Summary: Stewardship is the way we express our love for God.
1. We are nearing the end of our series Bible Jeopardy: You Know The Answer, What Is The Question? (Overhead 1) As both a brief summary and a set up for introducing today’s topic, here are the questions that we have asked. (Overhead 2) All of these are a part of our topic for today because what we do with the information that has been presented during these last 10 weeks illustrates today’s topic. And what is today’s topic? Well, let’s find out!
2. Here are two statements that I will share and you tell me what the question is, just like in Jeopardy. Ready? Here goes: A. It is a church topic that probably creates more discomfort with people than anything else. What is giving/tithing? B. A common statement regarding this topic is this one, “All the church wants is money, money, money.” What is giving/tithing? The correct question is this one: What is stewardship?
3. But, there is much, much more to stewardship than money. And here are some important illustrations of this point:
A. For example we are to be good stewards of our facility with our musical instruments. (Show Your Church, March/April 2002 page 68 cartoon) Cartoon 1
B. And with our lights. (Show Your Church, March/April 2002 page 31 cartoon) Cartoon 2
C. But, when it comes right down to it, money still is a big issue! (Show Leadership, Summer 2000 cartoon). Cartoon 3
But, what is stewardship? Here is a suggested definition of stewardship: (Overhead 3 – Main Point) Stewardship is the way we express our love for God.
4. After my sermon last year about this time on stewardship, I continued to reflect on the topic and I put my reflections in the form of this chart. Which I am handing out to you right now. (Overhead 4) Take a moment to familiarize yourself with this chart.
Please notice that there are two axis. The up/down axis goes from faithful to unfaithful and the scripture passage is I Corinthians 4:2 which says, “Now a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful.” Managers are loved and managers are scorned. Some are highly regarded and some are not. However, another way of talking about stewardship in 21st century terms is management. Throws a different light on the issue doesn’t it? But, we are all managers. God has given to us the responsibility for managing our lives and everything that is a part of it.
In this passage Paul is defending himself against a situation in which he is being compared to another church worker. People have taken sides and it has caused problems. So Paul defends himself and asks in verse 3 and following, “Have I been faithful? Have I been a good manager? God will be the final judge of that!” We need to ask ourselves, individually and congregationally, “Are we being faithful to what has been given to us? Are we being good managers?”
5. Please look at the left to right axis. It goes from inactive to active and the passage illustrating this is the story of the three servants in Matthew 25: 14-30. Jesus is illustrating what God’s kingdom is like. It is an uninviting portrait because what it really shows is that we will all give an accounting of our lives to God one day and we don’t like to think about that on a regular basis.
A rich man goes on a trip and before he does he turns his wealth over to three servants with the instructions to invest it for him while he is gone. The first two do what is asked and they successfully invest their employers’ money. The third one buries what has been given to him.
The rich man returns and requires and accounting of their efforts. The first two did great. They hear “Well done good and faithful servant!” Not so with the third servant.
One of the things that I believe we have gotten hung up on in this passage over the years is the money issue. That is not the point of this story. The point of this story has to do with the relationship between the third servant and his employer. There is a problem here. There is a lack of trust, a lack of respect; “You are a hard man, taking what you did not make happened with your own hands. I was afraid that I would lose this money so I hid it.” Fear and anger have gripped this person and affected his ability to be a good steward.
6. In the four quadrants, the four corners are the results of the faithful/unfaithful and active/inactive aspects of stewardship. The first two servants really reflect the upper right corner of this chart while the third servant sadly illustrates the lower left corner. Is there a solution? Yes, there is! And it comes from a very important statement that Jesus made not long before he told this story of the three servants. We find it in Matthew 22:36-39. It is Jesus’ response to a question about what is the greatest commandment in all of the Jewish faith and tradition. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”