Stewardship or Selfishness?

“And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.” -Luke 16:1-2

Nobody wants to get fired. Certainly nobody wants to lose their job over something they didn’t do. This steward was ‘ratted out’ to the boss, and it cost him his occupation. We’re not told whether it was a false accusation or a just one, but we do know he is no longer going to be a steward.

I believe I heard Dave Ramsey say that everyone will quit their job someday, either when you move on, when you retire, or when you DIE, so be ready for that day. This is absolutely true concerning the work of the church as well. Juvenal, a 1st century Roman poet, said, “The world was not big enough for Alexander the Great, but a coffin was.” The scripture says to be ready “that, when (not if) ye fail.” (Luke 16:9) Are you ready to quit?

Pastors and teachers often think it a sin to make a plan for after they leave. I’m not talking about a plan for them, so much, as a plan for their ministry. We seem to think that without being trained, without being asked, without being prepared, SOMEHOW the church survives. The Lord has a better plan:

“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” -2 Timothy 2:2

Christians, who should have the greatest understanding of servant-leadership, can be instead the most self-centered personalities to darken (literally) a church door. Rather than selfless servitude, we express prideful dependency. Here is how it sounds:

  • “When I am gone, nobody can take my place.” This is the first attitude that betrays a selfish heart. The truth is, God can use nothing and make something out of it. Why are YOU so indispensable?
  • “When I am gone, I am not liable for what happens.” This is a crutch for many who want authority without being responsible. I have been on the phone with a 9-1-1 operator just before their 12-hour shift ended. I am so glad she did not have this attitude and just hand the phone over to her replacement with no details of my situation! Many Christians in their places of service would have simply hung up the phone.
  • “I’m never going to leave. This is my (class, ministry, service, baby, etc.).” That’s a nice, noble, naïve thought. But its not an excuse to deny reality. Every single one of us will eventually:
    • Take a vacation,
    • Get sick,
    • Have a family emergency,
    • Or die!

Possessiveness does not equal stewardship, it just means you are a control freak.

So my question is, are you showing selfishness or stewardship in your God-given role?

Stewardship is an appointed position that cares for the handling of someone else’s goods. The church is not ours, the service is not ours, the mission is not ours. All of it is borrowed from the Lord, yet God entrusted it to our care. We should approach our vocations as though they DO belong to us, but KNOWING that they belong to the Lord. This is the attitude that reflects the heart of the Lord Jesus.

“But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant,” -Philippians 2:7

Understand, Christ was not a servant, but he acted like one. How can we be more like Him? Let’s look at the actions of the “unjust steward” after he’s been given his walking papers:

  • He is rational about his mortality. He says, “I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship…” Not ‘if’, but ‘when’. This steward was finally getting ready for what he should have been all along. Are you training your replacement? Or are you just jealous of someone else having your position?
  • He is responsible for his master. He takes all of his lord’s debtors, and promptly adjusts their accounts, forgiving most of the balance. The steward was sitting on top of dead-beat accounts. Perhaps the interest piling up was burying them, or they had fallen on hard times and could not make the payments. The steward calls them all in, and begins to reckon with them on their accounts. He doesn’t FORGIVE the debt (he can’t- he’s only a steward) but he does REDUCE it. Better that his master be repaid something, than to receive nothing. I believe that in our jobs, the Lord would like us to be actively working a live donkey, than to sit on top of a dead horse. We think a thing has value because its ours, when really we should remember that it’s his (Remember the parable of the pound? See Luke 19:20). I think in this story, the lord of the steward was as interested in forgiveness as he was the debt. Are you interested doing the Lord’s business, or being on the payroll? Is it about the long-term goal, or the short-term results?
  • He resolved to make a move. No longer in denial, this unjust steward acts wisely. Note how justice and wisdom are different, but related. You are never going be right with God (just) until you can obey God (wise). The steward repented, and got busy. [Important: Repentance does not equal restitution. He didn’t get his job back.]

Now, how are you going to treat your God-given calling? Are you going to be more concerned with your reputation than His? Does it matter so much what folks think of you, or is it vital that “the ministry be not blamed.” (2 Cor. 6:3) Have you been acting out of true stewardship, or stubborn selfishness?

There is time, now, for you to change.

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