Posted by: gmscan | October 28, 2011

On Stewardship

Our church’s Stewardship Committee asked me to make a presentation at a home meeting of a dozen or so faithful members of the congregation. This is what I said to them.

—-

First, it is presumptuous of me to be here in front of you at all. I am the new kid on the block. You all have been doing this for many years. Who am I to be telling you about discipleship or stewardship?

But the committee asked me to speak, and so I will, trusting in the Lord to help me. Jesus told his disciples, “do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.” (Matt 10:19)

Maybe I can begin by telling you how I got here. Maybe it will help you better appreciate your own gifts.

I’ve always been something of a rolling stone. A couple of years ago when we first moved to Waynesboro I toted up all the places I have lived. In 62 years I had lived in 31 different places in 9 states. These are places I had lived in long enough to have my phone number published in the phone book. In addition, I have spent time in all but 4 of the fifty states and visited every major city except Memphis. Here I mean actually sleeping over night, not just passing through.

In all this moving, I never felt I was running away from anything, but running towards something. I wasn’t escaping but searching for something. I just didn’t know what.

I’ve always had a casual belief in God. I was raised in the Presbyterian Church, but stopped going when I was about 15 and became more interested in –- other activities.

Through all that, God never gave up on me. There was always a nagging feeling that something was missing. About five years ago that nagging feeling became more insistent – a tapping on the shoulder.

I’m a constant reader. I read all kinds of books, but suddenly all the books I read had a Christian message. These weren’t religious books, but histories, novels, biographies. They didn’t intend to be Christian, but the message was crystal clear – all of the best things in history and today have been grounded in faith.

The one book that might have had the greatest impact was a biography of Carol King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon, called “Girls Like Us.” This book had no religious message at all. It was the complete absence of religion that really hit home. Here were three incredibly gifted women who had it all – fame, riches, beauty. But they were all miserable. Their lives were marked by depression, suicide attempts, dug abuse, promiscuous sex, failed relationships.

So what was the problem? These women missed the Lord saying, “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11). These women all felt their talent was something they had earned through their own merit. They missed the idea that what their talents were gifts from God. Unearned. Given to them before they were even born.

Even I knew better than that.

I am a good writer. I can explain complex things in simple language. I’ve always been able to do that. It is a gift I was born with. I can’t play the guitar. I can’t throw a football. There is plenty I can’t do. But I can write. And I have no one to thank for that but God.

I have earned a pretty good living mostly because of this gift. And now I have to think about how to give it back. I don’t have much money these days, now that I am retired, but I do have some time and I have this gift. These make up the Time, Talent, and Treasure aspects of stewardship.

The next question is how best to invest these qualities?

Which brings me to Love.

When I first started studying the Bible I first read through the Epistles, then back to the Gospels, and finally I have spent the last year carefully reading the Old Testament. Now I am back to the Gospels.

After slogging through all the misery of the Old Testament, it feels like coming home to be back with Jesus. It feels like pulling up a chair in front of the fire on a cold, stormy, winter day. Take off your boots and pour a cup of hot chocolate.

It has been quite an experience. Let me tell you – I have fallen in love with Jesus.

Do you remember what it was like to fall in love?

What would you have done for the man or woman who was the object of your love? You gave presents large and small just to see the happiness they brought your lover. It wasn’t an obligation but a joy.

So it is with Jesus. Jesus doesn’t want to be our master, but our lover. He said repeatedly that he is the bridegroom and we are the bride. We are his beloved. He loves us as no lover ever has.

A human lover might sacrifice his life for you, but in doing so he has also abandoned you. You might say, “Don’t do it! What’s the point if I have to live without you?”

Jesus sacrificed his life for us, yet did not abandon us. We do not have to live without him. He is there for us every day and every minute of the day. The last thing he told his disciples before his ascension was, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

How can we not return that kind of love? How can we not give him presents?

What sort of present would please him? He has already told us. He has asked for only two things – the Great Commandment, and the Great Commission.

  • The first is to love our neighbors as ourselves.
  • The second is to preach the Gospel to every corner of the world

These are the only gifts our lover has ever asked of us. And they are not mysterious. We do not have to guess what he meant.

For the first, Jesus said,

“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)

But he also said,

“When you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others.” (Matthew 6:2)

If we make a generous pledge to the church or to other charities, we shouldn’t do it to please the rest of the congregation. We should do it only out of love for the Lord.

For the second, the Great Commission, Jesus told his disciples,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Or, according to Mark,

Go into the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. (Mark 16:15)

It is easy to be discouraged by growing secularism, a corrupt culture, and divisions in the Lord’s church. When I left the Presbyterian Church it had 4 million members. When I came back it had only 2 million.

We hear a lot about the rise of Islam, but in fact it is Christianity that is exploding in every corner of the world. Today, the nation of Ghana has more Presbyterians than the United States and Scotland combined. 40% of Koreans are Christian. There are 130 million Christians in China. During the recent elections in Brazil, it was evangelical Christians who determined the outcome.

Your work in spreading the gospel and “making disciples of all nations” has been rewarded. It has born fruit a hundred fold.

Whatever you decide to do next Sunday in pledging your Time, Talent, and Treasure, do it out of love for Jesus, and secure in the knowledge that Jesus never fails. He has already won.

 

 

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Responses

  1. Greatly encouraging. Thanks!

  2. You are quite right about that gift. Loved all you had to say.


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