Thursday, May 26, 2005

Stewardship -- Its True Meaning

A child, attending church one Sabbath found himself strangely stirred by the speaker's words and uplifted by the music. So deep was his internal disequilibrium, that he called on God, and received Jesus as his personal Saviour. His decision was unknown to anyone but himself. Shortly afterward, a tithe and offering call was
made. Wanting so much to give something, he looked in his pocket and found only a white blank piece of paper. Not knowing what to do, he prayed. Immediately the thought to mind to borrow a pen from someone near him. Borrowing the pen, the child scribbled something on the paper, and folding it, placed it in the basket. With shining eyes and a sweet smile, the child, who now wore an _expression of peace, returned the pen to its owner and thanked him. Puzzled, the gentleman who loaned him the pen thought, “I wonder what he wrote -- after all he didn't have any money-- I wonder if he wrote an IOU to God?”

At the conclusion of the service, the pen's owner mentioned the incident to his friends. Curious, they went to the treasurer’s office and after amusingly telling him the story, asked to see the paper. The treasurer, not usually inquisitive, nevertheless obliged. Locating the tithe and offering baskets, he looked until he found the folded paper. Pulling it out, he opened it, and grew quiet. Wordlessly, he handed the paper to the inquirers, and turned to stare out of the window. Silently and somberly they looked at the paper, and at one another. One by one, each left the room in deep thought. On the paper, was no IOU. No, instead, the boy had drawn a heart, and in it he had written his name.

This story reminds me of the story of the poor widow and her two mites. Let's read it in Mark chapter 12.

Mark 12:41 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people
cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
Mark 12:42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites,
which make a farthing.
Mark 12:43 And He called unto Him His disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I
say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they
which have cast into the treasury:
Mark 12:44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did
cast in all that she had, even all her living.

Sadly, although this passage belonged in this week’s lesson study, it was not addressed. I say sadly because, this story is in essence the heart of the gospel. Here in Mark chapter 12 verses 41-44, we find Jesus making a “simple observation regarding the sincerity of a poor widow’s gift of love, contrasted with the disingenuousness of the supposed righteous” (Collegiate Quarterly, page 85). In giving her two mites, this woman gave all that she had to God. This is the essence of true stewardship. Habitually, we misunderstand stewardship as a matter concerning finances, and the giving of our money (to the church). But more than his, stewardship is a heart issue which is demonstrated through total surrender of the will by faith, and is played out in every facet of our lives. In giving her mite, the widow gave her all to God. This demonstrated her unselfishness in that she thought less of herself and her needs and more of others. Christ approved of her gift worth merely fractions of a penny, because in it was the outworking of the principle of self-denying love versus the love and preservation of the self. On the other hand, He did not look favorably on the gifts of the wealthy Jews because they gave out of their abundance, and what they gave was pittance in comparison to their actual wealth. In other words, they did not give their hearts, but only sought to impress others with their status.

Naturally, God is not moved by all of our outward ceremonies and practices, while inwardly we have a hard, miserly spirit. God is benevolent. He does not measure His gifts to us, and demand a return with interest. In giving us eternal life, He has given and is giving all of heaven in the gift of His Son. Yes, He desires a return of our hearts, minds and strength with interest, but the key here is that He desires, He does not demand. And what do we possess that He has not given us? If we have given ourselves to Him, does not all that is in our possession likewise belong to Him? How then could we withhold anything from Him?

God is not a human being, He does not think like we do. He does not compare our actions, possessions and willingness to give with the attitudes and actions of others similar to us in means, skills, abilities and talents to determine how giving we are. He evaluates us not by our profession but by our stature "in Christ." Scripture has said that in Christ we are a new creature, old things have passed away and behold we are become new. That means new attitudes, and new motives for following Christ and for giving. Everything we possess (or develop) has been given from His hand. And Christ has said that for every advantage we possess (whether in education, talents, skills, abilities or finances) we are in obligation to those who possess less, for we have gotten these gifts on their backs. So, although we think hard work entitles us to a reward, in all actuality it entitles us to results, not a reward.

Do we, like the little boy in this story, ever deeply desire to give something as a token of our love and affection to Christ? Do we view others as belonging to Him, so that when we give gifts to them (birthdays, graduations, weddings or anniversaries)we really see ourselves as giving to Christ? Do we see ourselves giving of our time, energy, talents etc. as gifts to Christ, or do we merely perceive ourselves as carrying out the burdensome tasks involved in daily living? True stewardship is the giving of our hearts, souls, minds and strength to Christ, and loving our neighbor as He loved us. Nothing less will do. Today if you hear His voice, harden not your heart to His promptings, after all, He deserves no less, don't you think?
Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

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