The idea of an end in the Bible is much more than simply a passing away or a putting behind us. The idea of end in the Bible always carries the idea of accounting, of giving an account to the Judge of all the earth, and coming before the Maker and Lord of all.
The end is a time when we must pass before the eye of God to receive His verdict, a time when the Lord enters into judgment and calls us to give a reckoning of what we have done.
I would have you hear personally the Master, Jesus Christ, as He calls us in His Word to “give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.” Those words are found in Luke 16:2. In those words the Lord Jesus Christ calls us personally to give an account to Him of all that we have done and said in 1996. We must give an account for no one else, not for our neighbor, sister, brother, husband, or wife. We must give an account for ourselves. And we do not give an account to anyone other than the Lord Jesus Christ.
I want to consider with you today the idea of giving an account of our stewardship.
The Bible speaks often of a steward. So does Jesus in those words from Luke 16:2. A steward was one who was placed over the household of his master. He was a slave, a servant. He himself owned nothing. Yet, all the goods and possessions of his lord were entrusted to his hands to care for and to use to the best possible advantage of his master. The money, the possessions, the other servants, even the children of his lord were given to him to rule over them as he would do to his own. Yet they were not his own.
This idea, as I said, is a very common one in the Bible. Jesus spoke of it in Luke 12:42. There we read: “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?” The steward there was called the ruler of the lord’s household, the one who divvied out the food to the members of the household. He was to be faithful, committed to his lord, unswerving in his loyalty. And he was to be wise, that is, resourceful, cunning, quick of mind to see his lord’s best interests and to accomplish that best interest.
Jesus also speaks to us today of the fact that we are stewards. We are those who have been entrusted with the goods and the affairs of our Lord. As a steward in the days of Jesus had to arise early, before anyone else was up, and see to it that the schedule for the household was set for that day, that the other servants were set at their work, that the food was distributed, that the children of the lord were taught – as he was charged with all of these things, so also Jehovah says that we are stewards in this life. That is the fact that has to sink down into our souls. There is nothing insignificant. There is nothing of which you can say, “Well, it doesn’t really matter.” There is no talent you possess, no time that you have, no possession that you have which is something that you may squander. You may not slouch or slack. You may not have the thought that it does not matter what you do with those talents of mind, money, children, goods, clothes, whatever it may be.
Every man is a steward before God in the sense that all that every man, woman, and child has is not his own but is given to him of God with the clear calling to render those things in the service of God’s name. Whoever the man may be, whether he is a president or a financier or a king or a landowner or in government, whoever he may be, that man owns nothing. He is responsible to the Lord and Creator of all, the living God. We read in Haggai 2:8, “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts.” Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” All things belong to God: the “gold coast” of the north lakeshore in Chicago, the stocks of Wall Street, the commodities, the grain, the corn, the apartments, the houses, the cars, the clothes. Whose are all these things? The Lord’s, who will also require of His own at the hands of every man, woman, and child.
The Bible goes on to tell us that man, by nature, rebels against his stewardship. Greed is enthroned upon our hearts. We say, concerning those things, they are mine and I may use them for myself, as I please, for my own purposes. The secret statement of every person’s heart is this: “Who is Jehovah that I should obey Him?”
But in the Lord Jesus Christ we are restored as stewards. We are brought back into the household of God. We who are cheats and robbers and swindlers by nature are restored as the stewards of God to serve Him, so that we may say, in Jesus Christ, we love our Master. And we are given grace to be faithful and wise stewards over the Lord’s possessions. We are stewards of the time, talents, goods, and substance of our Lord, which we are called to use for His advantage, and to whom we must also be ready to give an account.
There is nothing that is unimportant: the time, talents, possessions, all that we have is important. We may not be indifferent concerning our life. We may not take the attitude towards anything: So what, it does not matter! We may not have that attitude. We may not say, “Well, I’ll study my lesson for school if I want. I’ll pick up my room when I want.” No, the Word of God is that we must seize every opportunity, every moment, every talent. We must learn in school, we must work diligently in our employment, we must be responsible.
Why must we do these things? To make more money? No. To get on the honor roll in school? No. To get ahead? No. To make something of myself? No. This is why. Because we are stewards of the things, time, talents of the living God. We are stewards in the kingdom of God.
Scripture speaks to us of this stewardship in some very specific ways. I have been speaking of our earthly life, of our possessions, our homes, clothes, and jobs. But we are also stewards of the gift of salvation. I Peter 4:10, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Our spiritual life, in all of its details – we are set over that as stewards to be fruitful and prosperous to the Lord. That includes the knowledge of God and His Word, the Bible. We are to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth of God in the Bible. We are to grow in the graces, love, trust, faith, obedience, and purity.
Still more, the Bible speaks of stewardship in very specific ways. For instance, it speaks of ministers and elders as stewards set in the church or house of God. In I Corinthians 4:1 we read: “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.” A minister of Jesus Christ is not one who is to be defined as being young, attractive, and who smiles a lot. But a minister of Jesus Christ is someone who has been entrusted with the blood-purchased church of God. And he must bring to each person in that church a portion of the bread of his Master. He must be busy with the Word of God. And a minister is someone who must give an account to God for the souls which have been placed, by God, under his care.
The same is true of elders in the church. Titus 1:7, “For a bishop (an elder) must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre.” There is no greater stewardship than that of an elder in the church of Jesus Christ. God entrusts to an elder to rule in His own house. All the affairs of discipline, or spiritual growth, that is their responsibility.
All of us have a stewardship. That is true of those who are placed in authority. Parents – God entrusts to your hand as a parent covenant children. That is not your child. God has not relinquished ownership. You are a steward to serve your Master’s interests in that child. You are not simply to give that child over to neglect, neglect before the TV or video, shuffled off to the daycare. You may not abuse that child or treat that child with your fickle emotions, yelling and raging and spoiling. You are the steward of God before the child to educate, prepare, and equip them to stand in the house of the King, ready, so that they are able to praise Him. You are to mold them after the pattern of Jesus Christ.
Young people, you are stewards. Children, you are stewards of your time, your bodies, of every moment that you spend on earth. God is going to ask you to give an accounting of what you have done. The talents you have, you may not bury them. You may not envy others and say, “Well, if I had their mind or their looks or their money, boy, could I go places.” No, you must take heed of your own stewardship, your talents, and your body. You must care for it for one purpose: in order that you might please and further your Lord’s honor. The master has picked you for your stewardship.
Now, you must give an account of that stewardship. Jesus says these words: “Give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.” You must give an account to God, to Jesus Christ. You must not simply give an account to others, but to the Lord. You must give an account of your stewardship, not the stewardship of others. Do not look back over 1996 and say, “Lord, my wife, my husband, my parent, my neighbor, they have been negligent here and here and here. Lord, look at what they did. See how they neglected their stewardship.” The Lord does not need you to open other people’s books for Him. He has one book open right now and you must concern yourself with that book. That book is yours. You must give an account to Him for all that you have done, said, in 1996. In the words of our Lord in chapter 12, He has come to His own house. And He will take account of His stewards. You must render an account to the Lord.
Jesus is using some very graphic language here. We read that He calls us. That word “call” is a very powerful word. It is referring to a piercing and clear, arresting tone. There is power in His voice. None can speak as the Lord, right to the heart, as He speaks in His majesty and power. You must give an account of your stewardship. Or better, you must give back your stewardship. You must return it to the Lord. And you must render an account. You must verbally, with your mouth, speak of all that you have done with what He has entrusted to your care. Whether that is with shame or joy, sorrow or happiness, with regret or thankfulness, you must render an account today.
Pastor, elder and deacon, stewards in the house of God: Give an account of your stewardship. Has the Word of God, in all of its parts, been taught and brought to the people of God entrusted to your care? You must answer that before God. Have the wayward been called upon in the love Jesus Christ to return to Christ in repentance? Have the poor and the sorrowful and the needy been visited and helped? Has the life and the good of the church of Jesus Christ been first and foremost upon your heart in this past year? Have you done all of this, not grudgingly, not saying, “Oh, I don’t have time for this,” but have you done this with a holy joy mixed with holy trembling before God?
Believer, you must give an account. You are a steward of the gift of salvation. Have you grown in grace? Did you read through the Bible in 1996? Did you attend Bible classes? Did you grow in love for the saints? Did you grow in prayer? Does today find you walking closer to your Lord than you did a year ago?
Parents, the children who have been entrusted to your care to nurture, you must give an account for what they have learned. You must give an account for their life. Not first the teacher in the Christian school, not first the pastor in your church. No, no one stands in front of you. All of those are second-place in line. You must give an account for the life of your child. You are responsible. You are the steward.
And you must give back to Him what He has given you. Your life, your sexual purity, your body, your mind, your talents. All that He has given to you and all of your calling to obey and love Him, to walk in His Word. You must give an account for everything you have done in this past year.
How can we but also hear His Word today when He says, “How is it that I hear this of thee?” We feel shame as we come before Him, I trust. We who, by grace, love our Lord Jesus Christ, nevertheless are ashamed sometimes to hear Him say, “How is it that I hear this of thee? You are my steward and you did not read My Word because you said you had no time. But you squandered your time in front of worthless programs on the TV and worthless books. You did not read My Word. You did not use those talents of mine that I gave to you, You were lazy. You did not use those opportunities to show forth the love and the concern of Jesus Christ but you lived a self-centered life in this year. The causes of My church and the kingdom, the Christian school, and the poor – those causes went begging and they lacked when you had My goods in your wallet, in your checkbook and you used those goods first of all elsewhere. Is that the way you used your stewardship? And the wonderful love that I have shown you in Jesus Christ, and the grace that I have promised you to carry you through your earthly life, you did not use that but instead, in the midst of your worries, you looked to your own strength to cope and to carry you through.”
You and I must give an account of our stewardship.
When we do that we have to confess our sins. We have to thank Him humbly for all that He gave us to do. And we must commit ourselves once again, as we enter the year 1997, that in the strength of Jesus we shall bring everything – mind, talents, time, and possessions – into the service of our God and Master.
But today we must give an account. For thou mayest no longer be steward. The idea is this, that each day, each hour, each year brings us to the close of our stewardship for that day, hour, and year. I do not know how to impress upon us how important each moment of time in our life is. We can never go back. Each hour, each day, each month, each year is sealed behind us. You cannot go back, open that day up, and rewrite what has happened. The stewardship you exercised in that hour is sealed to all eternity. You may no longer be steward of that time, moment, or opportunity. What you did is written down. And nothing can ever erase or alter it. It stands there whether we were faithful and diligent or careless and indifferent. Children and young people, what you do each hour, each moment in your life, is there forever. From the point of view of your stewardship you can no longer be steward of that moment. You have to give an account. It does matter what you do! It does count. Each hour is given to you to serve the only Lord and Master who alone is worthy of your service.
Then death comes. Then, too, we can no longer be steward in this life. And as the last days, hours, and minutes tick off the clock of 1996 should the very clock of your life set by God also now be ticking to its last moment, are you ready to give an account? You, who are the steward of God, are you ready to give an account of your life? Shall the Lord, if He came to you now, find you doing His will? Or are you that wicked servant of whom Jesus spoke, who said in his heart, “My lord delayeth his coming,” and does not prepare himself and is to be beaten with many stripes?
This life, each moment, your talents, your calling, everything with respect to your life is important, utterly important, for all eternity, because you are a steward of God. And He calls you to use it all for His glory.
Be diligent. Use your time, your possessions, your talents, your mind, your strength, all to His service. For He alone is worthy.
Then, when He comes and asks you to give account of your stewardship, may you hear with grace the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Thou hast been faithful over a few things. I will make thee inherit the true riches of glory. Enter into the joy of thy Lord.”
Let us pray.
Father, make us to be the faithful steward using all things in Thy service, for Thou alone art worthy. Amen.