Two parables in our readings this month are often used to explain the stewardship of treasure. In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), the master entrusts three of his servants with great fortunes of varying values. In the Parable of the Ten Gold Coins (Luke 19:11-28), the future king gives one gold coin to each of his ten servants for trade during his long absence. In both parables, the servants who do the will of the master are rewarded according to their returns; the servants who do nothing are stripped of their gifts and punished.

Taken at face value, we learn a few important lessons about stewardship:

  • We are caretakers, not owners, of the master’s treasures. We do not earn nor do we request his gifts. The master shares them with us, his servants, so that we may use them to accomplish his plan. We must not keep them for ourselves; we must not squander them.

  • We do not wait until tomorrow to do what we can do today. We act eagerly without hesitation, because we do not know when our settlements are due.

  • We are expected to give back the bounty given to us with increase. The master trusts us with his gifts. We, in turn, trust in his generosity as an indication of his love for us. With that confidence, we engage in the necessary risks and toils to produce on his behalf.

  • We credit the master for our accomplishments. Note that the servants do not claim their increases, but rather they say, “your gold coin has earned.” We recognize that the master’s gifts are necessary for our joint success.

  • We accept what we are given with humility and gratitude. While some things are given equally to everyone, other things are distributed according to our abilities. In both cases, we neither lack in resources nor become overwhelmed by our responsibilities. The master provides everything and wastes nothing.

  • We are prepared to reconcile our accounts. Whenever the master returns, he will judge our efforts and hold us accountable.

  • Faithfulness in little things leads to faithfulness in big things. Greater returns produce greater rewards. Because service is at the heart of Christian discipleship, our reward is sharing in the master’s joy through additional responsibility.

  • We may be asked to work in a hostile environment. Not everyone recognizes the kingship of the master; not everyone welcomes his invitation to serve.

  • Inactivity is not an option for stewards. We are called to serve. Failure to do so wastes the potential awarded to us. Fear, rationalization, blame, and selfish concerns produce tragic outcomes, because they stem from a lack of love, trust, and gratitude for the master.

Of course, these are parables, and their meaning extends beyond simple monetary stewardships. Our greatest treasure is found not in our material wealth, but rather in the richness of our faith in God. While our financial treasure should be used to support our spiritual treasure, the contribution we offer to God is a small token compared with the great blessings He bestows upon us.

In these parables, we interpret the master as the Lord, his ascension into heaven as his departure, the long wait as the enduring mission of the Church, his return as the second coming at the end of time, and his assessment of our service as our final judgement. While the gold coins represent our means of grace and the gift of the Gospel offered to everyone, the talents represent the varied resources and blessings that God grants us individually.

We are servants of God, and our lives are stewardships guarding His investment in us. Our mandate is to spread the Good News, boldly proclaim the Gospel, and evangelize the world. We are expected to develop the gifts we are given for the Kingdom of God. When the day of judgement arrives, we long to hear the words, “well done, my good and faithful servant.”

As we approach the preparatory season of Advent, consider how your dedicated stewardship of time, talent, and treasure ready you for the coming of the Lord. Be sure to visit our “Weekly Challenge” section this month to explore the benefits of making your gifts intentional, planned, proportionate, and sacrificial. And please leave a comment describing what you have personally gained from giving freely back to God.

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