While reading excerpts from various missionary writings for a class recently, the topic of Christian stewardship was raised. The Bible has much to say upon the subject of course: from Jesus’ parable concerning the talents (Matt. 25) to Paul’s admonishing the Ephesians to “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (5:15-16), amongst many others. In contrast to this, man’s culture is in most ways antithetical to the concept of stewardship; especially in the West, the idea of being beholden to anyone, or held responsible for something that you do not own, is viewed as reprehensible. However, the stewardship of the Christian is merely an extension of the Gospel and offers a freedom that no “individualism” or materialism can ever match.
During his time preparing for the mission field, Hudson Taylor was pointed by a friend to study the passages in the Bible pertaining to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Upon further study, Taylor became convicted. He writes in reference to his study of Scripture, “I learned, too, that it was their [new testament saints] privilege, from day to day and from hour to hour, to live as men who wait for the Lord; that thus living it was immaterial, so to speak, whether He should or should not come at any particular hour, the important thing being to be so ready for Him as to be able, whenever He might appear, to give an account of ones stewardship with joy, and not with grief” (320). Taylor goes on to describe how practical this hope was–and the ways that it drove him to, at various times throughout his life, give away earthly possessions that could be better used by others. While this specific example pertains to physical goods, it points to a deeper reality. Taylor wanted to give a good account to his Master of how he had used the ‘talents’ that he had received. This idea of stewardship, of wisely investing the resources God has granted us, has far reaching consequences for Christians–even to the point of life itself. The Psalmist says:
“My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.” (Ps. 139:15,16)
I love those two lines “in your book were written […] the days that were formed for me”. The days of our lives are a gift, the number of pages that they span are determined, and nothing will alter God’s good providence in completing the story He has for them. What a relief that our lives will never fall short, nor overstay, God’s good purposes for them.
Christians stand at a unique point in the world. The reality that God has made us heirs with Christ (Eph. 2), who are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (10), frees us to pursue hard things knowing that 1) our lives are not our own and 2) we do not labor in our own strength. Christians throughout history have been able to face war, famine, persecution, death, and plague with a genuine sacrificial love for others. Having a loving Father, who will carry us faithfully to the term of our days, frees us to leave behind the fears and selfish motives of the world, and love and serve others without reservation. In light of the hope of the Gospel, and the certainty that the span of our lives exist in God’s merciful hand, let us not engage our time in unbelieving fear, but may the reality of the coming of our Lord cause us to pause and consider, as it did Hudson Taylor, how best we may use the time we have been given; that we too, as the saints who have gone before, may “give an account of [our] stewardship with joy, and not with grief” on that last day.
Taylor, J Hudson. “The Call to Service.” Perspectives On the World Christian Movement, edited by Ralph D Winter, Fourth ed., William Carey Library, 2015, pp. 320.