(You Were Given the Same Opportunity) Stewardship: Where Ability & Opportunity Collide

Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints in Corinth. More specifically today’s passage is found in the fourth chapter of this New Testament epistle. “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required of stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1-5).

 

            “And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? What hast thou that thou didst not receive? Not if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you” (1 Corinthians 4:6-8).

 

            “For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; and labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day” (1 Corinthians 4:9-13).

 

            “I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though we have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. What will ye? Shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?” (1 Corinthians 4:14-21).

 

MATTHEW 24! MATTHEW 25! LUKE 12! When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul shifting gears and language within this first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of the chapter you will find the apostle Paul inviting those to whom he ministered unto to examine carefully the work and ministry which he had engaged in during his time among them. If you recall in the New Testament book of Acts the apostle Paul arrived in the city of Corinth after departing from Athens and found a man by the name of Aquila and his wife Priscilla. These two were previously in Italy and yet were forced to depart from the midst of their country because of a decree that all Jews be expelled from the midst. Upon departing from Italy they would come unto Corinth where they would be until the apostle Paul would arrive among them. Luke writes and records how the apostle Paul would arrive at Corinth and would immediately attach and associate himself unto them as laborers in the work of the ministry. What’s more is that Luke also writes of Paul and Aquila that they were both tentmakers by trade and gave themselves to working in their craft while in the midst of the Corinthians. Essentially that which the apostle Paul would do while among the Corinthians was work while supplying his own needs lest he be a burden unto the Corinthian believers whom he was laboring among. How absolutely incredible it is to think about and consider the fact that while the apostle Paul was laboring in the work of the ministry among the Corinthian saints he was also laboring according to the flesh that he might not be a burden unto those to whom he was seeking to reach with the message of the gospel.

 

I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding the apostle Paul laboring among the Corinthians for Scripture reveals how after the Lord Jesus appeared unto the apostle Paul and encouraged him to not be afraid but to speak freely he abode among the Corinthians for a span of eighteen months. What’s more is Scripture also reveals how in addition to Aquila and Priscilla Silas and Timothy would come from Macedonia unto the apostle Paul. It would be upon their arrival at Corinth the apostle Paul would be pressed in the spirit and would contend that Jesus was indeed the Christ among the Jews. Of course we know and understand that the unbelieving Jews which were present in Corinth not only opposed themselves but also blasphemed in the company and presence of the apostle Paul and those who were with him. As a direct result of this the apostle Paul would shake off his raiment and purpose to minister among the Gentiles alone. What makes the narrative of the Corinthian congregation so incredibly unique when you consider it is when you think of how they saw the likes of Aquila and Priscilla, Timothy and Silas and even the apostle Paul and Apollos. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for when you read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts as well as the words which are found in the epistle written unto the Corinthians you will find the apostle Paul sending Timothy unto them after his departure from them.

 

The fourth chapter of this first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints begins and opens with the apostle Paul calling a man to account of them as those who were ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in this particular chapter for within it we find the apostle Paul calling into account his stewardship among the Corinthian saints. The apostle recognized that he had been entrusted with something very dear and precious as he ministered among them. What’s more is the apostle Paul recognized that he was called to give an account of the work, the labor and the ministry which he himself had engaged in among the Corinthians. Not only this but I would dare say the apostle Paul recognized and understood that he had been entrusted as a steward of the mysteries of God and as such was required to be found faithful of that which he had been entrusted with. The apostle Paul recognized the tremendous and incredible burden and responsibility that was placed upon his shoulders concerning the divine mysteries and gospel of the kingdom of heaven. For the apostle Paul there was an awesome and tangible responsibility that was present within him in the sight of the living God for not only had he been called to be an apostle but he had also been entrusted with the sacred mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.

 

I am absolutely convinced we cannot and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for within it we are brought face to face with the awesome truth concerning stewardship. Upon reading the second verse of this chapter you will find what is perhaps the most remarkable and astonishing truths regarding stewardship and being appointed and ordained as stewards—particularly and especially being made stewards according to the calling and appointment of the living God. Oh one of the greatest truths we must needs recognize and understand is that we have been entrusted with many things in this life which we can and will be called to give an account of our stewardship in the sight of the living God. It would be one thing to think that we have only been called as stewards of those things pertaining to the kingdom of heaven and yet the truth of the matter is that we have been ordained and appointed as stewards of earthly, natural and even carnal realities. Everything from the apartment, condo or home we live in to the car we drive, to the finances we have, to the job we commit ourselves to for a minimum of forty hours a week, to our relationships to various other things within our lives can and will be something which we are called to give an account for our stewardship before and in the sight of the living God. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for at the very heart and core of our stewardship is not only recognizing that we are going to be called to give an account of how we handled it but also understand that everything we have was given to and entrusted unto us by the hand of the living God.

 

If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand concerning stewardship it’s that at the very heart and center of it is the knowledge and understanding that everything we have has been given unto us by the hand of the living God. It makes absolutely no difference whether it is the finances in our bank account(s), or the car(s) we drive, or the home we live in, or the food on our table, or the relationship(s) we enjoy, or anything else we experience and partake of in this life. It is in the Old Testament book of Psalms where the psalmist emphatically declares that the earth is the LORD’s and the fulness thereof. Moreover it is in the Old Testament book of the Psalms where we read of the living and eternal God owning the cattle on a thousand hills. In the Old Testament we encounter the awesome and tremendous truth that it is the living God who gives us the ability to create and make wealth in this life. Oh one of the greatest truths we must needs realize and understand is that anything and everything we have been given has indeed been given unto us by the hand of the living God. There is not a single thing we have in our possession which we can take any credit for possessing within our hearts and lives. Not only this but I am convinced the minute we assume credit for those things which we have in our lives is the moment we seek to hoard and hold on to them rather than surrendering them into the sight and hands of the living God. In all reality I am convinced this is the underlying reality surrounding the rich young ruler who was encouraged by the Lord Jesus to go and sell all he had and to give to the poor that he might be delivered and set free to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus.

 

I am absolutely convinced that if we wish to recognize and understand the words which are found in this passage of Scripture we must needs consider the narrative of the rich young ruler as set forth in the gospel accounts of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus. If there is perhaps one narrative found within the gospels that helps serve as a backdrop and foundation concerning stewardship it’s the account of this rich young ruler for he originally entered into the presence of the Lord Jesus falling down before Him, worshipping Him and asking what good thing he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Upon hearing the words which this man had spoken unto Him Jesus would proceed to rehearse unto him the commandments which were given in the Law unto Moses. Jesus would remind this man of what he had heard in the Law of Moses and upon hearing the words which Jesus had spoken unto him this rich young ruler would declare that he kept all the commandments from his youth up. In addition to the rich young ruler emphatically declaring how he had kept the commandments from his youth up he would proceed to ask the Lord Jesus what he still lacked in this life. It would be upon asking the Lord this question he would get a response which I would dare say he was neither ready for nor willing to accept. In fact in one of the accounts of this rich young ruler you will find the gospel author writing concerning him that Jesus looked upon him and loved him when delivering His response. Scripture reveals how Jesus looked upon this rich young ruler with love, with compassion, with affection and tenderness and proceeded to invite him to deliver himself from the burden and weight of riches and possessions in this life that he might be free to walk with and follow Him. Consider if you will the following accounts of the rich young ruler as it was recorded by the Synoptic gospel authors:

 

And, behold, one came and said him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:16-22).

 

And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto. Him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him., One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:17-22).

 

And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? None is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:18-27).

 

I am absolutely convinced there is a great and present need to recognize the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for undoubtedly this rich young ruler had amassed a great amount of wealth and possessions. Scripture makes it very clear when reading these three accounts that when Jesus told the rich young ruler he still lacked one thing he would depart from His presence full of sorrow. The reason this rich young ruler departed from the presence of the Lord Jesus sorrowful was because he had much possessions and great wealth. What makes this passage so intriguing is when you consider the fact that not only do we read of this rich young ruler departing from the presence of the Lord Jesus sorrowful but Scripture also reveals the reason for this man being sorrowful. The underlying reason this rich young ruler departed from the presence of Jesus was because he had much possessions—possessions which the Lord Jesus had asked him to sell. Oh I would dare say that if Jesus had invited this rich young ruler to give unto the poor, or perhaps even to take up his cross and follow him he might very well have remained and abode in the presence of Jesus. The trouble this rich young ruler had with the words of Jesus was when it came to giving up and selling all that he had and give unto the poor. That which the Lord Jesus had given unto this man was the means to deliver and set himself free from the weight, the burden and the shackles of riches and possessions in this world knowing how much of a snare they could be. In fact you will remember the parable of the seed and the sower and how the seed which fell among the thorns represents those who hear the word of the kingdom and yet the cares of this world “and the deceitfulness of riches” are a snare unto them and choke the life—not only out of them but also out of the word which is present within them.

 

I sit here today thinking about the rich young ruler and how he departed from the presence of the Lord Jesus sorrowful and I can’t help but consider the fact that he was undoubtedly sorrowful—not only because he had amassed much wealth and many possessions but also because he might very well have taken full credit and responsibility for acquiring all that he had. Scripture does not reveal how this rich young ruler came to possess everything that he had—only that he was a man of great wealth and possessions. In fact it isn’t until the rich young ruler’s heart was filled with sorrow and he departed from the presence of Jesus we even learn that he had much possessions. It would be towards the end of the narrative of this rich young ruler that we even learn and discover that he was a man of great possessions and great wealth. With this being said I find it absolutely necessary to call our attention to the narrative of Job as written and recorded in the Old Testament book bearing the same name. It is in the Old Testament book where we read of a man from the east who was not only great in stature and reputation but also great in wealth and possessions. In fact there were certain individuals in the Old Testament who had acquired and amassed much wealth and possessions throughout their life and were great in their generation because of it—men such as Job, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the like. What we find in the narrative of Job is not only a righteous man who pleased the living God but a righteous man who had much wealth and much possessions. It was the hedge of protection the living God had placed round about Job and around his wealth and possessions that was at the very heart of the accusation of the adversary Satan who stood to accuse Job in the presence of the Lord Jesus.

 

What we read and discover in the Old Testament book of Job is that although this man was righteous and blameless in the sight of the living God he would be accused in the sight and presence of the Lord Jesus. There came a day when the sons of God appeared before the throne of the living God and when Satan came from going and down the earth and from walking to and fro within it. It would be while Satan stood in his presence the LORD Himself asked him if he had considered his servant Job. This has always fascinated me for it’s almost as if the LORD recognized and understood the enemy and adversary went forth to and fro throughout the earth seeking whom he may devour and the LORD willingly, deliberately and voluntarily offered up His servant Job. Upon hearing the words which the living God had spoken unto him Satan would proceed to accuse Job of worshipping and serving the living God because of the great wealth and possessions he had acquired in his lifetime. Not only this but Satan would also accuse the LORD of the hedge of protection round about Job that would effectively safeguard and protect him from all dangers and threats. It would be the living God who would declare unto the adversary that all Job had was in his hand to do with what he will, however, He would give him a specific command not to lay a single hand upon his physical body. Immediately the enemy and adversary would depart from the presence of the LORD purposing how he would invade the life of Job and completely and utterly wreak havoc in it. Scripture reveals how after Satan departed from the presence of the LORD Job would literally lose everything. This man who had acquired so much wealth and possessions in this life would in a single day lose absolutely everything. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the first and opening chapter of this Old Testament book beginning with the first verse:

 

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters. His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east. And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually” (Job 1:1-5).

 

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the LORD said unto Satan, hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and sheweth evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD” (Job 1:6-12).

 

And there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house: And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them: And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them way; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven ,and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house: and, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, and said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (Job 1:13-22).

 

It is absolutely necessary to recognize that which is found in the Old Testament book of Job for it proves and demonstrates that in a moment in a single day everything we have can be completely and utterly lost. Scripture reveals how there came a day—a single day—when Job would lose absolutely everything he had in this life. Job would lose his oxen, Job would lose his sheep, Job would lose his camels, Job would lose his servants, and Job would lose his sons and daughters. Pause for a moment and consider just how absolutely tremendous and incredible this truly is for in a single day and in such a short period of time Job would lose absolutely everything he would have in this life—from his servants, to his cattle to his sons and daughters. What’s more is that Scripture reveals how after Job had just learned he had lost everything he rent his mantle, he shaved his head and fell down upon the ground and worshipped. Moreover Scripture reveals how in the midst of Job’s worship before the living God he declared how he had come out of his mother’s womb naked and naked would he return. Not only this but Job would also go on to declare how the LORD gave and the LORD took away but blessed be the name of the Lord. Oh if there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand concerning the narrative of Job it’s those final words he spoke in the presence and sight of the living God—namely how the LORD gives and the LORD takes away. There is not a doubt in my mind this particular truth is such which must be recognized and understood within our own hearts and lives for there is a great need to recognize that not only has the LORD given everything unto us which we have but the LORD could take it all away in a moment’s time. Job recognized that absolutely everything he had been given came from the living God and that he could not take any credit for it. Not only this but Job would not curse God nor charge Him foolishly when he had lost his possessions, his servants and his sons.

 

It is at this juncture I find it absolutely necessary to turn and direct our attention back to the words the apostle Paul wrote in the fourth chapter of this first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. It is in the first verse the apostle Paul speaks of man accounting of them as of the ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In the second verse of this same passage of Scripture the apostle Paul makes a statement which not only directly applied to him concerning the mysteries of the kingdom of God but unto absolutely everything which we have in this life. The apostle Paul emphatically and boldly declares that it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful. Please don’t miss the incredible importance of the words which are found in this particular verse for within it the apostle Paul makes a statement and declaration which we must all recognize and understand within our hearts and lives. There is a great need within our hearts and lives to recognize and acknowledge that we have been called to be faithful in that which we have been entrusted with as stewards. What’s more is that we must needs recognize that there is not a single thing in this life which we haven’t been given which we cannot and will not be called to be faithful. One of the greatest truths we must needs acknowledge in this life is that everything we have been given comes from and has been given unto us by the living and eternal God. Not only this but in addition to everything we have been given coming from the living God we have been called to be faithful with that which we have been given. The words and language found in this passage of Scripture not only points to the tremendous responsibility to be faithful stewards of what we have been entrusted with but also that we not allow ourselves to be puffed up with pride and arrogance.

 

If you continue reading with and from the third verse you will find the apostle Paul building upon the reality of stewards being found faithful as he would speak of one’s work and one’s life being judged by the living God. In the third verse the apostle Paul speaks of it being a very small thing that he was judged of them or any man’s judgment in this life. The apostle Paul would also go on to describe how he judged not his own self for he knew nothing by himself. In addition to this the apostle Paul would also go on to describe how He which judged him was the Lord who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts. Oh there is a great need to recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found here in this passage of Scripture for the words which are present here call and draw our attention to the tremendous truth that not only have we been called to be faithful stewards of what we have been entrusted with but we will also be judged by the Lord according to our works, according to our faithfulness and according to how we have handled that which we have been given in this life. The apostle Paul recognized and understood that the living and eternal God would indeed call into account and could judge man according to the hidden things of darkness and even the counsels of the hearts—those things which are in the very depths of a man.

 

What we must needs recognize as we continue reading the words found in this passage of Scripture is that when it comes to being stewards in this life—not only will we be called into account of what we have been entrusted with but we must also be found faithful in handling that which has been given unto us. Moreover there is a great need to recognize that everything we have been given to us has been given by the hand of the LORD. With this being said we must also recognize and understand that everything we have in this life really doesn’t belong to us but instead belongs to the LORD. At the very heart and core of stewardship is indeed the clarion call to be found faithful but also the underlying knowledge that everything we have been given has been given by the hand of the LORD and belongs unto Him. There is not a doubt in my mind when reading the words found in this passage that in the sight and presence of the living God there is absolutely no man who can boast or take any credit for what they have received in this life. At the very heart and core of stewardship is an awesome and powerful truth that everything we have been given in this life has proceeded forth from the hand of the living God. There is not a single thing we have in this life that we can take and assume any credit for as though by our own strength, by our own might, by our own wisdom, by our own intellect we have amassed and acquired it. Oh one of the greatest realizations we can come to in this life is that of recognizing that everything we have in this life belongs to the living God and flows directly from Him. Not only this but we must also understand the true nature of our pursuit in this life as outlined by the Lord Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. It is in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find the following words which were spoken by the Lord Jesus concerning treasure in this life and that which we ought to seek after and pursue:

 

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! NO man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despisethe other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take y thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall eat? OR, What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:19-34).

 

Consider also if you will the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke for the words which are present here bring us face to face with the same reality as was expressed in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. It is in the twelfth chapter of this passage where we find one inquiring of Jesus to have his brother divide the inheritance with him. It would be in response to this man’s inquiry and petition we find Jesus giving the following word and warning as well as teaching a specific parable concerning covetousness, concerning greed, concerning pride, concerning arrogance and concerning boasting. What’s more is that it is in this passage we also read the words spoken by the Lord Jesus concerning the danger of storing up for ourselves in this life treasure and wealth and yet being poor concerning God and having no treasure in heaven. Oh perhaps one of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are those who might very well be rich in this life in the physical and natural realm and yet are poor toward God in the kingdom of heaven. The words which we find in this passage of Scripture highlight and underscore the tremendous danger of storing up for ourselves treasures in this life while neglecting the true treasure that is found in heaven. Not only this but we must needs recognize that there is a vast difference between being rich in this world with much goods and possessions and being rich toward God. There are those who spend their entire lives being rich in this natural life and store up for themselves treasures in this world while all the while being poor toward God. With this in mind consider if you will the following words found in this passage of Scripture in the twelfth chapter of the gospel written by Luke:

 

And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with. Me. And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you” And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: For a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he possesseth. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich. Man brought forth plentifully: and he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:13-21).

 

            The words and language we find in this passage of Scripture must be carefully considered and understood for they highlight and underscore the tremendous and inherent danger of storing up for ourselves treasures here upon the earth while at the same time being poor toward God. There is in this passage a clear and present contrast between being those who store up treasures in this life and are not rich toward God and those who might not have much in this life and yet are rich in abundance in the sight of the living God. With this being said we must needs understand that we have in fact been called to be wise and faithful stewards of that which we have been entrusted with in this life. What’s more is at the very heart of that faithfulness in stewardship is the recognition that absolutely everything we have been given in this life and everything we possess came not from our own hand but from the hand of the living God. The sooner we recognize and realize that everything we have been given has indeed and has in fact come from the living God the sooner we will allow ourselves to be delivered and set free from the snare and entrapment of them. Oh dear reader would it shock and surprise you to think about and consider the fact that one of the greatest dangers within this life is a failure to recognize that what we have in this life has been given unto us by the living God. The reason this is so incredibly dangerous is because if we fail to recognize that what we have in this life has come from the living God we cannot and will not treat it as such. Only to the degree and measure that we recognize what we have been given in this life belongs to the Lord can we truly be faithful with it. The greater the revelation within our hearts truly is concerning that which we have been given belonging to the LORD and flowing from the LORD the greater we can move and operate in the knowledge and understanding that we must be faithful with that which belongs to another man.

 

            I am sitting here thinking about and considering these words and I am brought face to face with the fact that we cannot truly be found faithful with what we have been given in this life until and unless we first recognize that it belongs to the living God. It is indeed true that it is require of stewards that a man be found faithful, however, we must needs recognize that a man can only be found faithful to the degree and measure they recognize that what they have in this life belongs to the living God and has been given unto them by His hand. With this being said I find it absolutely necessary to ask you if you recognize that what you have in this life belongs to another. Do you not know that anything and everything you have in this life does not even belong to you in the first place? Do you not understand that anything and everything you have in this life is but a gift given you from the hand of the LORD and is nothing more than a vapor? I am absolutely convinced that one of the greatest truths we must needs encounter and recognize in this life is that there is not a single thing we have in this life that does not belong to the living God. Scripture makes it very clear that the earth is the LORD’s and the fulness thereof and that He does indeed own the cattle on a thousand hills. There is a tremendous need for us to encounter and come face to face with the incredible reality that there is not a single thing we have in this life that we can take credit for as though by our own great might, strength, intellect, wisdom, and the like we have come by and attained it. We must needs understand that everything we have in this life has been given unto us that we might be vessels and conduits of it that whatever has been given might flow unto and through us.

 

            The more I read and consider the words found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the truth that we are and have been called to be vessels and channels in this life which the blessings and gifts of God can flow unto and flow through. One of the greatest dangers within this life is to be a receptacle and reservoir of the blessings and gifts of the living God and not a river of the blessings and gifts of the living God. There are those among us who seek to be receptacles and reservoirs of the gifts and blessings of the living God and have absolutely not outlet for those blessings and gifts to flow through unto others. I am absolutely convinced that we must needs acknowledge and understand that we have been called in this life to be vessels and conduits of the blessings and gifts of the living God and that as such we were never created nor intended to hoard that which the living God has given unto us. There are those who would like to think they can somehow hold on to the gifts and blessings of the living God and that which has been entrusted into their hands and care and yet the truth of the matter is that such a reality is sorely misguided. We must at all costs recognize and understand that we have been called, ordained and appointed by the living God in this life to be rivers unto which and through which the blessings and the gifts of God can flow. The only way we can be found faithful in our stewardship before and in the sight of the living God is to not only recognize that we have been called to be vessels and conduits of the blessings and gifts of the living God but also that everything we have belongs to the living God. As such—since everything we have in this life belongs to the living God—He has complete and utter autonomy and control over it in this life.

 

            This reality of faithfulness in stewardship and in servanthood is perhaps best expressed in three distinct parables which the Lord Jesus spoke in the New Testament gospel narratives. There are three different passages of Scripture found within the New Testament gospels that call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth that we have been called, ordained and appointed to be wise and faithful stewards and servants in this life concerning that which the living and eternal God has been given. With this being said there is a great need for us to understand that true means of being found faithful in our stewardship in this life is to recognize that we have been called to be rivers and vessels of that which flows from the hand of the living God. Much like the Jordan River receives its waters from that which flows down from mount Hermon and flows into the Sea of Galilee and continuing to flow down unto the Dead Sea so also have we been called to not only receive from the Lord but also be vessels through which that which has been given from the LORD can flow through us unto others. This is what the Lord Jesus invited the rich young ruler to do for He invited him to be a vessel that would receive the blessings of the living God and then allow those blessings to flow unto the poor and those in need. Not only this but this is what was precisely the powerful and incredible truth surrounding Zacchaeus for in the sight and presence of the Lord Jesus he declared that half of his goods he would give to the poor and if he had obtained anything through accusation and false means he would restore four-fold. Moreover this is what is found in the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts when you read of the saints and believers having all things in common and treating what they had in their life as belonging unto the body of believers. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts before coming face to face with the parables which the Lord Jesus spoke:

            “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were gathered together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the LORD added to the church daily as should be saved” (Acts 2:41-47).

 

            “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:32-37).

 

            The words and language we find in these two passages of Scripture are absolutely critical to our understanding the concept of stewardship for the believers in the early days of the church recognized and realized something concerning their possessions that many of us in this generation desperately need to.  The believers during the days of the early church recognized and understood that everything they had been given was given them by the hand of the Lord and that it did not belong to them.  As such they had no claim or jurisdiction over it within their own lives and viewed it as being essential for the ministry of the body. With this being said I am absolutely and completely convinced that one of the greatest works of the Holy Spirit is not only producing unity among the members of the body of Christ but also that of producing a hospitality towards others. Stop and think about what a tremendous grace needed to be upon the believers of the early church to consider their own possessions as not belonging to them and as being available for the ministry of the saints. It might very well be said that the believers of the early church recognized and understood that their possessions were given unto and bestowed upon them by the hand of the living God and that they had no control or say over what would or could be done with it. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular truth for it calls and draws our attention to the awesome and powerful truth surrounding the clarion call laid upon us to be vessels and conduits of the blessings, the gifts and the provision of the living God. There is absolutely nothing we have received and been given in this life that belongs to us and therefore we have absolutely no control over its movement and operation within our lives.

 

            Perhaps the question needs to be asked of you who are reading these words whether or not you truly recognize that everything you have in this life has indeed and has in fact been given unto you by the hand of the living God. As such it must very well be asked what you are doing with that which has been given unto you by and from the hand of the LORD. Are you taking that which has been given unto you and putting it to work in the earth that the LORD might receive glory and honor or are you hoarding it all to yourself? There is a parable which the Lord Jesus spoke unto His disciples concerning a certain master who was preparing to depart on a long journey. Prior to his departure he called his three servants unto him and gave unto them a portion of his goods and his wealth—each man according to their own ability. Unto one of the servants he gave five talents according to his ability, unto another servant he gave two talents according to this ability and unto another servant he gave one talent according to his ability. If there is one thing we must needs recognize concerning this particular parable it’s that each servant—regardless of what they had received from the master—was given the same opportunity to put to work and put to use that which they had received. It mattered not whether one was given five talents or one was given two talents or one was given a single talent for they all had the same opportunity to put to use that which their master had entrusted them with. Each one of them had a certain ability which the master had recognized in them and they were given talents according to that ability that they might do what the master believed they had been called to.

 

            The more I think about this particular parable the more I find it absolutely incredible that each of these servants was given a portion of the master’s wealth and possessions—each man according to their own ability. Each of these servants was given something which did not belong to them and was entrusted to do with what they had been given that which would please the master. We must needs recognize and understand this for each servant had the same equal opportunity to please the master by doing with the talent(s) he had given them according to their ability. We dare not and must not allow ourselves to be caught up in the fact that one servant was given two talents and another servant was given one talent while one servant was given five talents. At the end of the day each servant was entrusted with a portion of the master’s wealth and possessions and we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular truth. We cannot and must not read the words found in this parable and consider for a single moment that each of these servants did not have an ability within themselves as well as an opportunity given unto them by the master.  ABILITY AND OPPORTUNITY! STEWARDSHIP: WHERE ABILITY AND OPPORTUNITY MEET! STEWARDSHIP: WHERE ABILITY AND OPPORTUNITY COLLIDE! The parable Jesus spoke concerning these three servants must be carefully read and considered by those who read it for the language found and contained therein brings us face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that each servant was entrusted with a portion of their master’s wealth and as such each servant had an equal opportunity to please the master. Oh there are posters hanging on the walls of breakrooms, lunch rooms and offices of buildings and companies throughout this nation making the statement that business is an equal opportunity employer. The underlying purpose of these posters is to demonstrate the truth that they provide an equal opportunity for employment to all without any manner of discrimination.

 

            The reason I mention these posters which hang in the breakrooms, lunch rooms and offices of business and companies throughout this nation is because while it is true that most companies are equal opportunity employers we must needs recognize concerning the living God that He is an equal opportunity God. There would be those who somehow think that the living and eternal God is somehow unfair and unequal in His ways and yet if there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that each and every one of us has been given the same chance and same opportunity to please the Lord with what we have been entrusted with. There is not a single person present among us in this generation nor any who has been alive upon the earth who can claim they have not been given the same opportunity to be a wise and faithful steward in the sight of the living God. What’s more is there is not a single individual who can claim they have not been given the opportunity to be a faithful steward in the sight and presence of the living God with what they have been entrusted with. Oh there would indeed be those who would like to make the claim they have not been given the same opportunity as others and yet the truth of the matter is that each and every one of us has been given the same opportunity to please the living God and to be found faithful in His presence. The servant who was given the single talent had the same opportunity to please the master and put that talent to work the same way the servant with the two talents and the servant with the five talents had done. That servant with the lone talent could have put it to work and earned his master at least one more talent and provided a return on his investment and as a result of his actions heard the master speak of him as being a wise and faithful servant. The truth and underlying matter is that each and every one of us have been given the same unique opportunity to be a wise and faithful steward in the sight of the living God of what we have been entrusted with and there is not a single one among us who can claim that the ways of the living God are somehow unequal and that He is partial in His ways.

 

            As I bring this writing to a close I feel it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the following parables which the Lord Jesus spoke concerning stewards and servants in the kingdom of heaven and how stewards and servants have both been entrusted with that which does not belong to them and which has been given unto them by the hand of the living God. If there is one thing each of these parables demonstrates and reveals it’s that each and every one of us has been entrusted with that which belongs to and has originated with the Master and that each and every one of us have been given the same opportunity to be found faithful in the sight and presence of the living God. We must needs recognize and understand that there is not a single one of us who can lay or claim any credit for anything we have received, amassed and acquired in this life and we must acknowledge that everything belongs to the LORD and flows directly from Him. It was James who emphatically declared that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights in whom there is no shadow of turning. Oh that we would recognize and understand the absolutely astonishing and powerful truth that each and every one of us has been given the awesome and wonderful opportunity to please the living God with what we have been entrusted with and we cannot, must not and ought not claim otherwise. With this in mind I invite you to consider if you will the following parables which were told by the Lord Jesus concerning stewardship and servanthood in the kingdom and how the living God is an equal opportunity and equal ability being who entrusts His servants with a measure of Himself in this lifetime which they can in fact do with what they please—whether to please the LORD in faithfulness or whether to displease the LORD in laziness:

 

            “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants comeeth, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:14-30).

 

            “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:42-48).

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