We’ve reaching the conclusion of our sermon series on being a good steward for God. For some of us this has been an uncomfortable sermon series, for others it has opened up eyes to a new world of possibilities - Kingdom possibilities.
As we conclude today, I want you to think back on a question that has been posed throughout the course of this series - what keeps you from giving? What keeps you from giving your very best to God - be it time, money, or talents? While it may not exactly how we would phrase it - fear is what blocks our hearts from God. We are afraid to do the wrong thing, or that what we decide will have consequences we are unprepared for.
The truth is that we all have fears - and we all need to decide what role fear will play in our lives. Will we let fear dictate the course of our lives, or will we intentionally live for something bigger than our fears? Will we take a step of faith, or will we try to ignore that which makes us fearful?
Today’s parable speaks to some of these questions. Jesus presents three examples of folks who were given the opportunity to work for the master, even when the master wasn’t present. They were given an amount of money that reflected their skill and faithfulness in the past. Two of the stewards invested what they were given and came back with a 100 percent return. They weren’t fearful to try their very best for the master or worried what could happen or what if things went wrong. They simply had the master’s best interest in their hearts.
But the other steward, buried his money, returning it to the master, exactly as it was, albeit a bit dirtier, saying that his fear of the master and screwing up had lead him simply to bury the money. And what was the masters’s reaction? One that brought even more fear -taking the money from the steward and shaming him.
We all have fears in our lives, but we need to decide how our fears stack up against the fear of not giving our very best to God. In the words of Pastor Andy Stanley, “Fear is not so much something to be avoided as something to be leveraged.” Stanley realizes that we cannot get rid of our fears completely, or ignore them and hope they go away, because they won’t. Instead, we need to analyze our fears to find out exactly what we are trying to avoid, what we are hiding from, what is behind them.
Do you have any fears around money? If so, where did they come from? Watching your parents struggle when you were little? Making a bad investment? The effects of the recession? The question is not if we have fears, because we all do, but if we are letting them drive our lives. Fear can either lead us to act wisely - realizing this world is temporal, thus investing in the work of the Kingdom (like two of the stewards in the parable), or it can lead us to hoard our money, forsaking being generous for God (like the last steward).
Ultimately this entire sermon series, entire topic boils down to one very large question - do you want to be more financially secure or more invested in Kingdom work? This isn’t a question that deserves a knee jerk reaction. Its one that must be bathed in prayer and brought before God. Because ultimately its asking us where our heart is at and what are we going to do about it. Is our heart to preserve our legacy or Gods? Is it our desire to take risks for the Kingdom or play it safe? As we turn to scripture, especially today’s parable, we find the Word telling us that in the Kingdom of God it is better not to play it safe - but that may not be where you are right at this moment. I encourage you to take time to write honestly reflect on where you are in your relationship to money and how that reflects your relationship with God. Take time to write down your fears and hand them over to God, asking that God does not let your fear block the work of the Kingdom.
For it is not until we have acknowledged our fears and have them met by the grace of God that we can be freed for the joy of giving. There are some of us here today who struggle to give because we are blocked by our fears - wanting to save up money for the what ifs of the future, or just trying to make it through the day with the mess our finances are in. There are others that give because scripture commands them to, and this is a good start. But they don’t feel the joy in giving yet. The joy of the first two stewards in the parable that went back to their master and were elated to return both what they had originally been given and their profits for the sake of the master.
Do you experience such joy in giving? Or do you feel that it is more of a duty? For those of you who do possess that joy - do you know the moment that you realized it happened? Or did it happen so gradually that you didn’t even notice?
As Christians our ultimate goal isn’t just to invest in the Kingdom of God because God says to do so - rather it is to allow God to transform our hearts so that we discover the deep and real joy of giving for the Kingdom of God. The joy of working past our fears to discover the richness of God’s blessings. Do you think the first two stewards in today’s parables didn’t have fears and their own what if questions? My guess is that they did, but they didn’t allow their fears to dictate their behavior. They instead worked hard in order to bless their masters name. Are we willing to invest like this for the Kingdom of God today? Or are we simply burying what we have, trying to preserve it for the future instead of taking risks?
If you are willing to take a risk for the Kingdom of God today, I would invite you to present to God the card that you were given last week. You don’t need to put it in the offering plate or bring it forward. In fact, I want you to take it home and put it some place where you will see it. If God has laid on your heart a number that you just can’t conceive, a number that scares you, pray to God about what the next step is? Making a budget? Using the credit card less? Limiting your style of living? Pray and then take that step of faith.
Brothers and sisters, the truth is that we can never save enough to be content. And we can never spend enough to make us happy. When money holds us in the grip of fear, we cannot fully live for the purposes of the Kingdom. Money itself is neither good or bad, but when money controls our actions, we have a problem. We’ve created money into a score card of sorts - an indicator of our worth - instead of our belovedness as a child of God.
Today’s parable is speaking directly to how money can affect our relationship with God. My question for you this day is which steward do you recognize yourself in? Are you in the place in your relationship with God that you want to be? Because we only have two choices, friends, to save for our personal future or to give for the future of the Kingdom of God. My hope and prayer is that you have invited God into your finances through this sermon series, and now can begin the hard work of setting aside your fears of the temporal to find the joy of the eternal. Amen.