Christ and money, Christ's way of life, parable of the talents, return on investment with God, stewardship
My wife posed a wonderful phrase tonight, “With God, we get multiple return on our investments.” This brought to mind the parable of the talents: it comes across striking (Matt. 25:14 ff.): why call the man who failed to invest his money wicked? Would you call someone who only saved the money loaned them—but did not invest it—wicked? Jesus spent significant time speaking on the dangers of money but the parable of the talents instructs how to handle money properly. A talent was worth many years’ wages, on an average level job’s income. In Acts 20:35, Luke cites Paul, who quoting Jesus says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” So Jesus, in Matthew, tells us not to give the money entrusted to us by the Lord but to invest it so that we can multiply it. But in Acts, Jesus tells us to give, and that giving would include money, because this giving is better than receiving. But isn’t investing our money, so that we get a return, receiving? When we also recall that Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matt. 6:19 – 20),” we are further perplexed.
Is there a way to harmonize these teachings; there is. Some of the most voracious givers are those who steward their money well—mainly because they have the money to give because of their sound governing of it. To have something to give as a regular way of life is to practice the wisdom of the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14 ff.). And a way of life marked by regular giving enjoys the blessing of Acts 20:35 as part of every day life. And what is part of this blessing? No doubt it is the joy we receive meeting needs but not to be overlooked, which Paul makes clear elsewhere (Phil. 4:17), is that giving is one way we store up treasure in heaven (Matt. 6:19 – 20). Further, this very giving is not only giving to others but also, when done with a proper posture towards, giving to God (Matt. 25:40).
When we live for the kingdom of Christ, we get multiple return on our investment: we get fiscal return by wise investing (Matt. 25:14 ff.), that fiscal return enables a giving way of life so incurring that psychological and spiritual blessing of joy by meeting needs (Acts. 20:35), that same action of giving, when not done for the purposes of being seen and recognized and done for the glory of the Father, purchases for us treasure in heaven (Matt. 6:19 – 20), and we gladly then give to God (Matt. 25:40). Is it not obvious why mis-stewarding money is considered wicked?
B. T. Scalise