Last week I suggested three stewardship principles that are expressed in the Parable of Talents (Matt. 25:14-30). They were:
The reward for being an effective steward is that we are usually given MORE to steward. That happened with the servant who was given five and the one given two talents as they both heard from their lord, “You were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.” This reality has led to an unwritten, but well-known organizational principle: if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. They are the people who are either stewarding well their talents, are overachievers, or are workaholics. Experience has also told us that you don’t ask someone who is simply a “bystander”—kind of like the servant who was given a single talent. The average church in America needs to do a better job of identifying the hungry, humble, and teachable novices in its midst, and then begin to equip and release them—that’s biblical disciple-making. It takes longer in the short run, but over time it has always been proven to be the best. That’s helping someone steward their soul and their talents well.
There is an interesting observation I have made regarding those who seem to have an abundance of talents. Those who are born with the most “natural ability” can too easily depend on their personal skill set and miss out on the additional blessings God is willing to provide. The reality is that no matter how gifted we are, we can do nothing of eternal significance without God (John 15:5).
God uses us based on our availability (obedience) more than on our natural ability. The “least among us” are often better used by God. Moses was not able to be used by God to free His people when he was a prince of Egypt, but God was able to use him when he was herding his father-in-law's livestock on the backside of the wilderness
I will extend a brief warning at this point. You don’t have to wait until all the resources arrive before you get started. If God has shown you what to do, then be obedient with what He has already placed in your hands! God will always provide what you need, when you need it if you are seeking to accomplish what He has called you to do. Now if it’s your personal agenda and for your personal pleasure, then don’t wait on God for help.
Fifth, poor stewardship brings limitations (Matthew 25:26-28). The man who buried his talent heard this from his lord, “You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming, I would have received back my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.”
We always need to keep in mind that in this parable Jesus pointed out that the master distributed his talents to each of his servants according to their unique God given ability (vs 15). Because God blesses each of us differently, equal outcomes cannot and are not the measure of success. The parable indicates that we are evaluated based upon our effort—and the servant who was given a single talent was simply described as “lazy.” I’ve used a bit of a crude, but hopefully memorable, way of stating this principle: “God ain’t dumb! If you haven’t taken care of what He has already given you, why on earth would He want to give you more?
Probably the statement that gives us the greatest pause is when the master says, “Take the talent from him (the servant given a single talent), and give it to him who has ten talents.” Our culture and government have adopted the “Robin Hood” mindset where we believe that it is ALWAYS right to take from the rich and give to the poor. When we do so without pausing to ask, “Are the poor fulfilling their stewardship responsibilities?” we are ignoring stewardship 101 lessons, and our actions are potentially going against the expressed will of God.
I will come back to the question, “How can we provide for the genuine needs of those around us?” when we discuss the third parable in Matthew 25. But before we do that, I need to finish our stewardship discussion by pointing to a sixth principle: we are expected to steward well our financial wealth. However, space limitations require that I address the difference between building wealth and stewarding our wealth next week. Until then, remember to…
Yours in Christ,
Mark R. Elliott
Mark is in his twenty-seventh year of serving as an Associational Missions Strategist. He served in western Iowa for almost eight years, and is in his nineteenth year with HCN. He has a passion to see pastors and church leaders grow in their abilities to lead their churches. He continues to have a heart and desire to see new churches planted and God continues to use his strategic thinking skills in this area. Mark also has a wealth of experience in helping churches clarify who God has created them to be, and what they can do best to reach their community. He has had ample opportunities to help churches in times of conflict, and has seen God do exciting things to restore a spirit of harmony, returning churches to a time of fruitfulness. He also helps churches in transition by working with search committees. Mark and Phyllis who were married in November of 2018 have four children and three grandchildren. They will enjoy their combined 87th anniversary in just a few days.
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