some thoughts on Stewardship

This sermon was based on Romans 5:15-21, 2 Corinthians 9:6-12, and John 10:10b.

 

“God can bless you with everything you need, and you will always have more than enough…”

I’ll be honest.  When I first realized that I was preaching for the kick-off of our “More Than Enough” Stewardship Campaign, I thought that there has GOT to be somebody better prepared to preach on stewardship.  I thought of every reason in the world that I was not the right person to talk about stewardship.  For example: I’ve never participated in planning or leading a stewardship campaign at any of the churches I’ve attended.  I don’t recall a single memorable stewardship sermon preached by previous pastors.  I’m balancing student loans, car payments, rent, and more on a modest income, making me a less-than-awe-inspiring model for giving totals.  I’ve been here at Nokomis Heights less than two months, which makes me a little uncomfortable about getting up in a pulpit and trying to inspire you to up your giving pledge for the year… especially since that pledge giving directly enables the intern position!  In short, I felt that I was up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

So what to do?  I worried and read my Bible and complained and prayed (which are often the same thing).  And you know what God does?  In the middle of me believing that I didn’t have what I needed to prepare this sermon, I kept rereading the theme text until it hit me.  “God can bless you with everything you need, and you will always have more than enough…” 

Don’t you just hate it when you’re making excuses for yourself, and the thing you’re avoiding comes along and takes away all your excuses?

Because even though I was sitting there feeling inadequate to preaching on stewardship, this theme passage comes along and says that “…you will always have more than enough…”

Alright.  If God says we have “more than enough,” it’s probably best if we believe God means it.  So I started to wonder: if God says we have “more than enough,” what does that say about God?

Seriously, what does it mean to hear that this is a God who tells us we have more than enough?  Sometimes, it seems like we are far from having abundance, let alone even enough to meet our needs from day to day.  Even if it is not our personal story, we know the stories of others who have had a home repossessed when mortgage payments got out of hand, or run out of grocery money before the next paycheck comes in, or dreaded birthdays and Christmas because they can’t afford to buy gifts for loved ones.  In a world where 46 million people in our own country live at or below the poverty line, how can we claim that we have “more than enough,” and, more importantly, how can GOD tell us that we have “more than enough”?  It sounds more like a Television preacher who promises a new set of golf clubs or designer purse if you trust and pray enough; it sounds a little like God is some kind of divine vending machine.  Is this some kind of joke?

I don’t think so.  Sure, when we hear this message as “each of you individually will have an abundance of all things,” we get cynical, and rightly so.  I do not have more than enough of everything.  This text, however, is not about ME having more than enough.  You see, in Greek, the language these letters were first written in, there are two separate words for “you.”  One is singular; the other is plural.  This is the “you” that really means something more like “y’all.”  So, if you’ll excuse me for sounding a bit Southern, this verse might be better translated something like this: “God can bless y’all with everything you need, and y’all will always have more than enough…”  (Speaking of TV preachers…)

This puts a whole new light on things.  Suddenly, instead of believing that I am entitled to have “more than enough” all for myself, this verse is about the ways that God has provided “more than enough” to all of God’s people as a whole.  I’ve often heard that despite problems with hunger and inadequate access to food, there is actually enough food on Earth to feed every person—we just don’t distribute it the way it needs to be.  God is a God who gives us “more than enough,” but what are we doing with it?  How does God’s abundance become our abundance?

Now, I’ll admit, it may be that you are still skeptical, still wondering if God is really always providing “more than enough.”  We know the story about Jesus taking enough food for a family meal and multiplying it to feed five thousand people.  We’ve heard of the Israelites in the wilderness, collecting the miraculous manna from heaven every day.  Perhaps we’ve even heard about the widow who feeds the prophet Elijah, and somehow her little jar of oil and little box of flour last a whole year.  But, we dare to ask, does God do abundant and miraculous things in our lives?  We see shelters scrambling to put a meal together for the homeless men, women, and children crowding their door.  We hear about refugees in other parts of the world who don’t have access to food and water every day.  When we realize that there really is “more than enough” to meet these needs, but that still those needs are being ignored, our declaration can feel hollow.  It’s easy to say that God is generous and extravagant, but do we actually experience that?

I say yes.  Perhaps not always in the material things that we buy and sell, but rather in the grace that is poured out freely on all people who call upon God’s name.  Romans 5:15 tells us about that gift of grace: “But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many.” 

We know that what we deserve because of our sin is death.  Over and over, the Bible makes it clear that God is holy, that God cannot tolerate sin, and that somehow God loves our sin-filled selves anyway.  In this passage from Romans, we hear that God’s free gift of grace “abounds.”  Bountiful grace is like an especially good spread at your Thanksgiving get-together, a surprising blowout victory for your favorite sports team, or being treated to an ice cream sundae with all the fixings.  It’s unexpected, unusual, and definitely undeserved. 

Grace is all that and more.  In middle school, I learned the acronym: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.  We can’t pay enough for the love and mercy shown to us by Jesus Christ—but we get to have it anyway.  What’s more, God doesn’t expect us to pay for it.  The cost of salvation is paid in full by Jesus Christ.  The Romans reading reminds us that even when sin increases, grace abounds all the more.  Both Epistle readings teach us that this gift of grace is so abundant that it can cover every sin.  God loves to give to us, giving freely so that we truly do have “more than enough” grace for all our lives.  It is “more than enough” to make us righteous people of God.

This “righteousness” that Paul says “endures forever” is given to us, by God, because that’s who God is.  God could choose to be the only righteous one, the only holy one, but instead God chooses to freely give us what it takes to make us into righteous people.  God wants us to be united with God’s self by the grace that is given so freely to us.  And when one person stumbles, the “y’all” of the Body of Christ has plenty of grace to share.

And if that promise doesn’t feel like enough, when we worry that somehow it doesn’t apply to us, that we don’t have “more than enough,” we hear the words of Christ that startle us out of our complacency.  “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  That “they” means you.  Jesus himself affirms God’s extravagant gift of grace.  You have been given the free gift of abundant life by a generous God.  You have more than enough.  Who are you going to share it with?

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One Response to some thoughts on Stewardship

  1. Pingback: Really Recommended Posts 11/29/13- Mormonism, Stewardship, Creationism, and MORE! | J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason"

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