Many of us have heard the parable of the talents written in Matthew 25. The story goes like this: there was a master with three slaves. The master, leaving for a long journey, entrusted each of his slaves with a certain number of talents (money). Two of the slaves worked to increase the amount before their master returned, and one slave fearfully buried his talent so as to not lose it. When the master returned, he commended the two slaves who had wisely increased the amount, and gave them more money to steward as well. When the master came to the third slave, he strongly rebuked him for simply burying his talent, and threw him out.
This parable is crucial to the point we need to consider today. But before we dive in, let’s review the 4 Principles of Stewardship:
- God owns everything, you own nothing.
- God entrusts you with everything you have.
- You can either increase or diminish what God has given you; God wants you to increase it.
- You can be called into account at any time, and it may be today.
With the understanding that what we have belongs to God, and that He has entrusted (charged, invested with a responsibility) us with these things, let’s focus in on the next principle: you can either increase or diminish what God has given you; God wants you to increase it.
Looking to the parable from Matthew 25, we see the story begin as the master entrusts the talents to his slaves, “to one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.” (v. 15) Note that the master gave to each slave according to his own ability. We can trust that God will never give us more than we can responsibly handle to His glory.
Next, we see the response of the three slaves: “Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.” (v. 16-18) Note that the first slave acted immediately to increase what his master had entrusted to him, and the second slave did so in the same manner. These two slaves were concerned for their master’s estate, and their goal was to please their master above all else.
When the master returned, the first two slaves were able to present him with the increased amount of talents, to which the master replied, “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (v. 21, 23) Yet, when the master came to the third slave, the slave explained his approach, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground.” (v. 24-25) The master replied by calling his third slave a “wicked and lazy slave” and throwing him out into the “outer darkness” (v. 26, 30).
Each slave had a choice. The first two were focused only on pleasing their master and building his estate. The third slave chose to act on his fear and desire for self-protection. He chose to look out for his own interests, instead of concerning himself with the interests of his master. It is the same for us today! We have a choice. God has placed people, possessions, and situations in front of each of us that we are to steward wisely. God has entrusted us with everything we have, and He is calling for us to increase it to His glory. Notice that there is no middle ground; we can either increase what He has entrusted to us, or we can diminish it, and God is not okay with indifference toward this responsibility. We are called to seek to build His estate – His kingdom – above all else, and within this calling He promises that we will experience the “joy of the Master.”