There’s an old story that goes something like this:
A rich guy goes on a trip. Before he leaves, he calls his household employees together and gives them a task. Each of them get some money to manage for the boss while he’s away.
One gets $3,000,000.
Another gets $1,200,000.
The third one gets $600,000.
The boss is gone for quite a while. When he comes back, he calls his three employees in to evaluate their performance.
The first guy invested the money well. He was able to double the portfolio to 6 million bucks. The boss is thrilled, saying “Great job! My benefit will also be your benefit. I’m going to share the profits with you!”
The second guy also has good news: He doubled his portfolio, as well. The boss rewards him too.
Then the last guy tells his boss that he didn’t do anything with his portion of money. He was worried about losing it, so he put it in a checking account for the entire time. It didn’t earn a dime.
The boss is furious.
You didn’t even put it in a savings account or an IRA to earn some interest? If I can’t even trust you with that, how can I trust you with anything I actually value?
The Meaning of Stewardship
You probably recognize this as a parable told by Jesus. You can read the whole thing in Matthew 25.
We often hear this story talked about as an example of using our gifts and talents for God, and that’s certainly one of the obvious truths in the passage. We also tend to talk about stewardship simply in terms of talents or even directly in terms of money, like the passage does.
Sometimes we forget that good stewardship applies to all areas of our lives—our talents and our money, yes, but also our bodies, our brains, our emotions, our relationships and everything else.
One unsettling truth in this parable is that not everyone gets an equal starting point in terms of what they’re given.
Both of the first two guys doubled their investment, but one of them started with a much bigger amount, so his results were magnified. The boss didn’t explain why one got more, he only cared what they did with it.
Putting Ourselves in the Story
I’m a pretty average guy in most ways, but one of the things I like to do is run adventure races. In these races, you run through mud and often face electric shock, ice baths, fires you have to jump over, heavy loads you have to carry, etc.
When I tell most people about these races, they usually have the same reaction, which is some combination of “You’re crazy!” and “Why do you do this?”
I usually give an answer that goes something like this: I like to find my limits and push past them.
Socrates famously said: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I used to think this applied to philosophical introspection, but recently it dawned on me that I should apply this to other areas of my life.
We all need to examine our limitations and aim to push those limitations further out.
I’m not the smartest guy I know, but I teach some classes at a local university and college. I’m not the fastest or strongest guy I know, but I’ve completed triathlons. I know better ministers, but I’m part of an amazing community of believers who I get to help lead.
The point I’m making is not that I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none, but rather that even though I wasn’t given the $3 million to start with, I think I’m doing everything possible with the amount I did get.
Instead of getting frustrated that I didn’t get more (N.T. Wright’s brain, George Clooney’s looks, Peyton Manning’s arm), I’m going to get every drop out of what I have to work with. I want to get the highest rate of return possible out of every part of my life, so that when the time comes, I will know I’ve given my all for the God who gave me everything.
Here are some ideas to practice good stewardship of the investments you’ve been given. This is certainly not a prescription. Use stuff you like, ignore what you don’t like:
– Sign up for a race, walk, challenge, adventure race, etc
If you sign up for something, it’ll help motivate you to get moving to be ready.
– Buy a bike
– Get your sleep
– Drink more water
– Read a book once a month
– Take a class at a local college or an MOOC.
– Attend a conference that includes speakers from a perspective you don’t agree with
Plato’s protege, Aristotle said that the sign of an educated mind is the ability to entertain a thought without accepting it. Figure out why a rational human being could come to such a different viewpoint than your own by hearing him or her out.
– Go on a fast
Could be food, could be something else.
– Start a Bible reading plan
– Attend a prayer meeting/time/gathering at your church
– Memorize one bible verse each week
– Invest in a core group of close friends
Jesus intentionally spent more time with certain disciples. Who are the people that you’ve given the keys to your life so they can come in and help you to invest yourself wisely in every area?
– Throw a party and invite your neighbors
– Join a volunteer team at church
– Be the last one to release a hug
– Give somebody an unexpected compliment every day
– Learn an instrument
– Dress up once a week for no reason other than to feel good about yourself.
– Join a painting class
– Sing in the shower
– Visit a counselor/minister
Counselors aren’t just there for when everything is in shambles. They provide healthy outside perspective for any area of your life. Talking through areas of growth you have may yield great results.
As you seek to be a good steward, spend time thinking through the best ways for you personally to push yourself and best use what you’ve been given in each of these areas.