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Good and Faithful Stewards

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.

  1. We should strive to grow close to Christ.
  2. We should strive to understand the work of Christ.
  3. We should strive to become like Christ.
  4. 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.

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The Rich Fool

I want to begin this morning with a question. And I don’t want you to raise your hand – I’m not going to make you discuss this in small groups or anything. But I just want you to think about it. Here’s the question:

Do you consider yourself to be a success? Are you living a successful life?

And that might be a difficult question to answer depending on how you define “success”.

The dictionary defines success as the accomplishment of an aim or a purpose, so when I ask you “Are you living a successful life?”, I imagine you have some sort of check list in your head that you run through.

Have I done this? Have I accomplished that? And you go through to see if you have accomplished your aims and your purposes.

But I guess before we can answer if we are living a successful life, perhaps the real question is, by which aims or purposes do you measure your success? What sort of things need to be on that checklist?

Because by most North American or western standards – success is measured by how much stuff we have and how nice that stuff is.

We look at the house we live in – the salary we make – the car we drive – the vacations we take – and if we’re about at the same level as our neighbours – (maybe a little above) then we’re a success. Right? Isn’t that how it works?

We might not say that out loud – but isn’t that underlying value system that we live by?

In fact, that’s been the underlying value system of mankind pretty much since the beginning of time. We’ve bought into this idea that gathering nice stuff makes us successful.

But this morning, as we continue to look at the parables of Jesus Christ we’re going to see how Jesus completely turns that value system on its head.

The parable that we are going to look at this morning is found in Luke chapter 12 – and we’re going to start at verse 13. On this particular day, Jesus is teaching a massive crowd – verse 1 tells us that there were thousands of people there – so many that they were stepping on each other. I don’t know how Jesus ever taught out in the public spaces like that with 1000s of people milling about – I have a hard enough time focusing simply being outside with 50 of you. I can’t imagine the distractions that would come with 1000s of people. And actually, this whole parable begins with one of those distractions. Jesus has just been talking about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and how we show fear God not man – and how much God values us and how He will take care of us, when we read in verse 13….

13 Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.” Luke 12:13

Now this really seems like an out of the blue comment – it doesn’t really seem to fit with what Jesus has been talking about at all.  But this guy just shouts out this request to Jesus. And the Bible doesn’t give us any details on his situation – whether there was some unfair dealings going on – whether the brother was in the right or in the wrong. And I guess it doesn’t really matter.

But Jesus recognized that the motive behind his request was based on that value system that we’ve being talking about – where success is measured by our stuff. And so Jesus replies to the man in verse 14.

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Profitable

Who here had $100 in 1997? Anybody? I think I probably did. That was the year that I turned 18, so I’m pretty sure I could have scraped together a hundred bucks. I think most of you guys would be right around that age as well, so a little older – some a little younger. But probably most of us could have scrapped together $100. And I was just wondering, if we had made some different financial choices back then, how different things would be for us today? So I did some figuring this week, and I found out that if you had taken $100 in 1997 and just deposited it in the bank – the interest rates were about a 5% back then – so today, with the compound interest, that $100 would be worth $270. To be honest, that’s not really that great. I think I’d rather just have spent that money 20 years ago.

But then I thought, well, then instead of putting that money in the bank in 1997 – what if we had instead invested it in gold – Well, had we bought gold with that same $100 in 1997, today that gold would be worth $447. That’s a little bit better isn’t it? That’s nearly twice as much as you would have made from the bank. That would have been a much better investment.

Now back when I was 18, I never would have even thought about investing in gold – but I might have invested in the stock market. So let’s say instead that we invested in a good stable company like Walmart. That same $100 invested in 1997 in Walmart would now be worth some $1,381.00. Now that’s starting to be a pretty good investment! That’s three times as much as gold, and 5 times as much as the bank – 13 times as much as our original investment. If only we had know this back in 1997.

But you know, back in 1997, the dot com craze was just starting. People were investing in tech companies like crazy. What if we had been a little more risky and invested in one of those tech company? What if we had invested in Microsoft? I think that would have been a good idea, because that $100 invested in 1997 in the Microsoft Corporation, would now be worth… over $5,500. That’s just from a little $100 dollar investment. Isn’t that incredible? Just by investing $100 in 1997 – you could have over $5000 today. That’s a good return! If only we had been wise enough to invest in Microsoft 20 years ago.

But let me give you just one more scenario. Back in 1997, there was another struggling tech company – that year this company lost about 1 billion dollars. That’s a pretty huge loss! But they hired a new CEO that year named Steve Jobs and things turned around for them. So had we invested just $100 in the Apple company in 1997, today that $100 would be worth $734,906.67 – nearly 3/4 of a million dollars! Imagine if you had only had the foresight in 1997 to invest $100 in the Apple company! You could retire and live pretty luxuriously on that $100 investment.

Isn’t it incredible how a simple little investment can grow into something amazing! Well, that’s just exactly what Jesus is talking about in a parable that we’re going to look this morning.

For those of you who missed last week, we’ve just begun a new series on the parables of Jesus Christ. 

And just in case you don’t know what a parable is, last week we defined a parable as a parallel. It’s a short story about something very common and very familiar that illustrates a unfamiliar spiritual truth. The story and the spiritual truth would run parallel to each other – you can compare the two to help you understand the spiritual truth.

Jesus actually starts off many parables by saying something like “The Kingdom of heaven is like…. THIS” and then he goes on tell the parable – which illustrates the spiritual truth that He’s trying to explain.

And that’s just what we see in the parable that we’re going to look at today.

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The Story of the Seeds

“One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable…” Luke 8:4

Now we’re just going to stop right there. Before we go any further, we need to talk about this verse – specifically about this word “parable” that we just read. Now if you don’t speak Christian-ese, this word “parable” might seem a little foreign. It’s not really a common, everyday-language kind of word. The guys at the shop don’t usually tell ‘parables’. But Jesus did. And lots of them. In fact the count in my Bible says that Jesus told 46 different parables. And I’m sure He told many more than that – they just weren’t recorded in the Bible.

So what exactly is a parable? Simply speaking, a parable is really just a short story about something very common and very familiar that illustrates a unfamiliar spiritual truth. For example, Jesus would tell a story about something very common like a farmer planting seeds – something that everybody in that time would understood and know what it was all about – many of his listeners would have been farmers themselves, so they knew about planting seeds. But within that story of a farmer planting seeds, Jesus would have a hidden spiritual truth that would be illustrated by the characters and events that happen in the story.

You could almost think of a parable as a parallel. You know how parallel lines run directly beside each other? Well, in parable, the story and the spiritual truth would run parallel to each other – you could compare the two. In fact quite often Jesus would begin his parables by saying something like “The kingdom of heaven is like…. THIS” – then He would tell this story – drawing a parallel between the story and the spiritual truth about the Kingdom of heaven that He wanted His listeners to learn.

So when we read in Luke 8:4 that…. “One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable…” we know that Jesus is about to tell us a story about something very common and very familiar – something we already know all about – and that in that story will be a parallel, hidden spiritual truth that Jesus wants us to learn and understand.

So let’s try this again: Luke chapter 8 – starting at verse 4:

One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear him: 5 “A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it.6 Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out,“Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” Luke 8:4-8

So you can see that the story in itself is not all that profound. It’s just a farmer tossing seed around – some of it grows – some of it doesn’t. There’s no unexpected plot twists along the way. No surprise endings. It’s just a boring, mundane event of life. But there are some significant spiritual truths that are hidden within this story. So let’s see if we can wrap our heads around what those parallels might be.

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The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Well, believe it or not, the story we just watched comes right out of the Bible – although this video gives it a more modern and slightly more humorous twist. But the general idea is the same. As you might have guessed, this story is a parable.

So we’re going to look at this parable this morning – it’s found in Luke chapter 10 – verses 25-37.

Now it’s important that we start at the beginning. The video we watched told us the parable, but not why Jesus was telling it. So let’s just back it up a little bit to see what’s going on here.

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
Luke 10:25

Now let’s stop here for a minute. It all begins when this expert in religious law decides to test Jesus. By this time in His ministry, Jesus had built up quite a following. Just in the chapter before this, we can read the story of how Jesus fed the crowd of 5,000 men plus women plus children with the two fish and five loaves. So Jesus is getting to be pretty well known. So this expert in religious law comes to test Jesus. We don’t know what his motives are – whether he wants to prove Jesus is a fraud or whether he really is just curious to know who this Jesus is.

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