Stewardship Three – 2015 LSB #’s 803, 894, 507
Text – Luke 10:37
Go & do likewise.
The Joy of Sharing God’s Blessings
God’s Word for today comes from the Gospel reading in Luke 10, the very familiar parable of the Good Samaritan. This parable doesn’t stand on its own either. It is encased within the story about a lawyer who wants to know what he must do to inherit eternal life. We’re going to look at the story which Jesus told the lawyer in today’s context.
Heading off to work you see a man who clearly needs help. Everyone else is driving by. And, you notice he’s part of a group of people who’ve been openly hostile to you & your family. But you stop, patch the guy up using your own very expensive supplies (oil & wine in the story), take him to a hotel where you give him more care & attention for the rest of the day & overnight.
The next day, you give the hotel manager two days’ wages to keep caring for the man, with the promise you’ll pay more if it’s needed. Jesus wraps up the story with these words: “Go & do likewise.” So we ask, “Could you? Would you?” I don’t know about you, but this seems like pretty advanced Christianity to me. This is world-class-level kindness.
How can we hope to be like the good Samaritan? Remember, Jesus is talking to a lawyer who wants to know how to earn his way into heaven. Jesus tells this story in response to make it clear that he cannot. That’s really the point Jesus is making. It is impossible for the lawyer to earn his way into heaven. The same is true for you, & for me.
There is only one true Good Samaritan. Can you guess who that is? Yes, in challenging the lawyer, Jesus was also pointing out the true way to heaven – through Him alone. Jesus is the one Who meets each of us on the road of life in this broken world. We aren’t beaten down by robbers. Instead, we are dead in our own sin. And by that sin, we proclaim ourselves to be God’s enemies, openly hostile to His ways. Yet Jesus stops & brings us to His Father for care. The innkeeper needed money to care for the man, but our Heavenly Father demands something much more. He tells His Son the price He must pay to give us life. Jesus willingly suffers & dies on the cross of Calvary to restore us. That’s the real story of the Good Samaritan.
So how does this tie in to our Stewardship Series, “The Joy of Generosity”? Today, we’re talking about the Joy of Sharing God’s Blessings. Where does the Good Samaritan fit into that? That’s actually quite easy. This parable is also a picture of the perfect steward. The Good Samaritan is blessed with many things, & he uses them all to help his neighbor.
He takes the time needed to make sure the man is on the road to recovery; uses his skills & abilities to provide care for him; & God has given him material goods — wine, oil, a donkey, money — which he uses to help the man. Time. Ability. Money. It’s the complete picture of a good steward. Like I said before – world-class.
The Good Samaritan is what we would call a FULLY DEVELOPED steward. Next, we’re going to talk about how God moves us toward that goal. But first, I want to talk very openly & honestly about stewardship, & my first open, honest statement is this: we don’t talk enough about it.
We might emphasize it for three weeks every year, & there are references here & there to giving back to God, or serving, throughout the year, but it’s possible to be doing more. We can emphasize the truth that spending some of our time, serving with our abilities, giving money to God’s church is not a once-a-year conversation, but rather, a vital part of the Christian walk.
It is our way of life. Our daily rallying cry should be, “go & do likewise.” Our giving is also part of our worship of God. And in this Sunday service, God gives us His gifts. Even in our faithful giving, God still out gives us. He does amazing things with our offerings of time, abilities, & money. And through our giving, He works within us as well, bringing us joy as He moves our hearts away from ourselves, & closer to others. Growth is really what it’s all about. Stewardship is not a once-a-year reminder that our church requires money, time & abilities in order to share the Gospel & care for others.
Stewardship at its heart is a way God helps us to grow spiritually. At the same time, it’s a measure of our spiritual growth that we can understand about ourselves, because simply put, giving our blessings away requires that we trust God. So growth is what it is about, & when I think of growth, I think of personal training, running or weightlifting.
Have you seen the new commercial with Aaron Rodgers? Yeah, the same QB who lost to the Detroit Lions a week ago. Hans & Franz tell Aaron Rodgers they’re going to PUMP <clap> him up! And they put him through all kinds of exercises while they insult his weakling arms. Then finally – he IS pumped up! Boom!
Thirty seconds, & he goes from weakling to massive. We know that’s not the way it really works. In the real world you lift smaller weights, then go to slightly heavier ones, & on & on. You can’t have enormous muscles right away by going straight to the largest weights. Likewise, you can’t spend life on a couch, then get up one day & run a marathon.
First you walk, then you jog, & on & on. Longer & longer distances, until eventually your body is ready to handle the world class-stuff. It’s like the time a man asked a personal trainer about getting in shape. He expected a daily training regimen; switching between weight lifting & aerobic activity – different machines, different types of weights, perhaps a diet, as well.
You know what she said? “Why don’t you just start walking around the neighborhood at lunchtime?” The man thought it would be hard to get started, because he had this goal in mind – a perfectly fit body, limitless energy, strength & flexibility. A world class athlete was the goal, but it was better for him to focus on the next step, rather than the finish line. Start walking, & when you see improvement, it will encourage you to go to the next level. And so on, step by step, by step. It’s great to have a personal trainer – someone who knows what it takes. Someone to yell instructions at you until you succeed, right?
That doesn’t work any better than having a pastor who yells at you all the time, but how about someone who’s been there & done that? Someone who can model the right path to follow? Someone who will join you as you work & struggle, who will always be there to encourage you. That’s the kind of personal trainer we want.
It’s is true for our stewardship training, as well. Jesus has been there, done that. He promises to be with us, to encourage us & strengthen us, to equip us for work in His kingdom. He is moving you & me toward the goal in the story of the Good Samaritan. It is the goal toward which we all strive as the redeemed children of God.
If you see your life as God’s steward to be far, far away from the Good Samaritan, don’t let that cause you to lose heart & give up! Just focus on the next step. Some of us here are only getting off the couch. Others are running marathons in terms of their stewardship. Look at where you are now, & go just a little farther.
Lift a slightly heavier weight. Pick up your pace from a walk to a slow jog. Then watch how God works through your increased generosity to bless you & others. He will bring you the joy & the motivation to go to the next step, if you aren’t actively tuning it out.
Our sinful nature cringes at the thought of stewardship. It is not generous, but selfish. It is our saintly nature that appreciates the blessings God gives, & it is our saintly nature that loves to share them, finds joy even, in sharing them. In this way, our rallying cry becomes something like this: “Grow & do likewise!” Grow in the grace of giving. Grow in generosity. Grow in your spiritual life – become more & more like Jesus. No matter where we are in our stewardship walk with Christ, each of us can take a step closer to the ultimate goal which God has shown to us through His Son, the true Good Samaritan.
God wants all of us to be like Jesus, using our Baptism, His Word, the Lord’s Supper, prayer, fellowship with one another, & our stewardship – all these things He uses to make us more like Christ.
Let’s pray: Lord Jesus, we want to be more like You. We want to be truly selfless with all the gifts You’ve given us – our time, our abilities, & our money. Lord, work through us by Your Holy Spirit to take the next step as we seek to “grow & do likewise.” Work in us so we are blessings to each other & to the world around us. By Your grace alone, so, too, we know that we will be blessed beyond measure. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, will guard your hearts & minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet