So why did this happen to me? Why did God choose to pin me down, and electrify me for three days so that I had to be carried around like a sack of potatoes? Didn’t he have more important things to do than show up all big and powerful? Why me?
Not that I’m complaining. A great many people who are zealous for the LORD would have loved it. They would have loved the touch of God, the heaviness of his presence, the brilliance of his glory. And a great many others who aren’t so zealous would have loved it too. It meant lounging around all day, being babied by strangers, and being the envy of the crowd. The Argentina Tourist Board couldn’t promise an attraction like this. And so I’m not complaining. Rather, I’m asking. I think it’s responsible to ask.
Good stewardship is based on the premise that we’re faithful with what we’ve been given. Today’s emphasis on stewardship—you hear about the concept much more these days—is based on a parable that Jesus told in Matthew 25. In the story, a wealthy man goes on a trip. Before leaving, he calls his three servants together and entrusts them with an amount of money (called a talent).
He does so “each according to his ability.” He gives one servant five units, another servant two units, and the third servant one unit. Then he leaves, and the servants are free to do what they want with the money, knowing that he’ll come back.
When the man returns, he calls them together. The first servant produces ten units—he has doubled his amount; the second servant produces four units—he’s also doubled his amount. But the third servant hands him back the original one unit. He didn’t want to lose it, so he had buried it in the ground until his master’s return.
To the servants who maximized their units he says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” But to the servant who didn’t, he says, “You wicked, lazy servant!” and he orders that his unit be given to the servant with the ten. Now, this barely seems fair. First of all, the servant did give back the original unit. He could have lost it or squandered it. Worse things could have happened. Second, why give it to the servant who already has so much? This seems like taking from the poor to give to the rich.
Although provocative, this is the heart of stewardship. It’s about being faithful with what we’ve been given. The first servant is the most faithful because he makes the most out of his units. The third servant is the least faithful because he makes nothing out of his units. Apparently mere maintenance isn’t acceptable by the master; he wants his servants to optimize their shares. And so we see why, in the beginning each is given a different amount, and why, in the end they’re treated as they are: each servant has a different stewardship ability.
The question is worth pondering: What’s our stewardship ability?
Most of us think this question has to do with how we treat money and material resources. And if we’re staying current with the culture, some of us consider our environmental impact. If we’re thinking deeper, some of us wonder how we’re using our talents and skills. But we might not consider our experiences. I didn’t, not until my friend Beth brought up the idea.
“We’re all stewards of our experiences,” she said.
“Yup, we have to steward our experiences well,” she clarified.
My mind scrambled, trying to make sense of this new idea: Could my experiences really be opportunities for stewardship? If so, why do my experiences qualify? Or is Beth over-applying the trendy fad of stewardship?
I decided to test the realm of personal experience with the criteria for stewardship given in the parable. In the story, the master entrusts property to his servants in order to maximize the return. So:
Criterion One: The master has property.
Criterion Two: The property is entrusted to servants.
Criterion Three: The master expects the servants to maximize the return.
As for criterion one, we don’t normally view experiences as property. Furthermore, if they’re our experiences, then how can the master own them, as in you can’t give away property unless it’s yours to give? However, if there is an experience with God, that is, when God is intentionally and directly involved when he otherwise doesn’t have to be, then it’s not just a personal experience; he’s involved too. And if he chooses to involve himself in your life, then he does have something to give away—his own presence. Criterion one checks out.
Next, criterion two. For the master who gave away money, his basis was trust: he trusted his servants to the extent that the Bible uses the word “entrusted,” when another word could have been used. Is this also true for experiences? Can they be entrusted from one person to another? I think so. Fathers allow their teenage sons to drive the family car because they trust them. Women tell intimate details about their lives to other women because they trust them. We provide experiences to other people all the time because we trust them. And so, yes, experiences are given on the basis of trust. Criterion two, check.
Lastly, criterion three. Should we expect good things to come from our experiences? Absolutely. If not, why send our kids abroad for a semester? Why go on family vacations? Why do anything? When we deliberately enter into experiences, we usually aim for good results. We expect to receive good returns from them, just like the master expected from his servants. Criterion three, check.
So it appears that personal experiences pass the test. They’re eligible for stewardship. We can either be good stewards or not with our experiences. Therefore, it is not only responsible, but stewardly, to examine our experiences. In my case, why did my extreme God experience happen? I think God wants me to figure out the point of it—he wants a good return.