commanded him. And he did what I commanded and an additional good work in my vineyard besides. He has pleased me greatly. In exchange for the work he has done I want to make him a fellow heir with my son; for when he thought of the good deed, he did not leave it alone, but he accomplished it.’ The master’s son approved of the idea that the slave should become his fellow heir. After some days the master of the house gave a dinner and sent a number of foods to the slave from his table.

When the slave received the food his master sent, he took what he needed and distributed the rest to his fellow slaves. His fellow slaves took the food gladly, and began also to pray for him, that he might find even greater favor with the master, since he had treated them so well. The master heard everything that happened and was again extremely pleased at what the slave had done. And so he once more assembled his friends and his son, and he reported to them what the slave had done with the foods he had received. And they approved even more heartily his plan to make the slave his son’s fellow heir.”

The Shepherd of Hermas 55. 2-11, Parable V.2 (c. A.D. 70-140) as reported by Bart Ehrman in Lost Scriptures: Books That Did Not Make It Into The New Testament (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003) 273.

I am enjoying these second century parables from Hermas.

We could explore many aspects of this parable, but I think the thread that struck me relates to that moment “when he thought of the good deed, he did not leave it alone, but he accomplished it.”

Sometimes we think of something and then we don’t follow through.

This reveals that God sees when we do that and celebrates what it says about our hearts. Children of God follow through: when they think of a good deed, they don’t leave it alone.

What will you do the next time you think of a good deed and what will it reveal about your heart?

Flying to Washington D.C. this morning for activating new Chinese and Spanish staff and meetings at ECFA this week. Appreciate your prayers for us.