Today we come to the conclusion of our “Visual Theology” message series. We’ve been following the outline of Tim Challies and Josh Byers in their book “Visual Theology” as they look at the four basic pursuits of the Christian life.
These four things should be a part of every Christian’s experience.
- We should strive to grow close to Christ.
- We should strive to understand the work of Christ.
- We should strive to become like Christ.
- We should strive to live for Christ.
And I trust that over these past few months, you’ve been able to get a fresh understanding of why and how we do these things and hopefully, you’ve been able to pick up some real practical ways for how to live out those things out in your own life.
But we’re not quite done yet. We’ve got one more topic to tackle as we complete our final section of how we live for Christ.
And so I’d like to introduce one more new word to your vocabulary today: the word is stewardship
Now most of you will have heard of stewards or stewardess – they are the kind folks who take care of you in an airplane while you’re flying somewhere. They bring you drinks and snacks and tell you how to put on your seatbelt and how to exit in an emergency, and all of that good stuff.
But that picture of an airline steward doesn’t really give you an accurate understanding of what stewardship is all about. Stewardship is more than just being a waiter or someone’s personal butler. So to help us understand stewardship, I want to read for you a parable from Matthew 25.
It’s typically known as the parable of the talents or the parable of the three servants. So let me just read that for you today. Starting in verse 14 of Matthew chapter 25, it goes like this:
14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.
16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.
19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money.
Now I’m going to pause the story here, (we’ll come back and finish it later) but for now, we’ve seen a clear illustration of stewardship. Stewardship is when you are given the responsibility to manage someone else’s stuff. It’s still their stuff, but they’ve asked you to be in charge of it for a little while. It’s kinda like you’re filling in for them for a time.
And you can be stewards of just about anything. In the case of this parable, it was money. These three servants were to be stewards of the master’s money – spending it, saving it, investing it – whatever they decided – but the idea was they would do with that money the same sort of things the master might do with it. They were stewards of the master’s money.
But stewardship isn’t just about money. To give you another example, you could also be a steward of someone’s house. Perhaps your friends are going to Arizona for the winter and they’ve asked you to come live in their house for six months. Now of course, that doesn’t make it YOUR house – but you’re free to use the house for sleeping, eating, watching tv, having friends over – whatever you choose to do – and at the same time, it’s also your responsibility to care for the house – vacuuming, washing the dishes, replacing burnt out lightbulbs or broken windows, shovelling the sidewalks, etc… You are to use that house and take care of it just like your friend might. That’s stewardship.
Or one more example: Let’s say your brother decides to go off to college – and to save some money, he decided he’s not going to take his vehicle with him – he’ll just use pubic transit while he’s there. So he leaves the vehicle in your care. You’re free to drive it where ever you like – so long as you put gas in it, change the oil, and take care of the maintenance and that sort of stuff. An of course, you can choose to drive it carefully or recklessly – he’ll never know. But at the end of the year, he’s going to want it back and it had better be in the same condition as he left it! That too – is stewardship.
Whenever you are given the freedom and the responsibility to use and manage and care for things that belong to someone else – that’s stewardship.
So my question for you this morning is this: Are you a steward of anything? Has anyone ever entrusted to you some of their things to use and manage and care for? Are you a steward?
While you think about that, I want to read for another two passages – one from Deuteronomy 10 and the other from Psalm 24.
Deuteronomy 10:14 says this:
14 “Look, the highest heavens and the earth and everything in it all belong to the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 10:14
Ok, keep that in mind and I’ll read another. Psalm 24:1 says this:
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.
The world and all its people belong to him.
These two verses make a very clear point. Everything in the entire world – including you and I – belong to God. Everything. Not just the trees and the water and the rocks – but everything. According to these verses, this hall belongs to God. The cars outside belong to God. This shirt belongs to God. These hands belong to God. The earth and everything in it all belong to the lord your God. He is the Creator of all – and thus, he is also the owner of all.
Anything we have is on loan from God. When we were born, we didn’t bring anything with us when we came into the world and when we die, we’ll take nothing with us when we leave it! Everything we have in this life is on loan from God.
This is a key point as we understand Biblical stewardship. Our money belongs to God. Our prized possessions belong God. Our family (our wife or our husband, our kids) they all belong to God. Even our body belongs to God. All of those things are on loan to us by God. He’s given us the freedom and the responsibility to use and manage and care for those things that he’s given to us.
In fact, this mandate to be stewards of God’s stuff was actually the very first thing that God ever said to a human being. God’s first words to man are recorded in Genesis 1:28. It says:
28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” Genesis 1:28
You see, God has put us in charge of his creation. It’s still ultimately His – but He has entrusted it to us. We are to use and manage and care for His creation in a way that is consistent with His desires and His purposes for it. We are the stewards of the earth and everything in it.
For everything we have, we need to remember that God owns It – I just manage it. He is the owner – we are the stewards.
And there is a big difference between owners and stewards – and that difference is accountability.
If I own something, I can do whatever I want to with it. I can use it. I can break it. I can throw it out. I can waste it. I can do whatever I want to it – because I’m only accountable to me. It’s my thing and I can do whatever I wish with it.
But if I am a steward of something that belongs to someone else – I guess I still have the freedom to do whatever I like with it – but I have to give an account of my actions to the owner. If I borrow my brother’s car and smash it all up, I’m going to have to answer to my brother (and likely pay for the repairs or a replacement!) Stewards are always accountable to the owners.
That’s exactly what we see in the parable we started reading earlier. In fact, let’s finish that up now….
19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’
21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’
23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’
26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’
28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25:19-30
Now there are lots of points that we could draw out of this story, but for now, the point I’ll have you notice is the issue of accountability. All three servants had the freedom to use their master’s money however they wished, but at the end of the day, they had to give an account of their actions.
- If they were faithful servants and they made good use of their master’s money, they would be rewarded and would be entrusted with even more.
- But if they were unfaithful and didn’t make good use of their master’s money, there would be consequences and even what little they had would be taken away.
And really, I think that’s just common sense. No owner wants to have an unfaithful steward. You want someone who is going to take good care of your stuff. You don’t want to loan out your lawnmower to the guy who always brings it back broken. You don’t want a house-sitter that’s going to trash your house.
You want someone responsible. You want someone faithful. And the more faithful they are, the more willing you will be to entrusted them with even more!
When I was a kid in school, one of our memory verses was 1 Corinthians 4:2 – and back then, of course, I memorized it in the Old King James version.
2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2 KJV
That’s absolutely true. As Christians, one of the key ways that we can live for Christ, is by being good and faithful stewards of all the things that God has entrusted to us. God requires faithful stewards.
And all of us have this responsibility to be good and faithful stewards – because everything in our possession is actually God’s. If God made it and you have access to it – you are a steward of God’s things. Your money, your house, your vehicles, your family, your time, your skills and abilities – those all belong to God and He’s asked you to a good and faithful manager of those things.
This even includes you kids, by the way. Most of you kids have toys or stuffies or books or things like that… Well, if all that stuff belongs to God – then you are a steward of God’s stuff. God’s asked you to take care of that stuff and to use it like He would….
So the question we need to ask is this:
How can I be a good and faithful steward?
How can I be faithful with what God has entrusted to me?
I don’t know about you, but one day when I stand before God I want to hear the words:
“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!”
Wouldn’t that be incredible to hear that from God as He considers what you have done in this life? Well done – good and faithful servant!
And on the flip side, how crushing it would be to hear the words “You wicked and lazy servant.” I most certainly don’t want to be a wicked or lazy servant.
So how can we be good and faithful stewards of God’s things?
Well, let me give you three basic principles for how we are to manage God’s stuff – and as we talk through those principles, I’ll try to give you few practical examples to see how those principles can be applied.
So here’s the three basic principles for being good stewards.
#1. Focus on the Gospel
This means that in every situation, you ask the question: In light what God has done for me, in light of the truth of Gospel, what does God want me to do with this money, or my house, or my body, or my skills, or my kids or whatever it is. What does the Gospel say about this thing that God has entrusted to me.
So for example, think about your body. We live in a world today that lives by the mantra “My body – my choice.” This mantra gives permission for things like euthanasia, or abortion, or sexual immorality – because after all, if my body belongs to me, then I can do with it what I want. But what does the Gospel say?
“You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:20
The Gospel tells us that our entire being (including our body) was purchased by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Our body belongs to Him – and therefore, we must honour God with our body.
So how do we honour God with our body? I think we have a responsibility to try to keep it in good, operating order. Keep it healthy by eating proper and doing some exercise… Don’t abuse it. Don’t harm it. Use it to carry out God’s will. Use it to do good to others. Use it in ways that honour God. We could probably come up with quite a list – but it all comes from viewing out bodies in light of the Gospel.
So that’s just one example of how we can be faithful stewards by focusing on the Gospel.
A second example might be how the Gospel tells us how to think about our own value and worth. The world often measures our value by a dollar figure. The more toys we own, or the nicer car we drive or the bigger house we have – the greater is our value and worth.
But what does the Gospel say? The Gospel says your possessions make no difference to your worth. You are already infinitely valuable to God – so much so that he was willing die a terrible death on a cross just so that he could be with you.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NIV
Our worth is not measured by the dollar figure on our bank statement. Our worth is measured by the great lengths that our Creator has gone through to save us from our sin and to be with us for eternity.
And so if our focus is on the Gospel, we don’t have to get all caught up in keeping up with the Jones… We don’t have to hoard our wealth or go into debt so that we feel valuable. We can be free to live within our means and to use our possessions and money to bless others.
Let me give you one more example, as we think about raising our kids, its important that we focus on the Gospel as we raise them.
It’s easy for us to mix up our priorities. Certainly there is value in getting good grades, and learning how to play the piano, and learning hard work and dedication through their sports teams, and going to college and getting a good career – those are all good things! But we can’t forget that our primary job as parents is to raise our kids to be disciples of Jesus Christ. That’s always got to be our highest priority!
When we stand before God and answer for how we’ve raised those precious gifts that God has entrusted to us – God’s not looking to see what grades they got or what trophies they earned… God’s looking to see if we raised them to know and love Him.
If we want to be faithful stewards of what God has entrusted to us, we’ve got to focus on the Gospel.
That’s the first principle – focus on the Gospel. The second principle is to:
#2. Seek Wisdom
It’s very easy to be foolish with our money. Foolish with our time…. We need to seek wisdom to be better managers of God’s stuff. Whether that’s the wisdom from other parents as you seek to raise your kids in a godly way or the wisdom from financial advisors as you seek to manage God’s money, or whatever it is. It’s so easy to be foolish – we need to seek wisdom to be faithful stewards of what God has entrusted to us.
“Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.” Proverbs 15:22
Faithful stewards seek the wise advice of others to better manage what God has given us.
I’ll give you a couple of quick examples. Every few months I get together with other AGC pastors and we talk about a variety of things – everything from how we choose our sermon series to the struggles we experience in our own personal life to whatever else comes up, but the last time we met, we talked about how we manage our time. Pastor’s typically have a lot of flexibility in their schedules because of the nature of their job, so we talked a bit about how we make the most of our time. How do we plan our days? How do we stay organized and on task?… things like that… We wanted to be good stewards of the time God has given us, and so we shared with each other some wisdom and advice that we’ve gleaned so that we can each be good managers of our time.
Another area of life where I’ve been grateful for the wisdom of others is in the area of finances. As most of you have probably experienced, it’s super easy to be foolish with money. I don’t know what it is about human nature, but it seems we are foolish by default when it comes to managing our money.
And so to be a better manager of whatever money that God has entrusted to me, over the years, I’ve had to seek the wisdom of all kinds of people – my parents, my in-laws, professional financial advisors, I’ve listened to Dave Ramsey on the radio, I often read financial management articles on the internet, I’ve taken different budgeting or financial freedom courses.
And by no means am I now a financial guru – but I’m a whole lot wiser with my money (or should I say, with God’s money) than I was before.
I think it honours God when we try to learn how to do better with what He’s given us. Whether it’s our money or our kids or our talents or our time – we need to seek wisdom to be better managers of what God has entrusted to us.
That’s the second principle of stewardship – seek wisdom – And the third and final principle is this:
#3. Invest in Eternity
Jesus said in Matthew 6:19…
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:19-20
The pleasures and the possessions of this life are fleeting. They are here today and gone tomorrow. If we want our investments to last, we have to invest in things that will last forever – namely God and people. Those are the only things that will still be around in 10,000 years. That means we have to use our things (the things that God has entrusted to us) for the good of others and the glory of God. That’s how we store up treasure in heaven. So what are some practical examples of how we do that?
Well, I think one very clear way according to the Bible is simply by being generous. The Scriptures are full of instructions for us to generously give to those in need. For example, 1 Timothy 6:18 says…
18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life. 1 Timothy 6:18-19
Being generous and sharing whatever we have is great way to invest in eternity. Whether that’s tithing to the church or supporting a missionary or donating to the food bank or sponsoring a child or packing a Christmas shoebox… those are all super easy things to do. You don’t have to be rich to do any of that. In fact, Jesus once said:
“And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.” Matthew 10:42
If Jesus says that giving a cup of water to someone is good investment for eternity, think of all that we could do with all that God has given us!
I’ve said before, that simply by being Canadians in 2019, we are truly some of wealthiest people who have ever lived on this planet! God has entrusted us with so much! How will we invest what God has given us?
And if you need some ideas, I’m happy to share a few.
For one, right now the church is collecting a bunch food to give to at least 3 different families in need this Christmas. Can you imagine how encouraged those families would be if each family here today gave just $50 worth of groceries for them. That would be a stack of groceries! That would be awesome.
Or another great way to invest in eternity is through an organization called “Give the Word”. It’s an organization that gives away around 25,000 Bible a year to individuals and ministries around Canada. It costs about $200 for a case of 48 Bibles and I would be happy to give you the contact information for the guy who runs that. That could be a great investment of your Christmas money this year – your $200 could help 48 people come to know and love Jesus. That would be fantastic – a great investment in eternity!
And it’s not just money that you can invest. You can invest anything that God has given you. Time for example. You could give some time to that lonely neighbour lady who would love having a cup of tea with you. You could give some time to the kids that come out to our kids club – some of them can hardly believe an adult would actually want to hang out with them.
There are so many ways that we can invest in eternity.
In fact, here’s a little exercise for you to try. When you go home, just look around at all your stuff and ask the question: How can I use this ________ to invest in eternity?
How can I use this coffee mug to somehow make a difference in eternity? How can I use my table saw? How can I use my board games? How can I use my VISA card? How can I use my oven? How can I use my big screen tv? How can I use my snow shovel?
Remember, all of that stuff is God’s stuff anyway. He owns it – you just manage it. So how does God want you to use all those things? How can you invest in eternity?
What can you do with whatever God has entrusted to you so that one day, when you stand before Him, you can hear those words:
‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’