In one of Jesus’ final recorded parables of Matthew, He tells His followers that the Kingdom of God is like a rich man giving stewardship of his money to three men prior to leaving on a journey. To one man, he gave $500,000. To another, $200,000. To the last, $100,000. The first two men, seeing their opportunity for a profit, invest all of the money and reap a one hundred percent return. When the rich man returns, they are able to give him $1,000,000 and $400,000, respectfully. Because of their wise use of the money, the rich man grants the two men places of even higher responsibility and honor. The third man, however, simply gives the rich man back his $100,000. Who could ask for more, right? Wrong.
In Jesus’ story, the rich man is furious. He takes the third man’s money and gives it to the first man. Not only does he strip the man of any stewardship, he strips the man of any association with the group. He severely punishes the man, casting him out into “outer darkness” to forever weep and gnash his teeth in agony. The rich man names the third man a wicked sloth for his choices with the money.
Stewardship is an interesting responsibility. On one hand, you are accountable for not losing the owner’s property. Part of a steward’s job is, in some sense, to maintain. Jesus’ story, however, reveals the other, higher, expectation. Not only are stewards to simply prevent loss, they are to promote flourishing. The stewards are to use the power given to them for the good of the owner and the property.
Christ’s last command to His followers was to multiply His Church across the entire world and begin to spread true stewardship of creation. This Church would begin to pursue the original Mandate as it was intended.
God creates the cosmos and gives a directive to mankind: Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over it. All human beings are still to carry out this commandment. The Cultural Mandate was not lost on the fall, but rather marred and sin twisted it towards selfish gain. With the coming of Christ, the Mandate became partially renewed. Christ’s last command to His followers was to multiply His Church across the entire world and begin to spread true stewardship of creation. This Church would begin to pursue the original Mandate as it was intended. The Earth will increasingly be filled with those who pursue God-honoring earthly stewardship that promotes flourishing.
What does this have to do with the parable and the returns on investment?
We are the servants to whom the Master has entrusted His property. We are the in the midst of the story. We have been given our portions and are now in the time of waiting for the Master’s return. Can we say that we are wise with our lot? We have been given enormous amounts by God, the owner of the universe, and He expects a fruitful yield. At some point, each one of us will give an account for the use of what God gave us.
As I reflected on our freedoms on July 4th and continue to enjoy them today, I pray for humility and wisdom with regards to all of the good gifts I have been given. Proverbs 1:7 says that the fear of Yahweh, or the rightful recognition of our place under Him and His will, is the beginning of wisdom. I want the gifts to be remembered in the fear of the Lord and humble recognition of the weight of responsibility He has entrusted to me when He placed me where He did.
Jesus taught His disciples and anyone who would follow after Him that those who save their lives will lose them, while those who lose their lives for His sake will save them.
What am I doing with the portion I’ve been given? Am I the Prodigal, who after getting his portion squandered it completely with nothing to show upon returning to his father? Do I see myself in a more positive light and say that I at least acknowledge God and His gifts to me, yet like the third man in the parable, hides away my portion, waiting out my days with little to no risk? Or will I be like the first two stewards who truly “buried” their lots, just as a seed is buried and then grows to produce much fruit?
Whatever lot you find yourself in, remember the Gospel and pray that God would show you how to use what you have been given for the furthering of the Kingdom.
- Are you in a position where society looks favorably upon you? Use it to fight for those for whom this is not a reality.
- Do you find yourself with more than you need? Pray and ask God to show you your abundance and avenues you can use to be generous.
- Are you one for whom time is more plentiful? Find ways to help those for whom time is limited.
- Are you in a position of authority? Use it for the flourishing of all, rather than for selfish gain.
Celebrate God’s good gifts on the Fourth and every day afterwards, yet do so in humility. Humbly thank God for His gifts, but then invest those gifts. Do not bury them away in some attempt to save them. Jesus taught His disciples and anyone who would follow after Him that those who save their lives will lose them, while those who lose their lives for His sake will save them.