One of the metaphors which Jesus employs to describe the time of his absence before his return and consummation of the Kingdom is like that of lord of an estate who has entrusted to his slaves with the resources of his estate to oversee, work, and grow for their master. The slaves entrusted with their master’s resources are called stewards, and it is from this metaphor that we get the language of stewardship. So when the master calls his slaves together and entrusts them with talents (not a gift or skill but rather a large sum of money), he is employing them as stewards.
As we consider stewardship, there are a couple of things we must remember. Firstly, we are not renters (let alone owners) of our master’s resources. I think we believe that what we have and enjoy are ours, and if we’re sort of spiritual we won’t say they are ours, but we assume that we have rights to those things—like someone renting a house. Even though we don’t own the house, we can expect privacy, security, and maintenance as a consequence of our agreement with the owner. This is not the case between us and God. We are not renters, we are slaves. And as slaves, we own nothing. All we have is the master’s—even our lives.
Secondly, we need to remember that if we hope to live as good stewards, we must enter into the grace of his Lordship. By this I mean, if we expect to pull God over the barrel of condition and expectation, we will find that we are thinking of ourselves as owners. Now one might try to take responsibility for his merit before God, one might hope to plead or demand his rights before the judge, but you know that deep in your heart, there is a nagging sense of insufficiency, otherwise you thought life wouldn’t be so consumed with defending yourself. Just so, we’re nagged and beset by a deep shame and fear, that when the accounting has played out, we will be weighed and found wanting. So, we throw ourselves on the mercy of the court, and look for one who will stand in our place, deliver us from judgment, and save us from the guilt which is ours. In this way, we become slaves of Christ—the one who bought our lives with his own life, the one who died the death we should’ve died after living the life we should’ve lived takes ownership of our lives as we give it to him.
And here we are again: slaves. Because of grace then, God can do anything he likes with our lives. He can require of us anything that pleases him. Now if God were a merciless tyrant, that would of course, be a terrifying prospect. But the Bible teaches us that God is not merciless, but that he delights in mercy, that he loves the weak and helpless, that he takes up the cause of those who have no advocate. It would be reasonable to believe that we are owed nothing more and should expect nothing more from this life. However, Jesus through the gospel, does something so extraordinary: he lays down his life and makes us co-heirs with him. We are no longer slaves, but sons—that is powerful medicine. As you think about the things God has entrusted to you: life, property, joy, body, spouse, children, and the gospel, consider what he has done to secure for you a place with himself in Jesus, and while seeking to be faithful to oversee what has been entrusted, offer it all back to him to will and to work according to his good pleasure. In that you will rejoice in serving your master, while enjoying the rights and privileges of sonship.