Well Done - Part Three & Four, Parable Of The Talents & The Stewardship Gospel

Here is another section from a chapter I am writing currently titled "Well Done"

Parable Of The Talents

There was a master with three servants. He was going on a journey and he called them to Him and gave each of them some money. “To one he gave five talents (sum of money), to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.

You have probably heard this story. It’s found in Matthew 25 as told by Jesus. Now eventually the master returns home to, as Jesus put it, “Settle accounts.”

The first fella had made good on grace; he had been able to turn his five talents into ten.  “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

The second fella had a similar experience, also doubling his gift of two talents into four. He got the same beautiful increase in favor from his master. He also heard those stunning words we are all living to hear, “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Alas the last fella, it didn’t go so well for him. When he came before the master he said something terribly sad, Master, I knew you to be a harsh and hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you had not scattered seed. So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is your own.”

With that the fella returned to the master the one talent he’d received. Sadly, this guy, he didn’t get a well done. “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?” It was a question. One that reveals something pretty serious, the master will judge us by the revelation we chose to live from, by the master we chose to serve.

And that’s just what happened. After telling the servant that at the very least he would have banked the money for the interest, he takes the one talent and gives it to the one who now had ten. But it gets way worse for the faithless servant, “Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Wow, that’s pretty harsh. I mean, the fella didn’t make you money and you send him to hell? Normally if someone doesn’t return on their investment they get fired or demoted. In some cases when a fella can’t turn a profit, he will lose his house and maybe his possessions. In extreme cases, where criminal behavior is discovered, he may go to jail. But I have never heard of someone being thrown into outer darkness with the gnashing and the weeping because he was worthless at turning a buck. Because he was a bad steward…

The Stewardship Gospel

Recently I was at a church service where the pastor taught on the parable of the talents. You have probably heard it. It’s the North American boot strap well-done message. It’s the try harder, work better, giver stronger, lover bigger, good stewardship gospel in which church attendance is a part of the holy trinity of being a Christian; the other two, reading our bibles more, and becoming more disciplined in our prayer times.

Somehow the “well done” we hope for in heaven has been attached to our involvement in a home group, cell group, study group, care group, life group, connect group, small group, spandex group, donut group, diet group…

Somehow, our faith journey has been reduced to good stewardship. As if we got saved to become faithful bible readers, and faithful churchgoers, and faithful pray-ers, and faithful givers – of our time, our money, our souls.

Somehow, the Christian life has become about doing something - its not.

The fact is, we did nothing to deserve being loved and we can’t do anything to get a well done. His love has nothing to do with whether or not we are good stewards, nor does He love us so that we will become good stewards. As Graham Cooke, a friend and hero of mine says, “He loves us, because He loves us, because He loves us, because He loves us, because He loves us, because He loves us…”

The Christian life is about believing Him, its about becoming sure in His love, transformed by His love. Its about becoming love...

Honestly, if the “well-done” parable was just about stewardship, then Jesus is rather cruel. The fact is, He didn’t tell us how the faithful servants doubled their talents. Seriously, did the faithful servants invest in gold, or silver? Oil? Did their profits have something to do with real estate? What was going on in the stock market during that time? Was it a bare market or bull? Or was it some other animal sounding word.

For those of us that aren’t business savvy or don’t fully understand the stock market, this story is practically a death sentence. If we read the “well-done” parable through the lens of stewardship, most of us will begin to feel inadequate and hopeless.

The stewardship message suggests that whoever is the smartest and hardest worker gets the biggest slice of paradise. The message implies that my success in stewarding His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven is directly connected to my personal gifting, ability, anointing and work ethic. If this story at its core is about what I can do for the master, I am up  $&@# creek without a paddle. And no offense, but so are you...