Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 8, 1952

Christian Stewards

R. C. Bell, Abilene, Texas

Opportunity, ability, and will to serve a master are three essentials to stewardship. From Christ's parables dealing with stewardship, this paper uses three, each of which throws emphasis on a different one of these three characteristics which all good stewards have in common.

Parable Of The Hours (Mat. 20:1-16)

The rudiments of this story are that a lord of a vineyard went out early and hired men to work all day for a shilling. Then, at midmorn, noon, midafternoon, and five afternoon, respectively, he hired other men, who went to work at their first opportunity without an agreement as to wage. At close of day, each of all laborers received a shilling, the wage for a full day.

This parable emphasizes the truth that Christians have a Lord, who out of his sovereign goodness gives men the opportunity of serving him and pays them according to their faithfulness in using the opportunity. When men are ready to serve at the first opportunity, as were the men in the story, they can never lose by reason of circumstances over which they have no control.

Parable Of The Talents (Mat. 25:14-30)

This second parable of our triad tells of a Lord, who on leaving home, gave to one servant "five talents, to another two, to another one; to each according to his several ability." When the lord returned, the servant entrusted with five talents had increased his five to ten, the servant with two talents had doubled them, but the servant with one talent had gained nothing.

Without dimming the lesson of the first parable, this parable emphasizes the truth that Christians have a trustworthy Lord, who in understanding and kindness deals with them according to their ability, and adapts the load to the shoulder that is to bear it.

The basic trouble with the servant who had gained nothing was mistrust of his lord. His lord was unreasonable, even unjust, expecting him to make brick without straw! Had this least gifted servant trusted and served his lord, he could have been as successful in his class as more richly endowed fellow-servants were in their respective classes. Of how much service do misgivings concerning God's providence and Christ's fulfillment of his promises rob them?

Parable Of The Pounds (Luke 19:11-27)

In this third parable all the servants, equally gifted, started work at the same time. The servant whose pound grew into eleven pounds, and who got both praise and rulership over ten cities as his reward, had no advantage in either opportunity or ability over the servant whose pound grew into only six pounds, and who received no praise and only five cities; or over even the servant who was cast out because he hid his pound. The sole ground for this difference in reward, obviously, was different degrees of fidelity to their absent lord.

Supplementing and rounding out the first two parables, this parable emphasizes the truth that the reward of Christians at their Lord's return is to accord with the diligence and faithfulness with which they have served Him in his absence.

The Parables Summarized

Of course the three closely related parables cover much common ground; yet each stresses its particular truth. The parable of the Hours teaches especially that despite differing opportunities among Christians equal reward is given for equal readiness and fidelity. The parable of the Talents teaches especially that despite differing abilities among Christians equal reward is given for equal diligence and fidelity. The parable of the Pounds teaches especially that to Christians of equal opportunity and ability unequal reward is given for unequal fidelity. Therefore, whether Christians miss heaven entirely, "be saved; yet so as through fire' (1 Cor. 3:15), or "receive a full reward" (2 John 8) is contingent on their use of God's graciously given opportunities and abilities. "Moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful" (1 Cor. 4:2).