Sermon Nov 10

A Sermon Preached by Dr. Stan Henderson
Trinity Presbyterian Church
Oroville, California

November 10, 2013
Stewardship Sunday

“Ready to Share”

I Timothy 6:17-19

This is Stewardship Sunday in our church. Stewardship has to do with the fact that you and I are the recipients of God’s grace and gifts, and therefore we are responsible for what we do with what we have been given. The biblical understanding of wealth and material possessions is that everything comes from God and everything belongs to God. Psalm 24 states: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.”

Usually when we think of stewardship, we define it as our giving to God or to the church something that belongs to us. But in the Bible, stewardship is really the opposite – it has to do with the right way to manage and give what already belongs to God. Stewardship is central to our faith. It’s about the meaning of discipleship. I believe our offering, our giving to the church is an act of discipleship. It demonstrates that we are putting our trust in Jesus Christ.

The story is told about Sam Houston, the leader of the fight for Texas independence from Mexico, that when he gave his life to Christ, he went to be baptized at a river gathering. As he waded into the water, someone noticed that his wallet was still in his back pocket. Fearing that the money might get wet, they shouted to him to leave his wallet on the riverbank. Houston turned around and started wading to the shore to hand his wallet to someone. But then he paused for a moment, and went back down into the water. Reportedly he said: “If I am to be baptized, I must baptize my wallet also.”

Our wallets, our money is something important to us. A great deal of our lives has to do with money – working to make money; thinking about how we want to spend money; worrying about having enough money. Money is almost a sacred subject to us. Don McCullough says: “We might define the sacred as that which has the mysterious power to elicit our loyalty, to confer worth to us personally, and to organize our lives around itself.” That sounds like money doesn’t it?

What we discover in Paul’s letter to Timothy is advice about money. When Paul writes this letter, Timothy is the pastor of the church in Ephesus, one of the most influential of the New Testament churches. In chapter 3, Paul clearly states his reason for writing: “I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God.”
So this letter is to help Timothy in his pastoral care of the church at Ephesus. As part of that pastoral advice Paul relates these words about stewardship. This is actually advice for Christians who, in Paul’s eyes, he considers rich. And Paul has already stated in this letter that the rich have more temptations which can lead to ruin and destruction. But just because Paul addressed these words of advice to rich people, don’t think that lets you and me off the hook. If most of us cleaned out our closets and garages of stuff we knew we would never use, our castoffs would be considered treasures by two-thirds of the world’s population.

In verse 17, 18 and 19, Paul has three important things to tell us about the meaning of stewardship. Paul’s first point is in verse 17 where we are commanded not to set our hopes on the uncertainties of wealth, but rather put our hope in God who richly provides for us.

Jesus told the story of the rich fool. He described a person who had accumulated great wealth. There was no hint of wrongdoing. It wasn’t as if he became rich through fraud or deceit. He was simply a very successful farmer. The problem was he was overly successful and he let it go to his head. If anyone ought to appreciate that it is God who provides for us, it ought to be a farmer – considering all the things that can go wrong in planting and growing and harvesting, and being at the mercy of elements like the weather which are beyond human control.

But this guy congratulated himself. His gratitude for his success went to himself. He thinks that he is set for life and he can live in luxury. But then came the dramatic turn in the story. God breaks into his life like a thunderclap. God said to him – “Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”

The rich fool never saw beyond this world. Too late, he discovered that he does not own his own soul. His very life is a gift from God. His soul is on loan from God. Could it be that his wealth was on loan as well? His formula for the good life had turned out to be nothing more than foolishness. And the last line from God is a stinging one – “And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”

Those who set their hope on the uncertainty of riches are setting themselves up in slippery places, and they are bound to be disappointed. We need to be able to recognize what is important in life and what isn’t; what is essential and what is extraneous; what counts in the end and what doesn’t. Paul uses a little play on the word “rich”. Instead of putting hope on the uncertainty of riches, we are to hope in God who richly provides. The real richness of life is not found in owning lots of things. We discover the richness of life in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Paul’s second point is in verse 18. It’s as if Paul is answering the question – so what does it look like when we trust in God rather than riches? What do we do then? Paul says: “They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share.” Here’s that word “rich” again – “To be rich in good works.”

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