Summary: I used this as a subtle stewardship sermon to get people thinking about how they look at "stuff," what they make as priority in their lives and how their choices affect them, their world and even the church.
I think there are three things that will determine the way we live and the way that we give:
Our perspective – how we not only look at things but how we see them.
Our priorities – what we place as of utmost importance in our lives (and, often, in our world).
Our personal choices – what we hang to, what we let go of; where we go, how we live, how we uplift or downplay our Christian faith, when to speak out and when to shut up, and so on.
I also think it’s always been this way, and that’s why God gave us that first, and most important, commandment then followed it with a warning about worshiping idols.
Listen again to God’s word:
And God spoke all these words:
"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
"You shall have no other gods before me.
"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
“You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Why did give these commandments?
• The commandments were designed to lead Israel to a life of practical holiness.
• In them, people could see the nature of God and his plan for how they should live.
• The commands and guidelines were intended to direct the community to meet the needs of each individual in a loving and responsible manner.
The Israelites had just come from Egypt, a land of many idols and many gods. Because each god represented a different aspect of life, it was common to worship many gods in order to get the maximum number of blessings.
When God told his people to worship and believe in him, that wasn’t so hard for them-he was just one more god to add to the list. But when he said, "You shall have no other gods before me," that was difficult for the people to accept.
But if they didn’t learn that the God who led them out of Egypt was the only true God, they could not be his people-no matter how faithfully they kept the other nine commandments.
That’s why God made this his first commandment and emphasized it more than the others.
“You shall have no other gods before me.”
Letting God hold the central place in our lives keeps things from turning into gods.
Today we can allow many things to become gods to us.
Money, fame, work, or pleasure can become gods when we concentrate too much on them for personal identity, meaning, and security.
We probably don’t mean to. No one sets out with the intention of worshiping these things. But they can grow into gods that ultimately control our thoughts and energies by the amount of time we devote to them.
So you see, it becomes a matter of perspective, priorities and personal choices: How we see things; What we hold as important; How we live.
There’s another biblical word for this: STEWARDSHIP.
The concept of biblical stewardship is God’s wonderful way of asking us to see things differently, to weigh things differently, and to live differently.
If I look at how we practice stewardship as a church and as individual Christians, I don’t think we understand the concept of stewardship.
I don’t think we care enough about how our perspective, priorities and personal choices line up with God’s commandments.
I think we put a lot of things before God AND I think we’ve allowed a lot of idols in our lives.
I also think we need to be told that our perspective, priorities and personal choices are all out of whack!
We need to see things as God sees them, make the things of God first in our lives, and live according to God’s will, word and expectations.
My Perspective – This is my stuff; I own it and it belongs to me.
God’s Perspective – You own nothing; it comes from me; you are called to be my steward.
Concept of the steward.
1. This is not a lowly position.
2. Throughout biblical history, those who were wealthy had numerous servants; those who were the most trustworthy were elevated to the position of “steward.”
Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned....So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.