The Foundation of Stewardship

Steve Viars October 27, 2007 Mark 12:1-12

 

- This morning we’re beginning our annual Stewardship Month...

- for the past 30 years, each fall we’ve taken 4-5 Sundays to emphasize various aspects of this particular topic from the Word of God...

- humanly speaking, many of us would say that Stewardship Month has been a tremendous help in our spiritual growth as individual followers of Christ and in our families as well...

- from a corporate perspective, we would say that this church is what it is [again humanly speaking] in part because there are so many faithful stewards...people who have examined what God’s Word says on these issues, and then chosen to order their lives accordingly...

- I realize that many here today are relatively new...the Lord has been blessing us with approximately 150 new members each year for the past several years...

- along with that this fall we have experienced record numbers of people coming and hearing the Word of God, something for which we are very thankful...

- plus, even for those who have been studying such ideas for years, the Scripture is clear about this---there are certain truths that we should constantly reinforce and repeat---so this is good for all of us...

‑ a key passage to get us started is -1 Corinthians 4:2 - Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

- that is one of the words that God would use to describe you, if you are truly a follower of Jesus Christ—He would call you one of His stewards...

- now, I realize that is not a commonly used word today...but in Bible times, it was very familiar...

- here’s the picture...often landowners would have to travel, and because of the methods used in that period of history...sometimes the person would be gone for an extended period of time...

- so that landowner would select his most trustworthy employee, or slave...and that person would be given the responsibility of managing the farm, or the vineyard, or whatever it might be in the master’s absence...

- that is why the Greek word translated “steward” is oikonomenos

- oikos – house

- menos – participial ending, used in this case as a noun

- literally “housing one”...

- the point is – the steward is in charge of certain responsibilities, tasks, duties while the master is away...

- so it was a position of trust and a position of honor...

- God says to every follower of Christ – that’s what you’re like...you are a steward.

- now, historically, we have tried to boil this down to...Four Key Principles of Stewardship

1. God owns everything, you own nothing.

2. God entrusts you with everything you have.

3. You can either increase or diminish what God has given you; God wants you to increase it.

4. You can be called into account at any time, and it may be today.

- if those principles are new to you, I would like to encourage you this week to seek to memorize them...

- one of the important observations we need to make is that this is not simply a discussion about finances...sometimes people equate stewardship with money...

- finances are involved, but that is just one piece of the puzzle...

- this month we’re talking about all that God has entrusted to you...and the list is practically endless...

- mind [the ability to think], tongue [the ability to communicate], personal growth, friendships, spiritual gifts, Bible, prayer, opportunities to witness, family, schoolwork...so anything that fits under the heading of “God gave that to you --- God trusted you with that”...is fair game during stewardship month...

- now, please think about this as a package...here’s what comprises Stewardship Month...

1. Stewardship testimonies– to hear about how men and women in our church family have tried to be faithful with what God has given them...

2. ABF lessons[develop]

3. Morning messages– will study different aspects of what God has entrusted to us...

4. Commitment Card– it will be in your bulletin starting next week – where we encourage you to consider what specific steps God might want you to take to grow in your stewardship...it might be greater faithfulness in prayer or study of the Word, it might be in a willingness to serve in one of our many ministries around here, it might be a greater financial commitment...but it is important to understand that stewardship doesn’t just happen...it is the result of making decisions...making commitments...

- and I should also say that this is for members and non-members alike...

- we understand that quite a few folks are still making up their minds about membership and we understand that that is a process...and you might look at that commitment card and say – I’m not comfortable completing all of that---that’s fine, complete the part that, between you and the Lord, you believe is most appropriate for you and the next steps in your growth...

5. Stewardship Banquet on November 18th...

- we haven’t done this for four years because it became so expensive to hold it at an off-site location...

- with the community center, we are able to do it at a much more reasonable cost...

- in essence, it’s our church family thanksgiving dinner...

- we’ll have time to reflect on all the Lord has done for us this year...

- we’ll have a great meal together...

- we’ll commit ourselves to growing faithfulness in the days ahead...

- we have a tremendous speaker coming...Dr. Charles Ware---if you’ve never heard Dr. Ware, you are in for a treat...and of course we’ll also have some great music...

- that event too is for members and non-members alike...

- I’m asking every person attending our church to come...there will be a nursery and children’s programs...the banquet itself is for folks high school age and up...

- but it will be a highlight of the year and you won’t want to miss it...

- now, to kick all of this off, I’d like to invite you to open your Bible to Mark chapter 12...[page 37 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you]...

- we’re talking this morning about The Foundation of Stewardship...

- this passage describes an event that occurs during the passion week, the final days before Jesus Christ was crucified...the religious leaders were questioning Christ’s ownership and authority...

- and Jesus, the master teacher tells them a parable to help them understand what poor stewards they had been of what God had given...

- read Mark 12:1-12...

- the Principle here is – The foundation of stewardship is a growing love for the Son.

- with the time we have remaining, let’s look for 5 characteristics of stewards who honor the Owner’s Son.

I. Good Stewards are Appreciative of God’s Provision.

- before we think about how these verses would apply to us, it is important to take a minute and consider...

A. The historical context.

- there’s no question in the minds of the people hearing this story who/what Jesus is talking about...you see that in verse 12...[they were seeking to seize Him...for they understood that He spoke the parable against them...]

- the nation of Israel was the vineyard...God had chosen them and blessed them in unique ways...the chief of which was communicating His will to them through the prophets...

- but throughout their history they had rejected God and shown their disdain by killing his prophets...

- that’s why the book of Hebrews summarizes the treatment God’s spokesmen received with words like...Hebrews 11:37-38 - They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

- but in verses 1-2, the emphasis is on all of the provision God had made for them...

- He had entrusted them a land, He had multiplied their seed, and He had blessed them like no other nation...and that’s...

B. An important emphasis in this parable.

- Jesus sets this up in verse 1 to make it clear---this owner gave the tenants everything they could possibly need...

- he put a wall around it to protect the investment...

- he of course had a winepress but also had a lower vat dug in the rock where the juice from the grapes could be collected...

- he built a tower where the grapes and the wine could be stored, and where a sentry could be placed to watch over all they had been given...

- and then, as was so often done in that historical context, he leased it out to a group of vinegrowers...

- and part of what is so heinous about what they subsequently did is---look at everything the owner gave them to make their task most achievable...

- well, what does that have to do with us...

C. An important basis of stewardship.

- God probably hasn’t given you a wall, or a vat, or a tower...

- but He’s given you a lot, hasn’t He?...

- and part of what we would encourage you to do this month is to make a list of all the ways that God has blessed you...all of the things that He has given you...all of the ways He has set you up to be able to successfully accomplish the task He has for you...

- there is a direct relationship between gratitude and stewardship...

- that’s why the apostle Paul said – Romans 2:4 – the goodness of God leads to repentance.

- as we reflect on all that God has entrusted to us, the logical response should be to do everything we can to be faithful to the trust...

- and please note the other important emphasis of the story...

D. Even when the master if gone.

- it’s the “v. 1 – and went on a journey” part that is challenging...

- none of this would have occurred had the master been present...

- but that is often when a servant’s true character comes to the surface---not how he acts when the boss is right there, but the choices he makes when the boss is absent...

- and that is true for people like you and me today---Jesus is not physically here---and the choices we make about what we are going to do with what He has entrusted to us says a lot about our character...

II. Good Stewards are Responsive to God’s Expectations.

- things are fine until verse 2...

A. The owner rightly expected a return on his investment.

- he sent one of his slaves to receive some of the produce of the vineyard from the vinegrowers...

- undoubtedly that was part of the deal all along...

- there would have been no reason for him to make the investment in the first place unless there was a means of collecting a reasonable return...

- but studying this historically helps us understand that the issue wasn’t just receiving a particular financial return from that season’s crop – it was also to establish ownership and authority in that vineyard...

- what we learn from history is that there were all sorts of secular court cases where similar arrangements had been made but the owner for whatever reason did not make regular collections and the people who rented it went to court and tried to prove that the land actually belonged to them...under the notion that possession is 9/10ths of the law....

- we actually had that same thing happen here...as part of our construction work we had to have a boundary survey...and the surveyors pointed out that one of our neighbors had planted grass and was maintaining a fair amount of property that belonged to us...

- I said – that’s not really a big deal, we don’t need that right now...

- he said – you still have to communicate with him, even if you allow him to continue to do it, because even today in this culture, if a person maintains a piece of ground for an extended period of time with no intervention by the owner, he may have a legal claim to it that could hold up in court...

- so this owner was simply asking the vinegrowers, with whom he had been so generous by setting them up in the business, to now give him his portion of the fruit...

- now you might say, what does that have to do with us?...well, if you know Christ, why do you think He saved you?...

B. God made us part of His family for a reason.

- John 15:16 - You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

- one of the greatest reasons to become a follower of Christ is that you now have the ability to live a life that is fruitful...

- who among us does not long to make a difference in this world...to be a blessing and a help to someone else...in the name of Christ...

- to make a difference not just for time, but for eternity...

- the point here is – God has every reason in the world to expect people like you and me to do something with what He has given us...to produce fruit for His honor and His glory...and the fact that that is even possible is a marvelous privilege and a marvelous blessing...

- that is one of the reasons why Stewardship Month is especially important this year...

1. To help all of us reflect on all that God has given us...

- [that’s why we’re asking every person, church member or not, to attend the banquet---an opportunity to pour out our thanksgiving and amazement at what God has given...]

2. To commit ourselves to better use what He has given in the days ahead...

- the community center is not done, it is just starting...

- the outdoor athletic fields, the skate park...all of the community based programs...they are just starting...

- and there is no question about this – more stewards are needed...

- sometimes people look at us and say – Faith doesn’t need me [develop]...

3. To prepare ourselves for the all-important strategic planning process next year.

- if you are new here, you may not know this...but we believe very strongly in the value of long range strategic planning...

- so for the past 10 years, we have had 2 5 year strategic planning cycles...

- the one we put together next year, to guide us for the following 5 years is extremely important...we need you to be part of the effort...and people who understand that the Master has a right to expect a return on His investment are exactly the kind of people we need on the team...

- too often church are engaged in busyness or activity without an appropriate eye on results, product, mission...[develop – that would never cut it at Caterpillar or SIA]...

III. Good Stewards are Amazed by God’s Patience.

- obviously one of the main emphases here is...

A. The shocking behavior of the vinegrowers.

1. They beat the first slave and sent him away empty-handed.

2. They wounded the second slave in the head and treated him shamefully.

3. They killed the third slave.

4. With many others, beat some and killed others.

- and you can’t come up with words strong enough to describe what these people had done.

- there was no recognition or appreciation for what had been given to them...

- and no belief that they had any responsibility to return fruit to the owner who had invested so much in them, and trusted them in his absence...

- Martin Luther – If I were God, and the world had treated me as it treated him, I would kick the wretched thing to pieces.

- but what is set in stark contrast to their behavior is...

B. The unusual patience of the owner.

- under normal circumstances, the master would not have given his servants multiple opportunities to make the right choice...but that is a significant part of the point...

- Jesus is not just illustrating any master...He is illustrating the divine patience of His Father...

- Psalm 86:15 - But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.

- and how was that patience most supremely demonstrated?

- Mark 12:6 - He had one more to send, a beloved son; he sent him last of all to them, saying, They will respect my son.

- C.H. Spurgeon – If you reject Him, He answers you with tears; if you wound Him, He bleeds out cleansing; if you kill Him, He dies to redeem; if you bury Him, He rises again to bring resurrection. Jesus is love made manifest.”

- and friend, that is really the major point we want to make as we begin this stewardship month... The foundation of stewardship is a growing love for the Son.

- for some, that truth should be greatly encouraging...because there will be a number of people here who are making significant strides in your stewardship, and you can look back over this past year, and see clear progress...clear ways you have produced spiritual fruit [develop]

- if that’s true, its evidence that you have respect for God’s Son.

- but can I be honest...for some here...the truth is that you have not taken steps toward greater fruitfulness...you have not recognized God’s authority in your life...and His ownership...you have taken what He has entrusted and used it on yourself as if it belonged to you...and while that is bad for many reasons, it is especially bad because it what it says about your true view of God’s Son...

- of course, the sad truth is that the men in this story didn’t respect the son, they murdered him...

- C. H. Spurgeon – You put your finger in the eye of God, when you slight His son.

- Jesus poses the question in verse 9 – What will the owner of the vineyard do?...

- and in the parallel account in the gospel of Matthew, we learn that the people were so into the story that many of them had not yet made the connection of who Jesus was talking about... Matthew 21:41 - They said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.”

- that too motivates us...

IV. Good Stewards are Subdued by God’s Judgment.

- we understand, both biblically and logically, that if God is truly holy, there must be a final reckoning for those who have chosen to reject the forgiveness of His Son...

- and we would never want anyone in our sphere of influence, in our neighborhood, in our community to ever face God as judge if all they have to show is their own righteousness...

- 2 Corinthians 5:11 - Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.

- thankfully, that is not the way the story ends...because the vineyard is given to others, and the stone the builders rejected becomes the chief cornerstone...

V. Good Stewards are Encouraged by God’s Triumph

- cf. the joy of playing on a winning team...

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video