Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Stewardship Series: 1 Stewardship versus Ownership



While we were on leave recently, it was International Mandela Day and I thought back to those first elections.
Remember the big blots of purple dye on our fingers...... It set apart those who voted from those who hadn'tYou could tell, just by looking at a person whether they had voted or not. But it told you a bit more – it told you they were over 18 and it told you they were SA residents.

Since getting that mark, and at each subsequent election, I’ve asked myself, what is the mark of a Christian? What is it that without my saying a word, others can see, without my saying so, that I live by faith (that is one definition of what it means to be Christian)? We could toss that around for a while if we were in a small group – perhaps you should in your small groups.

What is the mark of the born again Christian? It’s certainly not:
He goes to Church because many come to Church but aren’t Christians. It’s not: she reads the Bible, because many people read the bible but they’re not born again Christians. It’s not: she feeds the beggar at the robot because many people do that, but that doesn’t make them born again Christians.

What is the mark of the Christian?
There might not just be one correct answer, but here is mine:
It’s in that reading that we read from 1 Peter 4 and it’s in verse 10 (I prefer the KJV)
Christians live ‘as good stewards of the manifold grace of God’

Today we start a series that the leadership of the Church has asked us to preach on, and that is on the subject of STEWARDSHIP

What do I mean when I say stewardship is the mark of the Christian?
Let’s look at the word Stewardship… what is a steward?

Steward – noun
1.   a person who manages another’s property or financial affairs; one who administers anything as the agent of another or others.
2.   a person who has charge of the household of another, buying or obtaining food, directing the servants, etc.
3.   an employee who has charge of the table, wine, servants, etc. in a club, restaurant or the like.
4.   a person who attends to the domestic concerns of persons on board a vessel, as in overseeing maids and waiters.
5.   an employee on a ship, train, or bus who waits on and is responsible for the comfort of passengers, takes orders or distributes food, etc.
6.   a flight attendant.
7.   a person appointed by an organization or group to supervise the affairs of that group at certain functions.
8.   U.S Navy, a petty officer in charge of officer’s quarters and mess.
Verb: to manage, to act or serve as steward

Now you can understand why I prefer the KJV of 1 Peter 4:10.
The GNB “Each one of us, as a good manager of God’s grace.”
KJV: “As good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

The mark of a Christian is that we live as Stewards, as managers, as employees, as supervisors, as servants, as attendants and so on… of God’s grace.

And I want to hold the idea of stewardship next to the idea of ownership. If a steward is all of the above, what does an owner do?

Listen to some definitions:

Own-er-ship: the state or face of being an owner; legal right of possession; proprietorship 
Own – to have or hold as one’s own, to possess; That which belongs to one: belonging to; belonging exclusively or especially to;

Can you see the difference between a steward and an owner?
I am suggesting that one of the marks of the Christian is that we live as if we are stewards, not owners.
The steward acknowledges that he/she owns nothing, but merely looks after things on behalf of someone else. That is the mark of a Christian.

Here then is a definition of a steward:  A steward is a person who manages and administrates what has been entrusted to her/him by another. In the context of Christian stewardship, a steward is a person who manages what has been entrusted to him/her by God. God has entrusted us with many things. In this series we will focus on stewardship of our planet, our talents, spiritual gifts and abilities, our time, our bodies, other people, especially the poor, the Bible, and our money. 

Stewardship is the careful and responsible management of the things God has entrusted to our care.    

Is this idea biblical:
Well, our Psalm reminded us (Psalm 24:1) “the earth is the Lords and the fullness there of”
Everything and everyone belongs to… God.
Here are some other examples of this ownership principal;
Hag 2:8 “but the silver and the gold of the world is mine”
Why is one person richer than another? Deut 8:18 “Remember it is the Lord your God who gives you the power to become rich.” But who do your riches belong to… God.

The Christian realizes that everything is God’s, and he/she has been entrusted with things and lives accordingly.
The non Christian thinks he/she owns what they have and lives accordingly. You see what we believe will always effect how we live.
And… this is important…. we are not just playing with words here.
When we realize we are stewards and begin to live like stewards it changes our relationships to everything and everyone.

Too many of us think: It’s my life – I’ll live it as I want to.......but, actually, it’s not my life,.... it’s Gods life entrusted to me. The same applies to, for example, my....House....Job....Car....Child....Money....Land....etc.
We’re not just playing with words here – do you, do I, live and behave as if I am the owner or the steward of the things listed above.

Jesus told many parables about stewards and stewardship:

Mat. 20:8 “When evening came, the owner told his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with those who were hired last and ending with those who were hired first.’
Luke 12:42 “The Lord answered, ‘Who, then, is the faithful and wise servant? He is the one that his master will put in charge, to run the household and give the other servants their share of the food at the proper time.”
Luke 16:1-3 “Jesus said to his disciples, “there was once a rich man who had a servant who managed his property. The rich man was told that the manager was wasting his masters money, so he called him in and said, ‘What is this I hear about you? Turn in a complete account of your handling of my property, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ The servant said to himself, “My master is going to dismiss me from my job. What shall I do? I am not strong enough to dig ditches, and I am ashamed to beg.”

I hope you are beginning to understand what I mean when I say that the mark of a Christian is that he/she lives and behaves like a steward.
That’s how people tell us apart. They see in us people who have a different relationship to other people and to other stuff.

We see every person as loved by God, and everything as owned by God. That’s why Jesus said on one occasion if someone asks for your tunic, give him your coat as well..........because it’s not really yours in the first place.

And so over the next few weeks we are going to see what it means to be good stewards of Creation, of Time, of Natural Talents,  of Spiritual Gifts, of People,especially the poor, of the Bible, of our Finances.

Stewardship is one of the key marks of the Christian.

Today we've looked at Stewardship Versus Ownership. The Bible teaches that we own nothing, God owns everything, but in His grace He entrusts things to us.

I invite you to reflect on different areas of your life and to consider what it will mean to give up ownership and take on stewardship, so that each of us can be or become good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

It’s what marks us as attractively different.

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