Matthew 25: 31-46
“Build, Grow, and Serve”
(Stewardship Sermon # 4)
I want to start with a story we shall think about. One Sunday morning, a pastor preached about “loving our neighbors.” Then he said, “let us practice loving our neighbors, especially loving people in need by our acts.” He used the scripture verses, The Letter of James 2:15-17, “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” The congregation was inspired by his message. After service, while they had coffee fellowship, a homeless man came into the church and asked for food and gas money. People tried to collect money to help him out, but the pastor said to the man, “We are sorry, we cannot help you.” and he sent him out and said to the people, “Don’t give him money. It’s not a good way to help. If you help him, he comes again and again. Furthermore, he may bring another homeless man. This is the church, not a homeless shelter.”
We often face many circumstances, where there are conflicts between words and acts. And, we have seen some people who were getting hurt by them. We know we can’t judge every situation with the same ruler. So, we need wisdom, especially in God’s ministry. Unexpectedly, some people may harm others with a very little thing. Therefore, the Apostle Paul says, “If food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall” (1 Corinthians 8:13). Jesus also said, “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:42). Therefore, when it comes to loving our neighbors, we are aware that it is more important not to harm others than it is to share food, money, and clothes with them.
Today, as the last session of the stewardship sermon series, I want to talk about God’s stewardship in serving people and serving the church. We talked about the definition of steward/stewardship on the first Sunday. God’s stewards are the managers of God’s property. God’s property includes abilities, opportunities (time), ideas, skills, money, family members, friends, loved ones, and all creations because God is the owner of everything. On the second Sunday of February, we talked about the stewardship of money through the parable story of the dishonest steward. Also, I quoted John Wesley’s suggestion regarding God’s steward. God’s stewardship is to give all you can to the poor. Wesley’s purpose was to give all to the poor by making and saving money. And then, last Sunday, we talked about making space in our hearts and prayers for our lost ones, who haven’t come back to God’s house yet.
Remember, all three sessions concluded that someday the master may come and ask his stewards to count their stewardship. There is no exception. No matter what God entrusted to us, God will ask us someday to measure it. It could be abilities, talents, properties, people, gifts, etc. If we don’t care about them even though God entrusted us to, it is like the steward who received one talent, dug the ground, and put it under it. Finally, we may lose even the one talent. The rule of stewardship is “the more we use abilities, talents, gifts, and properties, the more we gain God’s property.” It is like we use our talents and abilities, and gifts. They would be improved and more developed. Otherwise, our abilities and skills may disappeared. For example, if I hadn’t had the opportunity to learn how to knit, I never would have known I have the talent to knit. I discerned I have a talent to knit, and the more I practice knitting, the more my skills develop. Plus, the more share prayer shawls I knit, the happier I feel, which means I will double it. I want to confess that I am a blessed pastor having good people in our parish. I can learn from you and grow into Christlikeness with you day by day.
Today’s scripture is a famous parable story of the last judgment. The parable story of talent follows this story. This story goes like this: The Son of Man comes in his glory with angels and will sit on the throne of his glory and gather all nations before him. He will separate all people as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He put the sheep in his right hand and goats in his left hands. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that my Father blesses, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger, and you welcomed me, I was naked, and you gave me clothing, I was sick, and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” And the king says to those who are his left hand. As they didn’t care for one of the least, the king judged them not to care for the king. This parable story of the last judgment implies that Jesus will come to us to count our stewardship. Jesus’ point to count our stewardship is to love our neighbors, especially those in need. Jesus says that the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and imprisoned are like Jesus himself. Therefore, to love God is to love our neighbors.
When I was in Chicago, I have served youth groups in the Northern Illinois Conference. In the summer, we took the youth group to a retreat to New York, and the theme was “social justice.” We joined several workshops and had a tour in the city of New York. One day, after we finished the schedule for the day, we were about to get back to the hotel. At the end of the day we got a piece of pizza and a beverage at a restaurant nearby the hotel and then returned to the hotel. There were five chaperons and 17 youths. We lined up in front of the restaurant to get our meals. At that time, there was a homeless man at the restaurant’s corner. But nobody cared about him, and each of us in the groups took our own food and passed by him. There was lots of noise and loud music. But, out of 22 people, one youth who was about 15th in line took her meal, gave it all to him and then walked to the hotel. Everyone around her saw them and what she did, and suddenly it became calm around us and was silent for a while. We didn’t talk about her behavior or our behavior that night. But after we ate, we had prayer time. Her simple behavior taught us more than many tours and workshops.
Remember, God calls us to be the church. The purpose God calls us to be a part of the church for is to build in unity together, to grow together into Christlikeness, and to serve people and serve the community/world together. It is God’s purpose to call us to a place as a part of the body of Christ. The Letter of Ecclesiastes says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). Also, Jesus says, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20). Even though we are experiencing difficulties due to the pandemic and losing members, God can make things happen for us if we are faithful with the little things. Let’s share things, God entrusted us. If the church focuses on the mission, the church will gain more things to share. Let us be the faithful stewards of God in everyday life. Thanks be to God. Amen.