Stewardship/Generosity, part 1
(watch here: https://youtu.be/1tUDutZdjMM)
19‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22‘The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; 23but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
25‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.’
This week I came across a funny about two friends who met each other on the street one day. One looked forlorn, almost on the verge of tears. His friend asked, “What has the world done to you, my old friend?” The sad fellow said, “Let me tell you: three weeks ago, my uncle died and left me forty thousand dollars.” “That’s a lot of money.” “But you see, two weeks ago, a cousin I never even knew died, and left me eighty-five thousand dollars, free and clear.” “Sounds to me that you’ve been very blessed.” “You don’t understand!” he interrupted. “Last week my great-aunt passed away. I inherited almost a quarter of a million from her.” Now the man’s friend was really confused. “Then, why do you look so glum?” “This week—nothing!”
We laugh at the absurdity of the man’s perspective yet all too often we also lose sight of all the blessings God so graciously gives us. We lost sight of just how much God already blesses us with each and every day and asks for nothing more than our love and praise in return. And when the blessings become less apparent, when we think that God has nothing left to bless us, we become forlorn and depressed. We fail to realize the blessings still keep coming and we need to appreciate the blessings more. Through no merit of our own, God continuously blesses us with all that we need and then some.
Our reading for this morning reminds us of this truth. This week we are setting out on a 3-week journey exploring the ideas of stewardship and generosity. What good timing heading into the harvest season when we reap the benefits of our work from earlier in the year! Stewardship asks us to reconsider how we’ve been entrusted with all our possessions and expected to be good stewards of them in putting them to good use for others. All that we have and all that we will ever have are gifts from our generous and gracious God. We need to transform his gifts into gifts for others. And God not only gives but He gives generously. We have more than enough to meet our needs and the needs of those around us. It’s just a matter of recognizing all that we have and appreciating it for what it’s worth. God has a purpose for his gifts. God wants us to use his gifts for the benefit of others, not just for ourselves. In fact, it grieves and angers God when we fail to put his gifts to use. Not recognizing and appreciating and using his gifts conveys a sense of deep ingratitude and fear. Fear quickly turns into worry as we fret over whether it’s enough. Of course it’s enough! God doesn’t want us to live in a mentality of scarcity. God wants us to live free—free to love ourselves and our neighbors. Free to love HIM! A mentality of abundance frees us from limiting ourselves in what we can give to ourselves and others. We can give so much because we have been given so much! We ought not be afraid or hesitant to give. Be assured that God provides and will continue to provide. Paul reminds us in his second letter to the Corinthians, “And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” (9:8)
But oh, how easy it is to let fear and worry enter into our hearts! We know that there is only a limited supply of resources in this world. We know that there are forces at work in this world that expect us to fight for those resources. “Survival of the fittest” presumes that only the strongest, most clever among us will have access to the limited resources and that can be frightening. Many, many people…I’d argue most people…would prefer not to have to fight for survival. We’d prefer to collaborate for survival…“All for one and one for all” as the expression goes. Is this not what God would prefer as well? Why else would Jesus admonish us for senselessly worrying as we heard in our reading for this morning? “Look at the birds in the air…consider the lilies of the fields”…God blesses them with what they need to survive just as He blesses us. And they don’t worry about whether God will bless them. They just live and die according to God’s will and providence. They don’t question God’s ability to provide. God either provides or He doesn’t provide and all of nature accepts this. But we allow fear into our hearts which compels us to fight with each other. If only we could live without fear…
And we can live without fear! Through faith in Jesus Christ! Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians, “And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (4:19) If we but claim Jesus as Lord of our lives, then all that we need will be given to us. Jesus is the bread and the gate. Jesus feeds us and sustains us and offers us a way to everlasting life. All we have to do is believe in him and our fears and worries will be no more. Jesus IS the way, the truth, and the life as we hear elsewhere in Scripture. Through him and only him are we freed from fear and doubt and worry. David spoke for God in his Psalms, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” (81:10) God both leads us out of slavery to fear and doubt and into all that we could ever possibly need through Christ.
We need to be assured of the gift of Jesus Christ if we are to rightly understand stewardship and generosity. You see, when we live in fear and doubt we become poor stewards of God’s blessings. We store up our blessings in storehouses and fail to transform them into the true blessings they were meant to be—blessings for others. If we are to rightly understand stewardship, we must first live without fear and doubt. Only then can we give as we are meant to give…generously! Let us place our faith and trust in God’s ability to provide. Let us put his blessings to use in blessing others. Let us be assured of Jesus’ words later in Matthew, “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.” (21:22)
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.