Stewardship 2 – 2015 LSB #’s 861, 842, 851 v.1-2, 4
Text – Matthew 25:20
And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, “Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.”
THE JOY OF MANAGING GOD’S BLESSINGS
Before we start in earnest, please look at the wall & the verse projected there – Matthew 24:3. I know that’s not the sermon text, but it is where you will need to be.
This is the 2nd week of our Stewardship Series, “Experiencing the Joy of Generosity.” Last Sunday we looked at the great joy we experience through the blessings & gifts God bestows upon us. We especially looked at the joy we have because of Jesus’ life, death & resurrection. Combined, they bring to us the most precious gift of all: eternal life in heaven.
In fact, we came to realize that this is the very definition of joy: Life eternal in the presence of God. That life began, for many of us, with our Baptism. Today we’ll think about Experiencing the Joy of Managing God’s Blessings. I’m sure for most of you that brings to mind the time, talents & treasures cliché that we’ve heard so often.
Maybe you expect we’re going to mine the Bible for helpful hints on how to live effectively in this world; how to manage the time God has given us since none of us seem to have enough. How do we manage our talents so that they are used effectively & productively? If we do well, can we be blessed with even more as the Gospel lesson may seem to imply?
Is it possible to manage our money so that we know how much we should be giving to God, how much we should be dedicating to the future, & how much we can in good conscience use for our own pleasure? Those are common questions, but we aren’t going to talk about any of them.
We are going to talk about your heart, & we’re going to talk about others – heart & others. What do those have to do with The Joy of Managing God’s Blessings? For starters – absolutely everything; actually, they are all that matters. For you find Joy in Managing God’s Blessings only when your heart is right. Your heart must be dedicated to using what God has entrusted to you for the furthering of His kingdom & the benefit of others. If you’ve been managing things mostly for yourself, no wonder you’ve never experienced joy in stewardship.
The devotions for this week will help because in one way or another, they point to the heart, to our attitude toward God. Is it pointed to God’s kingdom, & pointed to others? Listen to these quotes from the devotions:
Each devotion, in one way or another, points to the heart, to God’s kingdom, or to others. The sermon text & OT readings for today do the same thing. If you recall, the text for today is from the Parable of the Talents:
A master goes away & entrusts his servants with differing amounts to manage from his estate, (really huge amounts). When the master returned, the two servants who had received the most returned to their master double what they’d received, & they were rewarded with even greater amounts to manage. The servant who’d received the least returned to the master exactly what he had received, explaining how he feared the master & took precautions to assure that none of the assets were lost. The master rebuked that servant as wicked & slothful & took away even that small amount he had given him. He then gave it to the servant who already had the most, casting the wicked & slothful servant into outer darkness.
The application in our lives seems obvious. In fact, I will read the application right from the study notes in the Lutheran Study Bible:
“Our relationship to God & the world is one of stewardship. We’re to use everything entrusted to us in such a way that it benefits God’s kingdom. Though modern people often have far more material & technological means than any previous generation, they often use these tools selfishly. An unfailing promise attaches to faithful stewardship: if we use the things entrusted to us for God & His purposes, we will be blessed here & in heaven.”
That’s a solid application. We can, & should, walk out of here today looking for ways to use those things God has entrusted to us for His purposes. But it may be that a lot of us don’t understand the full impact of that application. It may be that we tend to focus on the obvious, but wrong, object in the parable.
What if the parable is not primarily about what we do with the talents? I believe it was Dr. Gibbs of the seminary in St. Louis who suggested that this parable is not about what the stewards DID with the talents entrusted to them, but rather it is about their ATTITUDE toward the master, their relationship with the master. In other words, what if this parable is about your heart?
Look at the Bible verse on the wall. It’s the beginning of a long discourse by Jesus. Today’s gospel reading comes near the end of this long talk. The discourse begins at Chapter 24:3 & ends with the close of chapter 25. It’ll be helpful to understand the big picture Jesus is talking about before & after He spoke this parable, so let’s look at the headings:
The context in which Jesus spoke this parable is all about the last day, the end of the world, Jesus’ return. Looking at the parable in that light opens up a brand new possibility, or at least changes the emphasis, of how we apply the parable. Now we can look at it like this:
Viewed in this way, the parable cuts through the fog of all our works & looks directly at our heart. There is a difference between the two types of servants & how they used the talents the master gave them, but the reason they used those talents differently is because of the difference in their hearts, because of the faith or lack of faith in their heart when they used those gifts.
Our stewardship of God’s gifts is also a matter of the heart. It is a matter of faith—faith the Holy Spirit creates within us, faith that allows us to be reshaped into God’s will – that will of God for us which we lost sight of in sin. And what is God’s will for us? God’s will is that we would “love the Lord [our] God with all [our hearts] & with all [our souls] & with all [our minds], & that we would love [our neighbors] as [ourselves]” (Matthew 22:37-39).
Sound familiar? We usually think of those words as the summary of the law, & indeed they are. But we must also understand that the law shows us who we really are, what God created us to be, what His will is for you & me. The Law is not His demand of us, but the perfection He wants for us. In other words, the law reveals what it means to manage God’s blessings as He intended.
Did you hear the OT reading? God asks Solomon what he would have the Lord give to him. Solomon asks for wisdom & knowledge to govern God’s people wisely. Solomon, about to embark on the massive task of managing our heavenly Father’s gifts in this world, asks that he be able to do that for the benefit of others, & for God’s kingdom.
Listen then to God’s response: “Because this was in your heart…” What did Yahweh do, He went straight to Solomon’s heart. By God’s grace, in Solomon’s heart was a love, a concern for God’s kingdom & for others. This is the key. This is what was lost in the Garden of Eden – God & others. That loss has given us our knee-jerk reaction against the concept of stewardship.
In the Garden of Eden, God set mankind to be the steward of what He had created. Adam & Eve did that with no thought of themselves. They loved God with their whole heart & soul & mind & they loved each other & all of God’s creation as themselves. They managed God’s creation for the benefit of that creation.
But with sin, their focus turned inward – upon themselves. Our love for each other, & all God’s creation, became instead a love first for me, myself & I. God’s gifts are no longer managed for the benefit of others, or God’s kingdom, but for self. That inward focus has been hard to shake. Actually, of ourselves we cannot shake it at all.
It’s only through the death & resurrection of Jesus Christ, through faith in Jesus that the Holy Spirit works in us, that we are able to begin to love God truly with our whole heart & soul & mind, as well as to love others as ourselves. So where does that leave us? What are we to do if we truly find Joy in Managing God’s Blessings? When our heart is dedicated to using what God has entrusted to us for the furthering of His kingdom & the benefit of others, what are we to do?
We know we cannot do this ourselves. But through the faith that God works in us, through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, we are empowered to place God & others first. We still fail constantly, but are also forgiven constantly.
It might appear simplistic, but it is our Lord’s design that daily immersion in God’s Word, partaking of the sacrament, going to Bible Study, praying, speaking with others about Christ, through these the Holy Spirit continually regenerates our soul.
The more we are focused on God, the more He focuses us on others. The more we are focused on others, the more we understand the joy of managing God’s blessings for all. When Jesus returns, each of God’s children will be made perfect in their love for Him, perfect in their love for others, perfect in their management of Yahweh’s gifts for the sake of His creation.
That is going to be an eternal life of ultimate joy. Amen.
Come, O Christ, & reign among us, King of love & Prince of Peace; hush the storm of strife & passion, bid its cruel discords cease. By Your patient years of toiling, by Your silent hours of pain, quench our fevered thirst of pleasure, stem our selfish greed of gain. As you, Lord, have lived for others, so may we for others live. Freely have Your gifts been granted; freely may Your servants give. Yours the gold & Yours the silver, Yours the wealth of land & sea; we but stewards of Your bounty held in solemn trust will be. Son of God, eternal Savior, source of life & truth & grace, Word made flesh, whose birth among us hallows all our human race: by Your praying, by Your willing that Your people should be one, grant, O grant our hope’s fruition: here on earth Your will be done. Amen.
 Engelbrecht, E. A. (2009). The Lutheran Study Bible (p. 1639). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet