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Matthew 25:14-30

Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.


“Blessed are the Faithful Stewards”

I want to start with something funny. I heard about this boy who attended a Sunday worship service with his parents. In the church the little boy watched as the ushers passed the offering plate. When they neared the pew where he sat, the youngster piped up so that everyone could hear. “Don’t pay for me, Daddy. I’m under five.”

We laughed at the funny story together. But, some still misunderstand about offering and tithes. After talking with our church leadership, we will keep February as “the Stewardship Month.” While some of you may know about “Stewardship” clearly, some of you don’t. Therefore, I will talk about “the stewardship of God” in February for four weeks.

Today, as the first session, I want to talk about the meaning of steward/stewardship. The word “Steward” comes from “oikonomos” in Greek, which is a component word, “Oikos” (house) and “nemein” (manage). It has the same root as the word “economy.” The word “steward” means an economic manager who takes care of whole house affairs. For these reasons, when we talk or hear about stewardship, money (offering), tithing, or apportionment comes to mind first. That being said, we can find a more profound meaning of steward in the biblical word. In the scriptures, “oikonomos” sometimes translated to “manager” (Luke 16:1-13; Matthew 20:8), steward (Luke 8:3), slaves or servants (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:13). These words’ common points are that the Master entrusted them with his property with authority to manage them. That is, the steward is the manager of the property with authority. In other words, the steward of God is the manager of God’s property. Stewardship is based on our confession that God is the owner of all creation, including ourselves, family, people, and creation. Furthermore, as our abilities, opportunities (time), talents, skills, ideas, and gifts are from God, we are the steward for all gifts and skills.

Today’s Scripture is about the parable of talent. Some scholars interpret the talent in our language to mean “natural aptitude, skill, gifts or abilities that people have.” In the parable story, a man plans to go on a journey, and called his slaves and “entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.” As we see the man (Master) entrusted his slaves with his property, we guess the slaves mean the stewards. The word “talent” in this story was a weight, and its value depended on whether the object weighed was copper, silver, or gold. Some scholar says, “One talent was worth more than a thousand dollars.” In the Scripture, talents were given to several stewards according to their “abilities.” We may interpret the talents as “opportunities.” And in the parable, each steward is given opportunity according to their ability and is expected to serve faithfully, which means that the steward has accountability.

As we see, two of them respectively took a risk and applied themselves actively in their responsibility. But, the unfaithful steward thought only of himself and his security, risked nothing, and achieved nothing. On the Master’s return, there is an accounting from each. The two stewards, representing faithful disciples, had transformed privilege into action. And the Master said, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave. You have been trustworthy in a few things; I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your Master.” However, the one who didn’t take any risk and action was judged according to his conduct. Furthermore, everything has been taken away, even his one talent. The conclusion of the parable story is that “for to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away” (v.29).

What did you learn from this parable story. I learned that the more we use our abilities/talents, the more we increase our abilities/talents; the less we use our abilities, the less we increase our abilities, and we may even lose all our abilities. What about money? The more we use money, the more we gain money. Well, you may say, how does it affect money? Well, it depends on how you use your money. If we use your money for God’s mission work, you may gain more money to do so if God is pleased with you. Let us think about what abilities or what opportunities we have received from God and how we manage our opportunities and abilities. I hope that when Jesus our Lord is back, we may hear, “Well done, my faithful steward!”

Its first origin we can find is from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God’s first stewardship order was toward Adam and Eve, “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Genesis1:27-28). As God is the creator and owner of all creatures, God gave Adam and Eve the authority to manage all creation. Humankind is the steward of all creation. We are the steward of all creation to manage well. We have to manage water, nature, animals, mountains, hills, rivers, lakes, oceans, fish, and birds. If you feed birds, you did well, and are the steward. You are also the faithful steward if you take care of nature, like gardening, collecting recycled materials, and conserving water.

Some of you have more talents like leadership. The steward of leadership is like Moses, who led God’s people and judged right and wrong among the people’s affairs according to God’s calling. The steward is like the minister to lead God’s people in spirit. God entrusted Moses with His people and gave him the authority to lead His people. However, good leadership serves God’s people humbly like Jesus served his people. Jesus said, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Through incarnation in the flesh, he came into the world humbly and served the people. Jesus showed us how to live as a servant minister in the world.

The United Methodists believe that all baptized Christians are called “ministers” to servant ministry of the church in the world. The servant ministry is from the biblical term “Diakonia,” which means “to serve one another in the body of Christ.” The term is used at several parts in Scripture; Martha’s “preparing at the table” (Luke10:40), Women “distribution of food” in the early church (Acts 6:1), “devoted themselves to the service of the saints” with materials, time, food and so on (1 Corinthians 16:15). Therefore, the term “Diakonia” means a commitment to serve others in the church’s servant ministry.  This includes the UMW and UMM’s activities, Mission Work, Food Pantry ministry, coffee or food fellowship, and many other tasks for the church and our neighbors.

Stewardship requires that we dedicate ourselves to be faithful servants living in our everyday lives as Jesus served through his daily encounters with God’s people. Therefore, the role of stewardship means economic management and managing ourselves our whole life, including our time, opportunities, gifts (or talents), having good relationships with people, and all creation. No one can avoid being the steward of God. According to our abilities, God has entrusted each of us to serve God’s people like our families and loved ones; nature like water, mountains, birds and animals, and opportunity, time, talents and skills. Let us be the faithful stewards. Thanks be to God. Amen!