Circumspect stewardship

My wife and I were playing Scrabble with the kids over the holidays. As the game progressed, my son kept grumbling about the quality of his tiles. He kept wishing for tiles he didn’t have and blaming his poor scores on the lack of those tiles. I couldn’t tell him off for complaining because I recognised myself in his behaviour. How often do I complain about the hand I was dealt in life? Yes, I didn’t get to choose the circumstances of my birth or many aspects of my upbringing, but that’s life. For many, those circumstances are debilitating, but for some of us, they aren’t as limiting as we frequently imagine them to be.

It’s true to experience that there’s no version of reality where the circumstances of birth and upbringing are the same for all of us. Therefore, your lot will be better and worse than others. Like the game of Scrabble, you don’t get to cherry-pick your seven tiles. Every time you pick new tiles, there’ll either be desirable or undesirable. But, a good player always maximises their hand. In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus gives us a parable of three stewards given varying sums of money (talents) to manage in their master’s absence. The stewards were equipped and given a purpose. The master decided how much each steward received, and no one received more than he could handle. When he returned, the master asked the stewards to provide an account of the talents entrusted to them.

The talents in this parable could be analogous to the hand we’ve been dealt in life. We’re all equipped and given a purpose by Jesus, and He’ll judge us on what we do with the talents entrusted to us, just like the stewards. If the steward who received five talents only made two additional talents, he probably wouldn’t have received the same commendation as the steward who doubled the two talents given to him. Many of us often behave like my son, but he has an excuse [Proverbs 22:15]; he’s a child. However, like that third steward, we’ll find that excuses don’t absolve us of consequences. As adults, rather than grumble about what life isn’t, maybe we should approach reality as it is. The start of a new year is a great time to review what talents the master has given us, they might be more valuable than we think [Exodus 4:2].

My son and I were studying Abraham’s life recently. When we got to the end, tucked into Genesis 25 is a glorious verse summing up his life: “… Abraham died at a good old age, satisfied and satiated with life…” [Genesis 25:8 AMP]. What an epitaph! I told my son that’s the epitaph I want when my time is up. However, I recognise that won’t just happen because passivity doesn’t yield a life as rewarding as Abraham’s. Like each one of us, I’ve been dealt a hand by God (He consciously chose where, how, when and to whom I was born, the circumstances of my upbringing, and the talents and abilities I now possess). He’s also numbered my days [Psalm 139:16]. What I do with what I’ve been given, not what I wish I had, will determine my epitaph, and whether I hear: “…well done, good and faithful steward…” when it’s my time to give account.

Jesus’s parable leaves us with two types of stewards: good and bad. There’s no third category. One of the hallmarks of a good steward is being circumspect, especially about time [Ephesians 5:15-17]. Consequently, such a person possesses a heart of wisdom [Psalm 90:12]. It’s wise to live in the knowledge that there’s a Master to whom you’re accountable. Likewise, it’s wise to know that time is finite and shouldn’t be spent on foolish pursuits. It’s also wise to be self-aware, to identify your flaws and work on them. There’s much we don’t know about many aspects of life. Even as a husband and father, my primary areas of stewardship, there’s so much to learn. That’s equally true in other areas of my life as they pertain to my God-given purpose for which I must one day give account. So, I must remain humble and teachable.

Frankly, there are times I find stewardship overwhelming. That said, it’s worth stressing that God doesn’t expect us to figure out life without Him, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. Remembering that is always a relief for me. I know that on my own, there’s a high possibility of failure. But with God, I cannot fail because He cannot fail. Acceding to Him doesn’t mean I become an automaton either because God values my creativity with the responsibilities He’s given me. In Genesis 2 for example, after God gave Adam responsibility for Eden, He allowed him to name the animals [Genesis 2:15,19]. As with Adam, our creativity must exist within the context of obedience and submission to God. We must realise that God wants to hear our ideas, it’s why He gave us thinking faculties. He desires to accomplish His purposes in partnership with us. If we surrender our lives to Him completely, what we want and what He wants will converge. When that happens, we’ll live and die like Abraham.

What are your life goals, and what’s fuelling your ambitions for 2022? If your goals align with Jesus’s, which is to expand His kingdom on earth and bring His Father glory, you’ll have His support [Matthew 28:20]. Bolstered by this assurance, we must be strong and courageous, doing everything possible to abide by God’s word; studying it, speaking it, meditating on it and doing what it says. Then we’ll make our way prosperous and successful [Joshua 1:3-9].

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