Final Sermon in the Stewardship Series
November 10, 2019
Advent, Christmas Eve, Trunk or Treat, Eggstravaganza, Easter Sunday, Vacation Bible School. When I, and probably most of us, think of these occasions, we experience fond and warm memories and feelings.
It is not clear that similar reactions take place when we think of Stewardship Campaigns and Consecration Sundays. For some of us, this is simply the Sunday when we provide a financial commitment to the church for next year’s giving.
When it comes to stewardship, I am compelled to think of Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV) “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 also think of a funny story.
There was a rich man who was quite distressed over the prospect of not being able to take his riches with him when he died.
So, before he died, he loaded his briefcase with two gold bars from his private vault. He left burial instructions to have the briefcase handcuffed to his wrist and the key placed into his grave clothes. At the time of his death, his family carried out his orders exactly.
When he appeared at the pearly gates of heaven, he had the briefcase with him, key in hand.
St. Peter asked, “What do you have in your suitcase?”
Very proudly, the man unlocked the case, opened it and displayed his two gold bars.
St. Peter said, “Isn’t that special! You brought pavement.”
Yet, stewardship is so much more than offering up bars of gold. Stewardship is the grateful response of a Christian disciple who recognizes and receives God’s gifts, and shares these gifts in love of God and neighbor. This is consistent with Jesus telling us in Matthew 22:37-39 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
The focus on stewardship needs to be based on giving for our own spiritual benefit. The goal of stewardship is to help God’s people grow in our relationship with Jesus through the use of the time, talents, and finances God has entrusted to us. The hope is to do this in a way that is consistent with Jesus’ commandments.
The word “steward” describes someone who watches over that which belongs to someone else. This definition is an important reminder that everything we have still belongs to God. It is our privilege and responsibility to care for that which belongs to our creator.
When deciding how to lighten up a message on stewardship, I came across a cute story. It was about a boy named Timmy who didn’t want to put his money in the offering plate Sunday morning, so his mother decided to use some hurried creative reasoning with him.
“You don’t want that money, honey,” she whispered in his ear. “Quick! Drop it in the plate. It’s tainted!”
Horrified, the little boy obeyed.
After a few seconds he whispered, “But, mommy, why was the money tainted? Was it dirty?
“Oh, no dear,” she replied. “It’s not really dirty. It just ‘taint yours, and it ‘taint mine,” she replied. “It’s God’s.”
On the more serious side, we read in Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it;”
Also in Deuteronomy 8:18 (ESV) “You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers.”
All Stewardship is a spiritual matter. Generous giving of our time, talents, and treasures is close to the heart of a disciple’s relationship with Jesus. It is one of the basic acts of discipleship. It is also an act that provides deep gratification.
It was important to me as I prepared for today’s message, that I remain rooted in the Word. It was incredible to learn that in the Bible Jesus talks about money and possessions more than he talks about prayer, his death, or forgiveness. In fact, more than 2000 Bible verses deal with money. The letters of the New Testament also contain an amazing amount of writing about money and possessions. From “God loves a cheerful giver” in 2 Corinthians 9 to “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” in 1 Timothy 6. The reason for this is that Jesus and his disciples realized there was a strong connection between faith and finances. This connection had the power to either threaten faith or strengthen faith.
Jesus wants our hearts. He wants nothing more than to be in a relationship with us. Jesus and the New Testament writers saw money and possessions as threats because they can turn one’s heart away from Jesus.
As Jesus says in Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
None of this is meant to be threatening or sound harsh. It is just the reality that being good stewards of what God has entrusted us with will not only bring us gratification but also help us to grow in our relationship with Jesus.
Being wealthy does not mean being rich as defined by culture. One is wealthy to the extent that one has sufficient food of good quality, clothing appropriate to keeping cool or warm, and shelter for protection from the elements. This makes many of us extremely wealthy compared to the majority of the world. Since God owns everything, since we are managers of what God has entrusted to us, and since that management exists for the good of others, then it stands to reason that God has blessed the wealthy with material items, not so we can hoard them, but so we can use that wealth to benefit those who have material needs. As it says in 2 Corinthians 8:13-15 (ESV):
“For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, ‘Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.’”
Since the mission of stewardship is to help us grow in our relationship with Jesus, I would like to suggest the following values of a steward as shared in Charles R. Lane’s book Ask, Thank, Tell.
Value #1: A steward should be Intentional
• Develop a plan for giving and then follow through with this plan. The commitment card is a tool we can use to make this plan. One of the greatest benefits of this card is that it helps us to be intentional in our giving. You may have already turned in your card, brought it with you today, or have the opportunity now to retrieve one from the Welcome Folder on each row and complete it. If you are visiting with us today, thank you for the commitment of your time being here this morning.
Value #2: A steward should be Regular
• To be regular in our giving is to establish a pattern of giving and to follow that pattern. In 1:Corinthians 16:2, Paul described regular as “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come.” For Paul this was weekly. In our day, to be regular in giving means that whenever you receive income, and however you receive income, you give according to your predetermined plan. I give electronically and for me this means that my money is drawn monthly and sent to the church.
Value #3: A Steward is Generous
• In Luke 12:34 Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Further, Paul writes to the Corinthians, “And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8. God is incredibly generous. We can’t out-give God. But, because God has blesses us so generously, we can, and must, give generously to others, especially those in need. I have always been impressed when I have attended the local Methodist church in the village of Adjen Kotoku in Ghana. The church is a concrete slab with a modest covering and no walls. A parking lot is not necessary as everyone walks because cars are a luxury. They walk from their homes that mostly have one or two rooms and minimal to no electricity. They might or might not have been able to have breakfast. BUT when the time of the offering comes (and they take two offerings – one for the church and one for the fund they hold for member emergencies) they dance and celebrate as they ALL bring a cash offering to show their love for the Lord. I have always been surprised by how immensely joyful and grateful people are who do not have much more than their love for God.
Value #4: A steward gives First
• Giving first means giving to God first and living off the rest. This is opposed to taking care of the needs and wants of this life first, and giving God the leftovers. The people in Ghana I mentioned are great examples of giving to God first. When my funds are drawn monthly, they come out before any of my bills are paid.
Value #5: A stewards giving is Proportional
• The Bible always calls us to percentage giving. The language is generally “Give in proportion to the blessings you have received.” Mark 12:41-44 is a great example of this: “Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Value #6: A steward is Cheerful
• As stated in 2 Corinthians 9:7 “God loves a cheerful giver.” The context to being a cheerful giver is found in the words surrounding this passage in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8: “The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.”
• Last week we experienced the loss of a near and dear member Vernon Ramberger. Vernon’s commitment to our church was a case study in cheerful giving. Every time I think of Vernon I see him with a big smile on his face serving us in one way or another. He was cheerful in large acts like being the head of the Trustees, organizing regional United Methodist Men gatherings, and spearheading our Chicken BBQs. He was also cheerful in small acts of like kindness when I would find the counter’s drawer refilled with the deposit bags from the bank.
Intentional, regular, generous, first, proportional and cheerful illustrate what a biblical giver looks like. The greatest hope this message should give us is seeing that people who grow in their giving of time, talents and finances to Christ’s church also grow in their relationship with Jesus and they find great gratification. I invite you to find these amazing benefits in your answer to the call of stewardship. Thanks be to God.
Old Testament Lesson: Malachi 3:10 (CEV)
I am the Lord All-Powerful, and I challenge you to put me to the test. Bring the entire ten percent into the storehouse, so there will be food in my house. Then I will open the windows of heaven and flood you with blessing after blessing.
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 28:16-20 (CEV)
Jesus’ eleven disciples went to a mountain in Galilee, where Jesus had told them to meet him. They saw him and worshiped him, but some of them doubted.
Jesus came to them and said:
I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth! Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.
Meditations For Your Week Sunday, November 10 ~ Saturday, November 16
Sunday: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.” Psalm 24:1-2 Take time to ponder all that is around you. Reflect on everything as a gift from God and pray on how you can bless others with what you have.
Monday: “Bring the entire ten percent into the storehouse, so there will be food in my house. Then I will open the windows of heaven and flood you with blessing after blessing.” Malachi 3:10. God promises in this passage to pay it forward when the Israelites present their tithes to him. When you pay it forward, not only will God meet your needs, but you and those who are impacted by your giving will be blessed!
Tuesday: “Jesus’ eleven disciples went to a mountain in Galilee, where Jesus had told them to meet him. They saw him and worshiped him, but some of them doubted.” Matthew 28: 16-17 It is not unusual to find yourself in times of doubt. Pray for Jesus to help see you through these times and bring you into clarity.
Wednesday: “Jesus came to them and said: I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth! Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.” Matthew 28: 18-20 Jesus calls us to know him and make him known. Pray that Jesus will show you how to share his love with those around you.
Thursday: “Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.” 1 Timothy 6:6-8 The Apostle Paul is telling us in this passage that there is great gain in godliness when it is combined with content¬ment in the basic necessities of life. Spend time today in appreciating the blessing of food, clothing, and shelter.
Friday: “But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” 1 Timothy 6:9 Preoccupy your mind today with the simple things in life that bring joy and peace. Pray that gives you gratification in the small stuff.
Saturday: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” 1 Timothy 6:10 This passage is not condemning the prosperity of Christians. It is encouraging us to make sure our focus remains on the Lord and our service and gifts to him. Test yourself to see if there are places in your life where your treasures cause you to wander from your faith.