When We Steal From God Without Knowing It
Stewardship may be about much more than you think. The Parable of the Talents is a great lesson in what it really means to be a steward.
Here’s how the story starts:
“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents and to another one talent, each according to ability. Then he went on his journey.” – Matthew 25:14-15 (NIV)
In reading these verses, some important themes pop up right away:
- The master owns the money. “Talent” is used as a currency term. The story is about money. Everyone knows the master owns it.
- Each servant has the trust of the master. The master’s business depends on the servant’s productiveness in his absence.
- Each servant has freedom to manage their money. With it, the have an opportunity to demonstrate their abilities.
- The master chooses the unequal distribution of talents. Not equal gifts, but equal opportunity.
We are Stewards of the Master’s Resources
The story continues:
“…the man who received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money. After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.
The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master, he said. “ you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ His master replied, “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!’ The man with the two talents also came. ‘ Master,’ he said, ‘ you entrusted me with two talents; see I have gained two more.’ His master replied, 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!” – Matthew 25: 16-23 (NIV)
Each steward had the potential for equal reward. The master gave the first two identical commendations, even though they didn’t have equal amounts. They learned that is was not the amount of resources in their possession that determined their reward, but rather how they used the resources. Such great news for us:
We can be successful stewards even without great wealth.
What we do with what we have been given? This is the focus of God in our lives. We are not only responsible for the use of money given but also for the use of all gifts given to us (Body, Mind, Spirit, Time, Talent).
Stewardship is About God Using Money to Partner With Us
What about the one who hid the talent?
“Then the man who had received this one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and I went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ His master replied, ‘You wicked lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sewn and gathered where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. Take the talent from him and give it to the one that has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” – Matthew 25:24-30 (NIV)
Each steward had a personal responsibility and a partnership with the master. We face the same question: “What did you do with what you were given?” The third steward knew that all he had belonged to the master, but he made a choice to accomplish nothing. This action was a disappointment to the master. How do we feel about the master’s response? Was the response fair?
This story teaches us that God shares wealth with us so we can participate in a partnership—an important relationship. Consider the actions of the steward who hid the talent. He had not wasted the master’s resources on wrong things, yet the master was angry. The steward had not done much wrong; he just had not done anything. Would the master have been less angry at a bad investment?
Doing Nothing Makes the Master Angry
It seems there was something in the attitude of the steward that brought on the condemnation. Could it have been the disregard for his master’s business? The steward knew the master’s business interests yet disregarded them. He had the ability to do the job but lacked the willingness. He simply made no effort to participate in the partnership. The story suggests to do nothing is worse than to do the wrong thing! In doing nothing, he became a thief.
When do we become thieves? When we as stewards assume the rights and privileges that belong to the master.
The Old Testament Malachi proclaimed, “You have robbed God.” The people denied it, asking, “how have we robbed God?” They were acting as if their possessions were their own property. There is a significant distinction between possession and ownership. It is the difference between stewardship and ownership. This is a serious and subtle danger to which every steward is subject.
Just Being a Steward Isn’t Enough
Can I be trusted? God has called us into partnership. How are we doing in such relationship? It can never be enough to simply believe we are stewards of God’s resources. We are to live out our belief in a trustworthy relationship as stewards working to be productive partners with God in this journey of life. Our behavior must reflect our belief.
We’re more than stewards; we’re partners.