The sermon series on Stewardship focused on being good, Biblical stewards of our finances. But we all no doubt understand that God holds us accountable for more than just the money we have. The Lord has given us all things and we must manage it all for God’s glory. It is commonly said (and rightly so) that we must be good stewards of our Time and Talent as well as our Treasure.
However, Scripture makes it abundantly clear that the LORD looks at the heart, not merely our outward actions (see e.g., Ps. 51:17; Prov. 15:8; Amos 5:21-24; Lk. 21:2- 4). Thus a “good steward” as the Bible defines it includes the motivations and intentions of the heart as well as the external behavior. We can’t forget that the greatest commandment penetrates the heart: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Mt. 22:37 NIV). So does the second greatest commandment, which as you well know, comprehends the second half of the Ten Commandments: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:39 NIV).
Last month I hoped to point to the privileges and joy of knowing God, the Owner who has graciously given us all things. This month I hope that we will think about being good stewards of all that we have as we are in relationship with the family of God. Two quick reminders before we turn to loving one another as good stewards.
We are All Stewards
God does not, in His perfect wisdom, distribute to everyone the same gifts. But He has given everyone something! And regardless of how little we have, we are still responsible for it; we are all stewards of the time, talents, and treasure we’ve been given. Jesus tells the parable of the master who entrusts his wealth to his servants in Matthew 25:14-30. You’ll recall that one received 5 talents, another 2, and the last 1 talent. Each of them was held accountable, not just the one who was entrusted with the largest amount.
Just because we have less than someone else does not mean that we have an excuse not to serve God with what we do have. It is right and good to use godly wisdom and sanctified common sense to say, “Well, I don’t have a lot of money, but I do have a lot of time; I’d love to offer more of the things that God has given me more of to Him.” However, that doesn’t give us a free pass to not give any money just because we don’t have a lot of it. Even Mary and Joseph, when they came to the Temple to sacrifice an offering after the birth of Jesus were faithful to follow the Law and offered “a pair of doves or two young pigeons” ( Lk. 2:24, quoting Lev. 12:8). In their poverty they were still obedient.
Just so, we are—each one of us—to be obedient servants with the gifts God has entrusted to us.
We are Stewards of All We Have
Naturally, we find it easier to think of stewardship when it comes to our finances. Money can be counted and divided and we can track how we use it pretty easily. But God has given us more than money! What other treasures do you have? Do you have a car? Clothes? A home? Food? Are you being a good steward of these gifts? Are you looking to share these things too? Or do you jealously guard them as if they were YOURS alone? Are you seeking to be more gracious and generous with whatever material possessions you have?
We also each have God-given abilities and interests. Are you a good steward of your talents? Do you think about how you can use those gifts to the glory of God not only in your work or home, but in the church? And not only using your talents in the church, but perhaps as a means of reaching out into the community for Christ?
Time is an interesting gift of God. We all have been given the same amount: each one of us lives with only 60 seconds in a minute, only 60 minutes in an hour, and nobody has more than 24 hours in a day or 7 days in a week. But each of us is unique as well, we each have different opportunities and abilities when it comes to stewarding the time God has given us. A mother of a newborn infant has her time consumed with caring for that baby who is completely dependent upon another for survival. An elementary student has their summers virtually free while a college student probably needs to work to pay the bills. Some have a 40 hour work week, while others are required to put in lots of overtime or even work two jobs. Some who are retired have filled their time while others may have a lot of time on their hands. The question is, what are we doing with the time we have? What are our priorities? What opportunities has God given us? How wisely are we using the time we have left?
We Are Stewards in Relationship
You can see how all these things tie together. We were made to glorify God and enjoy him forever (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 1). One essential aspect of doing that is found in loving Him; as we love Him with everything we are we both enjoy Him and glorify Him. And as we love others we also glorify God, both in our obedience to His command and in showing others His loving and gracious character. And since loving God and our neighbor is done with more than just our lips—that is we don’t just say we love, but our deeds show our love—we see that we are now talking about stewardship! How are we going to steward God’s many good gifts to us in a way that reflects our heart’s desire to love God and others?
God, in His providence, has brought us into both nearer and farther relationships with others. Our natural, common grace instinct as parents is to protect and provide, to nurture and cherish our children. And those family affections naturally extend too. But our closest relations are actually not our flesh and blood. Yes, our family is extremely important! And yes, family members take priority over most other horizontal relationships (see 1 Tim. 5:4, 8). But we who repent and believe and have eternal life are united to Christ by grace through faith. And as we are united to Jesus, we are also united to other believers. We have been adopted into the family of God; we have the same Savior and Lord. We’ve been born again.
Now, the one thing I’d ask that we think about is this: Since God has brought us together as a congregation, and since we have this exceedingly close relationship as brothers and sisters in Christ, and since Jesus has given us a commission to make disciples, we need to consider how we are being good stewards of our time, talent, and treasure in relation to the members of our own congregation.
Are you older men and women stewarding your time and talent to disciple younger members and help raise up godly leaders in the home and church and even in the community and our country? Will you share your wisdom and understanding? Will you initiate prayer with and for them? Will you be a good listener and not just a dispenser of advice? Those of you who have, by God’s grace, found yourselves with a comfortable lifestyle in retirement, was there an earlier time when your financial future was uncertain? When you wondered how to pay the bills and still tithe and save? Will you walk alongside others with empathy and encouragement? Will you point them to our faithful Heavenly Father and teach them what it looks like to walk by faith, not by sight? We have a lot of accumulated wisdom in our church; I pray we can pass it along from generation to generation in winsome and gracious ways.
Are you younger men and women stewarding your time and talent to both be discipled and to disciple others? Is growing in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ a high priority in your schedule? Will you allow others to speak truth into your life? Will you take the time to be a good listener and seek out older, wiser, more godly members of our church with whom to build a better relationship? Will you share your struggles, sorrows, and temptations with those who have overcome? Will you initiate prayer with and for someone who will disciple you? And with the energy and enthusiasm God has given you, are you willing to be a good steward and also invest in the lives of those younger than you? We need cross-generational discipling to happen even more than it already may be. Like a multi-generational family living in the same house, we need to pour into each other’s lives and point each other to Christ!
May God give us His blessing for these things.