Stewardship - Jon Fryer

This is a story Jesus told:

The kingdom of heaven will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave fifty grand, to another twenty grand, and to another ten grand, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the fifty grand went at once and put his money to work and gained fifty more. So also, the one with the twenty grand gained twenty more. But the man who had received the ten grand went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.

After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the fifty grand brought the other fifty. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with fifty grand. See, I have gained fifty more.'

His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

The man with the twenty grand also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with twenty grand; see, I have gained twenty more.'

His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

Then the man who had received the ten grand came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man when it comes to making money. So I was afraid and went out and hid your ten grand in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.'

His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I am tough when it comes to my money? Well then, you should at least have put my money on deposit with the bank, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

Take the ten grand from him and give it to the one who has the hundred grand. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness and the mud.'

Tonight we are going to talk about Stewardship, which means ‘What do we do with the stuff that God has given us?’ This is one of our going deeper sessions where we explore stuff in the bible in a bit more depth, so lets start with a deep question:

  • Why are we here?

The Chief and highest end of man is to worship God and to fully enjoy him forever. To fully enjoy life you have to be serving the purpose for which you were created. So what is that purpose?

Genesis 1 - Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

So God created man in his own image, 
in the image of God he created him; 
male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.


God put human beings on planet earth to rule over it on His behalf. That suggests two things to me. Firstly, human beings were designed to have work to do, even before Satan mucked the world up. Work was meant to be an enjoyable thing, but it was damaged by Satan along with everything else: when Adam is facing up to God after eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil God says to him:

Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."


We’ll talk more about what God thinks about work later on.

The second thing is that we are here to rule over it on God’s behalf. So what does that look like?

  • How does God want us to rule over the Earth? What do you think that should like like?

God provides food and drink for the animals, He orders the weather for our good, and looks after all He has made. If we rule in the way that God rules then we will not trample over the world for our own selfish desires – God put us here to look after the place. We’re not doing that good a job. It is estimated that approximately 20,000 species of insects, plants and animals become extinct every single year due to mans actions – felling the rainforest
for example. Global warming. Drilling for oil.

  • As Christians, why should we care?

Four main reasons:

1.)   Because God told us to look after the place, and as Christians we want to be obedient. The church urgently and desperately needs to be speaking out on how we look after the world before there isn’t a world left to look after – the church should be in forefront of ecological protection and not leave it to a bunch of hippy new age types – God says its our job.

2.)   Because we have to live here – who wants to live in a desolate, polluted wasteland when God created it to be so beautiful? Who wants to live in a world without any plants or animals?

3.)   Because other people have to live here too. Even if you don’t care about the planet, or you think that God’s instruction to look after the place is a bit vague, God’s instructions to look after the poor and vulnerable are very specific, and our actions as human beings have consequences for others. Because of the way we burn so much oil in the West, the Earth’s temperature is heating up faster than it should. This changes the weather patterns, and suddenly Bangladesh is flooded, and some of the poorest people on earth are even poorer and suffer still further. Even if you don’t want to accept that God cares about the environment (and I personally think you’re an idiot if you can’t see why God would care about His planet) you can not possibly argue that God does not care about the people in Bangladesh – we should be looking after our planet as part of God’s call to us to act justly and love mercy in our daily lives.

4.)   Here’s a thought:

  • What happens to us when we die? Where do we go?

1 Corinthians 15 describes our resurrection bodies – perfect and glorious. But they are still bodies – just as Jesus still had a body after his resurrection, so will we. If you remember, Jesus was the same (some of his disciples recognised him instantly) and yet different (some of his closest friends spent hours with him and didn’t recognise him) – Jesus was still Jesus, but his new body was something his friends weren’t quite equipped to recognise properly. We also know that it still had the scars from his crucifixion (remember Thomas?), but healed and made glorious. Jesus also ate bread and fish and honey in his new body at various points. 1 Cor 15 says we will be just like Jesus – so we will still be physical (no floating around as ghostly spirits in the clouds)… and remember the scars? Whatever good we have done here will be made perfect and carried with us. What we do here and now echoes in eternity.

1 Cor 3: If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

Remember, what we do here matters. Now where will these bodies live? With God. But where will God be? On the Earth!:

Rev 21: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."


Now a lot of Christians argue that that means we don’t have to worry about this world ‘cos God will burn it all up and start again, but when God says ‘I make everything new’, the word ‘new’ does not mean ‘throw everything away and start again’, it means ‘I will put everything back the way it is supposed to be’. Just like we get fixed bodies the way they were supposed to be, so does the world. And I would like to suggest to you that if our bodies carry with them all of the good we have done, even as the bad is burned away in death, then so does all of the good done in the world get carried forward to the new version even though the bad has passed away – how cool would it be to be able to spend forever being able to say ‘I made that bit more beautiful’, or ‘I saved that bit’?


For all of these reasons, and particularly the justice one, Christians should be very much involved in green issues, environment issues, wildlife issues. But its so big, how can you personally be a good steward of God’s planet? There are lots of ways, from supporting the World Wildlife Fund or Greenpeace to making sure that you recycle everything you can and don’t waste anything… but the most important thing is to get straight in your head what your attitude should be – Christians are supposed to care about this stuff. Then, when something specific comes up (like recycling your coke can or something) you can say ‘Yep, I should be doing that!’ without having to even think about it.

 

Running the Nymbers


So, we’ve kindof established that what we do with the stuff that is ours affects others, and it kinda goes without saying that we in the West have a lot of stuff. But there is a hidden assumption in that statement:

  • What makes something yours?
    • Creating it? God created everything...
    • The law says so? What if your government takes it off of someone else and then says it belongs to you? Does it really? What if the government then takes it off of you and gives it to someone else?...
    • I bought it?... same answer...
    • Holding on to it? So if someone bigger than you takes it off of you, do they now own it?


And actually, who can hold on to anything? What can you take with you? Nothing – even it is buried with you it just stays in the ground… On the basis of all of those answers, God is the only one who owns anything. He created all the stuff. It can’t be taken away from Him. He holds it forever. His word is the only law that matters. And He says:

I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine,and the cattle on a thousand hills.  I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it. (Psalm 50)

'The silver is mine and the gold is mine,' declares the LORD Almighty. (Haggai 2;8)


Everything we have belongs to God. It’s all His. It’s all God’s. We just look after it for Him for a while, as we saw in Genesis 1. But how much do we listen to the world when it tells us that we have is ours, and we deserve it, and have a right to it, and that it belongs to us and no one else? Listen, every time you even think that something is yours then you are saying that God is not God – you have put Capitalism, or ownership, or your rights, or money itself ahead of God. Jesus said:

No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." 

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and sneered at Jesus. Every time you even think that something is yours to do with as you please then you are actually stealing from God, because its not yours, its His. And God takes a very dim view of people who are selfish with his stuff – lots of Jesus’ parables talk about servants who are trusted with the master’s stuff while he is busy elsewhere. The ones who do what they are supposed to are rewarded, but those who are dishonest with the stuff, or lazy, or selfish are punished. Jesus summed up his teaching on these parables in Matthew 16:


Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?


God says that as Christians he will hold us responsible for how we use the stuff He has given us to look after, whatever that stuff may be – money, cars, houses, whatever.

  • So how are we supposed to use the stuff God has given us?

Lots of possible answers to that one, but the key is live generously. God gives and gives and gives to us, and expects us to treat others the same way. Jesus summed this up in the Sermon of the Mount in Luke 6 when he said:


Give to everyone who asks you without question, and do not expect to receive anything back.


Now that’s an interesting thing. If we take that literally, then Christians never loan anything – they simply give, and if they get it back then that’s an added bonus. Some Christians say that you shouldn’t give to beggars on the street ‘cos they’ll only spend it on drugs and alcohol, and they call that good stewardship. (But honestly, what was I going to spend it on anyway… oh yeah, drugs and alcohol... and they need cheering up more than I do!) Jesus says that good stewardship is to give without thinking, to give as a reflex whenever someone asks. That’s a hard thing to do – I don’t manage it very often, but Jesus says that is the attitude we must have.


Some people say that all the church is always asking for your money. That would be true, except its not your money. We’ve already seen that its all Gods money, they’re all God’s donuts, and you don’t own anything. In the Old Testament God set up a system called ‘tithing’ where you gave 10% of everything you earn or make or grow back to God, specifically to look after the work of the church and the priests and the poor, but the real reason was to get it into peoples heads that the stuff is not yours. God commands his people to tithe at least 17 times in the book of the law, and promises to bless His people if they are obedient. Listen to Malachi 3:

Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. 
"But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' 
"In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.


I’d like to suggest to you that the rules have not changed. All those of you who have jobs and yet who do not give at least 10% of your income away to others are robbing God. Its up to you what you want to do about that, but God says that He wants you to give away at least 10% of everything you earn, both so that He can use it for His work, and as a discipline so that you can truly learn in your heart that it all belongs to God. If you do this, God promises that he will bless you and all that you do with it. If you want to answer God’s very specific call on that and you want to give regularly to Legacy as your church, come and see me afterwards and I’ll help you set it up.

************************************


So, we have seen that all of the stuff belongs to God. But its not just the physical stuff that belongs to God. Everything belongs to God, even your life. Remember our rules for ownership – if you created it, or can hold onto it, its yours. God created your life, and only He can hold onto it. You can’t – one day you will die – but God can hold onto you even after death. Your life belongs to God. After God saved the Israelites from Egypt He made that very clear to them:

The LORD said to Moses, "Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether man or animal. You are to give over to the LORD the first offspring of every womb. All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the LORD. Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem every firstborn among your sons."


You get an option to buy back from God the useful animals like donkeys or not as you choose. You don’t get an option with your children – God insisted that you buy back your kids! Some people have this bizarre impression that God in the Old Testament always wants these burnt offerings, maybe ‘cos he’s peckish and fancies a BBQ… its not true. Throughout the Old Testament God says that he’s not that bothered about the sacrifices themselves, but he is bothered by what’s in peoples hearts – He wants to know that we understand that it all belongs to Him and we are just looking after it for Him. Interestingly enough, that includes the children – if you have kids, they’re not just yours – they belong to God. The thing that most breaks God’s heart in the Old Testament is when the Israelites take up child sacrifice. God says to them:

You took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols. Was your prostitution not enough? You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols...


All the children belong to God. I know that doesn’t affect most of you directly yet ‘cos you don’t have kids, but it says an important thing about our society that we need to get into our hearts. Our society says ‘My life belongs to me and I can do whatever I like with it’. I can sleep around, ‘cos its my life and my body. If I end up pregnant and that’s inconvenient for me, well, I can get an abortion, ‘cos its my life and my body. 60 million babies have been sacrificed to the demon god that we call convenience but is really called selfishness in this country since the 1960’s, and they are all God’s children, and He cries. The same attitude of ‘I can do whatever I like’ is also the reason for so many divorces and broken homes, and I know many of you know how hard that can be. As Christians, as we grow up and take our place as adults in the world, we need to be saying in our hearts ‘My life is not mine’. I have responsibilities to God and to the people around me. We need to recognise that we can never just ‘do whatever I like’ ‘cos we live in a joined up world and what we do affects all sorts of other people. Politicians may scrabble around looking for a political answer to solve all of the problems we see around us, but there is no answer they could possibly come up with that will fix the problem of selfishness in the human heart – the only thing that can fix that is a heart encounter with Jesus that makes you realise ‘my life is not my own’.

Even aside from the fact that God made you and holds you, your life belongs to God in law because he bought you as well. The very first time you sinned you sold yourself into slavery to the Devil, because you followed his rules, and you belong to the one who sets the laws that you follow. Playing by those same rules, Jesus bought you back from the Devil when he died on the cross. Your life is not your own – it belongs to Jesus, and you are only looking after it for a while. And that means that everything you do and are is God’s. Whether you like it or not, you have a responsibility to live your life as if it belongs to God and not to you.

  • So what does that look like?

Some thoughts:

1.)   Your body is not yours – it belongs to God. You have a responsibility to look after it properly – you ought to look after it (Strange thought, but Christians have a duty to keep themselves healthy), not poison it (drugs are bad), not dishonour it (sleeping around is out):

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body. (1 Cor 6)

2.)   Your time is not yours – it belongs to God. God created us to work and created work for us to do, and in this context work is a good thing, and not a soul destroying thing. Working for God, doing the things for which you were created, whatever they may be, is a life giving experience – Eccl 9: Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. Talking of work though, we need to be careful that our choice of career or job does not harm either ourselves (overwork), or our families (absence) or other people (evil corporate stuff) – but that doesn’t mean we should all be doing full time work for the church as we shouldn’t run away from working in the world either, ‘cos Jesus wants us to be salt and light, changing the world around us.

One thing that is clear is that God does not approve of laziness – in both the Old Testament and the New God says stuff along the lines of ‘If a man does not work then he does not eat’. Laziness, lounging around whilst others provide for you while you do nothing, is stealing from other people, ‘cos they have to work harder to compensate – it’s a lack of love.


3.)   Your family is not yours – it belongs to God. So do your friendships. We’ve already talked about your kids belonging to God, but so does your entire family and set of friends. Sometimes God will ask you do stuff that might upset your family or friends – becoming a Christian for example may offend some of your family members so much that they won’t want anything to do with you. That’s sometime the cost. Sometimes God will ask you to give up close contact with people who are leading you astray. That’s sometimes the cost – but Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” (Matt 19).

What do you do if you think God is calling you to do something that will upset your parents? You need to weigh it up in prayer and careful thought – obedience to God is more important than obedience to anyone else, but God also instructs over and over again that we are to honour and obey our parents. When these two things come into conflict it can be very difficult to discern what is right, so if you find yourself in that situation, pray to God for wisdom, and also seek advice from Christians who have walked with God for longer than you have – they may have a clearer perspective on things.

4.)   Your safety and happiness are not yours – they are in God’s hands. Jesus may call you to give up everything to follow him to some foreign place. You may be called to take outrageous risks with your safety or money. You may be called to work faithfully in a mundane job for all of your life with nobody noticing. You may be asked to risk your health by working with the sick. Whatever it is, our attitude should be like that of St Paul, who said in Phillipians 1:

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but instead will have sufficient courage, so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Or as Job said: ‘Even though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him’.


Summing up – Don’t worry about the details so much. God wants you to get your heart attitude right with him, and the details will flow from that. We have talked about three core attitudes tonight that a Christian should keep in their heart. Firstly, the planet is not yours – you look after it for God. Secondly, the stuff is not yours – it belongs to God and you use it how He says. Thirdly, you are not yours – you belong to Him, and that is a real good thing!

Jesus the Man
What was Jesus like?

The Character of God
How do we know what God is like?

The Authority of Scripture
How should we obey what the Bible teaches us?

The Wise Mans Tragedy
What can we learn from Solomon?

Obedience
What can we learn from the mother of Jesus?

Cain and Abel
What can we learn from the first murderer?

Aslan
Who is Aslan? Who is Jesus?

When the Fire Burns Low
How do we cope when we have grown tired of God's way?

Fix Your Eyes
How do we look for God?

Stewardship
Why should we look after the world God has given us?

Stability
How do we know who we are in God?

Lent - Pride, Doubt and Jealousy
What is the period of Lent all about?

Doorkeepers
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the House of God than dwell in the tents of the wicked...

Close Encounters
How do get to have intimacy with God?

Air
Can we feel the breath of God?

Hearing From God
How can I hear what God wants to say to me?

The Story We Find Ourselves In
The Bible tells the story of all creation - what is my part in that story?

Passover
What does Passover mean to us as Christians?

Life
What does it mean to say that Jesus is alive?

Fruit
What is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit?

Wait
Teaching for Christmas Eve...

Authority
What does it mean to have authority?

Tired
What can we do when it all seems like too much?

I Will Be With You
What does it mean to say "God is with us"?

Angels
What are angels, and what can we learn from what the Bible says about them?

Fire
A contemplative service for Pentecost

Water
A creative/contemplative baptism service

Guidance
How do we know what we should do?

Stones
A creative prayer/worship service

The Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?

A Relationship With Jesus
What does it mean to have a 'relationship' with the Son of God?

The Pilgrim's Progress
If we keep our eyes on the prize, what a journey it could be!

Heroes, Promises and Trust
How does our relationship with Jesus realy work?

Warrior's Confession
A liturgy for masculine prayer

Living Life to the Full
How do we get the most out of life?

Abraham
What is so speacial about the faith of Abraham?

The Presence of God
What does it mean to say God is present?

How Do I Know My Faith is Real?
We all wrestle with doubt, so how can we cope?

Who is Jesus?
...and what does he want from you?

To Act Justly Every Day...
What does the Lord your God require of you?

Sex and Self Image
Don't you know how beautiful you are?

Obedience
Will you let Jesus be in charge?

Recognising Jesus
Would you know him if he met you on the road?

The Person of the Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?

The Passion of the King
What does Jesus really want?

Joy
How can we really 'count it all joy'?

More Than Words
"... but words can never hurt me"?

The Armour of God
What tools does God give us to protect us from the Enemy?

The Heart of the Gospel
The Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near to you, therefore...

Following Jesus
Do you really want to follow him?

Preaching Skills
How should I prepare to give a sermon?

Healing
The gift of healing comes from the Holy Spirit, but how does it work?

Church
The People of God

The Bible
What does it mean when we say that the Bible is the Word of God?

Jesus Part 2: The Deity of Christ
How can Jesus be God and Man at the same time?

Jesus Part 1: Who Do You Say I Am?
Who is Jesus, and why does He matter?

Temptation
How do we resist?

Holiness
What is holiness and how do we try to achieve it?

The Art of Spiritual Warfare
We're in a constant battle, so how do we try and prepare to fight?

Forgiveness Part Two: Forgiving Others
What is forgiveness and why do we need to forgive others?

Forgiveness Part One: Forgiven by God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?

Prayer Part Two: Receiving From God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?

Prayer Part One: The Lords Prayer
We look in detail at the Lords Prayer

Prophecy
It's one of the spiritual gifts, but what exactly is it, how does it happen?

Becoming a Christian
What is a Christian, how do you become one?

Basics of Christianity
Here we delve into the Nicene Creed