Read for This Week’s Study: 1 John 2:16, 17; Luke 14:26–33; 12:15–21; Deut. 8:10–14; 1 Tim. 6:10; John 15:5; Gal. 2:20.
Memory Text: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2, NKJV).
As an initial lesson on stewardship, the lesson today focuses on the dangers of materialism, that idea and practice of linking value and success to the acquisition of various possessions. The initial text reminds those who are followers of Jesus that they are not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. Put another way, we are to be in the world, but not of the world, meaning that we who follow Christ are not to be driven by the agenda that drives society around us.
For whatever reasons, humans have long been fascinated by things they can acquire, whether it be houses, or lands, or flocks and herds, or gold and silver, or jewels, or whatever else tends to capture our fancy. We almost instinctively think that acquiring lots of things will bring us happiness and security, neither of which is actually true. Wealth does bring privilege with it, and it may bring fame, and it certainly allows for lots of options that poverty would not allow, but it does not bring joy and safety. And from a Christian perspective, it does not bring devotion with it. In fact, those who are fascinated with the acquisition of things face a great temptation to drift away from God. In Deuteronomy, there is a very old admonition to be found, a caution that believers ought to keep in mind:
Deuteronomy 8:10-14 – “10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” (NIV)
Notice that there is no hint that having a lot of possessions is wrong in itself. The material world is not evil. The truth is that a person with lots of possessions can actually do a great deal of good if they so choose. The danger comes from our possessions causing us to forget God, that they might bring us subtly to the point where we feel we have no need of God because our possessions provide all we need.
There is another injunction in the Bible that ought to be kept in mind also. It is from late in the New Testament:
1 Timothy 6:10 – “10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (NIV).
Notice again that there is no hint that having money is a bad thing for money is something we have in order to engage in transactions that are so necessary to life. What is spoken of here is the love of money, the inordinate desire to acquire money then to hoard it. This inordinate desire not only tends to lead people away from God, it also has the potential to bring many griefs into life. Truth is, the more money you have, and the more possessions you acquire, the more you are slave to them. There is a certain joy that comes with simplicity.
Having pointed out that wealth has a certain danger that comes with it, let us note that the opposite of wealth – poverty – does not have virtue inherent in it. In other words, there is no virtue in poverty. Being poor does not necessarily indicate great devotion to God. It certainly brings great hardship with it that the Bible calls on those who have possessions to help relieve.
Safety for the believer can be found in two other texts, John 15:5, and Galatians 2:20: 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” This text reminds us that a continual connection to Christ is essential to Christian living, and the Galatians one reminds of the on-going self-sacrificial attitude that ought to pervade a believers life: “20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
This week we begin our discussion and thoughts with several different passages from the Bible. At the core of the discussion is the question of what it is that lies at the center of the mandate to be stewards.
- Why is stewardship necessary?
- What provides the best mandate for Christian stewardship?
- What is the deepest motivation toward being a good steward?
- Where does the power to be a good steward come from?
The main passages of Scripture we will look at are these:
Colossians 1:16-18 – “16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” (NIV)
Philippians 2:4-11 – “4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (ESV)
1 Peter 1:15-16 – “15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (NIV)
Several things essential to the concept of stewardship emerge from these verses:
- The creatorship of God, or Christ. There is a very clear indication that all things were created by God and, as we would expect, creatorship conveys ownership. God has a right to all things as he originated them.
- The Philippians passage conveys a rather astonishing truth, that the God who made all things did not consider the retention of his place in heaven to be of more importance than the redemption of those who were lost, so he humbled himself, all the way from heaven to the ignominy of a cross.
- The third passage indicates a mandate for humans to be like Christ, like God. The actions of God, the nature of God, provide a mandate for human emulation. Because God is holy, and giving, and because he made us, we ought to be like him. In other words, because Christ is at the center of things, we ought to aim to be like him. Prominent in his work is the stewarding of God’s resources for the benefit of others.