Once, a man said, “If I had some extra money, I’d give it to God, but I have just enough to support myself and my family.” And the same man said, “If I had some extra time, I’d give it to God, but every minute is taken up with my job, my family, my clubs, and what have you–every single minute.” And the same man said, “If I had a talent I’d give it to God, but I have no lovely voice; I have no special skill; I’ve never been able to lead a group; I can’t think cleverly or quickly, the way I would like to.”
And God was touched, and although it was unlike him, God gave that man money, time, and a glorious talent. And then He waited, and waited, and waited…..And then after a while, He shrugged His shoulders, and He took all those things right back from the man, the money, the time and the glorious talent. After a while, the man sighed and said, “If I only had some of that money back, I’d give it to God. If I only had some of that time, I’d give it to God. If I could only rediscover that glorious talent, I’d give it to God.”
And God said, “Oh, shut up.”
And the man told some of his friends, “You know, I’m not so sure that I believe in God anymore.”
(God is No Fool, 1969, Abindgon Press.)
What do you think about that? We laugh, but why? Could it be because we see ourselves in some measure in this illustration?
This summer we have been looking at things with which we Christians struggle in our daily lives. And an area that every Christian must face is Stewardship. We are called to be Stewards. But what does that mean?
Usually when we speak of Stewardship the first thing that comes to mind is Money. And money certainly is something that is important. Someone has pointed out that, In Matthew, Mark, and Luke 1 out of every 6 verses deals with money. Of the 29 parables Christ told, 16 deal with a person and his money. (Sermonillustrations.com).
Obviously, Money issues are included in the topic of Stewardship, but Money is only one part of the subject. I was taught growing up in the church that Stewardship involved the 3 T’s—Time, Talent, and Treasure. That pretty much covers the totality of our lives, doesn’t it?
This morning, let’s consider Christian Stewardship and ask the Holy Spirit to open our minds to His Will.
I. WHAT IS STEWARDSHIP:
a. In a word, Stewardship is about managing God’s Resources. Let me explain some of the implications of that simple definition.
i. There is the fact of Ownership. King David, in Psalm 24:1 & 2 told us, “The earth is the LORD’S, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.” God owns it, we enjoy it!
ii. There is the fact of Responsibility. In Genesis 1: 28 we read, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’” In Genesis 2:15 we read, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” These verses reveal that we were created to be managers, caretakers, overseers of God’s creation. It belongs to God, but we have been given the responsibility of seeing after it!
iii. And there is the fact of Accountability. How many times are we told in the Bible that we will are accountable to God? I’m not sure exactly how many times, but I am sure it is several! Consider these examples: Jeremiah 17: 10 says, “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”
Matthew 12: 36-37 , But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Romans 14: 12 says, “So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.” We are answerable to Almighty God for all that we do. He is the Lord, the Owner, the Creator. We have been created by Him and given the task of taking care of His creation. And we will stand before him and give our reports!
iv. And there is the fact of reward for our services. Revelation 22: 12 says, ”Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.” It is God’s and we are His servants and managers. But He is a just God and will reward us for fulfilling the purpose for which we were created!
b. So Stewardship means recognizing that God is really in Charge and that He has given us the task of managing His creation and that we will have to give an account. We look forward to the day when, after giving an account to God, we hear Him say, “…Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness” (Matthew 25: 21).
II. HOW Does Stewardship Contribute to Balance in Life?
a. When I was considering my Master of Ministry project in my graduate work, I seriously considered focusing on Balance in Ministry. I believe that the problem most of us face is that we get our lives out of balance.
b. The three T’s that I mentioned earlier—Time, Talent, Treasure—suggest that, if I honor those Stewardship areas, my life will have balance. Let’s consider how.
i. Time: Keeping our time commitments in balance can really be a challenge. We need to remember that God is the creator of Time. He gives us—24 hours each day, 7 days each week, 12 months each year. Of course, we do not know how many years we have, so we must pay attention to each day. In those time intervals, he has designated times to sleep, times to be awake, times to work, times to play, times to be quiet and times to shout. We have to work at using our God given time in ways that honor God. Parents must have time for themselves, time for their children, time for participating in society. And we must learn how to regulate enough time for each thing for which we are responsible. We read how Jesus spent time with friends, spent time teaching his disciples, withdrew from people to be alone with God, engaged people with his teachings and sermons. He set aside times to go to Jerusalem for the Religious Festivals, as well as times to take boat rides around the Sea of Galilee. In other words, Jesus regulated his time so that he could accomplish those things that he needed to accomplish. It was told that Former General Superintendent Dr. R.T. Williams claimed to have had a special moment where God spoke to him and told him to take up golf. He was so convinced that it was God’s direction and he later testified that he learned that God was giving him that command because he would need to have that recreation in order to deal with the stresses of Administration and the problems that were involved as a General Superintendent. Dr. Williams said golf literally saved his life! God wants us to manage our time in a way that honors Him—and that includes recognizing that we must take care of ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually! The point is this: We must practice the discipline of Time Management and make time for those things God has entrusted to us—our personal needs, our family responsibilities, our contribution to society. And in that time we have been allotted we must be sure not to neglect our time with God. Remember those words Jesus spoke to his disciples in the Garden just before he was arrested: “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?…” (Matthew 26: 40). I challenge you to take a week and keep a time diary, and then evaluate how much time you spend on your various activities. Then ask yourself, “Am I using my time in such a way that God is honored? What priorities need to be adjusted in my schedule so that I’m giving the proper attention to each area of my life?”
ii. Talent. Our awesome God has created each of us as unique persons. We each have been given combinations of abilities that are valuable for God’s purposes. For some it is musical ability. For others it may be hospitality, or the ability to fix things, or the gift of being able to communicate well with others. It isn’t fair to compare yourself to someone else because there are no two people exactly alike. But God makes it clear that each of us is responsible to contribute to the good of others. Paul, after talking about the various parts of the body of Christ, reminds us in 1 Corinthians 12: 17, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” In a similar context in Romans 12, Paul writes in Romans 12: 5 “So in Christ we, though many, form one body and each member belongs to the other.” Contrary to what some have said, none of you has been called to be the “Thorn in the Flesh.” We are to use our abilities to build up the Body of Christ, not harm it! So, what do you like to do? How can you use that enjoyable experience to build up the Church—the Body of Christ? I remember several years ago, Dr. V.H. Lewis, a former General Superintendent in our denomination, telling pastors that they should use their authority or they would lose it. I would paraphrase that to say, “You must be using your talent or spiritual gift for the Lord or you will lose it!”
iii. Treasure—Yes, Stewardship does involve our money and our possessions. I just caught myself doing what we all tend to do—I said “Our Money” and Our Possessions.” But these are not Mine. They are God’s and He has entrusted them to me to use in a way that honors him. The Bible from the various earliest days in history has taught us the need to give to God. We read about the sacrifices of Cain and Abel –sacrifices that continued with Noah who sacrificed to God after leaving the Ark as a way of giving Thanks to God and acknowledging his dependence upon God for the future. We read how Abraham, long before the giving of the law chose to give 10% of his possessions to the King of Salem who was a priest of God—Melchizedek. And then, after the Exodus, God gave clear and detailed instructions on giving tithes and offerings. Those tithes and offerings were to be used to support the families of the priests who were commissioned to oversee and lead the religious life of Israel. Some of the tithes were used for repair and upkeep of the Temple and the instruments and tools that were to be used in the religious duties. Some of the funds were to be used to minister to the poor and needy. It was God’s plan to see after the spiritual needs of the nation and to show compassion to others in need. The bottom line is, while the money given was to be used for specific things, the giving of the money was for the purpose of honoring God as Owner and giving Him thanks for His faithful provision. The prophet Malachi went so far as to say that failure to bring in your tithes and offerings is the equivalent of robbing God! In Matthew 23:23, as Jesus was confronting the religious establishment for their Pharisaical attitudes, said this: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Yes, we are to give, but we must make sure that our giving comes from our love and devotion for God and the things of the Kingdom of God!
iv. Someone has said that the most difficult thing to surrender for many Christians is their pocketbook or wallet! In Matthew 6: 19-21, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
I’ve heard so many over the years criticize the church, saying, “All they want is money, money, money.” I am here to tell you that its not the church that is begging for your money—it is the Head of the Church who already owns it all. He has blessed you with the resources you have—your time, your talent, your money. He has entrusted these things to you to manage. But do not forget, He will hold each of us accountable. We must follow His directions on how we use it!
Matthew 6: 21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The most important step in Christian Stewardship is giving our heart to God. If He has our heart, then the rest of the stewardship detail will fall into place.
Where is your heart today? Have you given it completely to God?