Pastor Terry Defoe / Sermon / Free & Joyous Response / February 23rd, 2014
1 "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters – and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk – without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?
New International Version © Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
For the past several weeks here at Mount Olive, we’ve been involved in a special initiative called Free & Joyous Response. The goal of this program is to take us into the Bible, the Word of God, so that we can learn about stewardship – our management of all the wonderful resources that God gives us by His grace. I’ve given my message this morning the title Insights for Christian living. I pray that God would bless the time we spend in His Holy Word this day!
The first insight from God’s word that I would like to share with you this morning is this: You and I are a treasure to the Lord. The Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, chapter 7, verse 6 says, speaking of God’s people:
… you are a people holy to the LORD … The LORD … has chosen you -- out of all the peoples on the face of the earth – to be his people, his treasured possession. (N.I.V.)
So you and I – and all believers of all ages and generations – are God’s people. We are, even though we may not feel like it sometimes, a treasure to the lord. The wonderful good news that the Holy Scriptures have for us today reminds us that, despite our sins and disobedience, God loves us, and wants the best for us. As God’s people, we know full well that His Law demands punishment for sin. But we also know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaims Jesus’ death on the cross and reminds us that He has brought us salvation – He has brought us God’s rescue from sin’s horrible curse. So this first insight from God’s word is also the most important. All the others make sense only in the context of this first insight. Again, You and I are a treasure to the Lord.
Here’s the second insight I want to share with you this morning:
God’s Word and the Sacraments are great treasures. They are to be handled with the utmost care.
In the Old Testament book of Job, chapter 23, verse 12, Job’s says:
12 I have not departed from the commands of His lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread. (N.I.V.)
Jesus of Nazareth said that the Kingdom of God is like “a treasure” that a man found in a field. According to Matthew, chapter 13, verse 44, that man, knowing the great value of what he had just found, went out and sold all he had so that he could buy that field – and, with it, of course, the treasure it contained. Again, the second insight God has for this this morning:
God’s Word and the Sacraments are great treasures. They are the source of our salvation. And they are to be used wisely.
Here’s a third insight:
All the good things we have come from the Lord.
All the good things we have are given to us by God’s grace. You and I – living here in Canada – and in Saskatchewan – have been richly blessed by the Lord. Now, don’t get me wrong. We’ve experienced some bad years, too. But, all in all, the good years have outnumbered the bad – and the general trend has been good. You and I are richly blessed by the Lord. And, as I say, all the good things we have come from the Lord.
In the Holy Scriptures, we learn that, when it comes to stewardship, the leaders of God’s people are to be a role model for everyone else. In the Old Testament book of First Chronicles, for example, we read about plans for building the temple. (1 Chronicles 29:1-3)
1 King David said to the whole assembly: The task is great … this … structure is not for man but for … God. 2 With all my resources I have provided for the temple … gold … silver … bronze … iron … wood … fine stone and marble -- all of these in large quantities. 3… in my devotion to the temple … I … give my personal treasures. (N.I.V.)
Did you notice that? King David said, “In my devotion, I give of my personal treasures.” And then, after having said that, in other words, after stating his own priorities, King David asks the people this question:
Now, who is willing to consecrate himself – today – to the LORD ?" (N.I.V.)
In verse 6 of First Chronicles chapter 29, we find the answer:
6 The… (people) gave willingly… (to the Lord). (N.I.V.)
As God’s Christian people, we know that our blessings are not ultimately our own. They are lent to us by the Lord so that we can manage them for Him and for His glory. So let the Holy Spirit impress this truth on you: All the good things we have are ultimately from the Lord. Whatever we give to the Lord was his in the first place.
Here’s another insight – a fourth insight – for you from God’s word:
Financial resources are a necessity in this life.
In the last few years, it has become increasingly clear to me that the whole of the Christian life is a matter of stewardship. Since everything good is ultimately a gift from God, God has given us the responsibility of looking after his gracious gifts for Him. For me, this gracious responsibility is what makes life interesting. The first and most important gift God has given us is our salvation. In the waters of holy baptism, God washes away our sins. In the waters of holy baptism, God removes the original sin that keeps us from him. When you think about it, salvation isn’t the only gift we receive from God. He has also given us our families. Our loved ones. Our spiritual gifts. Our talents. Our employment. He has given humanity the resources of the earth and the land and the sea.
Looking after all these things – spiritual things and material things -- is what life – and by that I mean a Christian life – is all about. In Luke, chapter 14, verse 28, Jesus of Nazareth describes people who, before they started working on a large project, sat down to count the cost to see if they could actually get the job done. In so doing, they were being good stewards. They were doing what God had asked them to do. Insight #4: Financial resources are a necessity in this life.
The fifth Biblical insight I have for you this morning is this:
If we are not careful, the rich resources God gives can become a reason for idolatry.
Last week, in our Thursday morning Bible Study, we read Matthew, chapter. 6, verse 21 where Jesus says:
21 … where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (N.I.V.)
In other words, according to Jesus, our hearts follow whatever we consider to be of greatest value – our hearts follow our treasures. God’s will is that we control the resources he gives to us. But, truth be told, those resources, if we’re not careful, can control us. They can become more important to us than God is. And this is idolatry. Rather than liberating us, the resources God has given can put us in bondage. In Matthew, chapter 6, verse 19, our Lord Jesus says:
19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… (N.I.V.)
When you think about it, whatever we give to the Lord is not “dues” we owe him, but is an expression of our heartfelt praise to Him. In the first book of Timothy in the New Testament, chapter 6, verse 10, we find a well-known – and often misquoted – verse from the Bible. It comes from the Apostle Paul. He says:
The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith, and pierced themselves with many griefs. (N.I.V.)
Notice carefully what this verse says, and – more importantly – notice what it doesn’t say. You’ll notice that the Apostle Paul isn’t saying here that money is the root of all evil. He’s saying that the love of money is one of the roots of all kinds of evil. What he is saying is that the love of money can cause people to wander from their faith. The love of money can cause people to experience many griefs. Money itself is neutral. Our attitude towards it makes it either an asset or a liability to us.
You know, when you and I give something to the Lord, whatever that gift might be, it is best to send it on its way with a little prayer:
“Lord, put this gift to work for your purposes.”
It’s interesting that, according to the New Testament, Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, made money his idol. The love of money caused Judas many griefs. Many people don’t know this, but Judas actually stole money from Jesus and the disciples. In John, chapter 12, verse 6, Judas claimed that if some expensive perfume had been sold – rather than being used to anoint Jesus – that money could have been given to the poor. The Gospel-writer John clearly says, showing the underlying motivation of Judas:
6He [Judas] didn’t say this because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief. As keeper of the money bag, he helped himself to what was put into it. (N.I.V.)
So what is my point? Insight #5: Our financial resources can easily become an idol. And if we’re not careful, they can cause us many griefs.
Here’s another insight, #6:
The way we handle the resources God gives us reveals our true priorities in life.
The very first gifts brought to Jesus at the time of His birth set the standard for all the gifts that follow. These familiar words are found in Matthew, chapter 2:
11On coming to the house, they saw the child, with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then, they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts – gold, and incense, and myrrh. (N.I.V.)
The first gifts given to Jesus were brought by the wise men – the magi. These were very expensive gifts. And those gifts were an expression of their faith. They were not given out of a sense of duty or obligation. They were an expression of praise to God for the priceless gift of his Son and for the salvation he would someday bring. A Lutheran pastor by the name of Henry Simon tells us that Martin Luther used to say that we need to be converted at least three times by the Holy Spirit. The first two conversions are of the head and of the heart. Conversion of the heart occurs when we are touched by the love of God, as the Holy Spirit works through the word and through the sacraments. And then, a conversion of the head takes place. This has to do with our growing knowledge of God. This happens through the preaching and teaching ministries of the church. Martin Luther felt that, for most people, conversion of the heart and of the head were fairly straight forward. But that's not where it ends.
Martin Luther also said that we need to have our purses converted, too. Luther felt that this last stage is often the most difficult for God’s people. Pastor Simon talks about a group of fierce warriors who lived in Europe about 1500 years ago. When they were baptized, they held their sword arm out of the water. Why did they do that? Because they thought that if that arm wasn’t baptized, they would then be free to go on using it to do violence and harm. Along these same lines, I remember a cartoon in which a person was being baptized by immersion. As that person was being baptized, they held their arm up out of the water. In that hand they held their wallet! Same idea. Their thinking was, “If they hold my wallet out of the water, that’s the one thing that the Lord will not control in my life.” Martin Luther said that when the Lord baptizes us, he baptizes all of us, purses and all!
Again, this sixth insight, the second-last one we’ll be looking at this morning says:
Our giving is an expression of our faith in the Lord Jesus, and our wholehearted commitment to his cause.
There’s one final insight – a seventh insight – I’d like to share with you this morning: Biblical giving is proportionate giving. In other words, what we give to the Lord is directly related to what we have – not to what we don’t have. In Luke, chapter 12, verse 48, Jesus says:
From everyone who has been given much, much will be required… (N.I.V.)
In the 12th chapter of Mark, we read:
41Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put -- and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42But a poor widow came, and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. 43Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all that she had to live on." (N.I.V.)
Again, that seventh insight, Biblical giving is proportionate giving.
Let me quickly review these seven insights for Christian living:
First, you and I are a treasure to the Lord.
Second, God’s word and the sacraments are treasures for our wise use.
Third, all we have is God’s gift to us.
Fourth, financial resources are a necessity in this life.
Fifth, financial resources can easily become an idol.
Sixth, our giving is an expression of our faith in the Lord Jesus.
And finally, Biblical giving is proportionate giving.
May God help us put our resources – whatever they might be – to work for him. May God grant it, for our good, and for His glory! Amen.
Let’s Pray: DEAR HEAVENLY FATHER – Help us understand your will regarding our management of the wonderful resources you give us by your grace. Help us to put those resources to work for you. In Jesus’ most holy and precious name we pray. Amen.