Summary: Stewardship begins with stewardship of life--receiving the life that Jesus offers. All that we consider "stewardship" flows from this first great decision.

“Behold, a man came up to him, saying, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?’ And he said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.’ He said to him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘All these I have kept. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

“And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’ When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ Then Peter said in reply, ‘See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’” [1]

Do you “own” anything? Do you own your house? Your car? Your clothing? Your bank account? All assets, minus our liabilities, comprise what financial consultants speak of as our net worth. However, the question asked is do you actually own these things? Or, are you merely a steward, holding the possessions of another until you are required to give an accounting of your stewardship? The Christian Faith teaches us that we actually “own” nothing, if we are frank. We perhaps hold material goods for a brief time; and then we are compelled to surrender the things of this world to others who will hold or administer those same possessions for a similar brief moment. This truth may be hard to accept; yet it remains true that, “we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world” [1 TIMOTHY 6:7].

This knowledge sets the stage for a study of the doctrine of Christian stewardship, which is closely related to the issue of how one is born into the Kingdom of Heaven. How one handles possessions entrusted to her or him reveals a great deal concerning that individual’s understanding of the grace of God, and even about the individual’s comprehension of God.

Ultimately, there are only two ways that can lay claim to providing a path to eternal life. Either man can, through his own effort, merit acceptance by God, or man is utterly dependent upon the mercy and grace of God. Either we will be saved through our own efforts—through character manifested or through deeds we perform, or we will be delivered by the mercies of God without any effort on our part. Emotion does not enter into the equation, except as the heart is stirred following the New Birth.

The account before us tells of a rich young man who asked Jesus what was necessary to inherit eternal life. Doctor Luke identifies him as a “ruler” [LUKE 18:18]. Consequently, almost every sermon speaks of him as “the rich young ruler”; and the sermon today will not deviate from that standard. What is certain is that he was young and he was wealthy. This man was a man of culture—perhaps a nobleman, almost certainly a member of the upper class. I believe that any of us would have considered this young man to be a good man. At least, such a conclusion seems abundantly evident through his interaction with Jesus.

When the young man asked what was necessary to secure eternal life, the Master reminded him of the need to keep the commandments. “Which ones,” was the natural rejoinder. There are, as you perhaps know, over six hundred thirteen positive commandments. The Master specifically pointed to the fifth through the ninth commandments as recorded in the Decalogue [cf. EXODUS 20:12-16]. Then, He added the second Great Commandment [see MATTHEW 22:39].

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