“Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?
“Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
“Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.” – Luke 12:42-44
The text is a familiar one. We all know that we are stewards. The life that we have is given us by the Lord. And we all profess to believe that the things we call our own are gifts from the Lord. This is true not alone of material goods but also of all our mental and spiritual possessions. The Lord has a purpose for us in placing us in this world. The general truth represented by this parable is evident as soon as we give any thought to it.
A steward is one who has charge of the possessions of his lord or master. He has no ownership in the possessions entrusted to him. And for him to imagine or feel himself to be the owner would be a violation of his trust. This parable is a Divine representation of the truth in regard to everything that makes up our existence. Our life is sustained by a constant inflow of life from the Lord, and every least thing that we receive or possess – spiritual, intellectual or material – that is of any real value to us is made possible to us by the Lord. And it is given or entrusted to us to be used in carrying out the Lord’s purposes.
To feel that our abilities and possessions are ours and that we are not responsible to the Lord for their use is in its essence evil. It involves an altogether different state of mind in regard to the Lord and affects all our relations to Him. The fact that we are stewards is one of the central truths of regeneration, and upon our acceptance of it depends our progress in spiritual life.
Children should be taught this truth early in life. It is so clear that the simplest mind can comprehend it. Every good thing, whether spiritual or material, is from the Lord. Considering our possessions as our own develops our selfhood, our feeling of self-sufficiency and independence of the Lord. We should know rather that all things come to us as a reminder of His love and care for us. When so received they become a source of genuine satisfaction, but so far as we think of these things as our own, they cease to be a source of true happiness and can give us at most only a selfish delight. They may even bring us anxiety, for they may at any time be taken from us by what we call the turn of fortune, and all material possessions are altogether taken away from us when we pass from this life into the other.
The Lord entrusts to each one of us what He sees it is best that we should have, and of these He gives us the management and disposition. To all appearance they are our own, and that they are actually so is the almost universal belief in the world. It is hard for many to give up the feeling of absolute ownership; yet unless this feeling is put away, we can be neither faithful nor wise stewards.
Our text begins, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward?” To become faithful and wise stewards is the purpose of life. To become faithful and wise we need to know something of the Lord’s purposes for us and strive to do as He would have us do, that we may justly represent and bear witness of Him and not do things of which we know He would not approve. So shall we come to see how little wisdom we have of ourselves and to realize that there is no wisdom except the wisdom of the Lord which can make us wise stewards. And if we look to Him, and seek to learn and do His will, we shall be protected from all serious error and shall see more and more clearly the way of life. Particularly shall we see the folly of selfish and worldly aims and motives.
Each one of us is given particular powers. To some the Lord gives intellectual ability or artistic skill, to some business ability, to some mechanical skill, to some physical strength, to most of us a measure of more than one of these, and other powers of mind and body by which we can make ourselves useful in the world. Would that everyone might realize the power for good that lies in these gifts! It is the commonest of excuses that if only we had a little more, we could do many useful things that we are now unable to do. Whenever any such thought enters our minds, we should ask ourselves whether we are employing all the capacities, powers, and resources that we now have as wisely and fully as we might. Only if the answer is affirmative can we rightly consider what we should do with greater possessions. If we are unfaithful with the little that has been given us, how foolish it is for us to imagine that we should be more faithful or more wise with greater opportunities and possessions!
“Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?” To each is committed not a single duty or use but a whole household of duties. The word translated “household” in this parable means not a single family but a community, such as would constitute a very large estate and would comprehend all the trades necessary to domestic life. Just so everyone’s obligations comprise a whole community of interests and duties. There is first one’s particular occupation, by which he serves the community and which is more or less related to a multitude of other uses. Then there are the uses that pertain to the support, training, and education of the family. There are social and civic obligations and the duty of working for the purification of political life. Then all should share in the effort to correct social evils and disorders, and work toward educating and shaping public sentiment.
Over such a household of duties and interests we are each of us appointed, and we should give to each duty and interest its proper proportion of our time and thought and resources. And above all we should regard the spiritual welfare of the community as basic to any real progress or security.
Everyone who mingles with his fellow men finds himself compelled to do many things. Society gives its approval to those who take upon themselves their share of the burdens of society, and withholds its approval of those who shirk. Whoever desires, therefore, the approval of his fellow men must give his attention in some degree to these demands. He may be utterly lacking in patriotic or charitable feeling or regard for religion, yet if he shirks these duties, he will suffer the loss of public approval.
But there is a difference between the natural man and the spiritual man, a difference in the motives and principles by which he is governed. The natural man is governed primarily by self-interest. He bestows his time, thought, and money where he is likely to get the amplest return in worldly approval and self-satisfaction. If he wishes to be thought public-spirited, he will give of his time and means to public projects. If he wishes to be thought religious, he will give to the church. In this way men who are selfish are led to do external good works. But there is no real stewardship here. For stewardship begins in the recognition of the fact that we are not owners, that it is not our will that is to be done but our Father’s will. It is the Lord’s work that we are put here to do and it is only in the light of His wisdom and in forgetfulness of self that we can do His work.
In the measure that we learn His will and seek to do it, we become faithful and wise stewards. True wisdom comes from the Lord and only from the Lord. And it can be given only to those who look to Him for it. To desire wisdom that others may think us wise, to desire wisdom for our own credit does not open our minds to receive it. But to desire above all things to live wisely and to seek heavenly wisdom as our guide to doing the right thing does open our minds to receive it. There is no limit to what the Lord wishes to give us. As we become faithful and wise stewards, not only is our happiness deepened and increased but there is an equal increase of wisdom.
This parable was spoken to teach us a fundamental law of life. Being as useful as we can from day to day in the field of labor and duty which the Lord has provided for us is the outward form of heavenly life, the only foundation on which the heavenly life can rest, and consequently the only way of living into which heavenly blessedness and peace can flow.
“Blessed is that servant whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
“Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.”