RESPONSIBILITY AND STEWARDSHIP OF GOD’S GIFTS
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [EPHESIANS 3:2-12; LUKE 12:39-48 ]
After Jesus spoke about the householder keeping watch lest the burglar comes and breaks into the house, Peter asked the Lord, “Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?” The truth is that stewardship and responsibility is the task of all, regardless what position, state or rank we hold in life. We are all called to be good stewards of the gifts God entrusted to us. No one is exempted and each is called to give an account of what he or she has been given. “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God … So then, each of us will be accountable to God.” (Rom 14:10,12)
How, then, should we exercise responsible stewardship? Firstly, we need to know the mind of our master. Jesus said, “The servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes.” Indeed, because we are stewards, not owners, we must understand the mind, heart and wishes of our master. We must align ourselves with the vision, mission and the core values of our master if we were to serve him and his organization. For this reason, before we serve or work in any organization, we must first understand the goals and values of the organization and that of the leader.
Secondly, there are various degrees of responsibility in stewardship. Not all of us bear the same responsibility in any organization or community. Those who know more are expected to fulfill the vision and execute the mission of the organization accordingly. Those who are given less access or responsibility, less would be demanded. We should therefore assume our responsibility according to what is ours. We must make a distinction between the areas of concern and the area of influence. Whilst we are concerned about many things, we might not have the influence or the clout to make changes. So we should not feel burdened simply because we cannot effect the changes we feel should take place. We should accept their limitations and constraints. When the time comes for us to be placed in positions of authority, then that is the time we should act accordingly.
Thirdly, a good steward is always passionate and committed in whatever he or she is appointed to do. He or she is ever ready and watchful of the situation. The Lord said, “What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time?” There is no compartmentalization in life. Life is always holistic. We have responsibility to different groups of people in our life. There is no such thing as time off from our responsibilities. Whenever we are needed to take action, we should be there and ready.
Fourthly, responsible stewardship creates trust and confidence. Unless we are responsible with what is entrusted to us, we cannot be given more. Jesus said, “Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you truly, he will place him over everything he owns.” We should never worry about promotion and prospect in any organization. We should not allow ambition to dictate the efforts we put into our work. Rather, we should learn to be responsible in what we are given to do. When we do them well, more will be given to us. This is the natural process of how things develop. Trust begets trust. As Jesus in the gospel said, “When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.” In another place, He said, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (Mt 25:23)
Today, in the first reading, St Paul shows what true stewardship is all about. Firstly, he was grateful for the gifts that the Lord had given to him in spite of his unworthiness. “I have been made the servant of that gospel by a gift of grace from God who gave it to me by his own power. I, who am less than the last of all the saints, have been entrusted with this special grace, not only of proclaiming to the pagans the infinite treasure of Christ but also of explaining how the mystery is to be dispensed.” He was aware that he was not worthy to be Christ’s servant, especially when he had persecuted the Christians. But because he was chosen, St Paul gave himself completely to the Lord and the gospel. St Paul was fully aware that the gift he had received was not for himself but for others. “You have probably heard how I have been entrusted by God with the grace he meant for you, and that it was by a revelation that I was given the knowledge of the mystery, as I have just described it very shortly.”
Secondly, he was aware of the plan of God for humanity. He understood the mind of our heavenly Father and that of His Son. He knew that Christ was that infinite treasure of God given to us. The mystery of God’s plan was revealed to him. He wrote, “If you read my words, you will have some idea of the depths that I see in the mystery of Christ. This mystery that has now been revealed through the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets was unknown to any men in past generations; it means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Christ Jesus, through the gospel.”
Thirdly, St Paul understood that the plan of God was revealed in and through Christ Jesus. “Through all the ages, this has been kept hidden in God, the creator of everything. Why? So that the Sovereignties and Powers should learn only now, through the Church, how comprehensive God’s wisdom really is, exactly according to the plan, which he had had from all eternity in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is why we are bold enough to approach God in complete confidence, through our faith in him.” The Good News is about Christ who is God’s revelation to humanity. It is therefore Christ that St Paul proclaimed. “He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (1 Cor 1:30)
Consequently, today, we must exercise good and responsible stewardship in our family, Christian community, society and country. We are all householders of some sort. Jesus said to His disciples: “You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” We must be responsible in our duties towards our loved ones at home, in church and in our place of work. There is no place for a Christian who is lazy, self-indulgent and irresponsible.
Unfortunately, many of us are irresponsible householders. The irony is that we often take our loved ones for granted. This is particularly so in family life. Members of the family do not play their part to keep the house in order. Some simply take from the family and the house, without contributing anything to the family. They want to enjoy the free meals and the free accommodation but they would not contribute to the expenses of the family, clean the house or take care of the children and the elderly. We push the work to our domestic helper or some members of the family who are more self-sacrificing. This can also happen in the work place where we are sloppy and irresponsible in our projects and work. Others will have to mop up after us and correct our mistakes and negligence. Proper stewardship is often lacking also among Christians in their faith. Many of us do not impart our faith to our children through words and good examples. We do not nourish and nurture our faith and hence we fail to share the plan of God for humanity with others as Paul did.
So today, let us turn to the Lord once again for direction and for inspiration. Listening to the exhortation of the psalmist, we say, “Truly, God is my salvation, I trust, I shall not fear. For the Lord is my strength, my song, he became my saviour. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” Let us “give thanks to the Lord, give praise to his name! Make his mighty deeds known to the peoples! Declare the greatness of his name, sing a psalm to the Lord! For he has done glorious deeds, make them known to all the earth!” Let us reveal His plan of salvation to all by our proper, diligent and responsible exercise of good stewardship of the graces we have received, whether temporal or spiritual.
Otherwise, there is a warning of accountability. “But as for the servant who says to himself, ‘My master is taking his time coming,’ and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.” Indeed, Jesus said, “You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
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