About Me

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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Date: 11/14/2004
Feast: 33rd s in o
Church: LHPC
Bible text: Matt 25:14-30
Theme: Stewardship of Talents

Are there treasures in your attic? Of course there are. Otherwise, you’d have cleaned everything out and thrown it away years ago. Skinny ties, floral print coolots, green leisure suits – everyone knows that if you just hold onto it long enough, someday it’ll come back in style. Someday you’ll need spare parts from a broken waffle iron. Someday, all that stuff will be worth something. To somebody.

Have you seen that show, “Treasures In Your Attic?” People show up with a painting their grandmother bought at a flea market in 1963 for five dollars, and it turns out to be a lost Rembrandt, and boom! The couple who came in wearing overalls are walking out millionaires. The most common reaction of people watching the show is, “I used to have one of those!” Closely followed by, “But you made me throw it out.” This is reality TV at its best. None of us are ever going to get a job with Donald Trump. None of us are going to win a million dollars by surviving with swimsuit models on a tropical island. But everybody has stuff. And if you have enough stuff, some of it’s got to be a treasure.

Tough stuff. Jesus tells a parable about the stuff three stewards were given by their master. It flies in the face of a “Treasures In Your Attic” philosophy. The steward who buried the stuff in the ground and gave it back in mint condition not only gets his stuff taken away, he’s tossed into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And lo, the other stewards are thinking, “I am going to kiss my investment planner.”

I can’t imagine this is the moral to the story that Jesus wants us to take home. The rich get richer and the poor get tossed. If you’re a talented person with good stuff, God wants you to develop your talents and get more stuff, so God can take it when he gets back. No. This is a parable. This isn’t about investment strategies, or maximizing your self-worth. It’s about stewardship. The whole concept of stewardship is like one of those treasures in the attic that we barely remember we have. But it’s there. And that’s good news.


What’s a steward, anyway? Properly speaking, a steward is someone who minds somebody else’s business. From the get-go, that sounds dangerous. Interesting, but dangerous. “Mind your own business, dear,” mother always said. In old England, stewards were upper-class managers of the estate. In other times, stewards were those in charge of provisions and meals on a sailing ship, like Gopher on the Love Boat. We used to have stewardesses on airplanes. Now we have flight attendants trained to drop you like a bad habit. Our national steward, Martha Stewart, is behind bars for having too many talents. Stewardship is a term that doesn’t get much good use outside of church. And in church, too often stewardship is just a euphemism for fund-raising.

A truer understanding of stewardship would be if you took all the stuff from your attic, and put it in your neighbor’s attic – and your neighbor put all his stuff in yours. Then you’d both be stewards, minding each others’ business. It’d probably be whole lot of fun combing through their stuff, too. Who knows what treasures you’d find? And if you were a good steward, you’d pull their stuff out of the dusty old boxes, clean it, polish it, fix it up so it’s as good as new. You’d take the best stuff to “Antiques Roadshow,” and have it appraised. And if it’s really worth something, you might take the proceeds from the sale of the stuff and set up a trust fund so your neighbor’s kids can go to college and learn more stuff.

A steward, then, isn’t someone who maximizes her own potential, or his own self-worth, or her own treasures. A steward is someone who maximizes someone else’s potential, someone else’s self-worth, someone else’s treasures and talents. A steward is someone who cares enough to be a good neighbor. A steward acts in love and concern, not for what she’s getting out of the transaction, but for what she might be able to raise for her friend. To be a good steward is one of the highest Christian callings there can be. And in that sense, it’s always stewardship season.


This is NOT the message you’ll hear if you go to the mall. This is NOT the message you’ll see on your television. This is NOT the message you’ll watch on an advertisement, or read on a billboard. This world is about as anti-stewardship as a world can get.

If we were to each sit down and take an inventory of all of our stuff, what would we learn about ourselves? I think about so much of the stuff I just absolutely had to have because it would make my life better, or easier, or more productive. I don’t want to think too much about it, because it would give me a headache. We all buy stuff because we want it. It has nothing to do with rational thought. We don’t stop and say, “Yes, I want it, but will I still need it, or use it, six months from now? Will I be able to find it seven months from now? Will it end up in my attic? Could I get it into my neighbor’s attic without him knowing?” We buy stuff because it’s cool, or pretty, or it matches our shoes. And if we can afford it and it makes us happier, or better-looking, or more productive, there’s no harm in that.

But where the danger lies is that mindless consumption consumes us. And I don’t mean that it’s wrong to have, say, an iPod. iPods are cool. All your kids should have one. But a mind overtaken with mindless consumption is a mind that’s had the concept of stewardship surgically removed. It’s just gone. And the empty space left where stewardship used to be gets rented out real fast to the next cool, must-have item on the market. Without stewardship, we are hollow. Without a sense of stewardship, we exist for our own tastes, we serve our own tastes, we worship our own tastes. We consume ourselves.


In the parable, the would-be steward who hid his master’s talent under a rock was scared. He was afraid because he knew his master was a harsh man and he was afraid of messing up. So he played it safe. He played it safe for himself, and he played it safe with his master’s talent. Nothing wrong with playing it safe. Except that the man wasn’t asked to be a safe-keeper. He was asked to be a steward.

Jesus’ final commandment to his disciples made it plain that he saw himself as a steward, and he expected them to be stewards, too. Jesus’ final commandment was this: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” [Mt 28:19]

Jesus’ commandment wasn’t, “Stay at home. Play it safe. Don’t get around sinful people because they’ll just mess you up.” Jesus’ Great Commission to his disciples – his marching orders for you and me – just makes plainer the inherent danger of stewardship. It says Jesus is entrusting you with his authority, all authority in heaven and on earth. Jesus is telling you to take care of his words for a while. Take care of his care, take care of his love, take care of his commandments. Treat them like a priceless treasure, and don’t you dare hide them away in your attic. Be a steward who takes care of business on God’s behalf, and pursue God’s purposes as relentlessly, and with as much self-sacrifice as did Jesus Christ himself.

Michael said last Sunday, “There’s never enough time.” But if there were, we’d all develop our God-given talents a little more. At least, that’s what we say. If we had more time, we’d learn to dance, or take up watercolor painting, or read a book. We’d spend more time with the people we love. Again, that’s what our intentions would be. And if by our example someone learned that it’s OK to dance or paint, or read or love a little more, so much the better. But even that misses the stewardship boat.

According to the Bible, you are your brother’s keeper, and you are your neighbor’s steward. Not only are you entrusted with God’s love and care, you are the vessel for carrying that love and care. You’re the steward who serves God’s mercy and grace. You’re the manager tasked with showing a return on that love and care, and mercy and grace. Will you multiply God’s talents by sharing them? Or will you stow them in the attic until they’re worth a little more?