2-5-23 “The Stewards of God”
Click here for Sunday worship material
“The Stewards of God”
I want to start with something funny. I heard about this boy who attended a Sunday worship service with his parents. In the church, the little boy watched as the ushers passed the offering plate. When they neared the pew where he sat, the youngster piped up so everyone could hear. “Don’t pay for me, Daddy. I’m under five.”
Some misunderstand that the offerings or tithes are dues for church membership. I want to clarify that tithes and offerings are not our dues as church members, but rather a channel of grace and blessing and a way to honor God. Proverbs 3:9 -10 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with your first fruits of all your produce, then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.” We are blessed to offer ourselves and produce to God to share with those in need.
I will talk about “stewardship” for the next four weeks, as February is stewardship month. I spoke about the meaning of stewardship last year during stewardship month. But I want to repeat it again because it is crucial. The word “steward” comes from an economic manager who oversees whole house affairs. For these reasons, when we talk or hear about stewardship, money (offering), tithes, or apportionment comes to our minds first. That being said, we can find a more profound meaning of steward in the biblical world. In the scriptures, “oikonomos” is sometimes translated to “manager” (Luke 16:1-13; Matthew 20:8), steward (Luke 8:3), slaves or servants (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:13). These words’ common points are that a master entrusted them with his property with authority. That is, the steward had the authority for decision-making to sell, buy, share, or give away the Master’s property. The steward could sign the document instead of his Master. Therefore, stewardship is based on discerning who we are. If we know who we are, we may discern who our Master is.
To discern who we are, we should look at the scripture Genesis. “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” The stewardship might begin with a humble mind to believe that God is our Creator, Lord, and Master. If you think you are a master of your life, stewardship doesn’t matter to you. Today’s scripture says God is the Creator, and the Master of all the universe, who entrusted us with everything, which means we are made and called by God as the steward of God. So, we may be proud of ourselves as God’s stewards.
Let’s look at verses 26 and 27: “Then God said, “Let us make humans in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over the cattle and over all the wild animals of the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” It is very clear that God created all things, and entrusted them to humans. After God created humankind in his image, God blessed them, and God said to them, “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Genesis1:27-28). It is the original stewardship message from God. As God is the Creator and owner of all creatures, God gave Adam and Eve the authority to manage all creation. Humankind is the steward of all creations and we should manage it well. We have to manage water, nature, animals, mountains, hills, rivers, lakes, oceans, fish, birds, and more.
If you feed birds, you did well as the steward. You are also a faithful steward if you care for nature, like gardening, collecting recycled materials, and conserving water. However, we should know God gave us things to manage differently according to our abilities. Some may like feeding birds and wild animals; others may like to cook and feed people. Some work outside, and others work inside. Some may like raising and teaching children; others may like teaching and leading adults. It is like how our hobbies are different.
We are all different in appearance, abilities, hobbies, and interests. The difference is, in other words, diverse and abundant. Therefore, we shouldn’t compare our capabilities with others. The important thing we should keep in our mind that everyone is chosen by God, regardless of age, gender, race, class, or what background you have. As we are unique, others are also unique to God. The First Letter of Peter says, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may come out of darkness into his (Christ’s) wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). God calls each of us, and gives us different talents and gifts so that we may make a beautiful community together.
The word steward (oikonomos) is used in “Diakonia” in the New Testament. The biblical term “Diakonia” means “to serve one another in the body of Christ.” It is like serving a table, as Martha did. It is like distributing food as the Food Pantry does it. It is like devoting or committing to a church mission with your time, energy, and materials. Therefore, “Diakonia” means a commitment to serve others in the church’s servant ministry. This includes the UMW and UMM’s activities, Mission Work, Food Pantry ministry, coffee or food fellowship, and many other tasks for the church and our neighbors.
We should keep in mind that we can improve our abilities as we work faithfully with our abilities. Sometimes we complain about what we have rather than giving thanks for it. Have you ever complained about your abilities as compared with others? You may remember the parable story of talent in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 25:14-30). I often think about the person who receives one talent rather than those who receive two or five talents because I used to think of myself as a person with one talent. However, we may miss more important things if we focus on the number. The more important thing is that God makes it possible for everyone to get another chance. The Master gave them each according to “his ability.” If the one who received one talent works diligently and makes it double like the others, he may have another chance to work and enjoy his Master’s joy. We should know and accept our ability given by God. It is an opportunity to extend your ability if you have one talent.
On the other hand, if you keep one talent itself as the person did in the parable story, you miss your chance to improve your talent. If you are the person who keeps it, it is time to start working as God’s steward. The steward of God is the person who opens his mind and opens his heart, not only to others, but also yourselves. We should open our minds to others and ourselves and God, our Master because God calls us his stewards, giving us different talents and gifts. We should work together for God’s ministry. Let’s work together with open minds and open hearts. Thanks be to God. Amen!