Stewardship 3 – 2016 LSB #850
Text – Luke 10:41-42
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious & troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
MANAGING GOD’S GIFT OF TIME
Have you noticed how many people are frantically trying to catch up with their “busy schedule”? It’s like their schedule is a New York City subway train that’s just closed its doors & begun to leave the station. They run, coffee in one hand, briefcase in the other, trying to catch the speeding train & hop on, to no avail.
Perhaps your daily life makes you feel that way. Yet God has given each one of us the very same 24 hour day, the same 7 day week. In this installment of Managing God’s Gifts, we look at His gift of time.
First, we considered managing – being good stewards of – God’s gift of His created world. He calls us to receive it with thanksgiving, take care of it, & use it to benefit all of God’s creation. Then, we looked at managing God’s gift of other people by loving & serving them in our God-given vocations.
Now, we consider time. God created it, & bestows time upon us as a free gift. As with His others gifts, our gracious ‘lord of the manor’ wants us to manage time to His glory. Only in that way is our stewardship of it a blessing. Wise King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:
“To everything there is a season, & a time to every purpose under heaven.” (3:1 KJV) He then sings of many things we do & endure during our days & years on Earth, perhaps more than we ever dream of cramming into our already crowded schedules. Notice where Solomon leads:
“[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful & to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat & drink & take pleasure in all his toil – this is God’s gift to man.” Not only does God give us time, our years, months, days & hours as a gift, but He also gives a purpose to our time.
It’s likely you will not find God’s purpose mentioned in the time-management books you can read. Our Creator wants you to find “everything beautiful.” He wants you to be joyful & do good as you manage your time. He wants you to eat, drink & take pleasure in your toil as you practice good stewardship of His gift of time.
As The Lutheran Study Bible notes, God wants you to “rejoice in the good of your labor as a gift of God & an expression of His love toward His children.” He wants you to “comfort one another, cheerfully receive God’s gifts, & further benefit your neighbor by generosity.” (TLSB, p. 1054) But there’s the rub, right?
How can we find everything beautiful while we frantically try to keep up with the speeding subway train of our overcrowded schedule? How can we be joyful & do good when we’re running late, have to shuttle the children to school, then rush to work for another long day? Oh, & fit in a trip to the grocery store!
What about those unexpected trips to the doctor’s office? How can we possibly take pleasure in our toil, let alone in eating & drinking, when we only have time for the Starbucks drive-thru breakfast or the McDonald’s drive-thru supper? How can we receive our labor as God’s gift, even half cheerfully, when keeping the frantic pace is standard operating procedure?
How can we even consider that all these things come from God, & that He wants us to enjoy them as beautiful, when we’re so all consumed with living? When we do ‘fit’ some rest & relaxation into our hectic schedules, does it truly restore & refresh us? Do we pack our vacations just as full with frenetic activities as we do the rest of our time? Perhaps we fill our one or two days off per week with so many chores & “honey dos” that we feel the need to return to work just to rest up. We really are like Martha in the Gospel reading.
When Jesus came to visit, Martha busied herself with the countless dinner preparations, while Mary just sat at Jesus’ feet listening to Him teach. “Distracted with much serving” is how Luke describes Martha. (10:40) Then Martha worried that Mary wasn’t pulling her weight. She tried to triangulate Jesus to her side of the conflict. But Jesus would have none of that.
He answered: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious & troubled about many things.” (Luke 10:41) Our Lord might just as well say that to you & me. Then Jesus gives the better way: “But one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42) What is that “one thing necessary,” that “good portion”?
Jesus lets us figure it out from Mary’s action, which Martha thought was idle inaction. It was sitting at the Lord’s feet & listening to His teaching. For our lives, let’s call it regularly attending church or reading our Bible at home or praying together with everyone in the household or taking time to be fed on the Bread of life Himself.
“But, Pastor, I don’t have time for daily devotions. Haven’t you heard how busy I am? Don’t you get how much I have to do? And come to church every Sunday? Sundays are my only day to sleep in.”
Therein lies the problem. We are anxious & troubled about many things – things not related to the Word of God, things that do not, & cannot, give us the real rest we need. This is the reason God gives us the 3rd Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”
This is also the reason Martin Luther tied the Word of God to this commandment in his Small Catechism: “We should fear & love God so that we do not despise preaching & His Word, but hold it sacred & gladly hear & learn it.” Let that meaning change your view of life. Let it shape you, & how you manage God’s gift of time. In his Large Catechism, Luther says that God gives us the 3rd Commandment for both physical rest & spiritual rest. Speaking of these “holy days” or holidays, Luther says:
“We keep them 1st of all for bodily causes & necessities, which nature teaches & requires. We keep them for the common people” – meaning us – “who have been attending to their work & trade the whole week. In this way they may withdraw in order to rest for a day & be refreshed.” (LC I 83)
Managing God’s gift of time includes withdrawing from the hectic, busy, frenetic pace & being refreshed in the body. It also includes withdrawing & being refreshed in our soul & spirit. So Luther continues:
“Second, & most especially, on this day of rest (since we can get no other chance), we have the freedom & time to attend divine service. We come together to hear & use God’s Word, & then to praise God, to sing & to pray.” (LC I 84)
Managing God’s gift of time starts with, & circles back to, hearing & learning His Word, not only in personal Bible reading but also, & especially, in the Divine Service. Luther’s catechism hymn on the Ten Commandments teaches us to sing this meaning in this way:
You shall observe the worship day
That peace may fill your home, & pray,
And put aside the work you do,
So that God may work in you.
Have mercy, Lord! (LSB 581:4)
When you actually push the pause button on your busy routine & your overcrowded schedule, when you actually attend Divine Service & gladly hear preaching & learn God’s Word, Yahweh Himself works in you. God Himself gives you the rest that you need. The Holy Trinity works so that you may manage His gift of time, find everything beautiful, be joyful & do good. Our heavenly Father works in you by giving you His own Son. Jesus knows how the body wears out & needs physical rest. He knows how the soul needs spiritual rest in His Word. When He took His rest, He did so by observing the worship day & praying.
For all of us who neglect His Word, for all of us who frazzle ourselves with our frantic, works-righteous, workaday pace, the Lord Jesus did His greatest work by suffering & dying on a cross. Consider how that wore Him out! Then He rested in His tomb of death on the Sabbath to restore the day of rest for our benefit.
He rose victorious on the third day to restore us to proper Sabbath-keeping, to proper management of His gift of time. “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His.”
Managing God’s gift of time is a lot like putting big rocks, medium stones, pea-size gravel, & sand into a gallon jar. All of them will fit into the jar. If we start with the small stuff – the sand – put it in the jar first, then put the gravel on top of that, & the medium stones on top of that, there will not be room for the big rocks.
But when we begin with putting the big rocks in 1st – the most important things – followed by the medium stones, followed by the pea-size gravel, & finally the sand, then, yes, it will all fit. You see, the big ingredients, the important things, they go in 1st & the smaller ingredients work around them to fill in the gaps.
On top of that, we can squeeze even more into the jar by pouring in water to fill the rest of the gaps. When it comes to managing God’s gift of time – hearing & learning His Word, attending the Divine Service, receiving the Lord’s body & blood – those are the “big rocks.”
If you try to fit them into your busy schedule last, of course, there won’t be room. So put them into your schedule first. After that, put in the medium stones of other obligations, such as family, work & so on. Then put in the less weighty stuff, like social activities or outings with friends, reading a good book or a favorite hobby, the “gravel” & “sand,” if you will, to fill in the gaps. If we put God 1st He will enable us to find that our “busy schedule” still has gaps to fill as we so choose.
Our Creator gives time to you as His gift, not so you feel frazzled, or like you’re chasing a departing subway train, or even feel like you’re merely chasing your own tail. He does not want you to be “anxious & troubled about many things.” (Luke 10:41)
Instead, He wants you to spend your time on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable.” So, “if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8), & make them the ‘larger, more important ingredients’ in the gallon jar of your schedule.
In managing God’s gift of time, our gracious Lord wants you to find “everything beautiful.” He wants you to be joyful & do good as you manage your time. He wants you to eat, drink & take pleasure in your toil as you practice good stewardship of His gift of time. Amen.
God of grace & God of glory, on Your people pour Your power; crown Your ancient Church’s story bring its bud to glorious flower. Grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the facing of this hour, for the facing of this hour. Lo, the hosts of evil round us scorn the Christ, assail His ways! From the fears that long have bound us free our hearts to faith & praise. Grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the living of these days, for the living of these days. Amen. LSB 850:1-2
 Ecclesiastes 3:11-13 ESV
 Hebrews 4:9–10
Pastor Dean R. Poellet