St. Luke 12.vv.41-48
~ Peter said, "Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?" And the Lord said, "Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says to himself, 'My master is delayed in coming', and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required, and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded." ~
We all have our private or vocational nightmares. For me as a priest one is arriving too late for a Service which I should have conducted - "they've all gone home!".
On one occasion recently I was ready in good time to set off for a Church about 12 miles distant but my car wasn't, because the battery had discharged overnight. Feeling a rising panic, I knocked up a neighbour and asked him to lend me his car. He readily agreed since he was attending the local Church. I have never driven a car more carefully in my 60 years at the wheel. The car was older than mine, but it was not mine; if I had damaged it, I could never have forgiven myself. However, by lunch time I was safely back at his home to return the car with heartfelt relief.
I began later to reflect on what a responsibility we undertake when we use or share what does not belong to us. In so many ways we are guardians and stewards of what does not belong to us alone. I began to ask myself, does anything in this world really belong to me?
This is God's world. He is Creator and Redeemer. Of his grace and free will he gives us life and breath and all the blessings of this life. My house and the Church in which worship I cannot call my own. Others, like me, shared them before me, and hopefully others will after me. "Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked shall I return" said Job. "You can't take it with you", are words often addressed to those who would cling to earthly possessions, for they are not ours. We hold them in trust from God, but how we make use of them while they are in our keeping is a very serious matter. Even our nearest and dearest we cannot hold back when God calls them to himself. "All souls are thine, dear Lord, who gavest them to us, yet as thou didst not lose them in the giving, even so we do not lose them on their departing from us", said John Donne. Our Christian hope and trust is that those whom we have loved and lost we shall meet again in God's eternal kingdom - but the loss is sad and severe at parting. How important it is therefore to appreciate, cherish and preserve those people and things that God has given us. Wise stewardship is one of those important lessons that Jesus teaches us in the Gospels. We must be ready to give back to God all that we say we own.
One of God's greatest gifts to us is time, yet we often hear people say "I'm sorry but I have no time" (even to pray!). What they really mean is "I have all the time in the world (as we all have), but I have not organised my life, my priorities aright. Truly we live under pressures today; but the problem is not lack of time but control of it. Jesus died young, but the quality of his short life far surpassed that of those of us who have grown old. What he attempted, by God's grace he achieved.
In Church we make our offerings giving back to God what he has first given to us. "All things come of thee", we say, "and of thine own do we give thee". Jesus had much to say about the poor and the rich, about generosity and covetousness. Some of his most stringent teaching concerned the love of riches. What we give to his service is a measure of our love and what he means to us. Someone once asked, "When do we know when to stop giving?". The answer is simply, "Stop, when the Saviour stops giving to you".