A Steward or Owner

Not so long ago I found myself in Minnesota, enjoying the blessing of being with family and friends for a short time. We were given a vehicle to use since we didn’t have our own. While driving, I often thought about the time that would come when I would need to return the vehicle to its owner. I knew that I wanted to be very careful when driving, especially with the snowy and icy roads, so that I could return the van in the same good condition that I received it. I also planned to wash it, clean it and fill it with gas so the owner would be pleased when I returned it. When the return date came, I was very pleased to return a van that had been well taken care of. I was blessed to be able to stay out of the ditches, out of the paths of other vehicles, and have no deer imprints on the hood.

I am also aware of another return date that is coming up for me. I’m not sure when this one will be, but I do know it is coming. On that day, I will need to give account of my life before God. Something that is often hard to remember is that my life is not my own. Living in a world where everyone believes that they have rights and are full owners of their own life, makes it easy for that mentality to slip into the Church. We as Christians get the idea that it is our life – we just need to live it for God. “I’ll give God a few years in mission work, or help with relief work after a storm, etc.” But that is a very worldly mentality! We cannot be followers of Christ without laying down our life. It is not my life – I am a steward, not an owner.

In Matthew 25, Jesus gives us the parable of the talents. The first two men were good and faithful servants – being good stewards of their master’s goods. The third man, however, was called a wicked and slothful servant. What was the cause for such a harsh term for this man? He didn’t lose or waste his master’s money. He returned it to his master on time. Just the fact that he returned the money upon his master’s return should have earned the man some grace – he understood that he was just a steward and not an owner. Yet, no grace was given. He was a wicked and unprofitable servant. Why?

This man did nothing with what the master had given him. Yes, the master didn’t give him much, but the amount wasn’t the issue. What he did with what he had was the issue. In fact, it seems that if he would have simply put the money in the bank and collected a little interest the master would have been okay with it. Jesus began this parable by stating “the kingdom of heaven is as…” showing that this is a picture of what God’s Kingdom is like. That means that you and I are like the three men in this parable. We have all been given gifts, talents, abilities, possessions, or whatever you want to call them. The reason for these being given to us is for the Kingdom of God – not our own pleasure! That means that everything that I have isn’t really mine. It is a gift from God that I will give an account for one day.

Let’s look at what we as North American Anabaptist have been given. Most of us have: food in our refrigerator, clothes on our back, a roof over our head and a place to sleep – which makes us richer than 75 percent of this world. Most of us also have money in the bank, in our wallet, and some spare change in a jar – which makes us the top eight percent of the world’s wealthy. The fact that you can read this article means that you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world who cannot read anything at all. We have the Biblical knowledge, training and resources to take the Gospel of Jesus to the whole world.

Yet we seem to find ways to justify consuming these blessings on our own lives. And what is the result? – A mentality that if we maintain what is our own, we have succeeded. An unspoken standard is “If I remain faithful to God until I die, that is enough”. Or “If I raise my family for God, or keep those in my church, I have been a faithful steward”. Yes, each of these are a very important part of being a faithful steward, but the third man in the parable maintained what was given him and he was called a wicked and unprofitable servant! Where does that leave us?

What is the remedy? Remember that we are not owners of our life or what we have – we are simply stewards. When we view our lives as belonging to God and not us, we will go where, do what, and live how He says. The result of that kind of living will not just be one of maintaining or keeping what we have, but bringing an increase to the Kingdom of God for His honor and glory. To which we will receive the words “Well done though good and faithful servant”.

Which one of these men are you and I like – the faithful servants, or the wicked and unprofitable servant?

Rick Rhodes, IGo Instructor (I Witness News/Spring 2008)

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