Monday, July 1, 2019

No Need to Stew Over Stewardship

Are you playing your life like a game of Monopoly?
When your pastor announces his sermon is about stewardship, or your church celebrates “Stewardship Sunday,” how do you respond? Many people immediately reach protectively for their wallets or make sure their purses are close by. After all, it’s all about getting more of your money, right?

I have felt that way at times. We’ve just paid the bills, bought the groceries, did our usual charitable giving, and then I hear a message that we’re not giving enough. “That’s easy for you to say,” I think. “You don’t see our budget and expenses.”

Actually, there’s a lot more to stewardship than being asked to share some of your hard-earned cash. Ultimately, our lives in total represent forms of stewardship. We’re given 24 hours each day – how are we going to use them? We receive an education – how are we going to use it? We have unique skills, gifts and talents – what are we going to do with them?

The temptation is to clutch tightly to whatever we have, not just our financial resources but also our time, material possessions and talents. “They’re mine, and I can do with them whatever I want!” we reason.

The problem is we tend to approach this life as if there’s nothing else. That we need to squeeze every dollar and minute for our personal satisfaction. In reality, however, this life we know so well is just a hint, a taste, of what’s to come. In fact, the Scriptures tell us, “’What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived" -- the things God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Jesus had that in mind when He cautioned His disciples and others listening, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).

Then He explained why this is so important: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Again, some may interpret this as a statement about our material resources, but looking at the scope of Jesus’ ministry on earth, it’s clear He had more in mind than bank accounts, portfolios and leisure spending.

When he was president of CBMC, a parachurch ministry I worked with over two decades, Ted DeMoss often quoted this brief poem:
“Only one life, ‘twill soon be past –
Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

It was a frequent reminder that we needed to review our priorities and make certain we were investing not only our treasure, but also our time and talents for eternity. As someone has said about Christ’s admonition to store up treasures in heaven, we can’t take anything with us when this life comes to an end, but we can send things on ahead.

I recently heard speaker and pastor J.D. Greear use two analogies for the folly of concentrating too much on what we have in this temporal life and failing to appreciate what we can do that’s of eternal value. He said it’s like renting a motel room and engaging in a costly renovation of the space, even though we’re only going to be there for a brief time. Bigger sink, replacing the carpet, new furniture. Wouldn’t that be foolish to spend money, time and effort in refurbishing something we’ll be leaving in a day or two?

His other example was the popular game of Monopoly. Fierce competitors cruise around the board buying everything of value, from Boardwalk and Park Place to the railroads and utilities, multiplying houses and hotels. They smile smugly when other players stop on their properties and have to pay rent. This might go on for an hour or two and then…everything goes back in the box. Game over – and nothing to show for it.

For some of us, that’s how we play this game called life. We devote our energy and resources to things that won’t last, while ignoring opportunities to invest in things that do. If asked to take a stewardship test, chances are our grades wouldn’t be very high.

So when we next hear the foreboding term, “stewardship,” maybe it’s not a pitch for our money. Rather, it might be a timely reminder that the things God has entrusted to us should be used for His glory – and His eternal kingdom. As the little poem says, “Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

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