Since the beginning, God has told us to be fruitful and multiply. In fact, this was his very first command for humankind. The first man and woman were tasked with cultivating the garden God had created. God gave all creation into man's hands for him to have dominion over—to steward, to grow, and to multiply.
This was our original purpose: to walk in fellowship with the Creator and to rightly steward the gifts he had given. This purpose has not changed. Our purpose to this day is to know, love, enjoy, and worship God, and to enjoy what he has so bountifully given to us. We are to thank him for what he has given, cultivate it, and give it back to him in worship.
We are all given something to steward. Jesus illustrates this truth so clearly in the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30).
THE CALL TO MULTIPLY
In this parable, Jesus tells a story of a man leaving on a journey. The man entrusts different amounts of talents (money) to three of his servants while he is gone. To one he gives five talents, to another two, and to another one. While he’s gone, two of the servants trade and gain interest on the money, doubling the amount they were given. The servant who was given one talent, however, decided to bury it in the ground out of fear that he might lose it.
When the master returns, he collects his money back from his servants along with the interest gained. When he realizes that the servant who was given one talent merely buried it in the ground, he scolds him, takes the one talent he had, and gives it to another servant.
There are two main things we can learn from this parable. The first is that there is nothing we have that God did not give to us. As the psalmist writes, "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein" (Ps. 24:1). We, like the three servants, have been entrusted with gifts, talents, and possessions that ultimately belong to God. Your home, your relationships, your occupation, talents, money, and time are all God's.
The second thing we learn is that good stewardship entails multiplication, to maximize what we have been given to the glory of God. Here again we hear that same command Adam and Eve received in the garden: be fruitful and multiply.
But though Adam and Eve were entrusted with this stewardship of God's gifts, they ultimately failed. Their fall into sin multiplied death instead of life. As their descendants, we have reaped what they have sown. We also see our own failure to love God and glorify him rightly. Like the exponential growth of a cancer, their sin spread and multiplied, bringing death to all mankind.
We can all recall gifts we have wasted. Our natural bent is to worship the things God has given us, rather than praising the God who gave them. Instead of having dominion over creation, we become slaves to our desires, wasting the good gifts God has given us.
Thankfully this is not where our story ends.
Paul explains the reality of our hope so poetically in Romans 5:15 -17:
"For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ."
This is the beauty of the gospel: that though death was multiplied to all mankind through Adam, Christ's death and resurrection has brought life and grace in abundance. Through Christ we are no longer slaves to sin, but by God's grace we can live for his glory.
Christ is the firstborn of many brothers (Rom. 8:29). His death has made it possible for many to be born again and to have new life in him. Not only has Christ freed us from the bondage of sin, but he has also given us a living example to follow. Christ is the perfect example of how to rightly glorify God. Everything that Adam was not, Christ was. He is the ultimate faithful servant who brings ultimate glory to God.
Though Adam multiplied death and sin, Christ multiplied life and grace. And Christ lets us take part in this multiplication of life and grace by making disciples. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he gave this commission to his disciples:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you," (Matt. 28:16-20).
He invited his disciples—and by extension, us—to take part in growing and multiplying the family of God. What a beautiful thing! To take part in this work of multiplication, we must follow Jesus' example. That means we must take up our cross and die to ourselves daily (Matt. 16:24-26).
DEATH BEFORE LIFE
Jesus made this truth clear when he said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:24-25).
Seeds, when they go unplanted, become rancid or inert. But if a seed is planted, it springs forth and multiplies, giving off more seed. So it is with us. If we hold tightly to our lives and shy away from sacrifice, we will not see the full potential of what could have been if we had obeyed the Lord.
Thankfully, Jesus did not shy away from sacrifice. Rather, like a grain of wheat, he was buried in the ground, and like a green shoot he burst forth from the tomb in new life. Because of his death and resurrection, we too have new life in him.
TO WHOM MUCH IS GIVEN . . .
God's call to be fruitful and multiply is the same today as it was in the garden. We each have been entrusted with certain gifts, talents, possessions, and most importantly, the gospel of peace. Christ has redeemed us and given us his example to follow, and he invites us to join him in multiplying life to a lost and dying world.
Will we hold tightly to these things, or will we sacrificially give them back to the giver of all good things? Will we join him even if it means taking the hard path?
"To whom much was given, of him much will be required,” said Jesus (Luke 12:48b). What have you been given? What are you clinging to that you need to let go of? What talents and possessions do you have that you could use to a greater degree for the glory of God? What relationships do you need to grow and foster?
Let's seek the Lord in prayer, asking how we are to best steward the gifts and the great grace he has given, to his glory! Let’s follow the Lord and obey him no matter the earthly cost. Let’s lay aside our plans and purposes for his better plan, even if it means sacrifice and self-denial.
Delilah Pugsley is a wife, friend, sister, daughter and a Christ follower, serving in a church plant in Missouri. She writes on her blog, https://www.graceinreallife.com and you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.