What’s mine is yours and I share it with you

29
Dec

A sermon preached by Bob Keller on December 27th, 2009 based upon Matthew 2:1 – 11.

That was a beautiful, and very appropriate song that Barb sang.  It is indeed a pleasure for David, Dave and myself to be able to give Pastor Jeff that “Silent Night” that he deserves.

I hope you all had a nice Christmas!

David just read the familiar story of the three wise men and the revelation of the birth of the Christ child as they experienced it.  This story is in sharp contrast to the story we read on Christmas Eve.  On that evening, we read from Luke’s gospel of how the birth was revealed to the humblest of God’s creatures, the shepherds.  Shepherds of those days were kind of the outcasts of society.  They spent long hours away from the cities as they tended the flocks.  Oftentimes the sheep weren’t even their own, but belonged to their masters.  Yet the birth of God’s son was first reveled to these outcast creatures.  Some Bible scholars believe that Luke did this to cast Jesus in the same light as their ancient king, King David, who was himself a lowly shepherd before rising to be the greatest leader of Israel.

Matthew, however, tells the story of how Christ’s birth was revealed to the relative royalty of the day, the magi.  They were the “Kings of the Orient.”   They, too, sought out the Christ child – not really knowing for sure who or what he was, but believing He was something they should be seeking.  They proved this by the gifts they presented.  They brought gold, a gift that was fit for royalty to present to a King.  They brought frankincense, a gift that was presented to God, a gift that purified and sanctified the temples.  And they brought myrrh, a gift that was used to dress dead bodies – a gift that foretold of the death of the new king.

It’s the giving of these gifts that are used as the basis for the gift-giving cycle that we just experienced – the gifts we give to one another at Christmas.  In some cultures, the gift giving comes after Christmas at the celebration of the feast of the Three Kings.

 So today we’re going to talk about giving.  “Giving” is not a topic that many preachers and a lot of churches like to talk about.  There’s this fear that the congregation will see it as “Here they go – asking for money.  I give what I can, but they always ask for more.” 

 Well, you can’t please everyone when talking about gifts, can you?  There’s a story about a new pastor at a church.  He was having a discussion with some of the elders of the church about when to take the offering.  One suggestion was at the very beginning of the service.  Another countered that wouldn’t work because it will look like the church just can’t wait to get its money as soon a people get in the door.  Well, how about in the middle of the service?  No good – it interrupts “the flow.”  At the end, then?  Nope – doesn’t give people time to properly reflect on the message.

Don’t get concerned.  I’m not going to suggest reworking when the plate is passed.  But I am going to talk about what we do with it when it’s in front of us. 

You may have noticed that this is the last Sunday of the year.  Now if you think back over the year, you’ll notice that no one has yet discussed stewardship.  Stewardship is NOT giving a gift to God.  If you want to think in contemporary terms, one might be more correct to call it “re-gifting.”  That’s the relatively new term that describes the process of “passing on” a gift that one has received that he has no real use for or that one thinks someone else can put to better use.  You know how it works – a bride-to-be gets three toasters at her bridal shower and rather than go through the hassle of exchanging them for something else, she puts them in the closet and “re-gifts” them at the next shower or engagement party that she’s invited to.

 The practice is legitimate.  After all, it’s mine.  It was given to me.  I own it.  If I choose to give it to someone else, that’s what I can do.

 Stewardship, however, is a little bit different.  It recognizes that we are not owners, but merely caretakers.

In 1 Chronicles 29 we hear David as he prays as the people donate to build the temple:

10 David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,  “Praise be to you, O Lord,  God of our father Israel,  from everlasting to everlasting.

11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,  for everything in heaven and earth is yours.  Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom;  you are exalted as head over all.

12 Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.  In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.

13 Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.

14 “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. 15 We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. 16 O Lord our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you.

“Stewardship” means: using God given abilities to manage God given resources, to accomplish God ordained results.

When I think of Stewardship, I often only think of money.  That’s giving of my resources. But giving money to the church is not stewardship; it is merely part of stewardship. Although you can’t be a steward without giving of money.
If stewardship isn’t about money, maybe it is about doing some good works.  That’s giving of my abilities. But what good you do for God in the church is not stewardship either. It is a part of good stewardship and you can’t be a steward without giving of your abilities.

Well, if stewardship is not about what I give and not about what I can do… what is it about?

Stewardship is about having the HEART OF STEWARDSHIP. In other words, good stewardship is a matter of ATTITUDE that stands behind your giving and your service.

It’s not what you give to, or what you do for, God, it’s why you do it.

Pastor Jeff Strite examined the parable of the Good Samaritan and wrote of three “attitudes” present in the story.  You’ll recall that a man had been robbed and left for dead in a ditch by the side of the road.  Some priests passed by the injured man and kept on going.  The Samaritan stopped and cared for the injured man.

The first attitude is What’s yours is mine and I’m going to take it.  We, as Christians know this is wrong.  In fact, the world understands this is wrong. 

In Malachi 3:8-10 God speaks to Israel…
“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ’How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse– the whole nation of you– because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

  The 2nd attitude is What’s MINE is MINE and I’m going to keep it.

Who does Jesus say passed by this man in the ditch?  It was a Levite and a Pharisee. These were men of ministry. These were religious leaders. These were the DOERS in the congregation. They were trained to serve God, but they didn’t do anything for the beaten man.

In order for them to help this man, they’d have to give up something important to them… their time, their resources and their personal comfort.

They’ve been trained to do “religious things.” They’ve been trained to do ministry. But when the time comes to do “real ministry” they turn their heads away. Their attitude is “What’s mine is mine – I’m going to keep it.

Then there’s the third attitude – What’s MINE is YOURS and I’ll share it with you.

This Samaritan was not “trained in ministry.” The Samaritan was probably not any wealthier than the Levite or Pharisee. This Samaritan probably had other things to do in his life, and yet he stopped where the others walked on by.

What made the difference? – His attitude. The Samaritan’s attitude helped him to overcome his prejudice, ignore the inconvenience and to give up his possessions to take care of this man.  His attitude was what made his story worth telling.

To be a good steward, we have to settle the idea of ownership.

As I said before, a steward is someone who takes care of something for someone else. If you’re a steward, you don’t own what you have. So, if I’m going to be a “steward for God” I need to make up my mind that I don’t own…
1. My Time
2. My Money
3. My Possessions
4. My Relationships

They’re all His. They don’t belong to me. They belong to God and he’s entrusted me to manage them.

Think for a moment of that promise from Malachi – Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

If the promise was good for those under the Law… how much more do you think God will be faithful to us who are under His Grace.

Ask anyone why they came back to this church.  I’m sure you’ll hear that it was because they were made to feel “part of the family.”  Indeed, we are a welcoming congregation.  We are all accepted as part of the family and family doesn’t care where you came from, what you look like or what you have to offer.  I’ll paraphrase POGO here:  “We have seen the family and it is us.”  As such, we care about, and care for, one another just as we would for members of our own families.

But that may actually be the start of a problem for us.  We need to recognize that the teaching of Scripture is not to give to needs but to give back to God.

It’s especially difficult in this economic climate to talk about giving.  Many of us are retired and living on a fixed income.  Others are unemployed or under-employed. The country is in a major mess and you can blame the sub-prime mortgage lenders, or the adjustable rate mortgages if you want to.  Or you can blame the ability to drive the brand new car by “just signing here.”  Want the big screen TV? You can have that, too.  But there’s something underneath that; a hunger to have more than what God gave us.

Many are in perilous situations.  However, and you can trust me on this – when God spots you teetering at the edge of a cliff, one of two things will happen if you have faith and believe in God with all your heart, mind, body and spirit – either God will catch you or he’ll teach you how to fly! 

Now, I may regret closing with this thought because I don’t want this to be the only thing you remember as you contemplate stewardship.  We were designed to be giving.  We were made to be generous.  We’re told that the Father knows every hair on our heads and that nary a sparrow falls from the sky without the Lord knowing about it.  He gave it all to us and we’re to care for it as His stewards.  But we can’t just take it all in without giving it back.  To do so causes spiritual, emotional and financial constipation.

You know that feeling – it’s uncomfortable isn’t it?  You keep taking in and taking in, but nothing passes through.  It’s painful.

Why am I not satisfied?  Because we weren’t made to take in and take in, but not give out.  Love is like that.  We don’t feel love and then give love.  It’s the reverse – we give love and then we feel it.  God gave us everything we have, including His Son.  We can find joy in generosity.  We can be happy in helping.  We find God’s grace in being good stewards.

The new year is just days away.  Perhaps it’s a good time to look at what will fulfill us as members of the body of Christ.  God said, “What’s mine is yours and I share it with you.”  Can we honestly do any less?

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Heavenly Father we thank you for the year that is about to close as we eagerly look forward to a new year and a new opportunity to serve you and your body.  Help us to recognize all that you’ve entrusted to us and to be good stewards of all that is yours.

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