There is a connection in the Bible between joy and stewardship that is worth exploring—after all, who doesn’t need more joy in their life?
Joy is easily confused with happiness. Woodrow Kroll clarifies the difference: “The first thing trouble destroys is happiness. Joy, however, is sharpened by trouble.”
Joy is even harder to clearly describe. C.S. Lewis wrote of joy as Joy, with a capital J. For him, there was only one true Joy, and it was a Person. Lewis described Joy as something of which he could only catch glimpses or see tracks—like a wave’s imprint on the sand.
Likewise, the connection between joy and stewardship is mysterious. The connection is not a formula such as “give to get” or “name it claim it,” which is often simply a pretense for greed.
Yet, a person or church often has joy when they have demonstrated true stewardship. David “danced before the Lord with all his might” as David’s men, with careful stewardship, brought the ark of God into Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6: 6-15).
Joy is as infectious as it is mysterious. Sometimes we see the joy-stewardship connection personified. In modern times, one such person was Manute Bol.
“Most NBA cats go broke on cars, jewelry & groupies. Manute Bol went broke building hospitals.” ...so tweeted someone after the death Manute Bol, center for the NBA’s Washington Bullets (Jon Shields, “Manute Bol’s Radical Christianity,” The Wall Street Journal, 6/25/2010).
Bol, who was the 7-foot, 7-inch center for the Washington Bullets, spent much of his $6.6 million in NBA earnings to build hospitals in the Sudan. But this was not the whole story. When his money dwindled, Bol raised more money through charity fundraising events, which Shields described this way:
“Bol agreed to be a clown. But he was not willing to be mocked for his own personal gain as so many reality television stars are. Bol let himself be ridiculed on behalf of suffering strangers in the Sudan. He was a fool for Christ.”
Our responses to extreme generosity usually range from cynicism to admiration. However, with some reflection on Bol’s example, one may notice that he actually seems to have enjoyed his charity work—that he must have truly felt like he was a richer man by doing what he did. How does that kind of joy happen?
The Starting Point
In the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30) the master calls three of his servants and gives them each a sum of money to invest while he is gone. An obvious fact and one that is necessary to understand the message is this: the servants did not start with 1, 5 or 10 talents. They all started with zero talents. Everything they had had been given to them. The penetration of this reality into our daily life is the foundation of true stewardship.
Describing what the five-talent servant did, the text says, “Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents” (v. 16). The two-talent servant acted in the same manner. The important point is that these servants invested “them” (i.e. all they had) into the master’s business, and they did so “immediately.” Not so with the one-talent servant; he wanted nothing to do with the master’s business.
The productive servants received multiple types of rewards. First, they heard “well done!”, and they were told why. Then they were given more responsibility, and they were invited to share in the master’s joy (v. 23). It is interesting that it was the Master’s joy that made them joyful—one imagines they intended all their work to point to that moment. And they enjoyed it!
Doing it Right
Can there be a higher call than for followers of Christ to employ all available resources of time, treasure and talent to extend the reach of the gospel in the world and bind up the wounds of our neighbor? Learn more about Manute Bol’s story and non-profit foundation