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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:How Then Shall We Steward?
Text:LD 42 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 8th Commandment (Stealing)
 
Added:2022-01-20
Updated:2022-01-20
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: 1 Thessalonians 4

Lesson: Lord's Day 42

 

HOW THEN SHALL WE STEWARD?

  1. By Looking In and Being Content

  2. By Looking Out and Being Compassionate

 

  1. Psalm 24: 1-3

  2. Hymn 11: 1, 2, 7

  3. Hymn 65: 1-4

  4. Hymn 9 (after saying the Apostles’ Creed together)

  5. Psalm 41: 1, 4

  6. Psalm 131: 1-3

 

Words to Listen For: monster, beer, laugh, lawnmower, Giver

 

Questions For Understanding:

  1. What’s wrong with how environmentalists think about stewardship? What’s right about it?

  2. What’s so bad about the motto Follow your Dreams!

  3. What is God’s plan?

  4. Are we meant to live simple lives, or great lives?

  5. How does Lord of the Rings perfectly illustrate this for us?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Fellow recipients of God’s grace,

The concept of stewardship is an interesting one in the world today.  Outside of the church, stewardship is limited exclusively to that of environmental stewardship.

The environment is the one thing that the secular world has recognized, does not BELONG to them.  There are few greater “secular sins” - sins in the eyes of the world - than colonization.  The idea of placing a flag into the ground, and claiming ownership over it all...this is abhorrent to modern sensibilities.  Those who have done this in the past, or even those who descend from those who did this in the past are labelled as colonizers, and must make amends for their disrespect of the land and the people.  This is what the world says.

Someone I know put his thoughts on the environment like this: Mother Earth, with her lifeblood, plays the most important role in Creation. Without the soil and water, there would be no plant realm. Without the plants, there would be no animal realm, and without all of them, there would be no us. Within this reverse hierarchy, human creatures are understood to be the least essential and the most dependent. No longer the masters of Creation, we are its humble servants instead.

Now, you might expect me to take this person to task.  To take the world to task for not understanding the creation mandate of Genesis 1:28.  But I’m not going to do that.

Because, you know...in a way...he's right.  And in another way, he is completely wrong.

The world is right - we have to be stewards of this earth!  We have to properly care for it because this world is God’s creation, and in our creation mandate, we have been made stewards.  We are not so much rulers over creation, but stewards only.  Caretakers of this earth for its true King - God Himself.

But the world is also wrong - we are stewards of the earth, not its SERVANTS.  We serve only God.  There is no Mother Earth, there is only Father God.  And in our stewardship, we are to steward, not only the earth, but everything that we have.  Everything we have has been given to us by God, and everything ultimately belongs to Him.

So when we waste money, we are not truly wasting OUR money...but God’s.  When we waste time, we are not truly wasting OUR time...but God’s.  And the list could go on.  So, as children of God, given authority, but also the weighty task of stewardship, let us ask the question:

HOW THEN SHALL WE STEWARD?

  1. By Looking In and Being Content

  2. By Looking Out and Being Compassionate

How then shall we steward?  By looking in and being content

You might think that stewardship should begin by looking outside of ourselves.  Think of environmental stewardship again for a moment.  Those dedicated to this field make statements like “think about more than just yourself” and “dedicate yourself to a bigger cause.”  So why then are we beginning by looking inside?

It is because, as much as we hate to admit it, our evil and sinful desire come, not from outside of ourselves, but from inside of ourselves.  It is, as James says, “ What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”

Before we can be trained to do what is right EXTERNALLY, we have to examine ourselves INTERNALLY, and fight the beast that lurks within.  And the particular beast that we are tackling this afternoon comes in the form of discontentment.

So many of us struggle with being content.  Being content with our current experience in life seems like a forlorn hope.

Many who are unmarried dream of their perfect spouse.  Many who are married, look at their spouse and wonder if they married the right one.  And the same is true for children, careers, houses, and many other things.  We are, especially in this modern age, living in a constant state of discontentment.  This is our beast.  This is our monster.  So...how can we fight it?

The answer MUST be more than “stop being discontented.”  It CAN'T be that simple.  And you’re right, it’s not.

Just as one of the most useless things you can say to someone who’s worrying is “Don’t worry,” the same is true with discontentment.  It’s useless to just say stop.  The solution is to replace the discontentment with something else.

We have to find the problem and replace it with the solution.

The problem isn’t what you would initially think it is.  The problem is that all-consuming motto that we see in every movie, and read in every advertisement: Follow Your Dreams!

And it may be difficult to do this, as ingrained as it is in our collective consciousness.

But there is something deeply selfish about this motto.

Let’s strip it of all the nostalgia that follows this phrase around, let’s strip it of the familiar words and get down to the root.  What does Follow Your Dreams really mean?

It means: What do I want to do?  What is the desire at the core of my heart?  When you figure that out...do whatever it takes to get there.

And all that this leads to, in the long run, is discontentment.  It leads to discontentment because, as a human being, a fallen human being, your desires are twisted and warped, and completely separate from their promised outcome.

Let’s take being rich, for example.

Follow your Dreams!

I want to be rich!

  • Okay, so now do whatever it takes to get there.
  • Work so hard that you destroy any personal life…
  • And when that fails to make you rich, keep working hard, but also start cheating, start manipulating, start making underhanded deals and leave others with the consequences.  Sell out all your morals for a paycheck.
  • And then...maybe then...you’ll get your first million.  And you do even worse things to get your second.

But the things that you did, everything that you lost on your pathway there...they will haunt you, whether you are sleeping in Egyptian cotton sheets in a multi-million dollar mansion or not.  You’re rich...but at what cost?  Being rich is a horrible dream, because riches don’t satisfy.  They can’t.  You can’t fill up the God-shaped hole in your heart with cold hard cash.  Being rich doesn’t mean you’re happy.  More money, more problems...and still, that huge gaping hole.  Follow Your Dreams is a deeply selfish and ultimately flawed motto.  So what should we replace it with?

Instead of Follow Your Dreams tattooed on your arm, or stenciled onto your wall, have this instead: Follow God’s Plan.

You might think this sounds cliche...and maybe it is...but are you trying to tell me that Follow Your Dreams isn’t a cliche?

So what does it mean to follow God’s plan?  Ultimately?  Stripping away that cliche?  Following God’s plan means asking “what does God want?”  And when you figure that out...do whatever it takes to get there.

And all this leads to contentment - both short-term and long-term.  It leads to contentment because, as our all-wise and all-loving God, God’s plan is pure and perfect, and everything that He promises is sure to happen.  When He promises to give us life, and more than that, life abundantly...He means it...and He will see it come to pass.

Instead of Follow Your Dreams...Follow God’s plan.  This is the key to contentment.

Now, one of you will say to me, But what IS God’s plan?  What’s God’s plan for my life?  He didn’t exactly come down to me and reveal all the details.

But that’s where you’re wrong.  If you want it in one sentence, take a look at John 6:29.  God’s plan for your life is John 6:29 - This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.

The NLT puts it well, taking the context into consideration when it renders this verse: This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one He has sent.

What is God’s plan for your life?  That you believe in Jesus Christ, and are saved from your sins!  If this is what you do with your life...then it is a success!

But for some of us, most of us...this one sentence description of God’s plan leaves us wanting more.  So, if you want some more details, take another look at our reading for this afternoon:

1 Thessalonians 4:11 and 12 - Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

This is God’s plan for your life.

And this might feel constricting and oppressive to you, but it is actually a gift!  There have been and there will be great Christian men and women whose names go down in history...maybe even some of you sitting in this very church right now will have names that will endure in Christian consciousness long after you die...but you can be sure of this: if you become one of those people, and if you are TRULY GREAT, then this kind of fame MUST NOT BE YOUR HEART’S DESIRE.

Look at Martin Luther as an example.  His name has gone down in history, perhaps more than anyone else living in the 14 and 1500s, but what did he say, reflecting on his life?

I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing.  And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer...the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it.  I did nothing; the Word did everything.  Had I desired to incite trouble, I could have brought great bloodshed upon Germany; indeed, I could have started such a game that even the emperor would not have been safe.  But what would it have been?  Mere fool’s play.  I did nothing; I let the Word do its work.

The life of a Christian is not meant to be boring - rather, we are those who fight against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places!

But our desire should not be glory for ourselves - to be that bold and dashing knight in shining armour, but rather, doing whatever we must for the glory for God.  Our ultimate desire should be that of a quiet and unassuming life, where we remain ready to be called upon for radical obedience, whether it is flashy and well-known to the world, or it is quiet and unassuming.

Martin Luther was not the only obedient Christian in the 14 and 1500s, but God is just as pleased and just as honored with the obedience of the “little people” as He is with those we consider to be great.  Centering our lives around obedience is not a miserable or a wasted life...living a quiet and unassuming life as much as you can as a Christian is not ruined potential, that you could do so much more if you were just given the chance.

Look at Christ.  After only 3 years of public ministry, He was arrested, tortured, and killed.  God in the flesh came down, and was a carpenter for 30 years.  He wasn’t born as a King in Jerusalem, but in a manger in Bethlehem.  He wrote no books, led no army, fathered no children...and yet He is the greatest man to have ever lived.  He accomplished what nobody else ever could - eternal salvation.  And He did this through simple, humble obedience.

So living an obedient life should never be seen as ruined potential.  That you could do so much more if you were just given the chance.

Because...let me challenge you on that…

You could do so much more?  You could do more as a rich man?  You could do more as the queen of a country?  You could do more as an actor, an athlete, a best-selling author…

You could do more as any one of these things than as a child of the living God?  You could do more as any one of these things than an image-bearer of Christ?  You could do more than “just” being someone who spends their day exalting and glorifying the One True God?  Don’t make me laugh.

There is nothing greater that you can do than obedience.  Obedience in the great or obedience in the small.  There is nothing greater than spending this life in service of the Creator of Life.  Anything else, no matter how great...anything else is less, and is a squandering of His gifts.

His gift of time - every second a gift.

His gift of abilities - every talent a gift.

His gift of money - every cent a gift.

His gift of salvation - every ounce of faith and righteousness and holiness and future glory a gift.

Is this not enough for you?  Then nothing will be.  If this is not enough, then nothing ever will be.

For these are the greatest gifts we could ever receive in this life.  And we must do more than simply acknowledge them.  More than simply appreciate them.  Indeed, we must USE THEM, in compassion and love, for our neighbour’s sake.  Our second point.

It is now that the concept of stewardship comes fully into play.  We are STEWARDS and not the ultimate rulers.  Not over this planet, as we heard in the introduction, and not even over our own goods, our own possessions or talents.  All these have been given to us as gifts.

Those familiar with Lord of the Rings will know of the character of Denathor, the Steward of Gondor.  He and his family have been given charge over the throne and the kingdom until the Return of the true King.  But Denethor is a foolish and prideful man, and refuses to hand over his authority.  He eventually ends up heartbroken and dead.  For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, I encourage you to look it up tonight - it is an intriguing picture of how some of us act.

Where Denethor says: Gondor is mine!

We say: The money I have is mine!  The talents I have are mine!  The time I’ve been given is mine!

But the truth is, that, as stewards, we have no authority to deny the reign of the true King.  We are given dominion over this world only because we ourselves are under the dominion of its true ruler.  It is not up to us to decide how to use what we are given.  We simply do not have the authority.

You could say that these gifts God has given us come with an instruction manual, and our catechism does a good job of laying that out before us.  There are three things that we must do with the life that God has given us.  We must use this life, and all the other gifts we are given in this life to

  1. Promote our neighbour’s good, where we can and may

  2. Deal with our neighbour as we would like him to deal with us

  3. Work faithfully so that we can give to those in need

Let’s go through these one at a time and make this very practical for ourselves.

 

Promote our Neighbour’s good

What exactly does this mean?  How exactly can we do this?

Well, to promote our neighbour’s good, we first of all have to know both our neighbour, and his need.  Now, we properly understand that our neighbour is anyone.  Our neighbour is everyone, and we are called to love all people, everywhere.

And yet, when we think like this, we are making this very real, very practical commandment into just another motto.  Just another saying that we can nod our heads to, and go from this place unchanged.  It removes all the practicality from it.  So view the term “neighbour” in its most literal definition.  The people who live beside you on the street.  Make opportunities to get to know your neighbours if you haven’t already, and learn of any needs they have that you could fill.

Maybe your neighbour needs her grass cut, and you have a lawnmower.

Maybe your neighbour needs a ride to an appointment and you have a car.

Maybe your neighbour just lost his wife, and need someone to talk to and you have ears.

Promote your neighbour’s good wherever you can and may.

 

Secondly, we are to deal with our neighbour as we would like him to deal with us.

This is what is known as the golden rule, given by our Lord in Matthew 7 - whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

This is so simple and so well-known that I will not spend a great deal of time on it.

If you have had amazing friends or mentors, amazing parents and teachers that have really helped you out, and made you feel loved and valued...act in that very same way.

If you have been disappointed in your friends, parents, and teachers...then be to others what you missed out on in your life.  Be the friend that you wish you would have had.

 

And finally, we are to work faithfully so that we may be able to give to those in need.

With this, we see the real purpose of the work that we are called to do.  Whereas the world sees work as a necessary evil to get the money to do what we really want to do, we see work as a blessing from God - we work as He works - and as a way to serve our neighbour.

We serve and honour our employer by spending the proper time, the proper strength, and the proper willpower each and every workday, and we serve and honour others - our family, our friends, even the stranger we meet - with our paycheck.  For we do not work, in the first place, to get ahead, or to give our children unnecessary advantages, but rather, we work to help what one minister so bluntly calls “the crying misery of the mass of the needy.”  We must work as our God works, and we must work for the same purpose - to show His love to those who need it, and to magnify His glory throughout the world.

Beloved, we are stewards, that is all.  Our time, our money, our possessions, and even our skills, are not our own.

But beloved...we are stewards!  We are stewards of the One True God!  He has entrusted us with this world.  He has entrusted us with every plant and every animal..but more than that...He has entrusted us with His gospel of love that we are to spread to all people.

This is what it means to be a Christian.  God has given us all things in Christ.  All things have been given to us to use for His purpose, and the best thing we can do is to follow the example of the Giver.  Just as Christ had all things, and gave them up for us and for His Father’s glory, we now have all things, and we must give them up for others, and for our the glory of our Heavenly Father.  We must act as Christians, showing the gospel in how we obey the 8th commandment.

Christ is our model, not anyone else around us.  For:

          The robber says: “What’s yours is mine, and so I’ll take it.”  Do not be a robber.

          The miser says: “What’s mine is mine, and so I’ll keep it.”  Do not be a miser.

          The humanist says: “What’s mine is mine, but you’re in need, so I’ll share it.”  Do not be a humanist.

           But the Christian says, “What’s mine is God’s, so I’ll use it for your good, and to His glory.”  Be a Christian.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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