Tag Archives: stewardship

Never Trifle

Read Ephesians 5:15-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” (Proverbs‬ ‭16:3‬ ‭CEB)‬‬‬‬

  Time. Our lives are shaped by it, wrapped around it, dictated by it. The world operates on it and schedules are formed on it. Time is measured by numbers on a clock. It’s marked in boxes on a thing we call a calendar. We record time when we punch into our jobs, we structure our music with it, and we even call our meeting records “minutes.”

What’s more, churches become institutions of time. Rev. John Wesley believed that because time was short, every moment in time needed to be occupied with holy work and that one should not trifle away time. As a pastor, I always try to be a “good steward of time” during our worship services and, no doubt, many pastors are quickly told whether or not they are starting and/or ending worship too late.

Beyond the physical function of time in the church institution, time is also laden in our theology and in the Bible itself. “In the Beginning” (Genesis 1), “a season” or a time “for everything under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 3), “making the most of your time” (Ephesians 5:16), “I am the beginning and the end” (Revelation 1:8), and others all signify the importance of time for humanity.

Yet, I believe that time can also become our proverbial golden calf, a false idol in our lives. Time is too often used in a way that enables us to be busy, preoccupied, scurrying, workers of the tediously mundane. Let me repeat that again. Time is too often used in a way that enables us to be busy, preoccupied, scurrying, workers of the tediously mundane. In other words, we fill up time rather than purposefully manage and utilize it for the glory of God.

As a pastor, I don’t have to work hard at being busy and being busy keeps me working hard, no doubt. There is more to be done daily in the life of the church than any one pastor or person could possibly accomplish. My time, as is the case with all servant leaders, is spent filled with the busy-ness of the church. Also, on top of being a pastor, I serve on a couple of committees and I am active in the life of the church beyond the local congregation I serve. To add to that, I am a son, a husband, a father, and a friend; therefore, I have important and vital relationships that I need to maintain and be actively engaged in.

These realities are not just realities for pastors alone, but for all people. You, no doubt, are a busy person with much to do and vitally important relationships to maintain and be actively engaged in. You, if you are a Christian who is actively engaged in a local congregation somewhere, are incredibly busy doing the work in the life of the church.

Here’s the potential pitfall to all that I have written above. God does not call us to be “busy”, nor does God deem our busy-ness to be the best use of our time. Yes, God calls us to serve the church and to be the body of Christ. Yes, God calls us to bring the Gospel message to all people. Yes, God calls us to diligently bring hope, healing and wholeness to people sorely in need of it. But a lot of the work we do, if we are completely honest, does not answer that call as much as it fills up our time.

The challenge for all of us as human beings, as children of God, is the following: To not “trifle our time away” with the mundane work that keeps us from answering God’s call. Every moment is a sacred moment and should be kept holy. We should work diligently, but we should also use mundane work as an excuse as to why we don’t have the time to do the things God has called us to. What’s more, God has called us set time apart to rest, to be renewed, and to be recharged (aka Sabbath). Remember, we should never trifle with time but should glorify God with our use of the time we have by working diligently, serving efficiently, and resting religiously.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Be diligent. Never be unemployed a moment. Never be triflingly employed. Never while away time; neither spend more time at any place than is strictly necessary.” – John Wesley, from Wesley’s Twelve Rules of a Helper

PRAYER

Lord, help me to steer clear of trifling the time you have given me. Amen.

The Categorical Imperative

Read Genesis 1:26-31; Psalm 23; Matthew 25:31-46

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” (1 Corinthians 4:2 NRSV)

In the church and in the corporate world, the word “stewardship” often floats around congregations in the form of campaigns to raise “funds” for the mission and ministries of the church. As such, many people hear the word “stewardship” as just a church-speak for, “cough up some dough for us.” This particular perception has risen up as a result of the way stewardship has been discussed and handled in the church and corporate settings.

Yet, the word steward is used in other ways that point to the fact that, deep down, we know stewardship to be more than just monetary support. Back in the day, flight attendants were known as Stewards and/or Stewardesses. The steward, in the airline industry, is the person who cares for the needs of the customers boarded on the plane. They fetch pillows, bring food and drink, listen to and address issues specific travelers may be having, and they instruct people of safety procedures in case of an emergency. What’s more, in the event of an emergency, the steward risks their own safety in order to save lives and get people off of the plane (if it has been grounded). The role of a steward is the same on trains and ships as well.

There are other examples of stewardship as well. Rather, than belabor the reader with a million examples of stewardship, it is more important to point to the definition of what a steward is, in order to better grasp the concept of stewardship. A steward is a person how cares for the needs of other people, organizations, events, and/or places. Thus, stewardship is the ethos that embodies the responsibility of caring for those needs, which absolutely includes the management and planning of resources. With that said, let us not simply limit resources to money. Google defines a resource as, “a stock or supply of money, materials, staff, and other assets that can be drawn on by a person or organization in order to function effectively.”

In other words, stewardship is the embodiment of managing and planning resources, whether those resources are monetary, material, human, natural, or any other resource. Being a good steward is about managing those resources well; however, this sounds more corporate and less spiritually worded. In terms of being Christian and living out our Christian faith, being a good steward means taking good care of all that God has given us and making proper use of the resources God has given us. If we don’t share our resources with others, we are not being good stewards, and the same is true if we neglect, abuse, misuse, or mismanage the resources shared with us.

Thus, to be a good steward, spiritually speaking, we must recognize that ALL THINGS are FROM GOD. Our money, our natural resources, our real estate and property, our congregation members (in the case of churches), our staff members (in the case of corporations and/or organizations), and all other resources are from God. If we do not recognize the divine value within each of the non-living resources, and the divine presence and/or image in all living resources (especially in humans), then we are not embodying the ethos of good Stewardship. We cannot abuse/neglect the environment, be misers, and/or see our congregation members, our staff, our friends and family as expendable means to an end, and still call ourselves good stewards, let alone stewards in any sense of the word.

This latter part is often overlooked in stewardship talks and campaigns and, yet, is the most important part of stewardship. PEOPLE MATTER and are to be valued. LIVING BEINGS are ends unto themselves and never should be seen as a means to an end (to summarize Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative). So, today I challenge you to start evaluating your stewardship and start working toward being the best stewards you can be. That is what it means to be disciples of Christ, that is what it takes to truly follow Christ and uphold Christian values. STEWARDSHIP IS VITAL. Be good stewards and work to user in God’s Kingdom on Earth.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Live your life as though your every act were to become a universal law.” – Immanuel Kant
PRAYER
Lord, forgive me for when I’ve used people as a means to an end. Help me to treat people as divine persons and not tools. Amen.

God’s Caretakers

Read Genesis 6:11-22

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 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.’” (Genesis 1:27-28 NRSV)

shapeimage_2Recently, I sat down and watch the film Noah with my wife. The film, starring Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, and Emma Watson, is inspired by and loosely based off of the account of Noah in Genesis 5-10. I say loosely, because the film is artistic in it’s approach. It takes five chapters, what could amount to 30 minutes (an hour tops) and builds out of that source material a film that is two and a half hours long. It includes all of the characters from the Biblical narrative and it includes new characters. Most importantly, it pays close attention to the obscure stories within the larger story of Noah, and it interprets those stories in light of the larger one. While many Christian critics said the film disregarded the Bible, I find that the film actually paid the Biblical text much more attention than other adaptations. With that said, it did so unconventionally.

In the film, the “bad guy” is a man by the name of Tubal-Cain. To make a long story short, he is a descendant of Cain (as in Cain and Abel), whereas, Noah is a descendant of Seth who was born after Abel was murdered and Cain was banished. Tubal-Cain is a power-hungry person, as are all (or most) of the people who descend from Cain. Noah, and his family, are not. They are peaceful, vegetarian, and living in harmony with the earth. In one scene, after having helped Tubal-Cain recover from injuries, one of Noah’s sons happens to see Tubal-Cain eating meat and he tries to stop him. “The beasts are precious,” he protested. Tubal responded, “The beasts are for us. The Creator needed to take dominion over it and subdue it. He created us. This is our world, Ham. Seize it.”

As I was watching this scene, it occurred to me that that both sides are founded by the same story. Both Noah and Tubal-Cain have grown up knowing and living by the same story. In the beginning, God created everything, including humans. God created humans in God’s own image, and God put humans in charge of creation by saying, “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” (Genesis 1:28). What separated Noah from Tubal-Cain (according to this film, not necessarily according to the Bible) is that Noah understood that the command to take dominion and subdue, meant to tame and care for, as opposed consume and destroy.

In fact, when you read the Scriptures carefully, it seems that God created human beings and placed them “in charge” of all that God created. To be a ruler with dominion is to have a position of great responsibility and power. God gave humans that power so that we would care for a creation that God loves, for a creation that God says is “good.” Why would God want humans to consume and destroy creation? Why would God create animals for people to abuse and torture them? Why would God create plant-life for humans to slash and burn?

I am not suggesting that humans shouldn’t eat meat (though I choose to abstain), nor am I suggesting that people shouldn’t farm or utilize natural resources; however, I am suggesting that God created us to be caretakers of creation and that, “have dominion and subdue” does not equal “consume and destroy.” We are all called to be caretakers and lovers of God’s creation. We are all called to be as responsible as possible in how we utilize resources. We all need to eat and live, and things die (both plants and animals) as a result of that need; however, that does not give us free reign to consume and destroy at will. It’s time, as children of the Creator, that we hold each other accountable to being better stewards of creation. It’s not just “what’s right”, but it’s also what we were created for.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves.” – David Orr
PRAYER
Lord, help reconnect me with my purpose as a caretaker for all of your creation, including the people you have placed in my life. Amen.