Text: Genesis 1:26-28, 1 Corinthians 4:1-2
Title: Created To Be Stewards
Theme: Since God has created us in His image, therefore we are to be faithful steward over what he has entrusted us.
If you take in $6 million dollars a year, what will you struggle be? During these past few weeks, we have been looking at purposes in life. We learned that we are created to glorify God and enjoy him forever. We glorify God by reflecting his image in us, living in a community where we love, care and serve one another. He is glorified when we use those God-given unique spiritual gifts to help the believers to become mature and Christ like. We glorify him when we are his witness right where we are and where he leads us to.
In this series of study, we regularly turn to Genesis to guide us in our search for purpose in life. This tells us the importance of treating the first 11 chapters of Genesis not as myths but truth revealed to men from God. If the first 11 chapters of the Bible is nothing but Middle East myths, then we don't really have any basis for a purpose in life. This is the reason that a humanistic world view, a world view that believes man is a product of the materialistic evolution process, cannot satisfy the human yearning for meaning and purpose.
This morning, we want to turn to Genesis 1 one more time. In the Genesis narrative, we further see our identity as more than a created being, but also a servant, a steward over God's creation.
We are created to be stewards Genesis 1:26-28
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.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And 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 heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” For the last several weeks we have been looking at God's image in the context of love, communication, creativity, emotions and morality. This morning we look at another aspect of his image.
God not only created the heavens and the earth, he is also the one who rules and sustains his creation. In vs 26 we are told that he wanted man to 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." 2:15, "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it." In other words, God created man according to his image; to rule over God's creation. Man was created to be a steward, to rule, to manage, to have dominion over what God created. Charles Wesley said, "When the possessor of heaven and earth brought you into being and placed you in this world, he placed you not as owner but as a steward."
As we read on, we learn that Adam, the first man, did not do well. Because of his sin, deliberate disobedience to God, the creation was cursed. Instead of man ruling and have dominion over the earth, now it is full of conflicts and animosity. Instead of cooperation, now it is contention between the two. So the first Adam, the first servant, steward failed.
However, descendents of Adam, are still expected to be stewards of God's creation. Moses was known as God's friend, but was called a servant in God's house. Hebrews 3:5, "Now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant,.." Yet, Moses, like Adam also failed. So much so, he could not even enter the promised land.
Then came Jesus Christ, the second Adam. In the book of Isaiah, he was described as God's servant. Yes, he was the Messiah, the son of God, yet he was also the servant. He claimed that he had not come to be served but to serve. The first Adam failed, but the second Adam did not. He was that servant we can follow. As we follow him, we learn to undo the wrongs of other servants and how to do what is right.
What is expected of the servants? Let's take Moses as an example. In the book of Exodus 17:5-7, we read, "The Lord said to Moses…….And Moses did so…" 19:7, "So Moses came and ……set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him." "As the Lord had commanded Moses" "As the Lord had commanded Moses." 40:16,"This Moses did; according to all that the Lord commanded him, so he did." The same theme threads through the Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Nm 1:19, "as the Lord commanded Moses. So he listed them in the wilderness of Sinai." As God's servant, in spite of his failures, he was obedient to God, doing what was told. In Hebrews 3:5, Moses was called a Faithful servant in God's house.
In Hebrews 3:5, we also learn that Christ, the second Adam is faithful in God's household. In his teachings, Christ repeatedly emphasizes the importance of being a faithful servant, steward in God's kingdom. What is expected of the servants and stewards?
1 Corinthians 4:2, "Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy." To be faithful means to be trustworthy and dependable in carrying out the orders of the owner or the master, being obedient to the master. We are expected to be God's faithful servants. Our responsibility is to be obedient to his words. Not making an effort to make a name for ourselves, building our own empire or making this into a bigger and larger church. Instead, our primary charge is to be obedient, to be God's faithful stewards.
We are created to be God's servants, stewards. We are expected to be faithful. What are we to rule and manage? This morning I would like to take you on a brief tour, surveying what has been entrusted to us. I would like to categorize it into three areas: the world we live in, the redeemed community and our personal life.
Stewards of the world we live in --- the natural resources
Gen 1:26, 28, 2:15, is about ruling and taking care of the natural world; the animals and the land. In the book of Leviticus, are extended instructions on how to take care of the land. One is to plough the land for six years, and rest on the seventh year. In today's language, Adam and those who come after him were to take care of the environment.
We don't do too well in this area, isn't it? Because of human brokenness, we have often mismanaged our world. In the past and sometimes even today, our cutting down trees without reseeding, mining coals and other minerals without replenishing the land, led to flooding , mud sliding. Our unrestrained hunting leads to the extinction of certain animals. We don't take care of some of the national treasures. In the Yosemite National Park is the beautiful Mirror Lake. Our last visit was in the 70's. We have been told by friends who visited that lake that it is no longer like a mirror, it is quite dirty. We have abused the nature God created. Certainly we are making corrections in this area. If you are to hike in the Denali National Park, you have to bring out any paper you bring in.
However, on the other hand, sometimes we treat the environment as gods. We worship and want to be one with nature. We want to protect a tree, an animal more than the human unborn child. Something is wrong with this picture, right?
As faithful stewards of God's creation, we do our best to take care of the natural resources. To protect the environment and natural resources, including the way we use oil and gas. This means that we may have to carefully consider the kind of cars we purchase. Then there is also the recycling programs.
Stewards in God's redeemed community.
Besides the world we live in, now let us take a brief look at the redeemed community we are in, especially this church. I always remind myself and the church leaders that God has given us abundant material and human resources in this local church. One of our main responsibilities is to be faithful stewards over these resources.
This means that the church leaders are to be careful of how we use the financial resources. We are not to lord or manipulate the human resources but to do our best to be examples and help God's people to grow into spiritual maturity.
3. Stewards in our personal life.
First we are stewards of our family. Our family is given to us from God. Job clearly understood this. Every morning he would offer sacrifices for his children. Hearing the news of his children's tragic death, he said, Job 1:21b, "The Lord gave; and the Lord has taken away…."All he had, including his children were from God. He was a steward.
Psalm 127:3, "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord…"God has given us our children, our family. In the book of Leviticus, Deuteronomy , Proverbs and NT scriptures are full of instructions on how to take care of the family. To the husbands, wives, fathers and mothers among us, we are to be faithful stewards of the family God has given us.
The greatest reward one can have is to know that we have done our best to be a faithful steward of the children and spouses God has given us.
Secondly, we are stewards of time. Ephesians 5:16, "making the best use of the time, because the days are evil…" Make the best use of time. This means don't waste our time, use our time wisely. It will be helpful if beginning tomorrow, keep a log of what you do every day. And then next Saturday evening, review the log and see how you have used these 144 hours.
Thirdly, we are to be stewards of the spiritual gifts God has given to us. Two Sundays ago we learned that God has given each one of us one or more spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are given so that we can use our them to help this church become mature and Christ like. And if we don't use such gifts, then we are not being faithful stewards.
Fifthly, we are to be stewards of the material resources God has given us. I want to especially focus on money matters.
In 1 Timothy 6:17-18, " As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,…"This passage clearly teaches us that what we have is from God. Money and material resources are from God. 1/6 of the gospel and 1/3 of Jesus'' parables are about stewardship and money. Therefore as faithful stewards of the money God has given us, what are we supposed to do with it? I would like to call your attention to several principles:
We return 1/10 to God. When Abraham met Melchizedek after he won the battle with the 5 kings, he gave 1/10 of what he acquired to Melchizedek. Melchizedek was considered as a type for Jesus Christ. In the laws given to the Israelites in the wilderness, they were instructed to offer God 1/10 of what they had. If we are to add up all the offering the Israelites were supposed to give, it was over 30%. And later, when the Israelites neglected tithing, in Malachi 3:8, 10, God accused them of robbing him. "…How have we robbed you? In your tithes and contributions…..Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house…."When they kept for themselves the 1/10 they were supposed to give to God, they had become robbers.
Even though the NT appears to be silent on this issue, yet in careful study, to give one tenth, or tithing is assumed to be a believer's basic responsibility.
To give generously. 1 Timothy 6:18, "….to be generous and ready to share,…"This is often interpreted to give more than 1/10.
To give regularly. 1Corinth 16:2, "On the first day of the week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up….." Don't wait till the end of the year to give. Give on a monthly, weekly basis. Because offering our financial resources to God is also an act of worship.
To give according to our income. 1 Corinth 16:2, "On the first day of the week, each of you is to put something aside (in accordance to what you have) and store it up….."This means that our giving is to be in proportion to our income. The more we receive, the more we give. This often is more than 10%.
To give voluntarily. 2 Corinth 9:7, "Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion." We are not to force anyone to give, nor try to use guilt to manipulate you into giving. Saying, if you have given 1/10, then you would not have ran into that accident. Or, you are in a financial straight, because you did not give God 10%. No, it has to be volunteer, nor compulsion or manipulation.
We are to give cheerfully. 2 Corinth 9:7, "……for God loves a cheerful giver.…….." It is easier said than done, right? To give $1 out of $10, or $10 out of $100 shouldn't be that difficult. But to give $1000 out of $10,000; $3000 out of $30,000 is a different matter. Especially thinking about what $3000 can do!
To give sacrificially. 2 Corinth 8:2-3, "for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will," Paul was praising the Macedonian church. They were in the middle of great poverty, yet they gave generously to help the church in Jerusalem. They could have kept the money for themselves, but they gave it to the lord. this is giving beyond what they have, this is sacrificial giving.
Then lastly, give quietly. Matthew 6:3-4, "But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
Financial giving is not easy. We often say, as long as my heart is at the right place, near to God, this is what pleases him. And you know his response: show me your treasure, then I will know where your heart is. Remember what he says in Matthew 6;21, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
What will your struggle be if you bring in $6 million a year? Patricia Heaton, wife of Raymond in "Every body loves Raymond" and a double Emmy-winning actress, bringing in about $6 million a year said, " I struggle to keep it simple. Obedience, sacrifice and modesty are not real popular buzzwords out here. An issue I'm dealing with lately is, 'Do I have too much money, and am I being a good steward of it?' In fact, I was talking to a friend about tithing—just giving your 10% as opposed to giving until it actually starts costing you something, which is what I think tithing is all about."
Whether we make $10K, 25K, 40K or 80K or 100K or $6 millions a year, tithing is not easy. Sometimes it hurts. For this reason, to be a faithful steward will drive us back to God again and again. We are to seek his help to be a faithful steward over all the resources he has given us.