We live in an age where everyone can have a platform. The prevalence of the internet, social media, and even books (an average of 2.2 million are published worldwide every year) can make us feel like all of our ideas can be, and should be, shared. There is a temptation to indulge in the culture of self-promotion, but I believe that God calls us to live a life of stewardship instead. However, it can be hard to differentiate the lines between the two.
The dictionary defines the two terms as follows:
Self-promotion: the action of promoting or publicizing oneself or one’s activities, especially in a forceful way.
Stewardship: the job of supervising or taking care of something, such as an organization or property.
I define self-promotion as doing something to elevate and secure yourself. Stewardship is when you do what God has called you to do, even when it costs you absolutely everything. Both stewardship and self-promotion can involve having a platform. However, a platform via self-promotion entails working really hard to elevate yourself. A platform via stewardship is a natural result of service.
[Related: Service Brings Access: How to Humbly Reach Your Destiny]
The Parable of the Talents
One of my favorite examples of stewardship in the Bible is the Parable of the Talents. Jesus compares this story (found in Matthew 25:14-30) to the Kingdom of Heaven. He says, “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.” In this scenario, the servants symbolize people, and the master symbolizes God. Some calculate a single talent to be worth 20 years of wages to the common worker. More conservative estimations place a talent between $1,000 and $30,000 in today’s US dollars. Regardless, the servants aren’t dealing with small numbers—they’ve been entrusted with a lot.
The master of the house gives five talents to the first servant. This servant doubles the amount and ends up with ten. When the master returns, he praises, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!”
The servant who has two talents repeats the same doubling process. However, the servant who was given one talent takes it and buries it in the ground. When the master returns, the servant digs it up and explains, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth.” The master becomes disappointed and angry with this servant. He takes the one talent from the third unfaithful servant and hands it to the first servant who has ten talents. He says, “To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance.
[Related: 3 Pathways to Stewardship]
5 Lessons I Learned from Unpacking this Parable:
1. We are stewards, not owners. The time and resources that we’re entrusted with in this life are not our own. God gives them to us, and our job is to live a fruitful life with what we’re given. It’s not about our platform.
2. God is intentional with the type of resources and literal talents that he gives us to carry. We are each given things to steward, “according to our ability,” and everyone is different.
3. Avoid making decisions out of fear at all costs. The servant who was given one talent didn’t take any risks with his finances because he was afraid to disappoint the master. His fear drove him to the point where his actions really didn’t make any sense. He could have at least put his one talent in the bank to gain interest!
4. God is good. The master’s motivation for giving his servants talents in the first place was so that they could grow in relationship and celebrate together. The reason that the first servant didn’t steward the money well was because they misinterpreted the character of their master. How often do we miss out on blessings because we don’t understand God’s goodness?
5. God rewards wise stewardship. If you live a life of service, divine doors to more responsibilities will open for you. You will have the peace and provision that you need. You also will not become stagnant. The Kingdom of God is a greenhouse for supernatural growth.
[Related: Why it’s Hard for a Rich Person to Enter the Kingdom of Heaven]
Thank you for your insight into this parable. It is one of my favourites. One thing that stands out to me is that very important fact which is EVERYBODY is DIFFERENT. Our differences are largely genetically determined and when something is genetically determined, it gives us a characteristic over which we have no choice. Intelligence is one of those. Unlike knowledge which can be augmented, intelligence is 95% genetically determined (environmental influences playing a very small role). In Matthew’s version of the parable, the servant that buried his talent was scolded. This is something I am grappling to come to terms with. If one is blessed with low intellect, it is not one’s choice, therefore one should not be criticised for something over which one has no choice! One in ten US citizens have an IQ of less than 83, which effectively makes them unemployable. It’s not their fault! How do we deal with that fact of life?
Hello, Art! Thank you for reading, and thank you for your question–it is a difficult one to grapple with. God is love (1 John 4:16), and I would say that we have to trust the character of God enough to know that He regards every individual personally and justly, high IQ or not. Scripture tells us that He has a plan and purpose for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11), and that He knit us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). What I love about the parable of the talents is that the scripture says that each person was given a talent according to their ability to steward. So, God knows what every individual can handle, and he entrusts them accordingly. Plus, God doesn’t judge based on the world’s system of value. A high IQ isn’t necessarily better, in a spiritual sense. “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) If you feel a burden for those who have a lower intellect, that could be from God. He could be calling you to stand beside, empower, and offer them a hand up–press in, and our team will be praying for you!