“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had 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, dug a hole in the ground and hid his 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!’ “Then the man who had received the 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 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 sown and gather 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 who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25:14–30, NIV84)
1. We are stewards, not owners (God owns it all, we are care-takers)
- Here in this parable that Jesus was speaking there are two groupings of people. First, there is the “owner” or “master.” This is the one who has assets, ownership of property, money and things. So much so that there was a need for additional hired hands to take care of his assets. This second group are the “servants”. These are the hired hands who have been “entrusted” to care for and even increase the assets of the owner. This is a good place for us to start in the understanding of stewardship. If God owns it all (according to Ps. 24:1 and many other passages), then clearly we cannot take “possession,” or even mental ownership, of items and things of this world. Nailing down in the heart and mind of the believer that we are not owners, it is the place what we need to be. Releasing our grip on things of this world and knowing that we are to care for it, that is where we ought to, and need to be!
- STEWARDSHIP APPLICATION: God owns it all, and we are just the caretakers, the stewards of HIS possessions during this short life that we have.
2. We are given a responsibility/task
- In our Matthew text, we see that the “owner” or “master” directly gave a “task” or responsibility to his servants. It was for, according to the Lexham Theological Wordbook, the “safekeeping” of the “talents” put into their hands. Because the servants knew that the master or owner was a shrewd or hard man the servants knew that this was not money for them to spend on themselves, or a bonus of some sort, but it was put into their care for “safekeeping.” A talent was worth about 6,000 denarii. A denarius was the usual payment for a day’s labor. So a talent was worth about 16.5 years of wages in those days! Clearly, this was a MAJOR responsibility. We today are given a responsibility and/or task of stewardship over many things that God has entrusted to us! We have been called to oversee what God has put into our care, what He has placed into our stewardship.
- STEWARDSHIP APPLICATION: Since we are stewards of what God owns, then there is a responsibility that has been given to us to steward God’s belongings put into our care.
3. We are expected to do the hard work
- We are stewards, not owners, and we have been given a responsibility, and with that responsibility, it brings about work! In the parable of the talents that we are overviewing, the master gave the servants talents. They knew the personality of the master and knew that losing the amount of money would not be an option, so they had some work to do. Each of them did something, and within the three servants, some did more than others.
- STEWARDSHIP APPLICATION: Proper stewardship takes work. Biblical stewardship doesn’t just happen! there has to be some labor in order to be a good steward.
4. We are expected to produce positive results
- When you care for something for someone, the owner expects to either receive back what they gave you exactly, or in better shape than what was given! In the text of Matthew 25, we see that the servants knew and also felt expected to care for the money in the same manner that the owner did, and that is to see it grow. Why say that? Verse 19 and following speaks to the Master’s response to what was done with the money while he was away. The Master expected and even praised the two servants for their faithfulness “with a few things.” That faithfulness by the servants produced positive results, for they doubled the money of the Master! The third servant who chose to bury the money for safe-keeping received a harsh response from the Master. Why such a harsh treatment? The Master expected positive results. In this last servant he got negative results, because he did not even get interest on the money he gave him to steward!
- STEWARDSHIP APPLICATION: God expects us to strive for growth in all areas of investing! We should not “invest” what we are stewarding in depreciating assets. HE is expecting of us that we bring about an increase of what we are stewarding on His behalf.
5. We are today, and will be in the future, be held accountable (according to his ability)
- Each of the servants were held accountable for what they did with the resources given to them. The first one grew the money from 5 to 10 talents, to which the 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!’ (vs. 21) The second servant got the same response from the master for doubling his two talents. He stewarded things well and received a positive accountability report. The third servant was also held accountable for the one talent given to him by the Master, but the response was much different since he hid the talent and did not even get interest on the money. When we are faithful with our responsibilities most likely we will receive more responsibilities in the future.
- STEWARDSHIP APPLICATION: The Scriptures make it totally clear that in all things there will be ultimate accountability, including our finances. We must steward what God has entrusted to us well.
6. We are rewarded for our stewardship
- In the text of the parable, when the Master hears of the doubling of the talents for the first two servants, there is happiness, increased responsibility and praise! The reward is hearing that phrase “well done!” The other reward is knowing that you served well and your responsibilities will be increased. Along with increased responsibilities, there is a sharing of the Master’s happiness.
- STEWARDSHIP APPLICATION: There are rewards. Work with all your heart unto the Lord! We ought to do this out of our love for the Lord. We ought to do this because it is HIS stuff we are stewarding. We ought to do this because in all things, God is watching and He knows all things. Finally, we ought to do this because of the one day rewards that we will receive from God, both rewards here on earth, and also forever rewards in Glory!
This passage is directly applicable to financial stewardship, but it is also applicable in a more general sense of ‘stewardship’. God has sovereignly blessed every believer with certain talents and gifts. Some have many talents, and others have little. Some have many gifts and resources, and others have little. But either way, God has directed us to put them to work in a profitable way. We are not to sit by and be passive. We must be proactive so that we can put our talents and gifts to good work for the Kingdom’s sake. There are way too many Christians that sit back and try to coast through the Christian life without putting any of their talents and gifts to work. What does Jesus say will happen to a ‘worthless servant’? They are cast into outer darkness. Therefore, because of God’s goodness in our lives, we must strive to serve him actively, put our talents and gifts to good use, and be worthwhile servants so that we can help meet the greatest need that the world has today; the Gospel.
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