Greetings to you! Today is earmarked as Stewardship Sunday throughout the Diocese of Delhi. The dictionary defines Stewardship as the ‘job of taking care of something or overseeing something’.
Stewardship in the Bible begins right at the beginning in the Book of Genesis where God made Adam and Eve in his own image and gave them the task of taking care of creation.
To look after the earth and its resources is part of the responsibility of every human being.
Stewardship begins and ends with the understanding that God is the owner of all things and therefore we as his stewards have been entrusted with the job of taking care of creation. Stewardship also means giving to God what is rightfully due to him, thereby making sure that we acknowledge that everything comes from him.
In the OT reading for this morning we see Abraham giving a tithe of 10% of all that he had got from defeating the kings to Melchizedek king of Salem and the priest of the God Most High. Giving of a 10% of our income as tithes is something we must do as an act of gratitude for all that God has done for us.
In the Old Testament times a tithe was a 10 percent of everything they received from God. The people of Israel had failed to do this. The tithe was a symbol of gratitude thanking God for all that he had blessed them with, and bringing him an offering of 10 percent was to indicate that. We too are encouraged to give at least 10 percent of our income to the church in order that the Lord’s work may be carried out.
When we give generously of our money then God will also abundantly bless us. God says, “Bring the whole tithe into the store house that there may be food in my house. ‘Test me in this’, says the Lord Almighty and ‘see if I will not throw open the flood gates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it’.
Tithes rightfully belongs to God. Tithing needs to come out of gratitude for what God has done on the cross. There is nothing we can give in return for that great sacrifice on the cross of Calvary.
In the Gospel reading from Luke, Jesus tells them a parable about a dishonest steward who showed common sense, foresight and insight into his Master’s character. The dishonest steward discovers that his Master expects obedience and judges those who fail him.
He also discovers the extraordinary mercy of his Master. He decides to risk everything on the unqualified mercy of his Master. He knows that if he fails, he goes to jail; if he succeeds, he is saved. So, he calls all the debtors and writes of their debts some 50% and others 20% saying that the Master had forgiven them. Even though the Master knew that the accounts were fudged he had no option to go back on what the shrewd steward had done because the people of the city were praising the King for being so generous and merciful.
Jesus approves of a dishonest steward’s shrewd plans to save his skin, and recommends that cleverness to his disciples. The point made is that even a dishonest steward makes clever plans for the future with whatever resources he has in hand.
However, we who have been given many resources do not make any plans for eternal life and waste away our resources or we hoard them to such an extent that others go empty away. As God’s stewards we are to make good use of all the resources that God has given us.
God calls us this morning to share our resources with others. In the reading from Acts we see that the early church pooled in their resources to help the poor and the needy.
Everybody in the community of faith had enough to go around. We are called to give generously to God and his work remembering that God has freely given us his Son Jesus to die for us on the cross. Our giving must always be in gratitude for the cross.
May we freely give of all that God has given us so that we may be a blessing to others in their time of need.
This Sunday we focus on a right attitude towards possessions. Possessions tend to possess us rather than us possessing them.
Human nature being what it is, is never satisfied with what it has. It is always looking for something better, something more expensive, or something bigger, thinking that it would satisfy at last. But material possessions never satisfy, they rather add to our anxiety.
In the reading from Luke’s gospel, we notice that a person from the crowd approaches Jesus and says, ‘Rabbi tell my brother divide the inheritance with me. But Jesus answers, ‘Man who made me a judge or divider over you?’ The petitioner is not asking for arbitration, but rather ordering the judge to carry out his wishes. The rabbis stated that even if one of the brothers wanted a division of the property then it had to be done unlike the Roman law where both parties had to agree. The brother was then seeking an endorsement from Jesus the rabbi thinking that he would come up with the standard rabbinic position saying that he should be able to divide the property.
The petitioner has a demand ‘Give me my rights’. We are left to assume that the petitioner is unwilling to consider the problem other than his own.
Leslie Newbegin, former Bishop of Chennai, states ‘If we acknowledge the God of the Bible, we are committed to struggle for justice in society. Justice means giving to each his due. Our problem (as seen in the light of the gospel) is that each of us overestimates what is due to him as compared with what is due to his neighbour… If I do not acknowledge a justice which judges the justice for which I fight, I am an agent, not of justice but of lawless tyranny.’
Jesus said to them, "Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions." Jesus clearly implies that the petitioner will not have his problem solved if his brother does grant him his portion of the inheritance. Jesus judges their attitudes and the motives of their hearts rather than their pocket books. The dream of abundant life through accumulation of surpluses is a fallacy.
Jesus then narrates a parable to drive home his point. The land of a rich man produced abundantly. In the opening statement itself Jesus implies a few things. It subtly and yet powerfully exposes both the lifestyle of a rich man and the resulting isolation it creates. First of all, the man is already rich. Secondly, it is the land that produces abundantly. It is the blessing of God that he has surplus. The man in fact needed to ask ‘What do I do with what I have not earned?’ but he would have none of this.
The rich man who is self-indulgent is determined that he alone will consume God’s gifts. These gifts that were given by God to him have all of a sudden become ‘my barns, my grain, my goods, and my soul’. The self becomes all important and everything revolves around them. Initially it was in the barns that the tithes and offerings were kept and the priests and the Levites came to the barns to collect them.
The rich man has no thought of tithing his money – literally giving a ten percent back to God as a token of gratitude, but rather he is thinking about his own security with these extra and bigger barns.
The speech that he makes is rather pitiful. This wealthy, self-confident man, has arrived, he has made it. All that he longed for is now his. He needs an audience, but no one is there. No family or friends, nor villagers or fellow landowners. His only audience was his nephesh or soul or being. He is now confident that he is secure.
The voice of God thunders at him after he has made all the preparations with his maximum-security storage bins. The voice of God confronts him with a chilling vision of himself. There is no accusation that he did not share his wealth with the poor or pay his tithes.
God rather asks ‘Look at what you have done to yourself! You plan alone, build alone, indulge alone, and now you will die alone. Whatever he has stored will be enjoyed by others and there may be even a fight over the wills. The parable does not give us an answer as to how the rich man responds to the question. The rich man’s silence leaves each listener to answer out of his own soul.
The parable challenges not only the petitioner but each one of us to be rich towards God. Material possessions are gifts from God and when he gives us a surplus it is meant to be used for the sake of his kingdom. If we are just hoarding up and making money as our security then it will be tragic for us.
Life is a loan from God. The rich man thought that he owned the material possessions and his life. He was mistaken on both counts. The person who thinks security and the good life are to be found in material things is stupid. Abundant life does not consist of an abundance of possessions, but rather in treasuring up for God.
May we truly have a right attitude towards our possessions and be rich towards God.