These are my sermon notes for part one of a three part series on Stewardship for the Bible study I attend. Part one’s topic is Stewardship and Money. You can download the audio here.
Quickly, before we dive into tonight’s topic I wanted to define what stewardship is.
Basically, stewardship speaks to our role as Christians to manage all that God has given us. We are managers of God’s gifts, and primarily managers, or stewards of the Gospel. In ancient times, stewards were normally slaves who managed their Master’s estate, or were accountants of some type.
God owns everything, and therefore everything we posses is borrowed and we have the responsibility to use what we have borrowed to the glory of our Master.
(1 Corinthians 4:7)
“What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”
“ The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.”
And specifically regarding money:
“But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”
What we do with our money is an intensely personal matter, between you and the Lord – and I want to acknowledge that at the beginning tonight.
But, that being said, the Bible has a ton to say about how we, as stewards of what God has given, should use our money.
In no way have I arrived to the place where I can say I use all my money in such a way that my Master is pleased, but that is why we study God’s Word – that we might learn to please Him more, and grow in our knowledge of the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
On March 7th it was reported on cnn.com that “at least two winning lottery tickets were sold for the record $370 million Mega Millions jackpot: one in Georgia, the other in New Jersey.”
Things people would do if they won $370 million
Frank Louis of Louisville, Kentucky
I’d buy a $300M island in the middle of the Atlantic and then spend another $50M shipping as many liberals that I could fit there. Then I’d probably take a vacation.
Paul Zavodnyik of Chicago, Illinois
I would buy the Minnesota Vikings and then fold the team out of spite. I truly detest that team. If I had any money left, I would hire Neil Young to give me guitar lessons.
Tim from Imperial, Missouri
I would build a 10-field lighted baseball park with all the amenities, and then I would form youth leagues, pay for all the coaching, equipment and uniforms, and then, absolutely, positively, not allow parents on the premises. They could watch from closed-circuit TV at a nearby clubhouse I would provide.
Not everyone was so light-hearted:
Virgil Mitchell of Biloxi, Mississippi
I would pay for all Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts in my neighborhood. Most of my neighbors need financial assistance to complete their recovery efforts. I would make sure all of us older folks were able to smile and laugh one more time after 18 months of pain, hurt and sadness. Money can’t replace it, but it could sure make it easier to deal with.
What would you do?
How much do you have to give to the church before you would feel free to use some on yourself?
Would you use any on yourself?
Money is a big deal in our world.
It seems everyone is working themselves to death so that one day they can be comfortable, and have a nice savings set up for retirement. We feel must accumulate wealth so that our futures are secure, we must store up, SAVE! Whole companies exist to help people invest and make sure their future is secure. One of those companies, Fidelity Investments has the slogan: Take control of your retirement. Plan for your future with Fidelity.
Over 23 million people use Fidelity Investments to plan their future retirement. And that’s just one company out of hundreds.
How much is enough for you? How much money do you need to be happy? Be honest with yourself. $40,000 a year? $50,000? 100,000?
Or maybe a one timer of $370 million?
As Christians, as followers of Christ, how much is enough? What does it look like to glorify God, to worship God with the use of our money?
What does it look like to be a good steward of the money that God has entrusted to us?
Tonight we are going to focus on
Three actions we must pursue in order to be good stewards of the money God has entrusted to us:
I. Bypass the Pitfalls
II. Bank on Eternity
III. Become Pitiful
I. Bypass the Pitfalls
This is where the battle begins, and that is why I start here – we live in a society that is mastered by money. Money is all around us, and in our everyday lives. Paul said that “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil,” (1 Timothy 6:10) for a reason – money is dangerous – there are many pitfalls that result in many shipwrecking their faith, and many reject Christ because they think themselves rich.
There are two pitfalls that I will point out tonight that we must bypass if we are to be good stewards of the money that God has entrusted to us:
a. The Pitfall of Being Greedy
“Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”
Stop there – if someone asked you that – how would you reply?
But listen to Jesus’ reply:
But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?”
Jesus tells him he’s got it all wrong – he shouldn’t care whether or not he gets some inheritance or not – that should not consume his life. But you see, his desire to have his inheritance was consuming him. It’s probably all he was thinking about, how he could get his fair share of his family’s money.
But Jesus warns him of his greed which made him want more than he had:
Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. “And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.” ’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”” (Luke 12:13-21)
It is our natural tendency to be greedy. We naturally want more money than we have. Look at the world, it seems like everything they do is motivated by greed in one way or another. They lie, cheat, steal, murder because of greed! They want more! And when they get more they store it up, trying to make more – it never ends!!
Does that mean if you have a savings account you are greedy and are in danger of being a bad steward?
It is wise to save money – Proverbs says “There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, But a foolish man swallows it up.” (Proverbs 21:20)
And Jesus says it is common sense that you would consider the cost of the future: “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28)
But – that being said, there is MUCH more danger is storing up wealth than in not having savings. Yeah, I know, that is counter cultural, and we scream “That’s unwise!!!!” But let’s take a look at this through the lens of the Bible NOT the world.
Here are some reasons Christians have huge savings, they say: “It is only reasonable that we should set aside money for our old age. What is going to happen to us when we are no longer able to work? God expects us to use common sense.”
But if we have huge stores of money it inhibits our ability to trust God. And really, how much is enough? How long will we live after we are retired? Will the economy crash? Will we have a ton of medical bills?
It is impossible to know! And so people spend their lives working in order to amass money for the last few years of their lives, robbing God who gave them this stewardship, and seeking security in a place where security cannot be found!
How much better to focus on our daily necessities and not worry about tomorrow trusting our Lord who said:
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
But now, let me clarify:
Before you get the idea that I am saying we should all just be bums out on the street, trusting that God will provide for us – I am NOT saying that. We are to be hard workers, not lazy. You are fool if when you get your paycheck it disappears into thin air because you spend it without thinking. It is the fool who squanders his inheritance. As Christians we are not to be people who spend our money on a whim and then have none and therefore have to beg money from others. Do not think yourself righteous because you have no savings. You need to ask yourself why you don’t have savings. Have you been a good steward of what God has entrusted you with? When you spend your money, is it to the glory of God?
Your greed can cost you the Kingdom. If you live to make money, rather than making much of Christ, you are in grave danger!! Repent and seek Christ rather than riches.
Remember the words of Jesus: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;” (Mt. 6:19)?
To lay up treasure on earth is just as plainly forbidden by our Lord as adultery and murder are!
So the first pitfall is Greed – wanting more, storing up extra surplus for ourselves, without thought to God, and using the money He has given us for His glory, His benefit, rather than our own.
We are to be rich in God, seeking more of Christ – not more money!
The second Pitfall we are to bypass is:
b. The Pitfall of Loving Money
Discerning whether or not we love money is a difficult task, especially when you are rich. Our hearts are deceitful and we live in a nation where everyone around us loves money – therefore it makes it easy for us to slip into the same mindset unaware. Jesus knew this difficulty and has a pretty easy solution: sell everything you have.
“As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. “You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ ” And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!”” (Mark 10:17-23)
This is radical – out of love Jesus commanded this young man to sell everything, give to the poor and follow Him.
Jesus’ perspective is different than the world’s. The world loves money, they worship it. The world wants more than anything to be rich. But in the end, if all you have is money, that will be of no value to you!
““For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
And so, Jesus, knowing that this man loved his money more than he loved God tells him what he must do – sell it. It is better to have nothing and have Christ, than for your money to be a stumbling block to your following of the Lord.
Now you might say, well sure, Jesus told this man to sell all, but Jesus doesn’t tell us to do that!
But what if Jesus did? What if Jesus showed up at your house tomorrow and told you, “Sell everything and give it to the poor, and come follow me”
Be honest – would you?
Would that be difficult for you?
Sell your car. Sell your clothes. Sell your books, your computer, your photo albums, your collectables, and your jewelry. Sell it all!!
This is the test – do you love your stuff more than Christ?
If you do, you will not have eternal life!
Oh, this is serious! Your eternity rests on it!
Oh thanks be to God for His grace in Christ – for I fear we struggle with this – we love our things, we love our stuff. We must go to war against our flesh!
This is our first action we must pursue in order to be good stewards of the money God has entrusted to us: Bypass the Pitfalls – Beware of Being Greedy, Beware of Loving Money
We move on now to the second action we must pursue in order to be good stewards of the money God has entrusted to us:
II. Bank on Eternity
I’ll open this point with a parable Jesus told recorded for us
in Luke 16:1-8
“ Now He was also saying to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions. “And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ “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; I am ashamed to beg. ‘I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.’ “And he summoned each one of his master’s debtors, and he began saying to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ “And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ “Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ (8)“And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light. ““And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.” (Luke 16:1-9)
This parable might be confusing at first glance – what is Jesus saying? Is He commending the deceit of the manager in cheating his boss?
Think about this: The world lives to make money. They spend their time seeking ways to get more – just take a look at the stock market and how much time people put in to their investments making sure that they get the most possible profit from their investment.
They look for better jobs, they use all their effort and charm to get ahead, work crazy hours so that can get that promotion, sacrifice everything for their job so they can make an extra penny. They cheat, scheme, and lie to get ahead. Just like this manager did.
They are more shrewd than we are, they exert all their power to gain money. But how much time do we spend thinking on how we are preparing for eternity? What will be waiting for you in heaven? How have you been storing up treasure there?
You see, Jesus isn’t commending the unrighteous manager for how he went about saving his hide, but rather making a comparison. For the manager was working for earthly wealth, he made sure that he would have friends after his stewardship ended – he was going after wealth that fails, wealth that he can’t take with him when he dies – but we have the chance to store up treasure in heaven – eternal treasure that will never pass away.
How much more we should be working to store up treasure in heaven than the world works to have a comfortable retirement!
We must set our minds on heaven, we must have an eternal perspective, and use our money accordingly. Use this earthly, unrighteous wealth, for the purpose of gaining treasure in heaven – “make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness” Use your money for the sake of the Gospel, use it for the conversion of souls! Think of it – if you used your money for the Kingdom, and when you arrive in heaven all those who came to Christ because of the way you used your money – they would all be there and welcome you in.
Christ clearly prohibits the storing up of wealth here on earth – but we are to be true savers – by storing up treasure in heaven.
And we should do so with all our might! You see, the world plans for the future, but their future is really no future at all. Our future is in heaven not earthly retirement!
Jesus says: “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:33-34)
This life is short, like a breath, a vapor. Plan for your future, plan for eternity. Put all your eggs in one basket, because this investment is insured by God Almighty!
William McDonald says: “all the diamonds, rubies, and pearls, all the bank deposits, all the insurance policies, all the mansions, pleasure boats, and magnificent cars are but mammon of unrighteousness. If used for self, they perish with the using, but if spent for Christ, they reap dividends throughout eternity.”
So practically, what does this look like?
What does it look like for us to use our money to store up treasure in heaven?
1) Get out of debt, and stay out (Prov. 22:7)
a. Don’t use a credit card to buy something you can’t afford
b. Pay off your credit card every month
c. The first month you are unable to pay the total charges, destroy the cards
d. If you have credit card debt, tell your coregroup so they can help you keep accountable for your finances
2) Evaluate every expenditure on the basis of how it will benefit God’s work and reputation (1 Cor. 10:31)
3) Make a budget, so you can see ways that you can better use your money for God’s glory (1 Cor. 16:2 – check out http://www.mint.com)
4) Pray and wait on the Lord, giving Him opportunity to provide an item before you buy it (2 Chr. 16:9, Psalm 37:4)
5) Discern between needs and wants (1 Tim. 6:8)
6) Give regularly to the church, and to the poor (Mal. 3:8-11; Luke 12:33; Acts 20:35; 2 Cor. 9:6-12)
To be honest, money is actually a little thing. Yes, we are stewards of the money God gave, but money is but a tool – for we are stewards of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:10-12)
Will you be faithful in this little thing? The management of the money God has given you? There is great reward in doing so.
This is our second action we must pursue in order to be good stewards of the money God has entrusted to us: Bank on Eternity – live life for your future, invest in the true riches of heaven.
We move on now to the third action we must pursue in order to be good stewards of the money God has entrusted to us:
III. Become Pitiful
The way we use our money is highly visible in the world. Sure, there are some aspects that people never know unless they get close to us, but there are many visible ways in which we display our usage of money.
Our car, our apartment or house, our furniture, our cell phone, our tech toys, our jewelry, our clothes, our investments…all these things and more send a message – whether we like it or not, our non-Christian co-workers, friends, and family are watching us.
When people look at you what do they think about you? When they compare themselves with you, what is different? Is there anything different? When your co-worker sees the way you spend your money, what do they think? Do they notice? Are your spending habits different than theirs?
Would the word “pitiful” ever come up?
Here’s what Paul says:
(1 Corinthians 15:19)
“If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”
Paul lived his life in such a way that there was nothing left for him here on earth – he invested his whole being in heaven. Therefore, if heaven was not real, if Jesus Christ was not who he said he was, Paul was the most pitiable person of all men – he put all his eggs in one basket!
If Christ wasn’t real, would you lose everything? Or have you kept some for yourself? Does the world think you pitiful because of the way you use your money? Or are you just like the world?
As followers of Christ, we have a high calling. We are to be the most pitiable of all men.
But think of the reward!! Oh the joy of living this life all for Christ! So that when you stand before him on that glorious day, you can stand and hear him say, “Well done my good and faithful slave.”
Three actions we must pursue in order to be good stewards of the money God has entrusted to us:
Bypass the Pitfalls
Bank on Eternity
I close with the words of Paul, the one who was pitiable:
“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)