All of us are stewards.

Does that seem strange to you? Well, it shouldn’t. All of us have responsibilities over one corner or another of God’s household. Just as we have to look after our own households, we also have to look after the part of God’s household that he has given us to look after.

The task may seem to be difficult or even impossible, but we do not have to be afraid. Jesus assures us that we will overcome, not by drawing on our limited resources or by force but by relying on our Father’s generosity to his flock. It isn’t over until he says it’s over. Life’s hardships and tragedies are a reason to sit tight and wait for his return. They are not an excuse for us to bail out. Life’s trials do not matter if we are faithful to Christ. The kingdom is ours. Stress will be a distant memory. Worry will turn to rest.

“Treasure” refers to a place where one keeps valuables, such as a vault. Jesus urged his disciples to cling to their love for God and his kingdom above all. Everything else they should hold loosely. The giving of alms to the poor generates treasures in heaven, so it makes no sense to limit almsgiving to that which is of little value.

Humanity looks for solutions but wealth, prestige, glamour, sexuality, substance abuse and rebellion are not solutions. All of them have failed miserably. Sometimes we hold on to our possessions because we are afraid of what will happen when we get rid of them, including our money. Given the current worldwide economic situation, this concern is understandable. In addition, people have accumulated earthly possessions in the hope that they would provide security, when they need to lay up treasures in heaven instead. We need to let go of the lives we fearfully protect and hold on to before we can receive our heavenly treasures. If we centre our lives on our possessions, then our lives will revolve around protecting and keeping them. This obsession could get to the point where we will live in constant fear that they will be taken from us. As we accumulate stuff we find that we have to keep our doors locked or install alarm systems or join groups such as Neighbourhood Watch.

This does not mean that we have to give up all of our possessions. In fact, we need some of our possessions in order to live both now and in the future. The key is getting rid of possessions that we don’t need. We can do what early believers did and sell some possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. We can also donate these possessions to the poor or to stores that serve the poor such as Value Village or the Salvation Army Thrift Store or local church yard sales.

If we look at our belongings and decide that there are some things we can never part with or if it’s something God told us to give away and we can’t give it away, then we do not own that item. It owns us. We are possessed by our possessions. They become idols for us, and the Bible says in Ezekiel 20:7, “Get rid of every idol.” To put it another way, in a recent newspaper column Billy Graham answered a question about how much debt is too much. In his reply, he asked:

“What place do things have in your life? Have your possessions become so important to you that they possess you, rather than you possessing them? Are you more concerned about impressing others than living wisely? Most of all, have things taken the place God should have in your lives?”

We don’t need to be afraid of possessions. If they come, we can use them to do God’s work in our world. We can go to the other extreme by giving away so many of our possessions to the poor that it causes hardship for us. There is a time for extravagant gesture as well as a time for practical concerns. There is a time to do things such as fixing the roof, painting walls or feeding the poor, but there is also a time to celebrate. If we feel that we can’t have things or if we feel that we must have them, we are letting the things of the world rule our lives. We must go through life as stewards of everything God gives us.  We need to heed these words from the hymn, “We Plow the Fields and Scatter:”

We thank thee, then, O Father,
For all things bright and good,
The seed time and the harvest,
Our life, our health, our food:
No gifts have we to offer
For all thy love imparts,
But that which thou desirest,
Our humble, thankful hearts.

All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above,
Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
For all his love.

Being good stewards is one of the things we should be doing while we wait for Christ to return. We must not use the Lord’s delay in returning as an excuse not to do anything. We have to do the things we would do if Christ returned today. When Christ returns he will serve his faithful servants who are prepared for his return, just like he served the disciples by washing their feet. If we have kept God first in our lives, he will sustain us. He will give us what we need. He won’t give us everything we want when we want it. In fact, he might not give us what we want at all. His choice will depend on the nature of our wants and whether or not they fit in with his plan for our lives.

The way we use the gifts God gives us is evidence of our stewardship. It will show if we are faithful servants with God’s interests in mind or if we have forgotten who we belong to and neglected tending what God has given us. If we obey God and make his priorities our priorities, we will receive incredible blessings, and these blessings are part of our heavenly treasure. For example, some of you might know that I post all of my sermons online. To date they have been seen over 200,000 times, and I have received many positive comments.

A few years ago I received an email from a Lutheran minister in North Carolina. I know it’s a legitimate email because I received a telephone call from him shortly after I received his email. Since parts of the email tie in with my message, I’d like to share them with you.

Hello Craig —

I want to let you know how much I appreciate the sermons you post on your website — they are wonderful. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing.

I am a Lutheran pastor here in North Carolina, USA and I am always looking for good sermon resource material. Do you mind if I do some “begging, borrowing, and stealing” from what you offer? I will be honest with you in stating that I am not the most original writer when it comes to sermon preparation.  If only I could do a fraction of what you have done and continue to do!

Well, Craig, I hope I am making some sense out of all my ramblings…but wanted you to know how I feel…where I am coming from in writing to you…and TRULY asking for your permission to make use of the materials you provide — it is some of the best I have ever seen and it should be shared with many of God’s people, through the personality of various preachers.  I personally believe that our gracious God speaks to us through Holy Scripture and he can also speak to us through what others have said and written —and, dear friend, He certainly speaks to me through you — and for that I am most grateful.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter and may you continue to be blessed with the ABUNDANCE of our Lord’s MARVELOUS love.

 In Christ, Ed Harper

People who help others find themselves caring about the people they help. Also, they will enjoy the meaningful life that results from meeting those needs. God wants us to enjoy and share the abundant life that comes from fellowship with others and a right relationship with God. In a 2016 edition of The Canadian Disciple newsletter, Rev. Dr. Jen Garbin, Regional Minister for The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Canada wrote the following:

“We are not called on to walk alone or only in one way…but we are to encounter each other, share our stories, learn from one another, challenge one another, celebrate together and support each other’s work.”

We must be ready at all times for Christ’s return, because he could return at any time. No one knows when Christ will return. Neither the Bible nor history contain secret messages that, when decoded, reveal the date. Until that day, his followers must actively wait and willingly work. Jesus has given us a mission. We are to take the Good News to the world. We need to be always alert and engaged in this mission. This include using our possessions. The caring Christian community is called to be less anxious about its own welfare and more concerned about those in need. Doing so reflects our heart. Our heart reflects what we value the most.

Throughout Scripture the heart represents the centre of our being, our desires and our reason. Our hearts will be where our treasure is. Those who are greedy and anxious about stuff put their emphasis on worldly goods. Those who trust in God’s provision invest their hearts in heaven. When Chris returns, we will have to give an account of how we looked after everything he has given us. Our hearts will affect how we look after things. Where are your hearts right now? Where do you want them to be in eternity?

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN; Worthy Publishing; 2013, pp. 1412)
  2. “We Plow the Fields and Scatter.” Retrieved from http://www.hymnary.org/text/we_plow_the_fields_and_scatter
  3. Pastor Rick Warren, “Don Just Get Rid of Your Stuff. Sell It!” Retrieved from connect@newsletter.purposedriven.com
  4. The Rev. Dr. Jen Garbin, “Forks.” Published in the July 21, 2016 edition of The Canadian Disciple and retrieved from www.canadadisciples.org
  5. ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
  6. Larsen, B. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 26: Luke (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 1983; pp. 212-215)
  7. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006)
  8. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles, 2005)
  9. Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010; pp. 1421-1422)
  10. Bayless Conley, “The Secret to God’s Provision.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  11. Paris Renae, “Hard Things.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  12. Richard Neil Donovan, “Exegesis for Luke 13:32-40.” Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
  13. Mark Sargent, UMC, “On Stuff.” Retrieved from www.day1.org
  14. Swindoll, Charles R.: Swindoll’s New Testament Insights on Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, pp. 332-339)
  15. Richard Mansel, “Contentment is Never Found in Things.” Retrieved from www.forthright.netg/2016/07/26/contentment-3/
  16. Billy Graham, “How Much Debt is Too Much?” Retrieved from http://www.arcamax.com/healthandspirit/religion/billygraham/s-1848539?print&ezine=202
  17. Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, 19th Sunday -C- August 7, 2016.” Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
  18. Heather Lear, “Evangelectionary for Sunday, August 7th, 2016.” Retrieved from http://www.evangelismconnections.org/evangelectionary-for-sunbday-august-7-2016/

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