Message of Stewardship
I am going to be preaching from notes taken from a book by Ralph Spaulding Cushman entitled “The Message of Stewardship”. My original copy was a prized possession that was equally prized by my Wickenburg church mate, Jim Bardin. While I was in Zambia for 7 years; Jim would be my “steward” over my paperwork issues here in the states. When I came home I thanked him by giving him my copy of the book. Since that time he found another copy about 8 years later and has given it to me. Blessed and blessed again. I have the 1946 edition as it looks like someone came out with a special edition in 2015.
The 2015 edition is from “Scholar Select” with this note: “This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world), and other notations in the work.”
Text: Luke 2:41-52 His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. 43 When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; 44 but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45 So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. 46 Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. 48 So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” 49 And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” 50 But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. Jesus Advances in Wisdom and Favor 51 Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
- Life’s Philosophies
William James in his book “Pragmatism” wrote: “I know that you have a philosophy, each and all of you, and that the most interesting and important thing about you is the way in which it determines the perspective in your several worlds…The philosophy which is so important in each of us is not a technical matter; it is our more or less dumb sense of what life honestly and deeply means.”
William James from Wikipedia: “James was one of the leading thinkers of the late nineteenth century and is believed by many to be one of the most influential philosophers the United States has ever produced, while others have labelled him the “Father of American psychology”.”
James for all of his intelligence came close to knowing God, yet couldn’t quite manage it. Two quotes: “First, it is essential that God be conceived as the deepest power in the universe, and second, he must be conceived under the form of a mental personality.” AND: “James held séances with Piper (after his son died) and was impressed by some of the details he was given, however, according to Massimo Polidoro a maid in the household of James was friendly with a maid in Piper’s house and this may have been a source of information that Piper used for private details about James.”
1 Cor 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”;
From the Persian poet Omar Khayyam: “Yet ah, that Spring should vanish with the Rose! That Youth’s sweet-scented manuscript should close! The Nightingale that in the branches sang, Ah whence, and whither flown again, who knows! Ah Love! Could you and I with Him conspire To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire, Would not we shatter it to bits—and then Remold it nearer to the Heart’s desire!”
Contrast with the Christian writer John Greenleaf Whittier: “The same old baffling questions! O my friend, I cannot answer them. I have no answer for myself or thee, Save that I learned beside my mother’s knee; “All is of God that is, and is to be; And God is good.” Let this suffice us still Resting in childhood trust upon his will Who moves to his great ends unthwarted by the ill.”
Omar, lived at the height of Islamic glory in the 1100’s. Intelligent beyond intelligent yet much of his poetry would betray his Muslim beliefs; yet you cannot help but see the touch of “Ecclesiastics” in his writings: “Khayyám, who stitched the tents of science, Has fallen in grief’s furnace and been suddenly burned, The shears of Fate have cut the tent ropes of his life, And the broker of Hope has sold him for nothing!” AND: “Myself when young did eagerly frequent Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument About it and about: but evermore Came out of the same Door as in I went. With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow, And with my own hand labour’d it to grow: And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d—“I came like Water, and like Wind I go.”
This Whitier knew God and it showed up in his life. Certainly not to be confused with Walt Whitman who is mainly studied to find out his sexuality, et least that was the main idea of the Wikipedia article.
A life to live, Whitier: “O Brother Man, fold to thy heart thy brother: Where pity dwells, the peace of God is there; To worship rightly is to love each other, Each smile a hymn, each kindly word a prayer.”
And on we go to Epicurus who taught that “the pursuit of pleasure is the real end of life.” And the Stoic who “preached self-control by law or the Platonist, “who practiced a mystic but selfish asceticism, or Aristotelian, who propounded a somewhat lofty gospel, which, however, was only for the few.”
Our author is believing that the best of all of these systems is found in a life of Jesus founded upon “voluntary, loving stewardship”.
Take this famous William Ernest Henley poem “cited as Stoicism in its most attractive form”: “Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul.
It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
Henley, the atheist, fights time and chance only to succumb to the nothingness that serves as their philosophy. All pagan philosophies leave out “dependence upon the almighty” and “co-operation in His program”.
The Stoic finds voice with Robert Browning: “I go to prove my soul! I see my way as birds their trackless way. I shall arrive! what time, what circuit first, I ask not: but unless God send his hail Or blinding fireballs, sleet or stifling snow, In some time, his good time, I shall arrive: He guides me and the bird. In his good time!”
Some Browning famous lines: “Grow old along with me!” “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp” and “Less is more” and “God’s in His heaven—All’s right with the world!”
2. Jesus’ Philosophy
So the point of all of this is that we have much to choose from. Any one of the names above would take you an adventure in thinking about life and eventually intertwine some of their thinking with yours to help you make sense of the world you live in.
I lived in that world. Then I got saved. I and the author obviously lean towards the Whittier’s and Browning’s but ultimately to Jesus first.
I can see the effect of Jesus on lives and writings. I can see the effect of rejecting Jesus on lives and writings. I can think it through and make my own determinations, it’s called free will.
So from our text we know: 1) “God is a Father with a father’s compassion; 2) the father has “business to transact” in the world; 3) as the son of his Father, the child should make his Father’s business his first concern.”
Here is Paul with his encounter with the philosophies of his day: Acts 17:18 Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.
They see him as a babbler because they are babblers. The Epicurean: “Pleasure is our great task, “the gift of life, the end of ends.”
Compare this to the passion that accompany the words of divine mission: “I must be about my Father’s business.”
III. Place Yourself
Here are two last quotes from the book that must be true in a Christian’s life.
“Man, by living wholly in submission to the Divine Influence, becomes surrounded with, and creates for himself, internal pleasures infinitely greater than any he can otherwise attain to—a state of heavenly beatitude. J. P. Greaves (the sacred socialist)
“God is a kind Father. He sets us in all the places where he wishes us to be employed; and that employment is truly “our Father’s business.” John Ruskin (a crisis of faith led him to develop a human effort to “fix” society that exists to this day, the guild of Saint George, but died an embittered with the world man. He wasn’t able to fix it and he had cut the ties to the only one who will.
I am adding all of these sub notes to the quotes so that you can understand that much of historical thinking can be migratory. Most often those that cut themselves off from the rock go crashing into the rocks.
So, once again, place yourself or know where your thoughts are taking you.
Heb 6:17-20 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.