by James Hood, Major –
In my last column, I explored the question, “Can I trust God?” Briefly, we recognized God’s gifts are generous and his care is constant, therefore, he can be trusted. Today, I would like to ask the question, “Can God trust us?”
As our boys were growing up, one of the most challenging areas was determining how much we could trust them. Each time they did what was right, we would give them a little more responsibility, but each time they disappointed us, we withdrew some responsibility. I believe the same is true in our relationship with God.
There are fewer than 500 verses in the Bible that refer to faith, about 500 that are devoted to prayer, but over 2,000 verses talk about money and possessions. Of the 38 parables of Jesus, 16 (over 40%) talk about money or possessions. One of the most difficult to understand is the one concerning the foolish steward (Luke 16:1-13), but it has some important points for our topic today.
First of all, God is the owner and we are just stewards or caretakers. If we believe we own all we possess, we will struggle with doing God’s will with the things we have. As soon as we acknowledge God’s ownership, the conflict disappears. If you earn $500 each week, give 10% to God and believe the $450 is yours, you will struggle with this issue. All $500 belongs to God, but he allows us to manage it for him.
Secondly, as the owner, God has certain expectations as to how we manage his possessions. He expects us to dedicate ourselves to him first (Romans 12:1). Next we dedicate our possessions to him (Luke 14:33), our time (Ephesians 5:15-17), our spiritual gifts (I Peter 4:10), and our ability to share the Gospel message (I Thessalonians 2:4). We may not all be evangelists, but we can all share the Gospel message in the special way God has provided, such as the conversation over a cup of coffee or tea.
Many of us wait for a crisis to force us to change. Such was the case with this foolish steward. Although he properly assessed his situation, he chose an inappropriate way of handling it. The commendation from Jesus relates to the man’s wise use of his opportunity, not the dishonesty or the time wasted improperly managing his master’s possessions. The most important lesson we can learn from this parable is that God gives us opportunities to change and put things in the right order.
Trust should never be granted without being earned. Jesus closes the parable with an admonition, “If you cannot be trusted with little things, you will never be trusted with big things and if you cannot be trusted with earthly things, you will never be trusted with heavenly things.” How much has God entrusted to you? Do you want him to trust you more? If so, you need to be faithful with the things already entrusted to you before he can trust you with more. Too many Christians are waiting for the “big things” before they will commit to being faithful. Let me share with you the parable of the three turtles:
Three turtles went on a picnic one summer afternoon. The first carried the picnic basket, the second the jug of turtleade and the third nothing. As they were setting up the picnic, they felt a few drops of rain. “We can’t have a picnic without an umbrella,” said the first. “Who will go back for the umbrella?” They made a choice—the empty-handed turtle was chosen. He refused saying, “As soon as I leave, you will eat all the food and drink all the turtleade and I will have nothing.” “We will wait for you, no matter how long it takes you.” So, with great reluctance, the empty-handed turtle turned back while the other two waited an hour, two hours, a day, two days, a week. Finally, after two weeks, “Maybe we should go ahead and have the picnic.” Just then a voice came out of the bushes behind them, “If you do, I won’t go!” Are you waiting behind the bushes instead of doing what God has asked you to do?
Trust can be measured. A minister in a farming community trying to make this point asked a farmer, “If you had 100 cows and God asked you for 50, would you give them to him?” “Of course,” replied the farmer. “If you had 100 horses and God asked for 50, would you give them to him?” “Well, sure,” came the confident reply from the farmer. “If you had two pigs and God asked for one, would you give it to him?” “Now, that’s not fair, preacher,” replied the farmer, “you know I have two pigs!” If you cannot be trusted with what you have, with what can you be trusted? Jesus closed this section with a final admonition, “You can’t serve both God and the bank.” This is the main point of this parable. Who is your master—is it money and things or it is God? You can trust God, but can he trust you?