In the last blog post, I shared the experiences that initiated my stewardship journey. (P.S. all words in yellow are helpful links to other pages.)
My first aha moment came from reading the parable of the talents (Matthew 25: 14-30). Like every parable, Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a particular situation.
Parables were an important and purposeful teaching tool Jesus employed-so let’s not sleep on them. In Matthew 13:11-13, Jesus told His disciples, in essence, that parables revealed the secrets of the Kingdom to those who were listening while concealing it from those who made no effort to understand.
To those who listen… more understanding will be given and they will have an abundance of knowledge—for those who don’t, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. [verse 12]
Notwithstanding its popularity, we’ve often been taught that ‘talents’ in this parable relate to abilities. While it is illustrative of all the resources GOD has entrusted to us–as a matter of fact–the parable concerns 3 stewards entrusted with varying sums of money.
Jesus spoke about money?!
Yes He did. In fact, He spoke about money often. I believe the Bible references money considerably because our perspective, management and use of money is reflective of serious heart issues and often informs our relationship with the LORD (we’ll discuss a little more in a later blog post).
So let’s get back to Matthew 25: 14-30 (Grab your sword guys and gals!)
Finished reading? Nice!
So let’s break down this parable together, dust off our imagination caps and create a mental picture.
Jesus is having an intimate time with His disciples–sharing insight into the ways of the Kingdom and preparing them for what is to come (dum dum dum…). He is about to complete His own stewardship journey and experience the suffering that paves the way for our redemption. Jesus is aware, that like the master in the parable, He will be entrusting His stewards with the wealth of His ministry, going away for some time and will later return to settle accounts. The parable outlines His expectation of them during the wait for His return.
The parable describes 3 stewards. One entrusted with 5 talents, another 2 and another with a single talent. At first glance, we’d think a single talent is a measly amount but in Jesus’ day, this was a considerable portion. For my bible history nerds, one talent equated to about 6,000 denarii. Remember the parable of the labourers in Matthew 20? A single denarius was a full day’s wage so a single talent would be about half a lifetime of wages (roughly 15-20 years’ worth of manual labour). This steward was set up good and proper so no need to cast puppy eyes friends.
Jesus notes that the master apportioned the wealth to each steward according to their abilities. Similarly GOD in His infinite wisdom, apportions material possession to each individual according to their abilities and His purpose for them. On a practical level GOD may extend enormous wealth to Phoebe because Her purpose is to give heavily to the kingdom, fund mission trips, build schools and fund orphanages. He may also grant Omar a moderate sum because His focus for him is to go out into the mission field and share the gospel in desolate places across the world (according to his own abilities). Our immediate response may be to say (under our breath of course) that this seems unfair, but the Master did not expect the same return from each steward—what He expected was the same level of faithfulness or ‘profitability’.
Now let’s look at the journey of each steward.
Mr. 2 Talents-: In the same way, he invested his talents and received a double portion. [Verse 17]
I want us to appreciate the level of promptness and urgency with which these servants acted. Remember, this was all done in the master’s absence. Verse 19 says that ‘after a long time the master…came back and settled accounts with them’. They had no idea when the master would return–all they knew was that he would return some day. There were no constant reminders or social media encouraging these stewards to invest with the master’s objective in mind. All they were motivated by was the initial instruction, an appreciation of the value of what was entrusted to them, and a desire to bring satisfaction to their master.
I also want us to observe their attitude as they presented their earnings to the master. ‘You gave me x talents, Look! I have gained double!’ Notwithstanding how long they were given control over the talents, they at no point in time forgot their status as stewards. They gave back to the master with a sense of joy. Perspective is a hel-(ehem)-heaven of a thing! What was their reward? The joy of their master–something they prized as worthy of their labour and wait for years.
Note that while Mr. 2 Talents was given much less than Mr. 5 Talents , he received the same declaration/satisfaction from the master–“Well done thou good and faithful servant” and shared equally in His joy.
Mr. 1 Talent-: He went off and dug his single talent in the ground. He didn’t earn, he didn’t lose, he played it safe and maintained the sum that was given to him. What was his attitude and response as he gave back to the master? ‘I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered. I was afraid.’
This steward said in substance, that to the best of his knowledge, from his own personal account and encounters with the master, the master was a hard and dishonest man that drove fear into him. What a stark contrast to the other 2 stewards. Perspective is a he-aven of a thing!
Another important tid bit– at verse 27, the master says to Mr. 1 Talent-“you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.” The bankers may not have provided a considerable return on the investment (ROI), but at the very least there would be some profit. This was ultimately what the Master was looking for-a profit on his wealth. Mr. 5 and 2 Talents knew this well and went beyond this—providing a 100% ROI on their talents. Their profit was indicative of how they valued their relationship with the Master and what was entrusted to them. In fact, their faithfulness was measured by their profitability. They received the ‘well done’ and ‘good and faithful’ declaration.
Instead, Mr. 1 Talent hid his portion in the ground. He was declared an unprofitable steward and cast into utter darkness. Sounds familiar? Matthew 5: 14-16:
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put in on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven?”
His understanding of the character of the master which in turn informed his relationship, guided his stewardship journey. Fear was his investment strategy. A wrong perspective devalued his talent. A joy-less relationship affected His stewardship and cost him everything.
I’m currently reading ‘The Knowledge of the Holy’ by A.W. Tozer. The first chapter, ‘Why we must think rightly about GOD’ swept me away. I’ll cite a few sentences from this chapter.
- ‘What comes into our minds when we think about GOD is the most important thing about us.’
- ‘Only after an ordeal of painful self-probing are we likely to discover what we actually believe about GOD.‘
- ‘Low views of GOD destroy the gospel for all who hold them.’
- The heaviest obligation of the church is to purify and elevate the concept of GOD, until it is once more worthy of Him, and the church. (paraphrased)
That was a mouthful. Last week we prayed that GOD would allow us to view all He has entrusted to us as just that–not our own—but resources given to us for His objective. Today let’s ask that GOD correct our view of Him. This is not a single prayer. It is not limited to a ‘season’ of our lives. It takes consistent pursuit and a deliberate willingness to forsake what we know formerly and cling to the truth that He reveals through His word and the Holy Spirit. With sincerity, I encourage you to pursue this earnestly and consistently. Respectfully, you will not enjoy this stewardship journey without it. Much of our understanding of the LORD is tainted by a wrong perspective of our experiences, wrong teaching and an unwillingness to heed to truth as He presents it.
At the end of the parable of the talent, the master declared in verse 29
To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.
Sounds a little familiar? [Yah Matthew 13: 12 cited above] The faithfulness of our stewardship is intrinsically linked to our understanding of His word and character. GOD is also expecting that we be good stewards of our knowledge and understanding of Him.
How many of us are genuinely comfortable with the reward for all we’ve done on this earth being the satisfaction of the Master and to partake fully in His joy. I think it’s ok to genuinely admit that it doesn’t excite us much, but I pray we won’t be satisfied with that heart posture. Let’s think and pray on that as well—that we will value Him so much, that being in His presence and experiencing His joy, is our most prized possession [Psalm 16: 11]
As always, I pray that this blog post encouraged you to accept the weight and freedom of stewardship as we journey to joyful stewardship together.