The past five Sunday sermons were about stewardship, covering five truths for living into Reformation. We call these truths the five “solas,” five non-negotiables, that proclaim the Gospel Truth.
Stewardship is about stewarding what God entrusts to us, our time, talents, and treasures, to ensure that we effectively steward the biggest treasure entrusted to us by God, a story, the Gospel Truth.
Five core Truths steward the Truth God entrusts to us:
• Scripture alone
• Faith alone
• Grace alone
• Christ alone
• To God’s glory alone
Holy Scripture is our highest authority. We are saved by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ. We are saved by the grace of God alone through faith. Jesus Christ alone is our Lord. And all of this is to God’s glory alone.
These five core Truths form the core of reformation, whether reformation of Christian Churches, or reformation of Christian people.
The Holy Spirit, through Scripture, shows us our sin, turns us towards God’s grace, creates faith in us, and that faith is in Jesus Christ, not in ourselves or any others, only in Jesus, and this is all for God’s glory, and the glory of no other, not even ourselves.
These five core Truths call us to reform our stewardship of relationships with God and others, they also call us to reform the stewardship of our pocketbook.
Scripture alone tells us: Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you. Deuteronomy 16:17
Faith alone tells us: No one can serve two masters. Either they will hate the one and love the other, or they will be devoted to the one and despise the other. Matthew 6:24
Grace alone tells us: Give to the one who asks you, and from the one who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. Matthew 5:42
Christ alone tells us: For if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. Romans 14:8
To God’s glory alone tells us: Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God…command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 1 Timothy 6:17-18
Jesus says, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
Therefore, since God’s Word says, “Make an offering of ten percent, a tithe, of all the produce which grows in your fields year after year. Bring this into the Presence of God, your God, at the place God designates for worship…In this way you will learn to live in deep reverence before God, your God, as long as you live;” let’s ponder whether our pocketbooks might need reform.
God’s Word says, “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is God who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”
And God’s Word warns us, “Will a person rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings.”
Luther says, “Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God.”
What does this mean? It means your heart always goes where you put God’s money.
To this end—imagine that God gives you ten apples.
1. One is for mortgage or rent.
2. Two is for car payment and car repair.
3. Three is for car insurance.
4. Four is for homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.
5. Five is for health insurance.
6. Six is for groceries.
7. Seven is for utility bill and household needs.
8. Eight is for gasoline/diesel for car.
9. Nine is for clothing, plus health and beauty aids.
10. Number ten is God’s apple—-God gives us ten—and asks that we hold back the tenth for God to be used for God’s purpose.
We have 9 apples to meet our needs and a tenth apple given by God to be given back to God.
But what happens hubby wants new tires for hubby’s pickup truck—tires more expense than our apple designated for our car? Where will the money come from? It can’t come from these other apples because they’re spoken for? So, what do we do? I’ll tell you what we do—–hubby really wants that set o’ tires! So, take a bite out of God’s apple. God’ll never miss it!
It’s Valentine’s Day. Wifey-poo eyes a tennis bracelet—-she needs it—- hubby knows that every kiss begins with Kay, he has to get it for her. He must! But the price is beyond the apple budgeted for household needs—and the other apples are spoken for—-but wifey-poo needs that tennis bracelet—the one with the princess cut sapphires. So, what’s a guy to do? I’ll tell you what he’ll do—–wifey-poo needs that bracelet! So, take a bite out of God’s apple. It’s only stealing from God—take a big bite—‘cause that’s a pricey bracelet!
Dear Jane, sweet 16, got here because more than just a kiss begins with Kay. And she’s a good child, so smart, has daddy wrapped around her finger—was getting Dad’s pickup truck with the snazzy tires but wants a shiny Mercedes-Maybach S600—convertible if they make it. Mama and Daddy kick the idea around, know she’ll be fine with the truck, but that she’ll be angry with ‘em about not getting the car—and since sixteen comes only once—-she just has to have the S600. And since baby girl’s car costs more than the apple budgeted for car payments and repair, where can the parents go for the gold? Where will they go? Right! They’ll take a bite out of God’s golden delicious apple! Baby girl needs her car, and it’s high-end, so take a few bites of God’s apple!
And while you’re at it—–
Take a bite for UNC season tickets,
Take a bite for the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra Concert series,
Snag a bite for Summer beach vacation!
Heck—-don’t stop there—it’s vacation! Take a bite for a new Seadoo! And once we’ve eaten some more of God’s apple by tricking out our Seadoo, and living large, let’s give God what’s left.
Speaking of that—–what’s left for God?
Just the core—God gives us ten apples, asks us to hold back one for God’s purposes—and we give God the core.
Jesus says, “You cannot serve both God and Money,” and says, “ where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If this ten apples story hits home with us, then our pocketbooks are crying out for reform, because clearly God’s not our core priority. And that’s the gospel truth.
(This sermon is based on a tract that once circulated in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. A similar one is found at churchsupplier.com. I am indebted to the Rev. Pr. George Rushe of SC who preached a version of this sermon while I was doing field work.)