As we quiet our hearts during Lent, we’ll hear from the women of our church on their practice of spiritual disciplines. Every believer is on a transformational journey to grow in our relationship with the Father and become more like Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. Our own efforts cannot accomplish this, but we do get to participate in the process. Even though the Bible doesn’t lay out a concise list of spiritual disciplines, the life of Jesus is our powerful example. The spiritual disciplines can usually be organized into two categories: abstinence (giving something up) and action. As we look forward to Easter, let’s see how we can pause certain parts of our lives in order to pursue Christ. Check out our previous post on Contemplation.
Why is God calling us to be good stewards and of what? I’m sitting on a plane right now which I boarded in Frankfurt Germany and I trust is going to take me to Sofia Bulgaria. As I am going nowhere for the next 1.5 hours, I’m happily writing on the spiritual discipline of stewardship. Those of you who know me know how I love metaphors. Alas the only I could come up with: As we are flying through our busy lives (I know bad) can we be trusted to be good stewards of all that God has given us? And right from the start I just want to say that stewardship is not just about money. It’s about everything that we have. Are we good stewards of our time? Are we good stewards of our “stuff,” houses, cars, yards, boats, clothes? Are we good stewards of the earth and God’s creation? How about our relationships, and our jobs? Yes, in all of these things, God is commanding us to be good stewards. Why for heaven’s sake? Because in the first place, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17) Virtually everything we have from money, to stuff, to gifts and skills, and relationships, it all comes from God.
Stewardship of our money: Because way back in the Old Testament, the standard was set for our tithe-the first 10% of all the Israelites had was to be given to God. (Genesis 14:18-20 and Leviticus 27:30) And indeed in the New Testament, though we live under the new covenant and the tithe is not so specifically commanded, still the examples we have far exceed that bar. In Luke 21:1-4, the widow gave all she had. In Matthew 19:16-22, the rich young ruler was told by Jesus “Go sell all that you have, give it to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven and then come follow me.” (Yeah Jesus knew what this guy’s obstacle to heaven was-money!) Paul the Apostle said the Macedonians who had nothing came giving everything. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-9 he said this: “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.” We should all want to be on Team Macedonia! Jesus said I did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Sooooo all of this teaches me that the first 10% tithe established in the Old Testament is really just a starting point. (Insert clinched teeth emoji here…)
God said in Malachi 3 that the Israelites were holding back the tithe owed to Him. He admonished and encouraged them with this in verse 10: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
Start where you can when you can. Do a written budget. Consecrate your money to God. Pray for God’s enormous favor and blessing. He will grant it. He said He would.
Stewardship of our time: We need to understand that just like our money, our time also is a gift from God. Whether you are super laid back and spend all your spare time on social networking and Netflix, or you are like me and err on the side of over scheduling and busyness, neither of these are good examples of a person who is a Godly steward of her time.
God is asking us to have margin in our schedule. We see that over and over in scripture because James says in James 1:27 that “True religion is this, to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” We also see clearly that we need to be spending time in the Word: Jeremiah 15:16: “When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God of Heaven’s Armies.” We can’t possibly do any of that if we are not good stewards of our time and indeed the less we consecrate our calendars to God, and the more we fill our days with unfiltered input, the more we will become polluted by the world. If your attitude is such that “I work all week and when I’m not at work, my time is mine,” wrong attitude. God wants to spend sweet prayer time with you, and He wants to use you. Yay! This is good news. God wants others to be the recipient of your gifts, but God loves you so much that He want to pour out the storehouses of blessing on you in the process. Margin! Being good stewards of our time means we have margin in our schedules to serve others and to have spiritual rest! So, there you go, Type A or Type B personality or somewhere in between. No one gets a free pass. Serving and spiritual rest, both of these happen in the right measure when we dedicate our time and our calendars to the Lord. Do this and expect great things from God as He works through His chosen vessel – you! He will do it. He said He would.
Stewardship of our stuff: I don’t know about you, but we have lots of stuff. Let’s all agree that there are those of us with more stuff and those of us with less. Whatever you have, share it with gusto! That means don’t be afraid of how much or how little you have. Just do the right thing with it. Consecrate what you have to God. God this is your house, therefore it is a welcome refuge for weary travelers, sojourners, dear friends and family. Maybe even strangers sometime. My dining room table is not mine. And the food upon my table is bounty for myself as well as others. My cars belong to God. So, I won’t drive like a raging maniac on the highway. I am a good steward of my cars and the laws that protect me. What can we share? Can I donate stuff rather than sell it? Perhaps sometimes and sometimes not. But am I prayerful about what God wants me to do with all of my stuff? 2 Corinthians 5:14 says “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” Compels us to do what Paul the Apostle?? What? Several verses later in this passage we see we are called to the ministry of reconciliation. But still in verse 14 Paul leaves us somewhat wondering. I think when Christ’s love compels us, we are a lot like a self-propelled lawn mower-only it’s a Christ propelled person. We can’t help but move forward! Fill in that blank. Christ’s love compels us to be good stewards of our stuff! Why? He has charged us to be good stewards of all that he has given us because of what He has done for us! Do this and expect great things from God. He will do it. He said He would.
Stewardship of our words, both spoken and written: Proverbs 25:11-13 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold Is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear. Like the cold of snow in time of harvest is a faithful messenger to those who send him, For he refreshes the soul of his masters.”
Ephesians 4:29-32 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Do y’all see any room in scripture for slander, hateful words, inappropriate sharing on social media, incessant complaining, disrespect? Neither do I. I do see though commands for us to give out words of affirmation, constructive criticism, accountability, and words that are life giving. What compliments do you pay others? Or are you someone who is always ready to rumble? Do you practice verbal affirmation with others, your spouse, children, friends? No nothing false! I mean the opposite of me me me and instead filling others up with our Father’s love, seeking first to understand and then to be understood. Our words can also be used for Godly constructive criticism, but that is lost on the recipient if is not motivated and rooted in God’s love.
These are the things we have to learn to say as Jesus followers. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Your apology is accepted. Can I pray for you? How can I help? And the list goes on and on. Words of affirmation and words of Godly admonishment.
“The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) Dear God let it be the voice of Truth. Be a good steward of your words. Be a good steward of your social networking posting. Be a good steward of both the spoken and the written word. Do this and watch God open up the storehouses of blessing. He will do it. He said he would.
Consecrate. The definition is to be dedicated to a sacred purpose or to make or declare sacred, especially to devote irrevocably to the worship of God by commitment or ceremony.
I know it may seem over the top but maybe have a special time of prayer either alone or with an accountability partner or if you’re married, hopefully with your spouse. And in that prayer time consecrate all you have-money, time, calendars, stuff, words, and you better believe even your children-to God. Surrender them to Him. Dedicate them therefore to a sacred purpose. And yes, consecrating our children to God is our charge because guess what? They don’t really belong to us either. They can’t be mini Me’s of us. They belong to our Creator and have all the potential in the world to be good stewards themselves of all that they have.
Stewardship = consecration of all that I have been given. Do it and watch God throw open the storehouses of blessings upon you. He will. He said He would.