Lesson 11

Stewardship

(Matthew 25)
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Introduction: The order of the lessons is backwards, right? We enjoyed the lesson about the weekly day of rest, then we learned about that eternal vacation, Heaven. Last week we started to get back to work with "discipleship," and now (horrors) "stewardship!" Shouldn't we be ending on a rising note? Or, is stewardship a rising note? Whenever some official shows up at my church to discuss stewardship, it almost always means they want more money or more work out of me. But, I think we will discover this week that the Bible has a more positive approach to the idea. Let's plunge into our Bible study and learn what is great about stewardship!

  1. Winning at Life


    1. Read Matthew 25:14-15. On what basis did the master give more money to one servant than another? Was it just favoritism? (No. The servants varied in their natural abilities. He gave the servant with more natural ability more money.)


      1. Was that unfair? Shouldn't everyone get the same amount of money?


        1. Or, was it unfair to the servant with more natural talent because he now had a greater challenge?


    2. Read Matthew 25:16-18. Is there any argument in favor of the approach of the "one talent" guy? What about the recent fall of the stock market? What about the worries over our banking institutions? Might not a hole in the ground be the safest way to conserve capital?


      1. Is there any reason to believe that the one talent fellow was not proceeding in good faith? (Yes. If the master wanted his money preserved by hiding it, he could have hidden it himself - and not taken the risk of letting the one talent guy know where it was.)


    3. Read Matthew 25:19-23. Why does the guy who only produced two more talents get the same praise as the guy who produced five more talents? Is that fair? (They both doubled what was given to them. This shows that, since the master allocated the money based on natural ability, the master does not impose a penalty for a lack of natural talent. The question is not what talents you have at birth, the question is what you do with your talents.)


    4. Read Matthew 25:24. This reveals the mind-set of the one talent fellow. Why does he call his master names ("hard man")?


      1. Isn't it true that one person should not make a profit from the hard work of another person? Isn't this called "exploitation?"


    5. Read Matthew 25:25. Wait, has the one talent man changed his story? (Yes! He is now claiming he was fearful. First he claims his master is a capitalist, and then he claims fear.)


    6. Read Matthew 25:26-27. How does the master analyze the problem? Is the one-talent guy fearful? Does he have a legitimate complaint about capitalists? (The master calls him "wicked and lazy.")


      1. Is the master right about him being "wicked?" I thought the one-talent guy was claiming a moral objection. (So much for the idea that capitalism is evil in God's eye! The "wicked" term no doubt has to do with the servant having an obligation to advance the cause of the master. "Lazy" applies because he did almost nothing.)


    7. Read Matthew 25:28-30. Why should the ten-talent guy get the little money that the one-talent guy has? Now, the ten-talent guy has "an abundance" while the one-talent guy has nothing. Is this fair? (We will compound the mystery in the next section when we read Matthew 25:34-40.)


    8. Let's step back a minute and consider this story. What is Jesus teaching us? Is it about money, talent, and time? (This is a "kingdom parable." All of the stories in this chapter have to do with the means of getting to heaven.)


      1. When the "stewardship guy" comes around, my reaction is that he will end up with more and I will end up with less. What does this story teach us about stewardship? (The story refers specifically to money, but I think it symbolizes all kinds of natural talents. The means to "more" is to put your money and talents to work ( Matthew 25:16). The great thing is that it does not matter how much talent you are given at the beginning. What matters is what you do with it. If you are faithful, you will be rewarded with more. Stewardship is about having more.)


  2. Considering the Poor


    1. Read Matthew 25:31-40. Would the one-talent guy, especially after he had been thrown out by the master without his money, qualify as (verse 40) "one of the least of these brothers?"


      1. Let's assume that you are the (now) eleven-talent guy (the master just gave you the talent of the lazy and wicked guy), and you bump into the (now) no-talent guy. Does Jesus teach that you should give money to the no-talent guy?


        1. Would that not veto the decision of the master?


        2. Do you think it makes a difference that the story does not mention money? The hungry get food, the thirsty water, the stranger an invitation, those needing new clothes got clothes. Why does no one get money? (The preceding talent story specifically mentions money. This story mentions money not at all. If we are right that giving the(now)"no-talent" guy money after the master took it away would be a problem, then supplying the needs of the no-talent guy would make sense.)


      2. Is it possible that even though Jesus refers to money in the first parable, it is symbolic and has little to do with money? (If you look at Matthew 13:12, you will find the same "give more to the diligent, take from the lazy" statement in a clearly spiritual context.)


      3. Is it possible that when the eleven-talent man gives help to the no-talent guy that he is still investing his talents? (We are not told how the talents were invested. If this has a spiritual application, then it makes sense that the talents are invested in kingdom business.)


    2. I've asked several questions to make you think about what Jesus is teaching us. What lessons can we be sure about in these two parables? (That God wants us to be diligent in working for Him. That a part of our work is helping those in need.)


  3. Nature of Talents


    1. We have found that Jesus told parables that equate our talents (about which we must be diligent) to money and goods. Do our talents also include our natural abilities? (Look again at Matthew 25:15. "According to his abilities" must refer to natural abilities. The natural abilities were key to the amount of money given by the master.)


    2. Read Matthew 24:45-51. Here is another traveling master story. What resource is the servant required to account for here? (Responsibility and time. Because the "master is staying away a long time" the servant believes he has time to abuse those within his care and to waste his own time.)


      1. Is time a talent about which we have to be good stewards?(Yes. However, the fact that God created a need for humans to sleep shows that some balance between work and rest is required.)


        1. What percentage of your time is spent promoting your interests as opposed to the interests of others?


        2. What percentage of your time is essentially wasted and helps no one?


        3. How does abusing others and wasting time work out for this servant? (Not well. Another "weeping and gnashing of teeth" ending.)


    3. Friend, we see that diligent followers of Jesus prosper and the lazy, wasteful followers cry and gnash their teeth. I'm going to interpret "gnashing" as regret for the decisions made in the past. You have decisions to make for the future, will you decide to be a faithful, diligent servant of Jesus?


  4. Next week: Community.


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