經文﹕ < 哥林多前書 >4 ﹕ 1-2
主旨﹕因為神將管理祂所擁有的責任交付給我們 , 所以我們靠祂的恩典 , 在一切事上要忠心。
當聽到你說“我的教會﹐我們的教會……”時﹐我和教會的其他一些領袖心裡都感到很高興﹐因為你說這番話表示你有強烈的教會歸屬感﹐把自己當作這個教會的一部份。但是﹐如果牧師們嘴上掛著“我的教會這 , 我的教會那 .. …”之類的話﹐就令人聽了不太舒服了。好像我們擁有這教會 , 要怎樣就怎樣 .
在今天的經文裡﹐出於為自己辯護的目的﹐保羅提出了自己的雙重身份。首先﹐他是一個僕人。僕人是奴隸的意思﹐在社會中處於最底層 , 他是基督的奴隸 。其次﹐他是一個管家。管家是被主人授權擁有一定管理權的奴隸﹐負責管理主人的財產。雖然這節經文講的是保羅﹐但是對所有基督徒同樣適用。
今年﹐ HCC 教導的主題是﹕忠心的管家。在一月份﹐我們已經對“管家的職位和工作” 有了一些了解。今天早上﹐我想更進一步地討論“管家的職位和工作” 的問題。我將沿用上個星期的方法﹐帶領你們從聖經中學習“神的管家” 的基本真理﹐並且學習如何將這些真理應用到日常生活中。
在 < 創世紀 >1 ﹕ 26 中我們讀到﹕“神說：‘我們要照著我們的形象，按著我們的樣式造人；使他們管理海裡的魚、空中的鳥、地上的牲畜，以及全地，和地上所有爬行的生物！’”上帝創造了人來管理他所造的其他一切。這一切不是屬于人的﹐而是屬神的。人類被賦予管理的責任。亞當所施行的第一項任務就是為所有動物命名。
< 出埃及記 >3 ﹕ 7 ﹐ 10 “ 7 耶和華說：‘我的子民在埃及所受的痛苦，我實在看見了；他們因受督工的轄制所發的呼聲，我也聽見了；他們的痛苦，我是知道的。 10 所以現在你來，我要派你到法老那裡去，使你可以把我的人民以色列人從埃及領出來。’”上帝呼召並差遣摩西帶領神的子民出埃及。以色列人是上帝的子民﹐不是摩西的。
之後在曠野裡﹐以色列人抱怨所遭受的痛苦。上帝很不喜悅。摩西對于以色列人的態度也感到不滿。他對上帝這麼說 (< 民數記 >11 ﹕ 11-12) “ 11 你為甚麼苦待你的僕人，為甚麼我沒有在你面前蒙恩呢？竟把管理這人民的重擔全放在我身上呢？ 12 這人民豈是我懷的胎，豈是我生的嗎？……”在摩西的這番抱怨中﹐他清楚地了解以色列人不是屬于摩西﹐而是屬于上帝的。神卻將帶領的差事給了他 .
當掃羅被立為以色列的第一個君王時﹐先知撒目耳對他說﹐ (< 撒母耳記上 >10 ﹕ 1) “耶和華不是已經膏立你作他產業的領袖嗎？”掃羅將成為一國之君﹐領導上帝的子民。這些人不是撒羅的﹐而是上帝的子民。
繼掃羅和大衛之後﹐所羅門成為以色列的國王。他面臨許多重大決定﹐於是他禱告﹕ (< 列王紀上 >3 ﹕ 8-9) “ 8 僕人住在你揀選的子民中；這些子民很多，多得不能數算。 9 所以，求你賜給僕人一顆明辨的心，可以判斷你的子民，能辨別是非，因為誰能判斷你這眾多的子民呢？”所羅門清楚地知道他們是上帝的子民。這和中國的傳統文化觀念不同。中國有一句老話﹕“率天之下皆皇土﹐普天之下盡皆皇民” 。土地和人民都是屬于君王的 , 那位有權勢的 。 < 詩篇 >50 ﹕ 10-11 說“ 10 因為樹林中的百獸是我的，千山上的牲畜也是我的。 11 山中的雀鳥我都認識，田野的走獸也都屬我。”和中國的傳統觀念不同﹐整個被造界都是屬于神的。
我們來看看耶穌。他是萬主之主﹐然而對於他和父神之間的關係﹐ < 約翰福音 >10 ﹕ 29 說“那位把羊群賜給我的父比一切都大，也沒有人能把他們從我父的手裡奪去。” < 約翰福音 >17 ﹕ 4 ﹐ 6-7 “ 4 我在地上已經榮耀了你，你交給我要作的工，我已經完成了。 6 你從世上分別出來賜給我的人，我已經把你的名顯明給他們了。他們是你的，你把他們賜給了我，他們也遵守了你的道。 7 現在他們知道，你所給我的，無論是甚麼，都是從你那裡來的；”耶穌說的是上帝的兒女。雖然他是萬主之主﹐但是在他的謙卑中﹐他知道這些人是屬于上帝的﹐是上帝交托給他﹐委託他照顧的。”不僅如此﹐從他的許多教導中﹐他告訴我們上帝也賜給我們不同的資源是要我們管理。
這裡﹐使徒保羅清楚地表明我們都是上帝的管家 , 林前 4:1, “ 這樣，人應該把我們看作基督的僕人， 神奧祕的事的管家 。” 我們所擁有的一切都是屬于神的。我們要成為被造界的管家。但是﹐被造界並不屬于我們。他們都是屬于神的﹐我們被授權對它們進行管理。用今天的話來說﹐我們要積極保護自然環境﹐管好地球上的自然資源。
神奧秘的事表示神的救贖﹐拯救計劃。在舊約時代﹐這些都是被隱藏的。但是﹐隨著耶穌的降世﹐他的死和復活﹐這個救贖的計劃被完整地揭示。所有的這一切都在神的話語中。這是一段對傳道人和那些受神呼召進入全職事奉的人的特別教導﹕彼得在 < 使徒行傳 >6 ﹕ 2 ﹐ 4 說﹐“ 2 於是十二使徒召集了眾門徒，說：‘要我們放下 神的道，去管理伙食，是不合適的。 4 至於我們，我們要專心祈禱、傳道。’”使徒們知道他們的首要工作是禱告和傳道。他們委身禱告和傳道的結果是什麼呢﹖“神的道傳開了；在耶路撒冷，門徒人數大大增加，有很多祭司也信從了真道。”這個真理對我們每一個人都是適用的。做神奧秘的事的管家就是要做好聖經的管家。我們要學習上帝的真理﹐明白他的真理﹐教導和傳揚他的真理。
聖經是如何描述摩西的﹖ < 希伯來書 >3 ﹕ 5 “摩西不過是個僕人，在 神的全家盡忠，為以後要傳講的事作證。”摩西並不是完全的人﹐有很多次他都無法控制自己的脾氣。但是上帝說他是忠心的僕人。
耶穌在他的教導中﹐特別是在比喻中﹐強調了值得信任的重要性。保羅在這一章裡也特別對此做了強調。 < 哥林多前書 >4 ﹕ 2 “對於管家的要求，就是要他忠心。” 4 ﹕ 17 “因此，我打發提摩太到你們那裡去。他是我在主裡親愛又忠心的兒子，他要提醒你們我在基督裡是怎樣行事為人，正如我在各處教會中所教導的一樣。”為什麼保羅打發提摩太去哥林多呢﹖因為提摩太是忠心和值得信賴的。 < 哥羅西 >1 ﹕ 7 ﹐“這福音也就是你們從我們親愛的、一同作僕人的以巴弗那裡學到的。他為你們作了基督忠心的僕役。” 4 ﹕ 7 “我的一切景況，推基古會告訴你們。他是我所愛的弟兄，是忠心的僕役，也是在主裡同作僕人的。”他們都是忠心﹐值得信賴的僕人和傳道人。
最後﹐ < 希伯來書 > 的作者在 3 ﹕ 6 告訴我們﹕“但是基督卻是兒子，管理自己的家……”基督本身是忠心和值得信賴的。
一個值得信賴的人會一貫靜悄悄地執行好交托給他的任務。他不會一味追求個人的昇遷﹐總是找機會把自己置于聚光燈下。他會盡力做到自始至終負責到底。上個星期﹐我看了一個香港的節目﹐採訪了 1998 年諾貝爾物理學獎得主崔奇。無論是他在芝加哥大學做研究生﹐還是在貝爾實驗室做科研﹐他都是堅持不懈默默無聞地探索真理。他不追求名利﹐對自己的研究忠心耿耿。
我想到許多在小地方牧養著小教會的牧師們。他們知道那些教會永遠不可能變成一個大型教會。但是﹐他們在那裡忠心地教導神的話語﹐牧養上帝的子民﹐日復一日﹐年復一年。事實上﹐在北美的教會中﹐ 80% 以上的會眾數量是小於 150 人的。
大約十六年前﹐我的家人給我一件小小的藝術品﹕忠心而不是成功。這不是許多人喜歡的標語 . 喜歡的人大概是一些一事無成的人吧 .
上星期聽到一個 Trump 大學的廣告 . 它的宗旨 : 保證你成功 , 賺大錢 . 我們當中有誰不想成功 ? 我們要成為有名的牧師 . 有時有人問我 , “是否經常有人請你出外講道 ? ” 我巴不得能說 , “每年都有很多次 , 不容易決定要接受那一個邀請 . ”我們在學業上 , 事業上都要成功 . 成功是有聲有色為人所注目 . 使人有滿足感 . 反過來 , 忠心卻是安靜 , 不為人所知 . 但這卻是神所喜悅的特色 .
這星期會有 Enron 案件的審判 . 從這可憐的事件我們能學到甚麼呢 ? 這裡有一群超越的工商管理員 , 出身名校 . 但是在他們追求成功的過程 , 卻沒將託付給他們的做好 . 當成功成為目標時 , 往往忠心可靠就會被犧牲 . 你還記得幹細胞研究的黃錫禹教授 , 為了追求成功與名利 , 他卻犧牲了可靠性 , 毀滅了他的研究生涯 . 成功本身不是不好的事 . 成功也能使神得榮耀 . 但是要緊記 , 生命的目標不是成功 , 仍是忠心可靠 .
無論你是否喜歡﹐我們都是管家。要緊的是作一個怎樣的管家 . 神要我們成為 忠心的管家。我們期望有一天﹐主可以對我們說﹕“你這忠心又良善的僕人……”
Text: 1 Corinthians 4:1-2
Title: A Faithful Steward
Theme: Since God has given us the responsibility of caring for his possession, therefore
by His grace, we are to strive to be faithful in all we do.
When I hear your say, “My church, our church…..”; it makes me or the church leaders feel good because it shows that you have a sense of belonging; this is your church. But when the pastors say, “My church this…and my church that….”, it carries a different nuance, right? As if we own the church and can do whatever we want.
In today’s text, Paul in self defense brings out two aspects of his identity. First, he is a servant, meaning a slave, the lowest in the then society’s stratum. He is a slave of Christ. Secondly, he is a steward. This refers to a slave who is given the authority to rule, to manage his master’s possession. Even though in this context, it is a reference to Paul, yet it is applicable to all believers.
The teaching theme for HCC this year is: A Faithful Steward. Throughout the month of January, we have explored some specific areas of stewardship. This morning I want to take another look at this stewardship issue. I will follow a similar approach as I did last week. To walk you through the scripture to discover the biblical basis for stewardship and how it applies to us.
I. We are created to manage God's creation.
In Genesis 1:26 we read, “ 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Man was created to rule over the creation. The creation does not belong to man; it belongs to the creator. Man is given the responsibility to rule, to manage. One of the first task Adam performed was to name all the animals.
Exodus 3:7, 10, “ 7 Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters…… 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” God called and sent Moses to lead God's people out of Egypt . The Israelites were God's, not Moses’ people.
Later in the wilderness, the Israelites complained about the hardships. God was not happy about it. Moses was also furious over the Israelites’ attitude. This is what he said to God, Numbers 11:11, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? 12 Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth,……” In his complaint, Moses recognized that they were not his people. They did not belong to him. They belonged to God and he was given the unpleasant job of leading them.
When Saul was anointed as the first king of Israel , Samuel said in, 1 Sam 10:1, “ Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel ? And you shall reign over the people of the …….” Saul is to be the king, the prince, the leader over God's people. Not Saul’s people, but God's people.
After Saul and David, Solomon became the king of Israel . He was overwhelmed by the task before him that he prayed, 1 Kings 3:8-9, “ 8 And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” Solomon clearly recognized this is God's people. This is very different from the Chinese culture. There is the saying, “ 率天之下皆皇土 , 普天之下皆皇民 ”. The land and the people belonged to the king, the person in authority. In Psalm 50:10-11, “ 10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine.” Unlike the Chinese tradition, the entire creation belongs to God.
Then we come to Jesus. He is the lord of all, yet in his relationship with God the father, he said in John 10:29, “ My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand." John 12:4,6-7, “"I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. …….. I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word." 7 "Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you." Jesus is talking about God’s children. Even though he is the Lord of all, yet in his humility, he recognized that these people belonged to God and was given to him to keep and to care for. Moreover, in many of his parables, Jesus taught about how God has given us different resources for us to manage.
Here, Apostle Paul clearly states that, 1 Corinth 4:1, “ This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” Everything we have is from God and we are His stewards.
What do we do as stewards? We are given the responsibility to be rulers and managers of God's creation. This applies to all human beings. Human are meant to take care of the created world. Moreover, Christians are to be active in protecting the environment, to take good care of the natural resources we have in this and other countries.
During the last several Sundays, we have learned how to be stewards of the Life God has given us. We are to be stewards of the spiritual gifts he has given us. We are to know and exercise our spiritual gifts to build up this and other churches, both locally and globally. We learned that God has given us financial resources. As stewards we are to set priority in how we use money. We give 1/10 to God to recognize his ownership over all of what he has given us. Later this year, we will learn to be stewards of this church family, and our families. Here in vs 2, we learned that we are to be stewards of the ‘mysteries of God.’
Mysteries of God means God's redemption, salvation plan. It was hidden, not clear in the OT. But with the coming of Jesus, his death and resurrection, this salvation plan becomes plain to all. All of this is found in the inspired word of God. Here is a special instruction to the ministers and those whom God has called into full time ministry. Peter in Acts 6:2,4, “ 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. ….. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word…” The apostles knew their top priority of their ministry is the Word and Prayer. And the result of this commitment? “…..And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem ,…” This truth is equally true for all of us. To be stewards of the mysteries of God is to be steward of the scriptures. We are to study the word, to understand the word and to teach and share the word with others.
These passages clearly instruct us that we are God's stewards. This and other churches do not belong to the ministers. We ministers do not own the church. This is God's church. You are God's people. God has given ministers and leaders the responsibility of taking care of the Christian community. By God's grace, we are to help and lead this community to grow in her understanding of God's word, to be obedient to what the scripture teaches and to love him with all her heart, soul, mind and strength.
II. We are to be trustworthy over what God has entrusted us.
Yes, we are God's stewards. What is expected of stewards? If you are in the position of hiring employees in your company, what do you look for in those applicants? Besides the skills, you would also look for faithfulness, or trustworthiness in this person. We ask if this person can be trusted with the company’s resources. When we look for additional staffs, we want to know if they can be trusted with this congregation and her resources. Let’s look at some examples in the Bible.
How was Moses described in the Bible? Hebrews 3:5, “ 5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant,……” Moses was not perfect, for several times he had lost his temper. But he was described as a faithful servant.
Jesus in his teachings, especially in the parables, emphasized the importance of trustworthiness. Paul, too, placed emphasis on this character. 1 Corinthians 4:2, “ 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” 4:17, “this is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, …” Why did he send Timothy to Corinth ? Because Timothy was faithful, trustworthy. Colossians 1:7; 4:7, “ 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf….. 7 Tychicus …. is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.” They are faithful, trustworthy servants and ministers.
Above all, the writer of Hebrew tells us in 3:6, “ …but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son…” Christ himself is faithful, trustworthy.
Therefore as God's servants, as stewards of all that he has given us, we are to be like Christ, be faithful, trustworthy.
A trustworthy person consistently and often quietly carries out the responsibilities given to him/her. He would not be seeking self promotion, putting himself in the spotlight. He would make sure the responsibility is being carried out from the beginning to the end. This past week I saw a HK program featuring the winner of 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics, Tsui Chi. While he was a graduate student at UC and later a scientist at the Bell Lab, he was always quietly and persistently pursuing the research topic before him. He did not seek fame nor advancements, but was just very faithful in his research.
I think of many pastors serving in small cities with small congregations. They know that their church will never become a mega church. Yet they faithfully teach God's word and care for God's people week after week. As a matter of fact, over 80% of churches in NA have a congregation size of 150 and under.
I also think of many fellowship advisors in this church. Your work is not glamorous and you don’t get a lot of recognition. And sometimes, the congregation hardly knows what you are doing. You have seen your fellowship gone through times with high attendance and times with disappointing attendance. Yet you have continued to care and love the people under your care.
Then there are the children Sunday school teachers, youth workers among us. Because of your faithfulness, we trust you to teach and direct our children. Or the office staff who faithfully carry out the work entrusted to them. Many of you are also faithfully taking care of the family God has given you. Others are faithful stewards of your profession.
The list can go on and on. As stewards, our primary objective is to be faithful, trustworthy.
17 years ago, my family gave me a small art work with these words: Faithfulness-Not Success. This is not a well liked concept, right? If I am to make this into a bumper sticker, I don’t think too many people would buy it. Or the only people who may be interested in it may be those who can’t make it in the society; using this as an excuse for one’s failure.
This past week I heard a commercial about the Trump University . I don’t know if this is physical or on-line school. Its stated purpose is to make you successful, to make plenty of money. This struck a cord within us. Who among us doesn’t want to be successful? We want to be well known pastors. Sometimes people ask me, “do you get invited to preach at other places a lot?” How I wish I could say, “Yes, many times and it is very difficult to decide which one to accept and which one to turn down!!” We want to be successful in our studies, careers and in whatever we do. Success is often glamorous and noticed by many. It makes one feel good and satisfied. On the other hand Faithfulness is quiet and behind the scene. Yet this is the character God desires from his children, his followers.
The Enron trial will start again this week. What do we learn from this sad story? Here you have a group of top notch competent managers, trained in the top business schools in this country. Yet in their pursuit of success, they failed to carry out the responsibilities entrusted to them. When success becomes the goal and objective, all too often trustworthiness and faithfulness will be sacrificed. You probably still remember Dr. Huang of the stem cell research. In his pursuit of success and fame, he sacrificed trustworthiness. There is nothing wrong with being successful in what we do. This can bring glory to God. What we need to remember is this: the goal in life is not success, but to be faithful and trustworthy.
Whether we like it or not, we are stewards. The question is what kind of stewards are we? God wants us to be faithful and trustworthy. We look forward to the day when the Lord will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant….”
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