Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 19, 2004
Stewardship in the Christian life
We must make good use of our talents
The Shepherd Speaks
By ARCHBISHOP THOMAS COLLINS
The theme of stewardship is basic in our Christian faith. A steward is a servant who is entrusted with the goods of the master. It is the steward's responsibility to be faithful, and to put to good use the property entrusted to him.
Each of us spends a brief time in this life, preparing for our eternal life with God. While we are here, we receive everything from God, even life itself, and are asked to make good use of what we have received. We are invited by God to be good stewards of his gifts.
In the Gospels we find several references to the spirit of stewardship. We are reminded that stewardship is inseparable from responsibility. We ultimately will be held to account for the way in which we use what God gives us.
Our Lord gives a warning in Luke 12:41-48. He reminds us that we are like stewards who are placed in charge of the household while the master is away. "Who, then, is the wise and trustworthy steward whom the master will place over his household to give them at the proper time their allowance of food? Blessed that servant if his master's arrival finds him doing just that."
But if the servant abuses his master's trust, saying "'My master is taking his time coming' and sets about beating the men-servants and the servant-girls, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know."
The prospect of the return of the master should fill Christians with joy: we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ. But his coming, at the moment of our death, will be a time in which we are called to account for our stewardship of his gifts during our passage through this life.
In the most famous stewardship parable, in Matthew 25: 14-30 (see also Luke 19: 11-27), three servants are entrusted with great sums of money, and are then assessed by the master when he returns, on the basis of how they made use of the "talents" of money they had received.
The ancient sum of money used in the parable, the "talent," has now become for us the term for any human skill or "gift" that we have a responsibility to develop, as did the servants who are praised in the parable.
A faithful steward, now as then, needs to make good use of his or her talents. Stewardship calls for creativity and boldness.
Each of us has enormous potential, but few things are sadder than to hear at the end of a person's life: "That person had a lot of potential." We are meant, as good stewards, to use God's gift fruitfully and creatively, so that with true gratitude for what we have received we may return God's gifts to him with increase.
If we truly have the spirit of stewardship - the "attitude of gratitude" - we will not let God's gifts go to waste, and we will not selfishly cling to them, but use them generously to serve others. That is the point of stewardship.
The secret of life is to recognize our state of dependency upon the providence of God. We do not ultimately own or control the time, talent, or treasure with which we are blessed by God during our short sojourn on this earth. Everything is a gift.
Even in the first chapters of the Bible we see the theme of stewardship made clear. Man and woman are entrusted by God with responsibility for creation. They do not own the Garden of Eden, but have responsibility for it, and are given authority over it. But they want to control everything in the garden, and forget that they are simply stewards of God's creation, and so are banished. They were deceived by the illusion of self-sufficiency.
As we enter into a conscious effort to develop more fully within our archdiocese the spirit of stewardship, each of us is invited to examine how we make use of the abundant gifts which we have received. Do we bury them away, or cling to them, or do we thank God for them and share them generously?
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