This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is about the eternal significance of being good stewards, from Matthew 25:14-28.
14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, [a] each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ 21 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!’ 22 The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’ 23 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!’ 24 Then the man who had received one bag of gold 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. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ 26 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? 27 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. 28 So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “
Have you ever thought that since money and possessions will be all destroyed in the apocalypse, how we handle these temporary things of money and possessions is of little significance? Do we sometimes think that God is so busy with more important things, that he isn’t watching how we manage the little details of life? Does it really matter if I overspend, even if a little? Investing money is too complicated, so many people are discouraged and don’t take the time to learn how to manage it well. Maybe we think God has given us money to enjoy and spend, and we are accountable only to ourselves or our spouses.
To examine these verses more closely, it might be helpful to modernize the parable, to see perhaps what God thinks about this. For example, let’s say you are leaving the country on an extended mission trip, but when you return you will need the money you have accumulated in an IRA for your retirement. You have saved a nice sum of $700,000 in your IRA and want it to grow nicely while you are away. You have three investment advisers you have worked with, and you want to diversify who invests for you. You split up the $700,000 between them according to their investment abilities. The first one you have worked with a long time, and you know he usually does a good job, so you give him $500,000 to invest. The second one is not quite as experienced but has done a good job a couple of times before for you, so you give her $200,000 to invest. The last one is fairly new in the investment world, but is showing promise, and you want to give her the opportunity to invest for you too, so you give her $100,000.
When you return from the long trip, one of the first things you do, as you are looking forward to retirement, is to meet with all of your investment advisers. You meet with the first one; he invested in good businesses, and he doubled your money, from $500,000 to $1,000,000. You tell him how happy you are with him, so you invite him to join you on several of your amazing vacations for free. You invite him to help manage your other businesses, and you pay him quite nicely to do so. You have confidence in him, since while you were away and no one was watching, he didn’t squander your money but took his job seriously.The second one was just as successful at doubling your money from $200,000 to $400,000, and you reward her the same as the first.
However, the last one was fearful, full of worry. She was also lazy and had evil intentions. She didn’t want to take risks, so she buried the gold in the ground so she could at least give it back when you returned. She was so afraid that she didn’t even trust the banks to hold the money and earn interest. Even though she gives your $100,000 back, you aren’t so happy with this adviser, and you don’t give her any money to manage or invest, nor do you invite her to go on those amazing vacations with you and the other two advisers.
If you were the client, now that you have $1,500,000 to invest, would you want to give any of that now to the third adviser? God’s economy is kind of the same. It seems he considers all that he gives us as small things, probably in comparison to the eternal kingdom that we will help manage. Those who have managed the few things we have now will be entrusted with that responsibility. Jesus is talking about the coming kingdom here, but this could in part be applied to our lives today, since through Jesus the kingdom is breaking forth now into this world. Not only does our stewardship of the things he entrusts to us have eternal significance, but I believe those who are good at managing are often blessed now, not just in the coming Kingdom.
*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in his selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the twentieth post in this series.