Summary: Stewardship is a hot topic. But the stewardship exercised by the early church looks a little different than ours.
Passage: Acts 4:32-37
Intro: Typically on the first Sunday of the new year, the preacher talks about giving.
1. but honest, that’s just where I am in this series
2. this is a passage that can make Americans very nervous, because even the middle class has accumulated a great deal.
3. houses, cars, vacation homes, land, stocks, etc.
4. there are some basic principles that we can learn from this passage that may help to loosen the grip that things have on our hearts.
5. these are the principles that will motivate godly behavior, not the “give to get” mentality we see all around us.
6. what we see in this passage is a rather radical example of what the Bible refers to as stewardship.
7. let’s define it, see it in action, and then look at a very specific example.
I. The Definition of Stewardship.
1. we have reduced this principle to tithing, but that is not the principle.
2. v32 gives us as clear as definition of stewardship as there is.
3. “No one claimed…”
4. the question is, if my stuff is not mine, then who is the owner?
5. David understood who everything belonged to.
6. “stewardship” means that something has been entrusted to your care for a time.
Il) every time those of us with teenage drivers give our kids the keys, we are entrusting the car to them.
7. the reason we have such a hard time parting with our stuff is because we believe it is our stuff!
8. I earned it, I won it, I built it, so it’s mine.
9. but the Bible clearly teaches that everything belongs to God, and He entrusts things to us to use in accordance with His priorities and principles.
10. when we consider using the resources God has entrusted to us, we should ask if the item or activity we are using God’s resources for is in line with God’s revealed principles
11. and that is not as limiting as it might sound.
12. don’t waste resources, but you can use them for sustenance, shelter, education, relaxation; …things that God would want for you.
13. and you can also use them to bring these things to others who may not have them.
14. the early church recognized they were stewards, and that what they had was not theirs, but Gods.
15. the greatest opponent of godly stewardship? Selfishness
II. Stewardship in Action
1. these early believers were Jewish, and so they had a long history of sharing resources.
2. they were actually required to cancel all debts every seven years.
3. add that Jewish economic background to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and you have the recipe for radical giving.
4. v32 “they shared everything”
5. v34, “no needy persons”
6. this was a time of great economic hardship for many of these new believers.
7. lost families, jobs, position because of their new faith.
8. v34b, people who were homeowners and landowners sold those properties and made the money available to help others.
9. now a person doesn’t do this unless he understands stewardship.
10. stewardship in action is doing God’s work with God’s stuff.
Il) the world is impressed when some celebrity calls a press conference to announce that he is giving $50,000 to the Katrina victims. Frankly, what they give may look big to us, but percentage wise, pretty small.
11. the church of Jesus Christ is full of people who are giving out of their need, their poverty, without fanfare, to support God’s work.
12. stewardship is more than giving. It is seeing myself as a servant of God, and using the resources of time, money, energy, to do the work that He needs done
Il) one of the things that makes me proudest of our church is that we are willing to let ministries use this building which God entrusted to us for nothing!
13. the definition without the action is empty rhetoric
III. A Specific Example of Stewardship
1. lest we forget the intensely personal nature of these sacrifices, God points out Joseph
2. we know him as Barnabas, the name the apostles gave him because of his character.
3. as a Levite, he received no land in Israel, but they were given cities and some pastureland around those cities.
4. but he was from Cyprus, an island in the Med.
5. he may have been in Jerusalem, like many others, for Passover and Pentecost, and believed in Jesus.
6. don’t know if land in Israel or Cyprus, but he sold it and laid it at the apostles feet.
7. this act is significant and instructive.
8. in giving in this way, he gave up any say in how the money would be used.