Saturday, September 17, 2005

Stewards of Service

The Bible says that nature speaks of the Glory of God, which is His character. Sister White stresses the importance of this by telling us to study the lessons in nature. She says in Our High Calling, page 253: “Everything about us teaches us from day to day lessons of our Father's love and of His power, and of His laws that govern nature and that lie at the foundation of all government in heaven and in earth.” Let’s take a tree as an example. A mature tree uses precious earthly resources: it occupies space, utilizes air (Carbon-dioxide we exhale), water, and absorbs sunlight. In turn, we use the oxygen the tree exhales, and we take advantage of its shade. Is this a fair exchange? Many trees yield fruit that when consumed, is not only tasteful to our palate, but it is good for our health. Trees cannot consume fruits, as can we. There are other parts of the tree, which we utilize as well, such as the leaves and the wood of the tree for papers as well numerous other products. It seems that human beings benefit more from trees then the three do from us. So, all the resources that trees use, end up being for our benefit. And, it seems that trees do this – that is: serve us – selflessly. Well wouldn’t you say, If trees were stewards they would manage God’s entrusted resources to benefit us, mankind.

Our analogy of the tree is really on of stewardship and serving others. When a steward is faithful to God, his service is selfless. But, in our natural sinful state, we are selfish. We think only of ourselves. When we give to others or do for them it is because we expect the service to be of benefit for us. Often we expect a tangible return, such as money or other favors – tickets, meal, gift certificate, etc. Other times the benefit we derive from serving others is intangible. We want to be seen to gain favor. Frequently, we serve out of feelings of guilt, coercion, or fear. We hope to be relieved from doom. Thus we misuse God’s resources for our own benefit, even though we claim we are using these resources to serve others.

A true Christian - at whatever level - is a faithful Steward. Just as a mature tree yields fruit, he or she will yield fruit (Galatians 5:22-25). The Spirit of God that dwells in him springs forth this fruit, because the fruit is the character of God himself. Therefore, service is not out of guilt, coercion, or fear. The true Christian does not expect to gain absolution, freedom, or peace. The service of a true Christian, in whom the Spirit dwells, is motivated by Agape – God’s unconditional love – and the driving force is really gratitude. A true follower of Christ gives and serves freely, for he has received freely (Matthew 10:8).

Typically we do not equate stewardship with the selfless serving of others. As a steward serves his Master by caring for his assets, he does as the Master wishes. What are the Master’s wishes? “…but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8). Perhaps the following text from Matthew 25 will illustrates what this means:

Matthew 25:31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
Matthew 25:32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
Matthew 25:33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Matthew 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
Matthew 25:35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Matthew 25:36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Matthew 25:37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
Matthew 25:38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Matthew 25:39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Matthew 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
Matthew 25:42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
Matthew 25:43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Matthew 25:44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Matthew 25:45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
Matthew 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Faithful stewards are sheep who unknowingly serve their Lord by serving those in need. Unfaithful stewards are the goats who served others but for personal gain. What is the difference between the two? It is Agape – God’s unconditional love. The type of love that the Father is, which drove Him to give to all human beings “…His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This love made Jesus weep because of the harm Sin had done to His humanity (John 11:35). This love can only be found in us when we permit the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. This love makes us faithful stewards who serve others, as they are needful, as we were serving Christ Himself. Will you let the Spirit transform you into a faithful steward serving others as the Lord wishes?

Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

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