From the story of the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19), we learn that stewardship is not simply about money. Stewardship is both a principle and a practice, a lifelong attitude and activity that has many aspects.
It is a realization of who God is and what he has done – how he has provided for us. It is also an attitude and response of thanksgiving with a willingness to offer it all back to him for his glory.
Nine turkeys and one thankful leper
In this familiar story, Jesus is met by ten lepers. They cry out to him, begging to be healed. And he does heal them, as, on the way to see the Temple priests, they realize they have been cured. Then nine of the ten went on their merry way without even a glance back over their shoulders. (What turkeys!)
Only one, realizing the amazing gift he had received, turned back to Jesus to thank him, whereupon Jesus asked, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?” Good question!
Our first reaction may be righteous indignation due to the lack of gratitude shown by the nine. But the more important thing is the grateful leper who did go back. Why did he go back when the others didn’t? What was different about him, and most importantly, what can we learn from him?
Lordship and gratitude
The leper who returned recognized that Jesus is God and Lord of all. He was Lord of their disease, and he proved it by healing them. The leper came back worshiping God and fell down on his face at the feet of Jesus.
Each leper had to come to a decision about who Jesus was. Only one seemed to realize he is Lord and worshiped him. In the same way, each of us has to decide who (or what) is going to be Lord of our lives.
I think one of the big reasons for the lack of thankfulness and gratitude is that many people think they are lord of their own lives. Even if they don’t really think so, they function as if they are. They attribute all they have to their own effort. For them, the whole concept of biblical stewardship is foolishness.
Christians, on the other hand, want to make God the Lord (ruler) of their lives and acknowledge that he is their ultimate provider. This results in thankfulness. But we can be tempted to smuggle in a little self-worth, self-effort, or self-deservedness, giving ourselves some of the credit.
If I believe that I am lord of my life, then everything I have – time, talent and treasure – belongs to me by right, and because I earned it, it is mine to do with as I please. This is contrary to one of the main principles of biblical stewardship, which is that God is Lord of all, he is our Father, and we are the work of his hands.
The leper who returned to Jesus knew that Jesus was Lord, and he knew that Jesus had done something amazing in his life. He knew he wasn’t healed by his own power or because of his own effort or worth. In fact, he cried out for mercy so it seems he knew that he did not deserve anything. He only knew that God had richly blessed him; that God had done a miracle for him and his friends.
Gratitude and stewardship
Biblical stewardship and gratitude go hand-in-hand because the good steward understands that God is the source of all things and he actively provides for us.
Each of us has been created, called into existence out of nothing. Nothing is our own because we were made from nothing. Our very existence is a gift from God, and we would have nothing apart from him. John 1:3 reminds us that, speaking of Jesus…
All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (ESV)
These things cause our pride and self-sufficiency to melt away so that we begin to realize that everything we are accustomed to calling ours is really his. Instead, we are filled with gratitude for everything that God has made and how he provides for us.
Don’t be a “turkey”
We read in Luke 17:15-16a…
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. (ESV)
We can’t be indifferent like the nine lepers in the story; we must be thankful, like the one falling at Jesus’ feet. We too must throw ourselves down at Jesus’ feet out of humble gratitude.
Because God is our Lord, we know that all we have comes from him and we will worship God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. Stewardship will result in generosity of time, talent and treasure, which is our thanksgiving to God for all God he has done, and is doing, in our lives.
In other words, don’t be a “turkey!”