The Stewardship of Giving

Steve Viars November 3, 2007 Luke 19:11-27

 

- How many of you would agree with me that the dipstick was a really good invention?...

- instead of trying to guess how much oil is in your engine, or steering fluid, or washer fluid...or whatever you want to check...isn’t it great to be able to open the hood of your car, pull up the appropriate dipstick...check it and know exactly where you stand on that particular fluid level...

- I don’t think we’d say that it was the greatest invention of all time...but it is good to be able to know exactly where you stand when it comes to the fluid levels in your car...

- and with newer cars, you sometimes don’t even need the dipsticks because a computer monitors the levels and tells you when you’re low...

- but the principle is the same...it’s good to have things in your life where you know exactly where you stand...the beauty and precision of mathematics...

- wouldn’t it be great if that was also true for the Christian life...if there were just certain dipsticks that you could pull out and tell where you stood in your relationship with the Lord...

- Christianity can be very subjective...very squishy...

- sometimes folks can kind of drift along believing things are fine when they’re not...

- or believing things aren’t fine when they really are...

- wouldn’t it be great if there were some Christian life dipsticks...some areas to test in a more objective way to determine how we’re doing?...

- and I hope you would say “yes”...because I hope you would say that if there is any area of your life that you want to be doing well in...it is your relationship to the Lord...

- please tell me that that is a lot more important than the condition of your bowling score...

- or the record of your favorite sports team...

- or the “up-to-dateness” of your kitchen cabinets or your living room carpet...

- you want your relationship with Christ to be where it ought to be...and to be in a better condition than it was a year ago...

- I think we would also say this...there are some dipsticks...

- there are some objective tests...

- you could look at simply the amount of time you spend in God’s Word and prayer...that will tell you something...those are measuring sticks...

- you could think about the condition of your relationships...and while that’s imprecise...you can take some sort of gauge of whether you are allowing the Lord to help you build more Christ-centered relationships or not...

- you could pull out the “witnessing” dipstick...and just ask yourself in the last year---how many times did you try to tell someone else about Christ...

- these may not be quite as precise as “you’re a quart low” or “the level’s just right”...but they tell you something...

- now, would you like me to tell you about another stewardship dipstick?...an objective test that you can take to help you evaluate how things are going between you and the Lord?...

- some of you know what I’m going to say already – because you know it’s true --- the answer is – the way you handle money...

- this morning I’d like to study the matter of The Stewardship of Giving...

- with that in mind, would you open your Bible to Luke chapter 19...page 63 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...

- while you’re turning there, let me just make a few disclaimers...

1. If you are visiting with us today, I should probably tell you that I speak on the topic of giving about once per year...so if this is your first Sunday, in God’s plan you just happened to be here on the one Sunday of this year where I chose to address this topic...

2. On the other hand, I think I need to say that I’m not the least bit concerned about doing so because I know that the average person who attends this church wants to hear the whole counsel of God...and the Bible says a lot about money...so if I avoided this topic for whatever reason I would be displeasing the Lord...

3. Ultimately this area of your life, just like any other aspect of stewardship, is not between you and a pastor, or you and a church...but between you and the Lord...

- that was why it was so important last week to begin stewardship month with a study of Mark 12:1-12 – where the theme of that parable was found in the phrase --- Mark 12:6 – They will respect my son.

4. Please also keep in mind that we believe in progressive sanctification around here – in other words, growth is a process...the question isn’t – are you batting 1000 in this particular area of your life...but instead, are you heading in the right direction?...are you getting better?...

- now, before we read our text, there’s one more thing I need to check on...what’s that?...your homework...how did you do on your homework?...were you good stewards of your stewardship homework?...there were three assignments...

1. Memorize the...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.

2. Completely read the Stewardship brochure.

3. Get your tickets to the stewardship banquet

- we’re going to be especially focusing on the parable in Luke 19:11-27, but to understand it in its context, let’s begin at verse 1 to set the same stage that Jesus did...[read Luke 19:1-27]

- let’s divide these verses this way:

I. The Background of Wise Financial Stewardship.

II. The Focus of Wise Financial Stewardship.

III. The Challenge of Wise Financial Stewardship.

I. The Background of Wise Financial Stewardship – Compassionate Ministry to Others.

- we all find ourselves in a similar position to these ten servants in verse 13 --- God has entrusted each of us with money---He has built that principle into His world...

- and we all have to make a myriad of choices about what to do with what He has entrusted to us...and we all struggle there---let’s be honest about that...

- but the parable of the minas, and the choices we make about financial stewardship, cannot be properly understood apart from the delightful and incredibly instructive story of Zaccheus.

- so let’s walk through that quickly so we’re prepared to do business with the instructions that follow...all of it starts by understanding...

A. The condition of Zaccheus.

- what does the Scripture tell us about him?

1. He was a wicked man.

- v. 2 – a tax collector

- tax collectors were the scum of the earth...in that culture that phrase was synonymous with being a thief and a cheat...

- that’s part of what can be misleading about the little children’s song we teach in reference to this story – Zaccheus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he...that’s true...but that’s not the emphasis...the issue was...he was known for being wicked...

2. He was a wealthy man.

- what does the end of verse 2 say – v. 2 – and he was rich

- nothing intrinsically wrong with that but it becomes very important that he derived his riches by cheating others...

3. He was a powerful man.

- v. 2 – he was a chief tax collector

- so not only did he rob and cheat people, he led a bunch of other guys who did the same thing...but, the Bible also says...

4. He was an empty man.

- v. 3 – was trying to see who Jesus was

- time doesn’t allow us to do this today, but there is an underlying theme throughout this entire section of Scripture on what people were seeing...or how they viewed their situation or those around them...

- the point is – Zaccheus’ riches did not satisfy his empty heart...

- so, what did Jesus do?...I don’t want anything to do with these people?...the way Christ responded to this man is a key theme in the story...

B. The compassion of the Savior.

- v. 5 – Hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.

- in other words, Zaccheus, there is a place for you...I’m not turned off by you, I’m not sickened by you, I’m not going to separate myself from you...

- I have to stay at your house...

- I bet the religious people around really appreciated that?...

C. The response of the crowd.

- Luke 19:7 - When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

- as if they weren’t...can you feel the self-righteousness?...it’s practically dripping off the page...

- the contrast between them and Christ---and what they had committed their lives to and what He had committed His life to could not be more stark...

- He believed there was hope for Zaccheus---He was worthy of an investment...[did you catch that?...] – to the crowd a sinner like Zaccheus was hopeless...

- and the beauty is what happened in the very next verse...

- and we don’t know all the details---but Zaccheus placed in faith in the Messiah’s message and he began immediately changing...

D. The transformation of Zaccheus

- Luke 19:8 - Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.”

- he understood immediately that if he really knew Christ, that was going to change forever the way he viewed his financial resources...

- and how does the story end?...by Jesus reminding the crowd of...

E. The mission of our Lord.

- Luke 19:10 - For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

- in the language that is about to be used in the coming verses –- that’s the “business” He’s in...

- the problem with the crowd was that they didn’t care about people who were lost...Jesus did...in fact He cared about that more than anything else...

- [could tell about the phone call you received while preparing this message from some woman outside our church who was all wound up about something we were doing over at the community center that didn’t meet her view of what was right on a particular area of Christian liberty – cf. compared to the guys playing ball the night before...]

- that is why the first words in verse 11 become so critical to all of this...v. 11 – While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell them a parable...

- and what is the overall point?...

II. The Focus of Wise Stewardship – Accomplishing the King’s Business while He is Away.

- now the story switches to the disciples...

A. The mindset of the disciples had to be changed.

- what does the end of verse 11 tell us about them?

- v. 11 – they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately.

- why would that matter to them?...because they were guilty of two characteristics that have to be addressed before wise stewardship will ever be achieved...

- selfishness and instant gratification...

- if the kingdom appeared, they believed they would be in positions of authority and honor...and if that was the case, the sooner the better...

- you’ve got Jesus loving people who are lost [even ones as wicked as Zaccheus]...the crowd hating people who were lost, and the disciples ignoring people who were lost...’

- and Jesus’ point to his guys was...slow down fellas...there’s nothing about this that’s going to be immediate, and there’s nothing about this ought to be selfish...

- wise stewards get that...that we have the privilege and we have the responsibility of accomplishing the King’s business while He is away...

- and I realize that you might say --- PV, I’m not comfortable with you referring to ministry with the word “business”...isn’t that exactly what Jesus does repeatedly in this parable?...and remember, all of this is a package...these verses fit together...

- so Jesus is trying to teach them how to be effective while He’s away...so how does the story go?

B. The king entrusted them with resources and with an assignment.

1. The resources – ten minas each.

- that was part of their currency – that would have been like 3 months salary

2. The assignment – v. 13 – Do business with this until I come back.

- now, please keep in mind...this wasn’t a bedtime story to put the disciples to sleep...there was no question who the nobleman was who was going off to receive a kingdom – that was Christ himself...

- and there’s no question what His business was...He had just told them that His mission was to seek and save that which was lost...

- in other words, go find more Zaccheus’...

- use the financial resources that with which you have been entrusted to accomplish the mission that you have been given.

- well, well, well – I wonder if we could find any contemporary applications from all of that....

C. People like you and me are in the same position as the ten servants.

1. Everything we have has been given to us by God.

- James 1:17 - Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

- that is a summary of the first 2 factors of stewardship...

- if you are familiar with the passage in James, you know that he goes on to say that...James 1:18 - In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

- that is referring to a practice in the Old Testament where at the beginning of the harvest, the farmers would make an offering to God from the very best of the crop, at the very beginning of the harvest...and by doing so they were saying that they recognized that everything they had belonged to God, and that they could trust Him with the rest of the harvest...

- so always in God’s economy...

2. Our use of finances becomes a test.

-  the nobleman, when he returned and had his servants give an account said...

- “v. 17 – because you have been faithful in a little thing”...

- and you might read that and say – a little thing?...he was a given a mina and he returned 10 -- how is that a little thing?....

- and the answer is – in comparison to the future ministry and impact the king had for his servant...this was just the beginning...

- and the reason for that is...

3. Because it reveals the nature of your heart.

- Luke 12:34 - For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

- the way the faithful stewards handled their finances said something about what they thought of the character of the king and the nature of His mission...

4. The question that every child of God has to answer is, are you investing your financial resources in a way that advances the mission of the king?

- and that’s really...

III. The Challenge of Wise Stewardship – Multiplying What the King has Entrusted to You.

- here’s a key question this morning...regarding your finances, does God get the first fruits, or does God get the leftovers?

- one of the most tragic passages in the Bible is Malachi 3:8, where God is speaking to His people and He says:

- Malachi 3:8 - Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me!

- and of course their response is...But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’

- and God’s answer is...In tithes and offerings.
- they revealed that they didn’t love God and they weren’t concerned about accomplishing His business and that was demonstrated by their checkbook...

- if you checked that particular dipstick in their life...it was objectively clear that their relationship with the Lord was not what it should have been...

- now, you might say...what is tithing?...that means giving 10% of your income to the Lord?...

- and you might say – but wasn’t that something just in the OT law?...

- tithing was part of the way God interacted with His people long before the law...

- even as early as the days of Abraham in Genesis 18...hundreds of years before the giving of the OT law, we read about God allowing Abraham to win a marvelous battle, and when Abraham met a priest of God, one of the first things he did was offer a tenth of all of the spoils to this priest in obedience to God...

- now, in the NT, we see that as simply a starting place...obviously we are going to be more excited about the blood of Jesus than an OT saint would be about the blood of a sheep or a goat...

- but that is what the financial aspect of your stewardship commitment is all about...let me ask you to take that out and let’s talk about it...

- thankfully, our capital campaigns for the community center and equipping Vision of Hope are winding down...some are completing those commitments in the next few weeks and we need that to happen so we can close the books successfully on those projects...

- and as we move forward, we are simply asking all of our people to think about their finances in terms of “tithes and offerings” just like the Scripture does...

- and the way it works from a budget perspective...our tithes go to support the regular ministries of the church...all of the things churches typically do...and we want those ministries carried out with excellence...and in God’s economy, that involves money...

- it is not easy to tithe...but it says something about the way we intend to trust God [like one man said to me once, my wife and I are convinced that we can do better with 90% of our money with God’s blessing, than 100% of our money without it]....so we do that because we should...

- but, in the providence of God, our church has been blessed with some extra ministries...like Faith Christian School, Faith Global Ministries and what we are doing in Moldova, Faith Community Ministries, Faith Bible Seminary, and Vision of Hope...

- and we are asking everybody in our family to take the offerings side of this – what we do beyond tithing just because we want to...and designate that additional giving to one of those ministries to help our church fulfill our financial responsibilities to help those extra ministries stay vibrant and strong...

- it’s very much like going to buy a car...there’s the base model...nothing wrong with that...

- but most of us in that situation would say – without being foolish or extravagant, we’d like to have a few extras...we’d like to have air conditioning...we’d like to have a radio or a CD player...

- and we understand that those cost a bit more...

- we believe that if God came to us right now and said – the privilege of having FCS-yes/no-understanding that a yes is going to cost a bit more...

- the privilege of having a special impact in the country of Moldova...etc.

- I believe every one of us would say...we’re willing to invest a bit more in order to be a church that is able to offer some special ministries that we believe are very valuable and important...

- a lot of this comes down to what you think of people like Zaccheus, and whether you want to invest the “minas” that God has entrusted to you into accomplishing the King’s mission with those who are lost...

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