Jesus and Stewardship

Spiritual life isn’t just about finding a safe hole to hide in. It is about moving out into the world and allowing our experience with God to yield results in other people’s lives.

Jesus told three parables, all of which have a bearing on this issue.

The ten bridesmaids and their stewardship. In the parable of the ten bridesmaids (or virgins) found in Matthew 25:1-13, the oil is not a gift; it must be purchased. In this case, the currency is not cold, hard cash but faith that buys the gift. The oil’s presence or absence has eternal consequences for the ten bridesmaids.

Notice, too, that the parable is about ten virgins, five foolish and five wise, rather than about five wise virgins and five foolish prostitutes. The reference to virgins is a symbol of purity. One could say that the fact that they are all virgins signifies a purity of religion. But what distinguishes the wise bridesmaids from the foolish ones is their actions. The wise virgins not only have faith, but a living faith. The wise virgins keep a reserve of oil, planning ahead. They are good stewards, or custodians, of the light they have been given.

In the light of day, it might be hard to tell the difference between the foolish and the wise virgins. But in the darkness, the difference between the lamps with oil and those without shines forth. Those without oil have no light or warmth to impart to others. A lamp without oil is useless; so, too, is a life without the Holy Spirit to inspire us to act as diligent stewards of all with which we’ve been entrusted.

The master and his property. The parable of the talents, found in verses 14–30, is the one you would expect to find in a presentation about stewardship, and more in-depth time will address it in another reading. For now, the most important point is that the property clearly belongs to the Master. He entrusts His servants with His property, but these are not gifts; He expects an account of His property, and its return, when He comes home from His trip.

Why is the Master so upset with the third servant who merely returned His Master’s property without improving it? Some truths about good stewardship are still just as evident in our society today as they were then. Careful stewardship is still usually rewarded with more property or resources to invest, whereas lack of stewardship is cause for the removal of the property or responsibilities that we have.

Spiritual life isn’t just about finding a safe hole to hide in. It is about moving out into the world and allowing our experience with God to yield results in other people’s lives.

The sheep and the goats. The story of the sheep and goats follows hard on the heels of these two parables, in verses 31-46. Have you ever thought of this parable in the context of stewardship? It is clear that the sheep and goats are both blessed with considerable material and temporal blessings. Neither the sheep nor the goats recognize how the use of these blessings has affected their King, but the King directly acknowledges their stewardship with regard to the poor, the suffering, the sick, and the oppressed in the world; and it has consequences of eternal death or life, as did the parable of the talents. Clearly God considers stewardship a life-and-death matter! Why do you suppose that is?

In each of Jesus’ parables we see one side of the larger stewardship issue, which is often discussed as the core to an understanding of tithing. In each case, we see people acting in a manner that shows them to be responsible or irresponsible. They plan things out, or they don’t. God isn’t after our money. He has all the money in the world. But He wants each of us to become a growing, maturing believer, with a clear understanding of how faith develops.

Stewardship enables us to grow into the fully mature Christians we have been promised we would become—and tithing is just one part of this process.*

* Adapted with permission from the iFollow Discipleship Resource, ©North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.

Star Icon
Popular Resources