Principles of Stewardship
(Preached at Tuguegarao Central UMC)
When I was first asked to bring the Good news this Sunday, I asked Pastor Boni if I can focus about stewardship of the body, how to maintain good health, because I am a doctor. The pastor said “can you instead preach on the biblical principles on stewardship.” We are stewards of many things, not only our bodies, but also of our faith, our relationships to one another and even our health. Because these are all given by God. Something that we need to take care of. But I was tasked to preach on God's word about stewardship on resources and possessions. He asked me to focus on the biblical principles about these. And so let us prepare our hearts and minds as we listen to the Word of God. Let us pray…
Today is Laity Sunday. In other churches, we are reminded of the role the lay people play in church. The Methodist church grew over the years because of the laity movement. Today is also Harris Memorial College Sunday. Other churches, like ours, celebrate this day to support the ministry of this institution in molding young people into better Christians. Today is also Stewardship month. Like the other celebrations, we have reasons in celebrating this event. We celebrate stewardship month to remind us of our responsibilities as Christians. But do we practice Christian stewardship only during stewardship month?
Even though we only have stewardship month once a year, we should be Christian stewards’ everyday of our lives. We should remember to be Christian stewards in every activity that we do. From the moment we wake up, to the things we do during the day, when we eat, or work until we go to sleep. Our daily activities should be guided by the knowledge that we are Christian stewards. Do we know what it means to be a Christian steward?
The Gospel of Luke is a book full of stories about the stewardship, the kingdom of God and what it means to be stewards. One of the stories about that is our Gospel lesson for today. It tells the parable of servants who were entrusted by their master of his possessions. From this parable, we can learn what the Bible teaches us about the principles of Christian stewardship. There are several principles that we can learn, and today we will be highlighting seven of them.
1. Ownership - It is not yours, it is Gods (faith that is).
In verse 13, the master called for his ten servants and gave them each ten minas. Or equivalent to 3 months of salary. The average 3 month salary for a househelp here is Php 7500 to 9000. So the servants were given money to invest until the master comes back. So who owns the money? It is the master. Thus, as stewards, it is our Lord and Master who owns what we have now. The Bible is very clear on this. Even from the very beginning of the world, all the way back to Genesis, to the creation story, chapter 1 verse 1. In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And God made the animals in the field, the fishes in the sea and the birds in the sky. Even man and woman are God's creation. Sometimes, I hear some Christians say that we are –co-creators. I don’t know what they mean. We are not creators. We are creatures. We are all created by God and everything else. And that means, everything here on this earth is God’s property.
2. Provision – God provides us; we do not need more because his grace is sufficient and he provides with equal opportunities
Still on verse 13, the master gave them ten minas. Something was given to all the servants for their custody. Other pastors have called this the allocation. Two things to note here: Everyone was provided with talents and resources. So do not say that you do not have talents because God provides us with everything we need. We do not need for more. Yet our human frailty always leads us not to be content as if we still lack something. But God provides and God provides us with enough. You see, the parable here in Luke is similar to the parable in Matthew about the master and the talents. But here in the provision lies the difference. In Matthew, the servants were given different talents. One servant had more talent than the others. While in the parable in Luke, all the ten servants received the same amount of minas. Biblical commentators have noted that the equal gift is the same gift and opportunity that we receive from God. We are all given resources and equal chances of successfully growing it. And what God provides for us is enough for our needs.
3. Obedience - use the gift according to God’s desire
We continue in verse 13, and the master said “Do business with this until I come back.” There are two points that is important to note in this verse. First is the instruction to use the resource. It is clear that the master wants the servants to do something with the minas that he entrusted them. Second, we are given a free will to how to use it. If we look clearly, he did not specify what kind of business the workers should do with it. Any business will probably do. This gives the workers freedom to choose how to spend the minas. That is why other pastors call this the principle of Freedom. This is an important principle for us stewards of God. We are given the liberty to choose how to use the resources that God has given us. However, John Wesley was quick to point out that as Christians our freedom is limited to obeying Gods will. Although we are given instructions to use Gods resources, the ways and how to use it is left to our own conscience. We are not God’s robots. We can choose freely. In the parable, the first servant used it in a way that allowed him to gain 10x more than the original pounds. The other servant traded the pounds and used it differently than the other servant that allowed him to gain 5x more than the original. The third one did not do anything and he gained nothing. Take note here of what the master said in verse 22, “I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave.” He said wicked, or in other words, immoral or sinful. The servant who did not use the gifts given to them was called sinful. Why? For the simple reason that he disobeyed God’s instructions. God said, do business with these and he did not obey the instruction. As stewards of God, we must listen to God’s instructions and OBEY.
4. Profitability - the gift should bear fruit for God (do not keep it to yourself)
Another important principle in stewardship is profitability. Now we cannot run away from this. It is not enough that we did something with the resources that God has given us. It is not enough to utilize it. It should bear fruit. In verses 14 to 21, we see the different outcomes of the businesses that the servants did with their resources. Some of them profited more than the other. What does it mean to be profitable? In the parable, the important point is that the resources bear fruit FOR GOD. Profitable does not mean you earn ten fold or five-fold. The amount of gain is not important. It is God’s discretion how he rewards us. What is important for God is that we have gained something FOR GOD and not for ourselves. In the parable, whatever the servants gained from the resources they have, they gave it ALL back to God. After they have returned it, then they were given corresponding rewards. The servants profit was not the profit from the gifts from the master but another gift from the master after they have returned the profit of resources to God. In our lives, we often think that the profits we gained from the gifts and resources from God is already the reward we “deserve.” That is why we no longer give it back to God. Or even if we give back, we give with a heavy heart because we think that it is ours already. We always forget that the money was not ours in the first place.
5. Accountability – we are answerable to God (need to be responsible for our actions)
In verse 15, the master came back from his journey and called all his servants. He then asked them how they did with the resources that he has given them. He was asking them to account for their actions. In the end, this is where it will all boil down. When the great master will come back, he will call us one by one and we will be asked, “What did you do with the resources I have entrusted to you?” this is something we should never forget. John Wesley reminded us that our job as stewards is numbered. There will come a time when we will no longer be stewards. That is the time when God will call all of us and we have to account for the actions and decisions we have done.
6. Application - use it for God (there is no indifference)
In science, we have what we call the law of use and disuse. If you do not use your muscles, it will deteriorate and become small. If you do not use your car for a long time, it will just rust and deteriorate over time. Same as in the parable, if we do not use the gifts from God it will be gone. It will be taken away from us and given to the one using it. But that is not all. The second part of the phrase is more important. John Wesley reminded us that when we apply or use the resources of God, either we use it for God or not. There is nothing in between. It is either we use our time, talents and treasures for the glory of God, for increasing our knowledge of God, in sharing the love of God, or not. And again, we have to be accountable to that.
7. Compensation – you will be rewarded accordingly
God has graciously compensated the faithful servants. The two servants who used their minas and resources properly were given extra rewards by God. Not only that, they were also commended for their efforts. This is our goal in life, to be like the other two servants. These two servants obeyed the six other principles. They recognized that they are not the owner of the minas. They were satisfied with the provisions provided to them by their master. They used their freedom wisely for the benefit of increasing the minas. They were productive with what they did. They were accountable for their actions. They did not run away from the consequence of their decisions. They used their resources and because of all that, they were compensated greatly. On the other hand, the wicked servant was punished.
This stewardship month, let us be reminded of our role as Christian stewards. The good news my dear brothers and sisters is that there is still time. We can still do something with the resources that God has entrusted us. Let us be faithful stewards from now on and onwards until our Lord and Master come back again. And so when God will call us to make an account of the resources he has entrusted us, God will say to us, “Well done, by good and faithful servant.”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1. Diaz, Ziegfred. Principles of Stewardship. From www.zdiaz.com (Accessed Oct 12, 2010)
2. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary. Luke 19. From jfb.biblecommenter.com (Accessed Oct 12, 2010)
3. Matthew Henry’s Commentary. Luke 19:11-27. From www.christnotes.org (Accessed Oct 12, 2010)
4. Patterson. Richard. The Use of Three in the Bible. From http://bible.org (Accessed Oct 13, 2010)
5. Warren, Rick. How to Invest Your Life. From www.preaching.com (Accessed Oct 12, 2010)
6. Wesley, John. The Good Steward. Sermon 51. From www.new.gbgm-umc.org (Accessed Oct 12, 2010)