Updated: Feb 1
The sixth aspect of the (financial-) fruitfulness which is evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is ‘faithfulness.’
Faithful people seem hard to find, according to King Solomon. “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?” (Proverbs 20:6)
So, faithfulness amongst people is scarce, but not so with God.
The Bible word for faithful is ‘pistis’ which is considered to be one of God’s personal characteristics. He is a maker of promises, which He always keeps – even when we don’t! ‘Pistos’ is used in secular Greek for trustworthy, dependable, loyal. It is used to describe people who show themselves faithful in business transactions, or the discharge of official duties. That kind of man, or woman is worthy of trust and can be relied on.
Jesus told of three people who had to give account after receiving one, two and five talents respectively to do something with. (Matthew 25:14-30) One talent was about 6000 silver drachmas, and one drachma was an average daily wage. Quite a lot! For the two stewards who understood what they had to do and set to work, using the master’s money, there was a nice reward. "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” The reward for good stewardship was more stewardship! More responsibility, more to manage - and even more, the joy of his master! The one who had received one talent was scared and lazy, and despised the trust given to him by the master. He was severely sentenced.
I have asked many people what they would like to hear once they have come to our Lord Jesus Christ. I almost unanimously hear "well done good and faithful servant". They want to know that Jesus is pleased with the life they led and what they did with the means with which they have been trusted. The Bible shows us in the parables of the kingdom that faithful stewards who faithfully use the resources of the Master, in His way, can expect that they will be partially rewarded in this life and in the next one, fully rewarded.
Can God trust me?
We talk a lot about trusting God, but I think the harder, reflective question is: can God trust me?
After telling a story (Luke 16:1-9) about a steward who was almost fired after being accused of wasting his master’s possessions, Jesus gave His followers three areas in which they were to be financially faithful. He gave three lessons in financial faithfulness in the following verses 10-12.
“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?”
He gives us three word-pairs that help us to use money faithfully, without being used by it. The three word-pairs are: ‘Little - much;’ ‘false - real’ and ‘another’s - ours.’
Faithfulness in little things is the supreme standard to which a good steward should adhere to. It is a prerequisite to be trusted with much! When giving assignments, either as a parent with our children or as or a manager with our employees, we evaluate what they do with small tasks and if we find that they have been faithful with those, we know we can go on to trust them with more responsibility. Dishonesty in what we may consider small things, like cheating on expenses or taxes, has consequences in the extent to which God can trust us.
Secondly, Faithfulness in ‘unrighteous wealth’ is a pre-requisite for what Jesus called ‘true riches.’ Money is not just paper or coin, but is subject to a power, which Jesus unmasked and called ‘mammon.’ This power is in itself ‘unrighteous’ and will compete for our devotion. In verse 13, Jesus warns us that we cannot serve both God and mammon. We have to learn to manage this power. Firstly, by realising that it is a defeated power through Jesus. Secondly through prayerfully learning to use money God’s way. If we are faithful in using our money God’s way, then Jesus says he can trust us with ‘true riches.’ I believe this to mean a very intimate relationship with God, experiencing all He wants to trust us with, both now and eternally!
Lastly, we are to be faithful in ‘that which is another’s,’ before God can trust us with money and possessions of our own. The Bible teaches clearly that all belongs to God – we do not own anything. We are raised to think that we are the owners of everything we have worked and earned for. The business belongs to me, my house, my car, my money. Jesus says, "No, it belongs to another!” In fact, we own nothing, we only have it to manage and utilise. Ownership means that we have access to use.
Realising that God owns everything, we can have access to all God has to give … if only we can be faithful in using what he has already trusted us with, be it much or little.
Next time: Word #7: Gentleness
Next time – Word #6 ‘faithfulness.’