Peninsula Community Church
May 18, 2014
Stewardship – Be Rich – Do More, Give More
We began our study on stewardship two weeks ago. We will continue our study, today. As we read the passage before us, we see there are many principles at play in our understanding of stewardship.
As Jesus’ life was coming to a close, He was asked a question about the 2nd coming of Christ. It is interesting to note how He answers this question. In Matthew 24, Jesus deals with the condition of the world and society at the 2nd coming. But, then Jesus seems to shift from the culture to the character of those who are awaiting His return. These stories presented by Jesus speak to how we treat others (24:36-52), how we steward the gifts of God in our lives (25:1-13), and how we steward the talents given to us by God (25:14-30). What is being communicated is that stewardship is a critical part of our Christian walk and it has a bearing on our anticipation of His coming. This is the basis of the text we will read this morning, Matthew 25:14-30. Because it is a lengthy text, I will only read a couple of verses and then summarize the rest of the story. Jesus said “For it (the return of Christ) will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away….
In this story, we find that a landowner was going away on a trip. Before he left for the trip, he entrusted each of his servants with a specific number of talents. In Jesus’ day one talent was worth 6,000 denarii. One denarius was worth about one day’s wage. Therefore, let’s assume in today’s economy that a worker would make a $100 a day. Using that number would mean that one denarii was worth about $600,000. With that in mind, we find that one servant was given 5 talents or $3 million. The second servant was given two talents or about 1.2 million. And, the third servant was given 1 talent or $600,000.
As you read this passage, note that the talents were distributed to the servants according to their ability. The word ability here is the word “dunamis.” It is the Greek word for power and carries the idea of resident power within something. It is where we get our word dynamite from. There is power resident in the dynamite but the resident power is not experienced until the fuse is lit and the dynamite explodes. The implication here is that the master discerned the ability within each servant to do what was right but they had to act to release that power. We also note that no instructions are given to the servants about what to do with the talents. There is, however, an assumption that they knew what to do based on their relationship with the master. With that in mind it would behoove us to consider that the blessing of stewardship is only activated as we act, give, and invest what God has given us.
As we continue the story, we find that the servant with the 5 talents multiplied their $3 million into $6 million. The one with two talents multiplied their $1.2 million into $2.4 million. But the one, who had been given one talent, hid his talent out of fear, so that no increase was realized. You see his view of the master held him back from investing what he was given. In the end, we find that the two servants who had invested their talents wisely were praised by the master. The master proclaimed “Well done, good, and faithful servant. You have been faithful over little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” But to the one who had not invested wisely, the master had a sad rebuke. Rather than being praised, we find that the master portrays him as being wicked and slothful. Rather than stewarding what had been given him, he kept it hidden and lost the opportunity for growth for himself and for his master. In the end, he lost what he had been given because of his lack of stewardship.
As we have noted, we must understand that God owns everything but He has entrusted us with what He owns for our enjoyment, to honor Him, and to expand the Kingdom. When we understand this principle, our attitude about how to handle the things, we have been given, will change. Let me repeat this principle, everything we have belongs to God. Look at how David describes this reality. He stated “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers” (Psalms 24:1-2). God owns it, but he has given it to us to steward for our enjoyment, to bring Him glory, and to expand His Kingdom.
Paul reiterates this in Colossians 1:15 when proclaims He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. God owns it all. What an amazing reality. God created it all. It was created for Him and by Him, but we have the joy of experiencing what He has created. We have the joy of using these things for this moment in time. And, how we use what we have been given speaks volumes about who we are and speaks to the character of our inner man.
When we understand that God owns it all and we are His stewards, our life changes and we see things differently. First, when we understand that God owns everything and we faithfully steward what He has given us, we will understand that we will not lack what we need. Notice I did not say what we want but what we need. The Psalmist observed I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing (Psalm 35:25-26).
Second, when we understand that God owns it all, we have a choice to make. We can choose to hold onto our possessions with clinched fists, or we can use what we have in a way that honors God, brings us enjoyment, blesses others, and invests in the Kingdom. The one servant made the choice to hold onto what he had been given with a clinched fist. When we realize that everything belongs to God, our fists will not be so tight around our possessions. When we hold onto what God has given us too tightly, we begin to manifest issues of greed and selfishness. This reminds me of what has been called a “monkey trap.” A monkey trap is a jar or it can be a coconut with an opening just a bit larger than the monkey’s hand. In the bottom of the jar a banana or other fruit is placed. When the monkey reaches in to grab the banana, they are unable to remove their hand because they refuse to let go of what is in their hand. All the hunter has to do is simply scoop up the monkey and haul it away. When we are led by greed, mistrust, and selfishness, we too can be carried away by the enemy’s tactics of clinched fists which is motivated by fear.
As I was preparing this I came across this story. There was a man who had worked all of his life. He had saved all of his money and was a real miser when it came to his money. He loved money more than just about anything, and just before he died, he said to his wife, “Now listen. When I die, I want you to take all my money and put it in the casket with me because I want to take my money into the afterlife with me.” And so, he got his wife to promise him with all of her heart that when he died, she would put all of the money in the casket with him. Well, one day he did indeed die. At the service he was stretched out in the casket and the wife was sitting next to her friend. When the ceremony was over and just before the funeral director closed the casket, the wife said, “Wait just a minute!” She had a small box about the size of a cigar box with her. She approached the casket and placed the box into the casket. The casket was then locked down, and rolled away. When she returned to her seat, her friend said, “Girl, I know you were not foolish enough to put all that money in there, were you?” She said, “Listen, I can’t lie. I promised him that I was going to put that money in that casket with him.” “You mean to tell me you put that money in the casket with the man?” “I sure did,” said the wife. “‘I wrote him a check and if he doesn’t cash it, then I know he changed his mind.”
When we recognize that God owns it all, our giving will be modeled by joy and not pain. Too often we hear people say “Give until it hurts.” I beg to differ and say “Give until you have so much joy that you burst into laughter.” Being a good steward should not be painful, it should actually be the opposite. The point is this, whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:6-8). So are you laughing yet!
The bottom line is that when we realize that God owns it all, our attitudes will change. We will not give half-heartedly, nor will we live with apathy. We will recognize that our stewardship to God is not just our service, nor is it just our giving; it is the totality of who we are. It is our money. It is the gifts we have been given. It is our calling. It is our ministry. It is our relationships. And yes, it is our world. Everything belongs to God….
Copyright 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom