There are many ways we can think about life and about ourselves. For instance, we can think of ourselves as the most important person in our universe and we are here to be consumers. Circumstances might paint the opposite picture in our minds. We could see ourselves as an organism struggling to survive and our purpose is to be competitors.
Even the Bible gives several different models of identity and purpose: child of God, disciple, and steward. These are all true facets of who we are to God and what is our purpose. For the next few blogs I would like to focus on the last one. We are God’s chosen stewards.
A steward is basically a manager. To embrace this role you have to accept a few things–some difficult. First, you are neither the top nor the bottom. You are not God. The things that you manage are not really yours. You will answer to God for your stewardship. This responsibility is almost completely separate from whether you are forgiven or unforgiven, saved or lost, going to Heaven or not. As such, it is not the most important thing. God’s grace that saves you is the most important, but stewardship is still significant. One more thing to accept is that what you manage is different than other people, so direct comparison is not helpful. So much for competition.
I said stewardship is almost separate from salvation. The connection that remains is this. If you are not connected to Jesus and have eternal life, then being a good steward loses most of its value. You can be an unbeliever and an excellent steward and this will make the most of your resources, be good for the Earth, and provide a more satisfying life. However, the big reward for a steward of God is that your work here gets to follow you into eternity provided that you belong to Jesus.
One of the main teachings in the Bible on stewardship is the Parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25:14-30.
14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’Matthew 25:14-21 (ESV)
Jesus is clearly that man going on a journey. While Jesus is still here and active, we don’t see him so it seems like he is on a journey. In the interim until his return, we are his selected stewards. In this case, everybody, believer or not, is included in this story.
The stewards are given unequal amounts to manage. This is based on ability in the story. When we apply this to the reality of our lives, we are given different things to manage. Our stewardship covers a wide range of items: money, time, talents, relationships, our bodies, the planet, God’s Word, even our faith. One person could be the steward of great wealth but be poor in relationships or faith. I think of what I manage as a portfolio. My portfolio is different than yours and we are not in a competition to be the best steward anyway. I am responsible for the success of my portfolio and my reward is based on what I am given, not on the absolute amount I produce.
Notice the motivation to be a good steward. We want to please our Master. We are given an opportunity to make Him happy and we embrace that. A secondary reward is that we are placed in charge of more, if we do a good job. This reward is given after His return. Taking it out of parable mode, the reward is after Judgment Day and therefore a part of the New Heaven and New Earth https://wordpress.com/post/afterdeathsite.com/376
The odd duck in this parable is the guy with only one talent. (A talent is a unit of money, not a skill) He represents unbelievers who have at least heard the Gospel promise. He doesn’t believe it. He buries the money in the parable. The results are disastrous.
28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’Matthew 25:28-30 (ESV)
The “outer darkness” is clearly Hell. The Gospel and salvation are offered as a gift. In the story, they were not received. Without salvation even great stewardship of other things will end in outer darkness. With salvation a great opportunity is presented. We get to be stewards whose impact is not just in this life but in life after death.
How can you be a good steward? That will be the topic of the coming blogs.