The most widely quoted principle of biblical teaching to the practical issues of saving and investment is that of stewardship. The Creation narrative teaches that, while God is the source of all material resources, he has condescended to entrust their preservation and development to humanity. In a number of parables, Jesus develops this theme by picturing his disciples as servants given charge of property. Their performance in its use will be assessed at the consummation of the kingdom.
These parables apply to our use of all resources, both spiritual and material, entrusted by God to his servants until the coming of the kingdom. The servants’ performance is assessed purely on the basis of financial return. Praise is reserved for those servants who have achieved a healthy profit through business ventures. The lazy servant is condemned for not even attempting to make a return. Superficially, this implies that the sole priority for a Christian is the maximisation of financial return.
This would be a misguided interpretation of the parables. First, the ‘return’ spoken of is wider than just the pecuniary and includes the total good done to others. Second, the means by which profit is obtained matters to God. The Old Testament law accepts the legitimacy of trade for profit per se, since trade is presupposed but profit is unregulated. However, any wealth that results from dishonesty, theft, monopoly or exploitation of the poor is legislated against and denounced by the prophets. Consequently, the righteousness of any monetary return is conditional on the absence of the exploitation of customers, workers, creditors and suppliers. The ethic of stewardship applies not just to how productively we deploy God’s resources, but also influences to what righteous purposes we deploy them. www.jubileecenter.com