Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Christian Stewardship: Cherishing the Godly Gift’
© November 1, 2015, by Steve Mickelson
Based On a Message Shared at BLCF September 6, 2009
Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #600 – Christian Stewardship (Psalm 24 and 50, Haggai 2, Leviticus 27, Proverbs 3, Malachi 3, Matthew 22, 2 Corinthians 9, 1 Peter 4); Prayer
Opening Hymn #58: This Is My Father’s World; Choruses
Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers
Today’s Scriptures: John 3:16, Luke 10:27, Luke 16:1-13, Luke 4:1-13
Let us pray…
As we conserve daylight by changing our clocks for Daylight Savings Time, today’s lesson is about conserving and stewardship of God’s gifts to us.
A wise man once said: “It takes a lot of hard work to make a dream reality. It’s a lot easier to make a dream a delusion.” This is quite a profound statement. But what is meant by the statement: “It takes a lot of hard work to make a dream reality. It’s a lot easier to make a dream a delusion”, especially with respect to our faith, our walk with Jesus?
In World War II, we have the account of a wine steward who was responsible for caring for the finest collection of wine in all of Europe, which was kept in the wine cellar at the Chateau of Monaco. At that time in history, the chateau was well known for its vintage, rare wines. But the Nazis had overrun the city and now lived and dined in the chateau, expecting and wanting to drink the world’s finest vintage wines. The wine steward resented those “slime Nazis” and cleverly and carefully hid all the rarest of wines deep in the cellar, serving his enemy only the cheapest and youngest wines, pretending that those wines were the best. Stewards are people who care for precious property that is not their own, often preserving it from disaster. Though we may criticize the steward for not being a lack of candor with the Nazi invaders, we can commend his desire to protect the valuable possessions with which he was entrusted.
Luke 16:1-13 (ESV) The Parable of the Dishonest Manager
1He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.
10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for 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 God and money.”
Footnotes: a.Luke 16:6 About 875 gallons b.Luke 16:7 Between 1,000 and 1,200 bushels c. c.Luke 16:8 Greek age d. d.Luke 16:9 Greek mammon, a Semitic word for money or possessions; also verse 11; rendered money in verse 13
So what is the message given to us here? It is a message of stewardship, a message of trust, and a message of care for something valuable which has been entrusted to your care.
Author Jack Kelley, in an article written for Grace Through Faith, helps us to better understand what Jesus wants us to understand. Kelly states:
The key in understanding the parable is to know whether the manager is acting on behalf of his master (The Rich Man) when he reduces the debts that the debtors owe his master. Luke 16:3 indicated he was. The manager says this, “My master is taking away my job.” Note the tense of the verb. The Rich Man did not fire him on the spot! He was in the period of time his master gave him to “give an account of your management” (Luke 16:2). The creditors were under the impression that the Rich Man was the one being generous with them and lowering the amount they owed him.
The shrewd manager was hoping the creditors would welcome him into their homes and give him hospitality if and when he lost his job and was in need. He was hoping the creditors would honour the messenger who gives them good news. Notice that it is the Master who commends the dishonest manager because he acted shrewdly (Luke 16:8). The Rich Man had two choices:
The first was that he could expose the dishonest manager for acting independently of his wishes and tell his creditors they still owed the full amount of their bills. If he does this he would appear selfish and greedy (even though it would be within his rights).
The second was to let the actions of the manager stand and receive the praise given him by his creditors (and no doubt others within the community) for his generosity. He would learn from his mistake of allowing the manager, of whom he was suspicious, to act on his behalf. Next time he would fire someone on the spot.
Jesus follows up the parable with a challenge to those who follow him to be creative in their use of worldly wealth for eternal purposes! He contrasts “worldly wealth” with “true riches” (Luke 16:11). Jesus does not confuse the two. He concludes with the warning that no one can serve two masters. You cannot serve both God and Money at the same time. You can only have one master. If money is your master then God cannot be. If God is your master then you should use your wealth in a manner that honors God. That is the point of this parable.
A manager is being fired by his master. Told to bring the books into balance before turning them over for a final accounting, he faces a serious situation. He’s too old for manual labour and too proud for welfare, so he asks his master’s debtors to come in and review their accounts with him. In private meetings he has the debtors write down their accounts to a more favourable amount. In so doing he earns points with both the debtors and his master. How could this be?
It was against Mosaic Law for Israelites to charge one another interest on credit extended, Deuteronomy 23:19 (ESV)
19 “You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest.
Many merchants got around this restriction by overcharging for goods and services, taking excess profits in lieu of interest. (You can see a current example in the auto business. That 0% financing you got is really a loan whose interest is paid by the manufacturer out of excess profits added to the price of vehicles specifically for the purpose of funding such incentives.)
The manager had apparently dealt unfairly with the master’s debtors, tacking on excess profits in lieu of interest. From the story, there’s no indication the master either instigated or condoned any over-charging. Its discovery may even be one of the reasons for the manager’s sudden loss of position. Perhaps he was using these add-ons to compensate for the losses of which he was being accused.
Pretty Shrewd, Isn’t He?
Since the master commended the manager’s shrewdness in writing down the accounts, it’s hard to imagine he was being cheated in these dealings even though the Lord calls the manager dishonest. More likely, in settling with the debtors the manager was deducting the excess profits he himself had tacked onto their accounts, earning the gratitude of the debtors and the admiration of the master.
If so, his efforts resemble those of today’s Orthodox Jews during the 10 Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, frantically going around to right all the wrongs they’ve committed against others in the preceding 12 months. They’re working to retain their place in the Book of Life before it’s closed for another year, simultaneously reconciling themselves to their friends and neighbours while getting back into God’s Good Graces.
Christians don’t need to work to get back into God’s Good Graces. Our names cannot be blotted out of the Lamb’s Book of Life. But our willingness to ask forgiveness of someone we’ve wronged is more than an attempt at reconciliation. It’s an indication of the contrition in our hearts, a measure of our repentance for the sins that we have committed.
It takes a lot of hard work to make a dream reality. It is easier to make a dream a delusion if we are willing to sacrifice some of our integrity in the process, as was the case of the parable found in today’s lesson. The manager felt it was easier to deceive his master as well as those indebted to his master than to confess to both, his wrongdoing.
Jesus often told such parables to clarify a point of faith. The parable had faith-based moral theme or lesson which can help us learn what God expects us to do in certain circumstances, as Stewards of God’s treasures, often in stark contrast to the way a non-Christian would behave under the same circumstance.
So what exactly what treasure has God entrusted us with?
1 Peter 4:10-11 (ESV)
10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
And let us not forget God’s most precious gift, His Son Jesus. Our faith in this gift is the reward of eternal life.
The Bible Says in, John 3:16 (ESV) – For God So Loved the World:
16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”
And how does Jesus want us to take care of his treasure? His instructions are clear, Luke 10:27 (ESV):
27And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.”
You and I are entrusted with God’s love. And God only asks that we freely accept his gift and faithfully give that love back to both God and to our neighbour. In order to make our gift acceptable, God sacrificed Jesus for our sins and make our faith acceptable in God’s eyes.
In the parable in today’s lesson, Jesus said: “Turn in an account of your stewardship. Give me a record of how you are handling the responsibilities that I have entrusted to you.”
Jesus continues, “I have discovered that people who are faithful in the little things are faithful in the big things. The person who is not faithful in the little things is not faithful in the big things. The person who is faithful in both the little responsibilities and the big responsibilities, I will give even more to that person. The person who is not faithful in the little things and not faithful in the big things, I will relieve that person of all responsibilities. To whom much is given, much is required. If you are not faithful with the little things of life, such as money, then who will entrust you with true riches?
When the Pharisees heard this, they scoffed at Jesus because they were lovers of money.
But stewardship is not about that narrow slice of life we call offerings to the church or that narrow slice of our time, talents and treasures that we give to the church. Stewardship is taking care of the precious gifts and people that God has entrusted to us and that is what I would like to talk about today.
The root of steward is the Greek word, “oikos”, which means house. Stewardship is taking care of household matters. A related word is “oikonomics” from which we get the word, “economics:” Stewardship is taking care of money matters that God has entrusted to us. Still another related word is “oicology” from which we get the word “ecology”. Stewardship is taking care of the earth that God has entrusted to us.
None of what you own truly belongs to you: your clothes, house, furniture, pets, toys, plants, or family. None of it belongs to you. Can you take it with you when you die? Of course not! It’s not yours. Everything in life belongs to God who entrusts you and me to care for these precious possessions.
Each of us has been made stewards of God’s treasures.
A Pastor who is hired by the Board and Members of Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship is expected to minister to the needs of the congregation through preaching, teaching, visitation and leadership that is both glorifying to God and which nurtures the spiritual growth of the congregation in a Christ-like manner.
Most churches entrust the care of their properties to trustees of the Bloor Lansdowne church properties. It is their responsibility to protect the church properties from those who may seek to use the Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship Church and St. Helen’s properties for their own glorification and not for the glorification of God.
It is the responsibility of the Church Board at Bloor Lansdowne to see that the money spent is spent wisely and in a manner that glorifies God’s by building or edifying the faith and spirit of those who believe or seek God in the community of Bloor Lansdowne. The Board must ensure that God’s funds are not for the glorification of any person or group of people. Our church is facing hard financial challenges, which may require hard financial decisions to ensure that our church continues to exist, let alone be relevant in this community.
Your Church Elders are responsible to ensure that what is said, what is planned, and what is acted in the name of B.L.C.F., is said, planned and acted in a manner that is glorifying to God as well as showing love and respect to others within the church. For like that manager in the parable if any of what we say, plan or act is done in a manner to deceive God, who is the Master, cannot be tolerated and must be acted upon by the Elders. And so, in the same manner, anything said, planned or done which is hidden from others in the church is viewed with the same contempt by our Father in Heaven.
And as a congregation, we are stewards of our faith to God, this church (which is God’s house and His people), and to each other, as Jesus had commanded in John 3:16 and Luke 10:27. As stewards of God’s gifts, each of us is responsible to grow in faith to God, by trusting God and showing God’s love by the way we treat one another. We are expected to demonstrate our support to the church, both spiritually and financially.
But you may ask: why do the Pastor, the Trustees, the Board, the Elders, and the Congregation not just have faith and pray to God to provide for the means to take care of the church? My answer is while it is true that as Christian believers we must practice our faith through prayer, understanding His Word, and trusting God. We must remember what happened to Jesus immediately after he was convicted by the Holy Spirit:
Luke 4:1-13 – The Temptation of Jesus
1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. 3The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'” 5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'”
9 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”
12And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” 13And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.
The lesson from this passage from Luke is no matter what our position and line of responsibility as stewards of Gods church here at Bloor Lansdowne, we cannot allow ourselves to be deceived by Satan into putting the Lord our God to the test in matters that God has entrusted us to take care of. Each of us should think, speak and act as faithful and trustworthy stewards providing for the church in a manner that is honorable and glorifying to God and loving and respectful to one another. Just as Christ had a mission to be the Word Made Flesh, we have a mission to be good and faithful stewards of the Faith.
Let us pray…
That is how we keep the flavor of our salt and project the light of Lord to others, to His glory so that we may be blessed, be happy in the Lord!
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #40: To God Be the Glory
Benediction – (1 Peter 4:10-11): As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.