Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Principles of Stewardship – Part III

For more on the principles relating to giving to the Lord, please see Parts I and II in earlier posts.

In Part II, I mentioned the fourth point in the Parable of the Talents, the element of sacrifice. This means that we shouldn’t give to God something that really costs us little or nothing. God expects sacrifice on our part. Let me explain.

If we give very little to God that essentially costs us nothing, what is that saying about our love for God, our willingness to honor God, and about our faith in God? A good example of being willing to incur a cost involves King David. King David went up to the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, located on a hill just outside of Jerusalem (at that time), to offer to buy it from him. He wanted to buy it so he could build an altar to the Lord, so that God would stop a plague that was upon the people. We read about this transaction in 2 Samuel 24:21-25:

Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?”
David said, “To buy the threshing floor from you in order to build an altar to the Lord, so that the plague may be averted from the people.”
Then Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take and offer up what seems good to him; here are the oxen for the burnt offering, and the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood. All this, O king, Araunah gives to the king.”
And Araunah said to the king, “May the Lord your God respond favorably to you.”
But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy them from you for a price; I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.”
So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. NRSV

Three things to note in this story of Araunah the Jebusite and King David:

First, Araunah was gracious and offered the king his livelihood for free. This shows honor to both David and the God he served, and this from a guy who wasn’t even Jewish.

Second, David refused to acquire something for the Lord that cost him nothing, but insisted that he pay fair market value for the land. Anything we give for God’s work or any time we spend doing God’s work should have a cost to be truly acceptable to the Lord.

Third, that threshing floor on a hill became the location of the temple that David’s son and successor, Solomon, built. Today that threshing floor lies under the temple mount in Jerusalem, perhaps the holiest place in the world. David getting that site for no cost would have cheapened such a special place.

For example, imagine giving a present to someone you love. Let’s say it was a big birthday and you give this person a Rolex, something he or she had always wanted. He or she thanks you profusely for your extraordinary generosity, and is thrilled you cared enough to buy the very best. Then you admit that it cost you nothing – you found it on a sink in a public restroom at the airport in Minneapolis. How do you think your loved one would feel? Cheated? Unloved? Dishonored? Are you willing to incur a cost to serve the Lord with your offerings and your time?

Free Up Money

Increasing our offerings to the Lord involves faith, trust, and some amount of risk-taking. Of course we don’t view it as risk-taking if our faith and trust in God is strong, because we know that God will take care of us – he promised. We are to show our trust in God by writing that first check out to the church.

Despite the uncertainties of life, we have been blessed by God beyond measure in many different ways, and we have so much to be thankful to God for. As an act of praise and thanksgiving, God calls us to use our resources for God’s work, as well as be an example for other people with our generosity. You may ask, How can we give more when costs are going up, and things might get even tighter financially? Of course the church is experiencing those same problems – it isn’t immune from increasing costs. There are many ways you can free up cash if you really focus on saving money. It might take a little research, but you could save significant money each month if you really try. Maybe it will mean some sacrifice and doing without, but isn’t it worth having fewer financial problems?

We Are Accountable

In the meantime, think about when you come face to face with Jesus, which is the image presented in the Parable of the Talents when the master returned home. Christians get to heaven on our faith in Jesus, but believers are judged and given rewards according to their faithfulness on earth. Do you want Jesus to say to you:
“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

You certainly don’t want him saying to you:
“I gave you so much. Why did you squander it on frivolous things?”
“Why did you not serve me and honor me as you should have with the time, talents, and treasure I entrusted to you?”

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