THE five Sundays of obligation and duty are concluded by two
Sundays of solemn exhortation as to our responsibility as “stewards of
the manifold grace of God” (cf. I S. Peter iv. 10). Having
learned on previous Sundays our baptismal incorporation into the Church,
our admission into God’s service, and our adoption to be the sons of God,
we are now taught our responsibility for so high a calling.
The ninth Sunday deals with the stewardship of all Christian people,
while the tenth Sunday teaches the special responsibility of those who
have received unusual gifts of grace or of office. The fact that God has
appointed divers orders in His Church and a special priesthood and stewardship
does not contradict the fact that all are priests and all are stewards.
THE EPISTLE. (I COR. x. 1.) JEWISH
AND CHRISTIAN STEWARDSHIP.
A. The Jewish Position of Stewardship.
(1) Every Jew, without exception, enjoyed a position of favour in the
sight of God. We note the five times repeated “all.” Every Christian is
in the same position, or, rather, in one of far greater blessedness. (cf.
S. Luke x. 23.)
(2) They had received a type of baptism. The Red Sea and the Cloud that
went behind them and cut them off from their previous bondage in Egypt,
and made them followers of Moses, was the baptismal font.
(3) They had received a type of Holy Communion in the bread that came
down from heaven, and the water which flowed from the smitten rock, which
rock was a type of the smitten and bruised Christ.
B. The Jewish Misuse of Stewardship.
With many of them (R.V., most of them) God was not well pleased. It
is often said that they trusted too much in these outward privileges. The
very opposite was the case; “they despised the pleasant land,” “they forgat
God their Saviour,” “they murmured in their tents,” “they were mingled
among the heathen and learned their works.” (Ps. cvi.) It was because they
undervalued their covenant position that they lusted after evil, worshipped,
as they fancied, more powerful gods, committed fornication, murmured, and
provoked the Lord. We may note that in place of “tempted Christ” we should
read “tempted the Lord” (R.V.), which removes an obvious difficulty.
C. Application of the History
to Christian Stewardship.
The Christian has a far higher position than has the Jew, but must remember
his liability to temptation. He must understand the perennial significance
of the Jewish history. What happened then, happened then because it may
always happen. The word “for ensamples” appears to mean happened “as a
typical case “—i.e., as an instance of a general law of human frailty.
The Christian must beware of two dangers—
(1) Of security, for the greater the feeling of security the greater
is our danger.
(2) Of despair, for he is no worse off than others; he can trust God
never to lay upon him more than he can bear; he may be sure that if there
is a way into a temptation there is always a way out of it, and that God
will provide for each “the way of escape.”
THE GOSPEL. (S. LUKE xvi. 1.) A PARABLE
The best explanation of this much-discussed parable seems to be that
which is also most suitable to the other teachings of the day. We are dealing
with the duties and faults of a steward, and exploring a parable of responsibility.
A. The Steward’s Responsibility.
A steward is, as regards his master, a servant; as regards his master’s
servants he is a master. He has double duties to do, though in both he
is responsible to his master only.
B. The Steward’s Sin.
He had evidently failed in both duties. He had wasted his master’s goods,
and he had not earned the love of his subordinates. He has found that such
a life of selfishness will not pay, and he is in danger of being cast out
resourceless upon the world—” he cannot dig, to beg he is ashamed.”
C. The Steward’s Expedient.
Having failed in his duty to his master and been found out, he makes
no attempt in that direction. All that is left him is to do his duty, or,
rather, to pretend to be doing his duty, to the servants. This he does
by reducing their payments, so earning their gratitude and the admiration
of his master for his shrewdness.
D. The Lesson of the Parable.
This is evidently confined to the second duty of the steward, for he
made no pretence of serving his master. The children of this world are
wiser than the children of light, for they can see what the children of
light so often fail to discover—that duty to others is so necessary that
if a man does not do it he must at least make the best pretence he can.
What is the moral of it? That we are to pretend a virtue that we have
not got? Is it not rather this, that if it is wise to seem good it must
be truer wisdom to be good without need of pretence? The children of this
world, its politicians, its tradesmen, its rulers, and its successful men
have learned the necessity of virtue as a cloak; let Christians learn to
wear it next the skin.
We are stewards—let us show faithfulness both to God and man. Let our
love of the brethren be so real and beyond all doubt that it may give us
confidence towards God, and we may have many “to receive us into everlasting
habitations,” and our works of love may follow us before the judgment seat
THE COLLECT. THE STEWARD’S
This is a simple prayer for the use of the stewards of God, and consists
of two parts :—
A. A Prayer for the Right Desire.
The first essential for a steward is to recognize his position of responsibility
and to desire earnestly to carry out the duties of his position. He needs
to have a constant recollection of his stewardship lest he forget the very
object of his life. The steward in the parable failed, because he had not
even the intention to do “the things that were rightful.” The faults
of Christians are often due not to want of power, but to want of the very
intention to please God.
B. A Prayer for Sufficient Power.
The steward must learn that he “cannot do anything that is good” without
the continual recollection and the constant assistance of his absent master.
Our Master must be so present to us by His grace and in His Sacraments
that we may be enabled both to remember and fulfil our stewardship. We
pray that so it may be.