Jesus Teaches Stewardship
From the book “The Message of Stewardship” by Ralph Cushman: “So it must be with the word “steward,” which Jesus recoined from Old Testament usage, and filled with wonder-working content. We must discover to the Church of this generation both the meaning and the word; they conquer together.”
I quote this to lay it upon our hearts just how seriously these men of the early 19th century took the concept of stewardship. They truly saw it as the key that would unlock the latent power of the church. For what end? They were focused on a Christian society that could do better in following Christ; we focus on a pagan society that has rejected God and we have to re-introduce Christ to the society.
He uses this illustration to explain how the church knows about stewardship. “Phillips Brooks visited that wonderful blind, deaf and dumb girl, Helen Keller, and, through her remarkable teacher, he told her that God was very near, that he was her “unseen Father who loved her and would not let go her hand either in life or in death.” And the child answered, “I have often felt him. He comes like warmth, but I did not know before what to call him.” In commenting, Newell Dwight Hillis said: “From that day the girl went from one realm of knowledge to another. She passed from kingdom to kingdom. Her tomb began to enlarge. Great windows were opened. At last she walked forth, free!”. So it will be with the Church’s vision of “stewardship”.
I feel the zeal.
Text: Luke 12:42-48 And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. 45 But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.
I. What Kind of Steward are You?
God’s stewardship involved putting his resources into our hands. Our stewardship involves using God’s resources that he has given us for his purposes.
1 Cor 4:7 For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
“We must not approach the principle of tithing from any narrow or legalized standpoint, but surely we should dedicate to the service of God at least one tenth of our income as an acknowledgment of God’s ownership of all.” J. J. Stowe
All I could find online was that he was one of the better known preachers that preached at the Greenwood Methodist Episcopal Church. It was a small church that was served by circuit preachers. Such are our lives, with only God above able to understand all the goings and comings of our own lives.
“Building thee more stately mansions, O my soul, As the swift seasons roll! Leave thy low-vaulted past! Let each new temple, nobler than the last, Shut thee form heaven with a dome more vast, Till thou at length art free, Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!” Oliver Wendell Holmes
He was father to Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. who spent 30 years of his life on the Supreme Court. Although known for his writings and poetry what caught my eye was his investigation into how a certain disease was passed onto women during childbirth. His conclusion, before our knowledge of germs, was the unclean instruments of the physician were responsible for passing on the disease. He was widely criticized but would live to be vindicated. Another of his quotes: “Some people are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good”.
“Every man is wholly God’s own portion by the title of creation so all our labors and cares, all our powers and faculties, must be wholly employed in the service of God and even all the days of our life, that this life being ended we may live with him forever.” Jeremy Taylor
He was the royalist preacher imprisoned during Cromwell’s reign. Two of his titles published one after the other were “The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living” and “The Rule and Exercises of Holy Dying”. This is in the title of the first one: “IN WHICH ARE DESCRIBED THE MEANS AND INSTRUMENTS OF OBTAINING EVERY VIRTUE AND THE REMEDIES AGAINST EVERY VICE, AND CONSIDERATIONS SERVING TO THE RESISTING ALL TEMPTATIONS”. The one on death seems to be an admonition to live healthily on our way to death.
Stewardship must be seen as a joint operation. What one generation misses the next may supply. What one is lacking another can provide in the building of the kingdom.
“In a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our power to add or detract…It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work…” Abraham Lincoln Gettysburg
We see this idea of the importance of joint stewardship with the parable of the vineyard. Israel was provided with everything needed, yet rejected the ministry of national stewardship.
Matt 21:40-43 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?” 41 They said to Him,”He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.
We must never lose sight that stewardship requires us to see our lives in His light at all times. I cannot feed the world; but I can bless the struggling soul I come into contact with. “Am I my brother’s keeper” will always be asked by the Cain’s of this world.
1 John 3:16-18 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
“Who is my neighbor” cannot be answered any better than how Jesus did it.
The Samaritan was not looking for a way to express his kindness but when confronted with the tragedy on the road responded with “compassion”.
“They may not need me, Yet they might; I’ll let my heart be Just in sight—A smile so small As mine might be Precisely their Necessity.” Author unknown
II. Sonship and Stewardship
Sonship and friendship with Christ does not excuse us from the task of stewardship. Jesus used many words to describe our relationship to God and his Kingdom such as “husbandman”, “child”, “sons”, “friends”, and “stewards”.
Stewardship speaks of honor and relationship but its focus is on the job at hand.
The prodigal returned to the work of the estate, not the life of a lazy son. “No slacker will ever be happy in God’s household”.
“One who is so far gone in “grace” as not to obey the law is an undesirable citizen, whether in the civil or in the religious kingdom.” Colonel E. W. Halford
He was consulted in the writing of “The Way to Win: Successful Methods in the Local Church” in 1915.
“A true mother is never half as sentimentally altruistic toward her child as a grandmother or an aunt; she does not hesitate to reprove and correct when that is what the child needs to suppress the low and lazy, and arouse the higher and stronger self.” Dr. T. DeWitt Hyde
There is something about the father’s equal love to his sons. He looks for the prodigal and then seeks out the other when he becomes bent. Luke 15:28-32 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’ 31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.'”
Our stewardship is not taken lightly. The sacrifices all take place in the knowledge that God will take care of us. Matt 6:32-34 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true; I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right; stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.”. Abraham Lincoln
III. Stewardship is about People
What is a man worth? We measure a person by his wealth and his things. Luke 12:15 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
“Thus the stewardship of money was regarded by Jesus as a first test of stewardship. Jesus said of the unjust steward, “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” Luke 16:11 “The peril involved is splendidly stated in these clear-cut words: “When a Christian begins to make money, God gains a fortune or loses a man.’” It is fa sad fact that few passions are stronger than the love of money; and only when this passion is mastered by the love of the Crucified are men ready to be fit stewards of the Kingdom of God. This fact hinges on the truth that money is liquid personality, and when one withholds his possessions from God he is withholding himself.”
Luke 16:11-13 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? 13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
“Money talks. It expresses what its possessors actually are. Yes, money talks, and while it is true that it is not on speaking terms with every one, and to many it may only say ‘Good bye,’ yet it speaks a various language which reveals the true inwardness of man.” David McConaughy
He was a delegate for Abraham Lincoln from the Gettysburg area, having went to Gettysburg College. After serving in the war he tirelessly worked to create a National Cemetery at Gettysburg as well as working to make a Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial. He was buying the land with his own money to support his vision.
“From lust for gain or greed for gold, Keep me with high and holy mien, But if the ships of fortune bring Some precious cargo clear and clean, Safeguard me in my stewardship By glimpses of thy great unseen. From lust for place or pomp or power, Save me with pure and passionate pride, Curb not the hunger of my soul, But keep ambition sanctified. Safeguard thy steward, Lord, each day, By visions of thy higher way.” Ralph Cushman
“Jesus does not teach that money stewardship is the highest stewardship—only that it is a first necessary step into the larger and richer stewardship of all of life. The highest stewardship, according to Jesus, is that of personality. Are we trustworthy in our dealings and contacts with persons, and with the Supreme Person?” Cushman
Matt 25:44-46 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Our author uses the story of a mail boat with a time schedule to keep coming across 3 men in a drifting boat along the Atlantic coast. They would make a report and send another ship back for them. “The captain and the crew that could not stop to save human life were suspended from the service for failure in duty. The reason given was that no order for speedy delivery of mail can supersede the fundamental obligation to save human life.”
“Oh, for God’s sake, and the sake of poor souls, bestir yourselves, and spare no pains that may conduce to their salvation. What cause have we to mourn before the Lord that we have so long neglected this good work! If we had but engaged in it sooner, how many more might have been brought to Christ!” John Wesley
“I searched for love; I searched in country and in town; I wept because I could not find Love anywhere around! But when I searched to serve My neighbor, sick and sore, Lo! There stood Love, the Beautiful, And knocking at my door!” Ralph Cushman