In 1837, Danish author Hans Christian Andersen wrote a fairy tale titled “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” It is the story of the ruler of a distant land who was so enamored of his appearance and his clothing that he had a different suit for every hour of the day.
One day, two rogues arrived in town, claiming to be gifted weavers. They convinced the Emperor that they could weave the most wonderful cloth, which had a magical property. The clothes were only visible to those who were completely pure in heart and spirit.
The Emperor was impressed and ordered the weavers to begin work immediately. The rogues, who had a deep understanding of human nature, began to feign work on empty looms.
Minister after minister went to view the new clothes and all came back exhorting the beauty of the cloth on the looms even though none of them could see a thing.
Finally, a grand procession was planned for the Emperor to display his new finery. He went to view his clothes and was shocked to see absolutely nothing, but he pretended to admire the fabulous cloth, inspected the clothes with awe, and, after disrobing, go through the motions of carefully putting on a suit of the new garments.
Under a royal canopy the Emperor appeared to the admiring throng of his people – all of whom cheered and clapped because they all knew the rogue weavers’ tale and did not want to be seen as less than pure of heart.
But, the bubble burst when an innocent child loudly exclaimed, for the whole kingdom to hear, that the Emperor had nothing on at all. He had no clothes.
It is true that we can be so enamored with our position, status and possessions that we forget what it means to be a Christian steward.
Who is a Christian steward? Someone who receives God’s gifts gratefully, cherishes and tends them in a responsible and accountable manner, shares them in justice and love with all, and returns them with increase to the Lord.
For disciples of Christ – everyone who responds to Jesus’ invitation, “Come, follow me” – Christian stewardship is an obligation, not an option.
Correctly understood, Christian stewardship holds every individual accountable to God and therefore applies to everything – all personal talents, abilities, and wealth; the local, national and worldwide environments; and all human and natural resources.
Stewardship involves a lifelong process of study, reflection, prayer and action. To make stewardship a way of life for disciples, families and parishes requires a change of heart and a new understanding of what it means to follow Jesus without counting the cost. This conversion of mind and heart will not happen overnight, but, as always, we can count on the Holy Spirit to be at work in our daily lives.
Stewardship has to be a personal priority for all of us. We must resist treating “I” as emperor of all things. The emperor “I” has no clothes.