Sunday, January 10, 2021 Brad Barrett
Slavery. What an evil sounding word. We think of slavery in the United States in the 1800’s and before. Oppressive. Brutal. Inhumane. We might also think of human trafficking today. People held against their will for unspeakable evil. People owning people.
A verse I shared in my sermon 2 weeks ago has been ringing in my ears every day.
Titus 2:14 ESV Jesus Christ…gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
The phrase, “a people for his own possession” has caught my attention. This is a statement of ownership. God owns us.
If you’ve read the Bible much at all, this isn’t a surprising theme, but is actually foundational to Christianity. He is the Lord and our Master. Our Ruler. And we belong to him. We are his possession. In a way, we could say we are his slaves.
Now at least for us Americans, we might resist that thought. We are proud of our independence. We want to rule our own lives. We don’t want someone bossing us around. We love the freedom to do whatever we want whenever we want.
There is some good in that, but largely because of our sinful tendency, such attitudes lead to evil. And it leads to fighting against God.
So the clear truth from cover to cover of God’s Scriptures is that he Lord and Master and Owner. And we belong to him. He is in charge; we are not. And we are to do his bidding. We are accountable to him for responsibilities he has given to us.
However—this is very important— God’s ownership of us is unlike every human experience of Master/slave.
This NT language of us as “God’s possession” has its roots in the OT, in God’s relationship with his chosen people Israel.
Deuteronomy 7:6 ESV “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”
A treasured possession. Such a glorious description. God treasures his people. His ownership is far, far from one of cruelty or selfish gain. It is an ownership established in love. We are his. He loves us. He treasures us. He sent his Son to die for us.
And now, out of that deep love, he calls us to live for him. As Titus 2 says, God now calls us to be a people who are zealous for good works. Eager to do good for him.
So it is in this sense that we are STEWARDS—managers—of all that God has given to us. As Titus 2 says, he redeems people through the work of Jesus Christ. He redeems us from our sin and the penalty that brings. And he also purifies us…he makes us holy…for himself, to be his possession, a people who are eager to serve him. To be a Christian means we enter into a whole new life in Christ. And then, through his Son, God calls us to give this new life back to him.
This giving our lives back to him…living for him… is our theme—Stewardship—today and next week.
Said from a different perspective, that is what Jesus says about the greatest, most important commandment.
Matthew 22:37 ESV You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
A key word is ALL. We give our all to him.
If we think of ourselves—our heart, soul, and mind—as a house, Jesus wants to be a part of every room in your house. No locked doors. No secret hiding places. No private rooms for you only. Free access given to the Lord in every room in our hearts. .
Using that metaphor, here are a few “rooms in that house”—rooms in our hearts– that we steward:
- Money (which we’ll talk about today)
- Work (John Shields will look at next week) Whether student or nurse or teacher or engineer or stay-at-home mom. We are stewards of how we live in that arena.
- Time. The use of our time.
- Relationships. Family, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, neighbors.
- Spiritual gifts. 1 Peter 4:10 says that we are to be stewards of the spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit has entrusted to us.
Let me offer one more passage before we get into the specific topic of the Stewardship of our Money.
The passage I have been thinking about the most in the past 3 months:
Galatians 2:20 ESV I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
This is like the “Great Exchange” that I spoke of two weeks ago. Paul is saying, “I died with Christ. The death I deserved was placed on the shoulders of Jesus Christ instead of on my own shoulders. And now, I am alive because Christ lives in me.”
And what is Paul’s life based upon as he lives for Jesus? Is it terror, trying to please this angry, unpleasable God? Is it endless striving, trying to be good enough to impress God? No, Paul tells us the foundation of his relationship with Jesus:
He loves me; and he gave himself for me.
So beautiful. I have been feeding off this verse almost every morning for the past 3 months. He loves me. Yes, he definitely loves the world. But more personally, he loves me. In spite of all my sin, all my rebellion, all my pride and selfishness. He died for me because he loves me.
This was Paul’s motivation for the Stewardship of his life. And every morning for three months as I reflect on this verse, I pray that it would be my motivation, too.
In this topic of Stewardship, we emphasize both sides of the same coin:
- God is the Creator, not only of the heavens and the earth, but of me. And of you.
This evokes a sense of fear and awe. He is not to be trifled with. He ought not to be ignored. He ought to be obeyed. He will hold us to an accounting for our lives.
- He loves us so. We are a treasure to him.
He is extraordinarily gracious and kind to us. With such a tender, gracious love, we ought to love him with every fiber of our being. With all that we have in our short time here on earth.
God owns us, but it’s nothing like human ownership. This is something other-worldly. An entirely new kind of possession. It is not an ownership of coercion. Of cruelty. Of forced obedience. Of trying to please an unpleasable Owner. Instead, it is an ownership of intense love. An ownership that actually adds a whole new definition to it: Family. Not only has God created us for him and saved us to walk with him, God our Father has adopted us into his family. And now as his children, we are called to walk with him. To imitate our heavenly Father.
What does Stewardship lead to?
- It gives us great reason for living. We are alive in Christ for a God-defined purpose here on earth.
- This call of Stewardship reveals great responsibility. We are responsible to use our lives in accordance with his will.
- It opens the door for reward from God in the next life. We will all give an account to God for how we live. And for those who live it by faith walking in his grace, he will reward us for all we have done for him.
Matthew 6:19–34 (ESV)
Now let’s take this Theology of Stewardship and apply it to one area in our lives: MONEY. Our stuff. Our possessions. Our bank accounts and investments.
We’ll spend the remainder of our time in Matthew 6.
While you are turning there: We can get caught in twin errors in stewarding our money for God:
- The first error is that we simply pay little to no attention to our management of money. We don’t think about God much. We don’t search the Scriptures on how to handle money.
We just do whatever we want.
- The other error is that in our management of God’s money, we are all uptight. Tense.
We obsess over it. We fear screwing up and making God mad.
After all, God is our Creator, so we don’t want to mess this up.
So we look to God’s Word to find truth that will counter those errors.
Now in Matthew 6: In order to be good stewards of our lives, including our money, we should pay attention to Jesus’ words.
Guard our Hearts
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,
20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The first application by Jesus:
Guard our hearts.
This is Jesus’ main concern here in vs. 21: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.” And the way we guard our hearts is to store treasures in the right place.
As our Creator, Jesus is quite aware of our fickle hearts. We can easily treasure things on earth inappropriately…. Things that rust and wear out, and have no intrinsic eternal value. The problem is not in the object. The problem is in our heart…our attitude toward the object. Jesus is calling us to handle all our money with heaven in clear view. To consider what will truly last for eternity.
And we forget that our earthly treasures are not actually ours anyway. We forget, and so we become like the seagulls in the movie, Finding Nemo. What to the seagulls say? “MINE! MINE! MINE! MINE!”
Our earthly treasures are not actually our treasures. We are STEWARDS of them.
We must not underestimate the lure of money and stuff which can have a subtle but powerful influence on our hearts.
- Daydreaming about money.
I’ve done that before. “If I just had another $10,000. Well, as long as I’m dreaming, why not $50,000? $100,000?” Such daydreaming merely leads to discontentment…a heart searching for answers in all the wrong places.
- Being consumed—even obsessed— about earning, spending, saving.
- Longing for more and better possessions.
With Amazon, more stuff is only a click away. And I can have it tomorrow!
- Dream of winning the lottery so that we can quit our jobs, and then all our troubles will go away.
- The latest is betting on sports to get rich.
Fan Duel and Draft Kings are luring us in.
All these things can capture our hearts. And God takes second place in our lives. Or third. Or fourth.
So Jesus tells us to guard our hearts and store up treasures in heaven, not on earth.
How do we store our treasures in heaven?
One of the best ways I have found is in giving. Giving money and possessions away. When we do it with the right heart. By faith. And in love. With no strings attached. Not to make people like me. Not to impress God or others. Not out of guilt for our sins.
Giving loosens my grip on my earthly treasures. It reminds me that there is an eternity. It reminds me that God provides all that we need.
So many of you here at Stonebrook have demonstrated this for years in small and large ways. Tithing. Renew Campaign. Helping people in need. Taking meals to people. Giving to causes locally and globally. It’s obvious your treasure is in heaven. And therefore your heart is on heavenly things.
For all of us, we can ask ourselves and ask the Lord, “In my heart there is a room called MONEY. Have I given the Lord free access? Or do I keep it locked, letting him in only when I feel like it?”
Because we are God’s treasured possession…because he loves us and gave himself for us…Jesus is asking for our hearts.
Wherever our treasure is, our heart will be.
Serve the Lord
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light,
23 but if your eye is bad, 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 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.
Vs. 22-23 are difficult to understand. He is using an analogy of light and eyesight to make a point about money.
Here’s what I think Jesus is getting at: Just as your eyesight affects your whole body, so this area of money affects your life. If your physical eyesight is bad, it will affect your entire life. So with money, if we don’t handle this topic well, it will throw our entire lives into darkness.
Then in vs. 24, he is quite clear, making another application for us.
Serve/love the Lord (vs. 24)
Serve the Lord. Love him.
Do not straddle the fence, following the lures of money and possession while—at the same time—trying to follow Jesus. You cannot do both. It’s like having a wife and another lover. It simply doesn’t work.
Money can become our master. I was reading in 2 Chronicles 33 recently. Manasseh was King of the tribe of Judah and a very wicked man. So God brought judgment on him, and a foreign army captured him, put a hook in his nose and dragged him off to Babylon. Money can put a hook in our nose and drag us off in slavery.
Ways money enslaves us:
- We become obsessed with earning more and more money, working so many hours that our walk with the Lord is hindered, as well as our relationships both in the home and in the church.
- We manage our money so poorly that debt piles up out of control, and we dig a very deep hole.
- We grow discontent with what we do have, and our hearts are given to longing for more.
- We fear for the future, so we grow obsessed with saving more and more and more. And it’s never enough.
We don’t want to serve money. Rather, we want to serve the Lord. And we want money be our servant. To use it in ways that shows our love for the Lord.
The remaining section in Chapter 6 is largely about finding peace about money. Not being anxious.
Don’t be Anxious
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Don’t be anxious (vs. 25,31,34) Or to say it positively, “Be at Peace.”
Many of you are like me. I can waste precious hours in anxiety. Over money and many other topics. I have grown in peace over the years, but I’m frequently tempted to be anxious.
Now a lack of anxiety does not mean we should be careless and pay no attention to our money and possession. No, we are Stewards, so God calls us to manage our money for him. But in that work, don’t be worried.
Jesus is going to tell us more about how and why to have peace. So let’s continue reading.
26 Look 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?
27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,
29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
Jesus tells us to consider/look. (vs. 26,28)
Contemplate. Slow down, stop hurrying. The world around us has signs of a Creator. If your Father in heaven feeds the birds, won’t he feed you? You are far, far more valuable. And if he clothes the fields with flowers, won’t he clothe you?
A few mornings ago, I was in our family room praying, and I noticed outside a fat little rabbit bouncing through the snow in our backyard. Like the birds of the air, God provides for him.
Jesus says, “Consider. Consider. Look.” Look at the birds fluttering around us. God provides for them. And you—you who are created in my image and for my purposes—you are infinitely more valuable. Consider these things. Stop being anxious. Be at peace.
In vs. 30, Jesus comes to a central point on anxiety: “O you of little faith.”
If we are anxious, it is because we are “of little faith.” We are not trusting God. We don’t believe what he says. We are doubting him.
A few days ago I was anxious. It was not about money, but the application is the same. I was going to meet with someone that day to help with some problems in his life. Some areas of sin that were plaguing him. But I was anxious. I didn’t know what I was going to say. I wasn’t sure how to help. And I wasn’t confident he truly wanted my input.
So I started thinking about my anxiety. Why am I anxious? Because I simply believed God could not or would not give me the wisdom to help this man. I believed I was on my own, and God was simply an observer. My problem was ultimately not the problem I was facing that day. My ultimate problem was that I was doubting God.
Recognizing my doubts about God’s wisdom and power, I then repented. And like the man in the gospels, I told the Lord, “I do believe. Help me in my unbelief.”
The same thing happens when we are anxious about money. Often it’s because we don’t believe God cares. We doubt that God has the resources and ability to help. We wonder if God has left us to fend for ourselves. So we doubt God. We walk in unbelief. And doubting God is like calling God a liar.
Jesus calls us to trust God that he is real, that he is good. For if he knows how to feed birds and clothe a field, how much more will he care for you? This doesn’t mean you will never have money trials. It doesn’t mean the bank account will always be full and overflowing. It does mean that your Father knows what you need, and you can trust him.
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Make God first in your heart. Have as your Number One concern the affairs of the King and his kingdom. And when we do, our heavenly Father will be sure that our needs are met.
One way I do that is to start every day in prayer and the Word. My habit is in prayer I commit that day and all its activities to him. Most mornings this week, I prayed something like this:
“Lord, I meet with this person here. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
“As my wife and I interact, may your will be done…”
“As I counsel this couple about their marriage, may you be first in my heart and in theirs.”
“As I run this errand and have conversations with strangers, may I have you first in my heart.”
Each morning, remember that he is the Creator, we are the creatures. He is the King, we are his subjects. He is the Owner, we are his stewards. He is in charge. Seek the welfare of the King and his kingdom more than any other thing.
The last verse:
Focus on today
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
This command has saved my life many times: Focus on today. One day at a time. Why worry about tomorrow? For today has enough trouble. We need God’s grace today for the events of today. Tomorrow God will give us a fresh supply of grace.
It’s a bit like oxygen. Today we breathe in just enough oxygen for today. Tomorrow we will get a fresh supply of air.
Note that Jesus is not speaking about planning for tomorrow. For thinking ahead. That is a different subject. His point here is about anxiety. If you are anxious about tomorrow, keep your focus just on today.
Let me close with this.
Through faith in the Son of God, we are God’s treasured possession. He owns us with a radical, heavenly ownership. Not one of coercion or intimidation. One of deep love.
We now belong to him. And we have a reason to live like nothing else can ever offer. We have a responsibility to walk with the Lord and to obey him. And in that, he promises a reward to all who walk faithfully in his grace.
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