SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY
6TH SUNDAY IN EASTER
MAY 26, 2019
Title: “The Ultimate Ownership”
Text: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof: the world and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods” (Psalms 24:1-2).
Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:16-34.
The story is told of a man who once said, “If I had some extra money, I’d give it to God, but I have just enough to support myself and my family.” And the same man said, “If I had some extra time, I’d give it to God, but every minute is taken up with my job, my family, my clubs, and what have you–every single minute.” And the same man said, “If I had a talent I’d give it to God, but I have no lovely voice; I have no special skill; I’ve never been able to lead a group; I can’t think cleverly or quickly, the way I would like to.”
And God was touched, and although it was unlike him, God gave that man money, time, and a glorious talent. And then He waited, and waited, and waited…..And then after a while, He shrugged His shoulders, and He took all those things right back from the man, the money, the time and the glorious talent. After a while, the man sighed and said, “If I only had some of that money back, I’d give it to God. If I only had some of that time, I’d give it to God. If I could only rediscover that glorious talent, I’d give it to God.” And God said, “Oh, keep quiet.” And the man told some of his friends, “You know, I’m not so sure that I believe in God anymore.”
The mention of the word stewardship does strange things to some people. The reason for is usually because most people associate stewardship with money. Most people become quite defensive when a minister starts to talk about money, especially if it is their money! Many church members tend to grit their teeth and brace themselves for the pastor’s annual sermon on tithing, and with a sigh of relief they are glad when the annual stewardship emphasis and budget promotion time is over.
However, stewardship is a biblical concept that far exceeds the singular area of money. There is a natural stewardship to which every person must ascribe, whether he or she wants to or not. The farmer must be a good steward of his soil; the cattleman must be a good steward of his cattle; the employer must be a good steward of the potential labor output of his employees. To be derelict in these areas, and many others, would only spell disaster.
But christian stewardship goes much deeper, for it is far more inclusive. The question to begin with this morning is what is the basis of our stewardship? No where in the Scriptures will you find stated in simple or more beautiful terms the sovereignty of God over his creation than in Psalms 24:1-2.
There verses carry us back to Genesis 1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” However, if we read Psalms 24:1-2 in its proper context, we will find that David is dealing with a troubling problem that had developed among his people. There are overtones of protest against the idea that God can be limited to a certain area like Jerusalem, or the sanctuary in which the people believed God was confined. They had closed God up in the Holy City and in the holy of holies, and they came at stated times to pay homage to him. They thought they were pacifying him with their ritual and ceremony and formal worship.
Perhaps David’s message would be equally appropriate today as it was in his day, for people have always preferred to contain God and thus delineate God’s involvement in human life. That is why we hear such statement as, “Well, I think religion has its place, but I don’t think you ought to let it make a fool of you!” In short, people prefer to “lock up God” in the church. Christian stewardship tears that door down and lets God out of the prison people would make for him. Christian stewardship declares that God is totally God everywhere and all the time.
Furthermore, there is a majesty in David’s concept of total stewardship. David makes a broad and sweeping confession that God’s dominion is unchangeable. By right of creation, the entire earth is his; and furthermore, those beings who inhabit the earth are also within the scope of his sovereign governorship. There is an added dimension here, however, that staggers the human mind. This almighty God, with full and complete power and authority to exercise his rights as Creator, has given people freedom to choose their destiny. People are free to rebel against or obey him.
This leads us naturally to the reason for our stewardship. Perhaps Paul understood Christian stewardship as no other Bible writer did. He wrote to the Corinthians: “What? Know ye not that your body is the temper of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). All through Scriptures we find that God works through a human body. It was in a body that man sinned; it is in a body that we sin. It was in a body that Jesus came to earth; it was in a body that he lived triumphantly and overcame sin; it was in a body that he died and rose again. Now, by his Spirit he comes to live in the bodies of his people. If Christians are truly joined to Christ in daily submission and obedience, they are therefore enabled by God’s grace to control their bodies. But this does not happen automatically.
Christians are predestined to arrive one day in heaven, to stand in God’s presence. That was settled once and for all when he rested our souls in the finished work of Christ on the cross. But still we are stewards of what goes on during the journey. And because we still reside in unredeemed bodies, subject to temptation and sin, our daily lives become battlegrounds where we must fight and strive everyday. This we should be driven to our knees daily to pray for strength from God and submission to his indwelling Spirit.
In short, the Christian body is the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit. The building in which the church assembles is not a sanctuary . It is merely an assembly room for the people of God. A sanctuary is where God’s Spirit abides! What is going on today in your sanctuary, Christian?
Having examined the basis and the reason for our stewardship, let us look briefly at the expression of our stewardship. Peter summed it up perfectly when he said: As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10). Peter said that every person has received this gift of grace. But this gift is useful and fulfills its purpose only as it is given away. Just as the manna that fell in the wilderness was not to be hoarded by the people lest it spoil, so the gift of grace God gives to each of his children cannot be hoarded.
God gave different gifts. They differ from person to person, they are as varied as the ability to sing or play or preach, to communicate the gospel to children, to be peacemaker, to be able to say the right word at the right time to soothe a troubled heart, to make money and use it for God’s glory, and on and on we could go.
It is totally unscriptural for one to say that he or she has no gift, for God has expressly declared that he has bestowed on all of his children a gift to be used, to be given away, for his glory. This, then, is how we express our stewardship-by giving ourselves away in the name and for the glory of Christ.
Peter adds that we are stewards of the “manifold” grace of God. This could be literally translated “the many colored grace of God.” this means that God’s grace fits every possible human needs. It expresses itself in an infinite number of ways. There is no need that cannot be met by the grace of God. And think of it, we are stewards of that grace!
The story is told of a man who God bless with so much resources that he could not give or share. The man was the tightest man ever known in his day and age. All his life, every time he got paid he took twenty dollars out of his paycheck and put it under his mattress. Then he got sick and was about to die. As he was dying, he said to his wife, “I want you to promise me one thing.” “Promise what?” she asked. “I want you to promise me that when I’m dead you’ll take my money from under the mattress & put it in my casket so that I can take it all with me.” He died, and his wife kept her promise. She went in and got all that money the day he died, went to the bank and deposited it, and wrote out a check and put it in his casket.”
So what do we have? We have the blessed and profound truth of the ultimate ownership of God! As Creator he owns it all; but in his sovereign purpose, he chose to give people freedom to be his stewards or his enemies. What kind of steward are you?
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