Based on the fourth characteristic of a healthy church in Take Your Church’s Pulse.
Theme: God entrusts us with resources to use for His kingdom purposes.
Goal: To use all our resources for God’s kingdom purposes.
Need: Divided hearts.
People of God, as we have been taking our pulse, we have seen how God uses a clear and inspiring vision to motivate His people to action, how Jesus gives us leaders to prepare us for service, and how each of us has received gifts to serve the whole body of Christ. Today we are going to look closer at the resources God has given us to use for His kingdom purposes. When I say the word “stewardship,” what comes to your mind? The first reference to stewardship in the Bible is in Genesis 1.
(Read Genesis 1:28)
When God said “rule over ...” He meant take care of my creation. In other words, be good “stewards” of what I have given you. And Adam and Eve did that for a time. But soon their hearts became divided. The serpent took advantage of this and offered a new plan for Adam and Eve.
(Read Genesis 3:1-7)
Their hearts were divided because they no longer wanted to seek God’s kingdom purposes by being good stewards of God’s creation. Instead they decided they wanted to do things their own way. They wanted to call the shots, so they rebelled against God. And ever since then, when we talk about “stewardship,” our hearts are divided. Jesus knew this, so He spoke to us about our divided hearts.
(Read Matthew 6:19-34)
God entrusts us with resources to use for His kingdom purposes. The problem is that in our divided hearts, we look for ways to use these resources for ourselves. So the first thing Jesus deals with when He discusses our “treasures” is our divided hearts.
(Read Matthew 6:19-21)
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. People of God, where are our hearts today? Are they focused on earth and the things of earth, or are they focused on heaven and the plans of heaven, i.e. God’s kingdom purposes? Jesus says we must make a choice.
(Read Matthew 6:24)
Then after Jesus makes His point abundantly clear, He offers direct application.
(Read Matthew 6:25-34)
Worry is a symptom that our hearts are focused on the wrong thing. In order to see the crux of the argument, let’s look closely at verses 32-33.
(Read verse 32a)
Pagans run after all these things. How do non-believers live? In today’s world, non-believers focus on the things of earth. Money is too often their pursuit; money and things. They pursue things thinking it will bring them joy and fulfillment, but it doesn’t. It only causes more worry. This is how the non-believing world behaves. So what about us? What should our priority be?
(Read verse 32b-33)
Jesus calls us to two things: trust God and seek FIRST His kingdom and righteousness. First, trust God. “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” Do we trust God to provide all that we need? If so, Jesus says, there is a way we can prove it. And this is the second thing Jesus calls us to do.
Second, “Seek FIRST His kingdom and His righteousness.” That’s it! The summary Jesus gives of the law - “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself” - is contained in this one call. “Seek FIRST His kingdom and His righteousness.” God’s kingdom is God’s purposes for His creation - namely it is God’s desire that all people might be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. God created people for Himself. He created us to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him, to glorify Him, and to enjoy Him forever. That purpose was temporarily thwarted by Adam and Eve and by the sin of all of us who have followed in their footsteps. As the scripture says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All have sinned, all have fallen short, but Jesus never sinned and Jesus did not fall short. And so the scripture continues, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” God’s kingdom purposes are His desire that all people might be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. - Remember “the joy” set before Jesus? Remember the throne with all nations gathered?
This is God’s kingdom purpose - that all people would love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.
God’s righteousness is not simply individual moral goodness; it is right relationships. It is right relationships with one another, and right relationships with the rest of God’s creation. Now, it is possible that right relationships will be fostered by individual moral goodness, but individual moral goodness is not the extent of what Jesus means when He says, “seek God’s righteousness.” The Old Testament equivalent to this application of love God and love neighbor is found in Micah 6:6-8.
(Read Micah 6:6-8)
Act justly = love your neighbor = seek righteousness (i.e. right relationships) Love mercy = as you have received mercy, pass it on. Walk humbly = loving God and demonstrating love by doing as He says. This is the critical thing Jesus wants us to know and LIVE. It’s not good enough just to know what is right, we must also DO it.
So what does this say to us today? “Appropriate Stewardship of Resources” is what we are asked to evaluate today. But I want us to realize this is more than just conservation, or reduce, reuse, recycle. And it is more than just giving money to relieve our guilt. Our resources encompass everything we have. It is us. It is our lives; our time, talents, treasures, temples, and our call to transmit the truth to others. It is everything, and it begins in our hearts. So as you answer these questions, think about our hearts. When you look across this congregation, when you look at its leadership, and when you look at yourself, are our hearts in the right place?
People of God, all that we have comes from God so all that we have belongs to God. If our hearts are directed in the right way (loving God FIRST), then our resources will be used in the right way ... for God’s glory and Christ’s kingdom! Amen.