By Bob Walton
Some of the most simple, yet most profound words ever uttered were those by Jesus in the parables. In these short, simple lessons, Jesus often taught on man’s relationship to his material possessions. Thus we wish to study three of these parables that call attention to this important matter of my relationship to my material possessions.
First of all, we are taught that “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof” (Psa. 24:1); that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights . . . ” (James 1:17). Thus, we are all stewards of God; we are simply “in charge” of those things which really belong to God, but have been given to us (by His grace) to use. Of course this should always be the beginning place of our thoughts concerning our material possessions. And how good God has been to each of us! We all have so many things to enjoy; more than any nation on earth, past or present. It is because of the abundance of these material possessions that solemnity is needed in deciding how we are to use them.
Jesus, in his teachings gives four different illustrations of what we can do with our goods as stewards of God.
First of all, the Master Teacher illustrates in the story of the prodigal son the possibility of wasting our goods. The young man of whom Jesus spoke (Luke 15:11-24) “wasted his goods with riotous living” (v. 13). So it is possible to simply waste that which we have. Whether it be money or talent, so many of us use them on “the things of this life.” Oh no, we are not immoral people; we are not like the heathen who says, “Let us satisfy every desire.” We are good people, yet we use all our resources, time, and talents on “things” with no time nor resources left for the Lord. In so doing, we have our affections on “the things of this earth” (Col. 3:1-4); we waste our good on self.
A second failure as stewards can manifest itself in our hoarding our goods. “Oh no, I don’t waste my goods, they were too hard to come by,” one says. But unless we are careful, we then become as the rich farmer (Luke 12:15-21); we hoard our goods. Jesus never talked about the hypothetical nor the exceptional; he talked about the typical. And here is a very typical example of “many a man’s” relationship to his possessions. We cannot condemn the rich farmer’s honesty nor his success; we can only condemn his blindness and selfishness in relationship to his stewardship of his material possessions. He was a success in the eyes of men; he was a fool in God’s sight. He was foolish because he did not realize that “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15). And so it is when all that I have becomes “mine” and God is left out of my plans.
A third situation, somewhat like the one above, yet different in many respects, is the story of Jesus of the one talent man who hid his talent (Matt. 25:14-30). This man’s defense was, “I haven’t embezzled, I haven’t squandered nor wasted, I haven’t used for self; I haven’t done anything with it! His was a defensive excuse. But the import of this parable was to teach that what we have, we must use for the Lord. And the retribution for the man who hid his talent should show the futility of such action; “thou wicked and slothful servant” (Matt. 25:26) was the pronouncement of the Lord on this man. But worst of all, this unprofitable servant was cast into “outer darkness” (Matt. 25:30) for his neglect in using that which he had.
But there is still another thing (and a very, very important one) which we can do with the stewardship of our possessions; we can use them to the glory and honor of God. Such was the reckoning of the five and the two talent men (Matt. 25:14-30). “These talents were given us by our master to use; therefore we will use them” was their philosophy of life. And both men were commended for using what they had. By faithfully discharging their duty, their pronouncement was “well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter ye into the joy of thy lord” (Matt. 25:21-23).
From these brief stories told by the Master Teacher, let us first of all learn that the Lord is the giver; and He is indeed generous to every one of us today. And we need also to learn that with these manifold blessings comes opportunity and responsibility. And most of all, we need to always remember that our use, abuse, misuse, or disuse of our possessions will determine where we spend eternity.
Truth Magazine, XX:10, p. 9
March 4, 1976