What Do You Do With What You Have?

Luke 19:11-26

While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’ “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’ “ ‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’ “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’ “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’ “ ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’ “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. (Luke 19:11-26)

It’s the ultimate test for any of us. What do you do with what you have? Not what you would do with what you wish you had, or might have someday. But right here, right now - in your hands, in your bank account, in your stewardship. Good intentions and excuses don’t cut it… never have, as we learn from this parable in Luke 19. It’s a variation on the more familiar parable of the talents in Matthew 25, but with interesting and significant differences.

The parable begins within the context of the banquet at Zacchaeus’ house. And the reason for the telling of it is “because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once” (vs. 11). We don’t hear the eschatological discussion that must have been going on, but we know a little bit about the expectations that were around in that day. Even the disciples often asked Jesus, “are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” And as they drew closer and closer to Jerusalem this sense of Messianic arrival must have been so thick you could taste it. They could imagine that Jesus was on his way to the throne, that his arrival at the city gates would ignite a nation-wide uprising and God’s Messiah-King would ascend to rule Israel as in their glory days.

It was a common occurrence for a nobleman or provincial ruler to travel to Rome to receive official sanction as a vassal king by Caesar.

And it’s interesting that there was an historical situation of exactly that nature that had happened in Judea only a few years earlier with the death of Herod the Great and his son Archelaus who traveled to Rome to seek official sanction for his rule as King over Judea. And, in fact, a delegation of fifty citizens, representing 8,000 of their fellow Jews, traveled to Rome to protest his claim to the throne.

In this parable, a local nobleman makes such a trip, intending to return with even greater authority of rule. He selects ten of his servants to administer his financial affairs in his absence. The amount he entrusts to these stewards is a far lesser amount than in Matthew 25. Each talent of Matthew 25 equaled 60 minas. A mina was worth 100 drachmas (one drachma was the equivalent of a day’s wage of a common laborer). So, each steward was given the equivalent of about three month’s wages to oversee. Not a fortune, but a sizeable amount, nevertheless.

What would you do, if suddenly your boss called you in and handed you a check for $100,000 and said, “I’m headed to the corporate office for a while, I want you to show me what you’re made of”? You start to ask what he has in mind, but he walks you to the door and says, “You figure it out.” You spend the rest of the day at your desk staring at the check. It’s a lot of money, but not a lot of money. You can do some things with it, but not everything. You make a list of projects you’ve been thinking of and start sorting them out as to what might be the best choice. You look around and see that several other employees are sitting with that same bewildered look with the same check sitting in front of them.

The next morning, you show up at the office and the boss’ office is dark and the door is closed. His secretary is gone and it looks like you’re on your own. You roll up your sleeves and sit down and get to work. You start to make phone calls, hire contractors, schedule meetings and work on a time line for completion. As the days pass you start seeing your plan come together and things are happening.

You notice that the other employees with checks are busy at work also, laying out budgets and meeting with personnel. Most of them. One guy over in the corner has a worried look on his face. The check is still sitting there on his desk. Every time he picks up the phone, he quickly sets it down. He comes in later and leaves earlier. You can tell, he’s paralyzed with fear.

A month passes, and your project nears completion. It is a success and you’ve added value to your company. You start putting the finishing touches on your work and wrapping up the loose ends.

One morning, you show up at the office and the lights in the boss’ office are on and his secretary is at her desk. You have a note on your desk that you have an appointment with the boss at 9:00. You gather your materials, make copies and knock on the door. He calls you in and asks you to take a seat. You’re a little nervous, but confident. Your project has been right on budget and is making a profit. You’re ready.

He begins by telling you that his trip was successful. The trip to the corporate office was to select a new company CEO. He is now, not just the boss of your division, but the CEO of the company. He goes on to explain to you that he was given the authority to bring in his own staff of vice presidents over the various company divisions. That’s where the checks come in. “Show me what you’ve done.” You lay out your project and show him the details and finish with the projections for profit and growth in the coming months. He looks them over and smiles. “Way to go! I knew you had it in you. I’ve got just the place for you. Congratulations, you’re my new vice president over sales and marketing.”

You can hardly believe your ears. Vice president. Has a nice ring to it. Wait until you tell your wife.

Others of your fellow employees go in his office throughout the morning. They also come out with big smiles on their faces and a bounce in their steps. It’s a good day… but not for everyone.

The guy in the corner – you watch him head toward the office. His shoulders are slumped, his face is puffy. All he has in his hand is that same check he came out with a few weeks ago. As the door closes behind him, you hear the muffled words growing louder and more animated, “You knew that I was a hard man!?!... Give me your check… Get out…” The door opens and you watch this pitiful man drag himself to his desk where he starts packing his belongings into a box. It’s not a pretty sight.

Now, what does all this have to do with us? God has entrusted each of us with a stewardship. We have been given a share in his kingdom – not as employees, but as full shareholders with a stake in the success of God’s business in this world. Paul will write: For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again…. All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Cor 5:14-15,18-20)

In fact, every blessing that God pours into our lives is intended to spur us on to share those blessings with others. And through everything we have and are to bring glory to God and exalt his kingdom. And that is called stewardship.

Stewardship means nothing belongs to you – it is on loan from your master. Now he gives you the freedom to use it with your best judgment, but it ultimately belongs to him and he will call you to account for it.

But rather than the terror and misery it caused the one steward, it is intended to bring joy and thanksgiving to you as you realize that God has trusted you with the riches of his kingdom. And it is an awesome realization.

But as with any stewardship, it requires intention and forethought. If we lose sight of the fact that we are stewards and start thinking we are in business for ourselves, we’ll have a rude awakening when the master returns. And so we need to remind ourselves from time to time, that who we are and what we have is a gift from God to be used for him.

And so this morning, I want to spend a few minutes thinking how we might be good stewards and encourage each other as we think together. We’ll talk about three areas of stewardship: our money, our time and our talents.

Round Table discussions - three envelopes:

This morning, you have been given ten thousand dollars. There’s a catch – you can’t spend it on a new car or a vacation – you can only use it for God’s kingdom. You must decide how will you use it for God? Be creative, think of how you could do the most good and bring glory to God through it.

This morning you have been given one day a month to use for God. You need to decide how you will invest it. Would you do several different things or focus on one big effort? Where could you serve that would make a difference for God’s kingdom?

This morning you have been given a talent or a skill – the Bible calls it a gift. Paul writes, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (1 Cor 12:4-7) What is your gift or skill or talent and how can you use it for God? It may be something you are already doing, or something you’ve dreamed about doing. It may be a skill you already have or one that you would like to develop.

Recap

As I began, stewardship isn’t hypothetical, it is real, it is practical. What do you do with what you have? Not what you would do with what you wish you had, or might have someday. But right here, right now - in your hands, in your bank account, in your stewardship.

You might not have $10,000, but there is some amount with which you could bless God’s kingdom – how will you use it, how will you invest it?

You might not be able to carve out a full day every month to use for the Lord, but you could find a couple of hours – how will you use it, where will you invest it?

You do have a talent – every one of you. Peter writes, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10-11)

How will you use your gift to serve others and bring praise and glory to God?

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