We’re nearly three-fourths through this year already with the start of September—a month which means “Seven” even though it’s really the ninth month (thank Julius & Augustus Caesar). It is a month which begins with Labor Day and ends with days marking off autumn and giving thanks for angels (St. Michael & All Angels on the 29th). I think it’s wonderful that this month which cools things off, ends summer, and brims with harvests points us to the number of Sabbath rest (Genesis 2: 1-3) and the number of months it usually takes for a child in the womb to get ready for birth. There’s the combination of labor and rest which we know every day and every week; of knowing how to steward (or manage) our time, talents, and treasures…and everything related to our lives.
With that in mind, take some time at this point to read and reflect on the following passages: Luke 12: 35-48, 1 Corinthians 4: 1-3, and 1 Peter 4: 7-11. Now, see if you noticed these truths which are to define us as people made servants of Christ in the new reality of Baptism.
1) Jesus says we’re to stay ready to greet him and do his work whenever he shows up, as well as to be making wise decisions with what he’s entrusted to our care.
2) Stewards are to be trustworthy servants who guard the holy mysteries of God. (Let me handle the mysteries of the Sacraments of Baptism/Lords Supper)!
3) We’re to practice self-control in every aspect of our lives, to be clear-minded, to live out sincere love to each other, to show hospitality to those in need without grumbling, and to serve one another with our particular gifts as good stewards of God’s varied grace.
Drawn from the Greek word oikonomos, which means “house manager” (the source for our word economy), our word “steward” comes from the Middle English word styward—meaning literally “the keeper of the (pig) sty.” That might not seem real impressive, but it reminds us that whatever has been entrusted to our care is what we are to manage wisely—whether it’s a treasure or a pig-slop—and that it matters. What has God given you to steward? God’s original intention was that humans would take care of this vibrant and abundant world he made (Genesis 2:15). And even though we’ve not treasured but wasted our devalued much of it, our Lord gives us his renewing Spirit to live out the newness Christ’s redemption, Resurrection, and renewal have brought into the world.
When talking about stewarding, most people think of “stewardship,” as purely about money matters. Martin Luther once quipped, “People go through three conversions: the conversion of their head, the conversion of their hearts, and the conversion of their pocketbook… Unfortunately, they do not happen all at the same time.” Money always seems to be on the minds of everyone. Ironically, money is one of the top things we steward poorly. Issues with money are the #1 cause of divorce. Starting this month, rethink how YOU manage what God has given you. What you will see is evidence of what your faith maturity looks like. Our choices about managing money are indicators of our spiritual condition. What can you spend money on effortlessly? What would your life look like if you cut some of those things out of your budget?
We are stewards but we’re also consumers. We are all people who purchase goods and services for personal use. But are you a consumer in the Church? Do you ask what your church can do for you? Or do you ask what you can do for your church? Are you a consumer with people?
Stewardship is about generosity, and stewardship has to do with relationships. Are you generous with giving yourself to others? Are you in need of reconciling differences with someone? Are you a consumer with relationships? Do you focused on what your needs are, or someone else’s? Some of us might be consumers instead of stewards. Therefore, the first question when stewarding your resources is to ask yourself, “Does this build a relationship?” When you spend money on someone…when you spend time with someone, does it build a relationship? If it doesn’t, what is it for? Stewarding is all about relationships—and the biggest relationship is the one we have with Christ. The Gospel of Grace and our generosity are tightly connected. The degree that you realize Jesus’ treasuring of you is the degree that you will welcome God to work His plan through you. Remember, “Never tell God what to do, and never tell God’s people what they are to give. You just might end up underestimating the generosity of both.” Money may not always be your idol in stewardship, but it will show you where your idols in stewardship are. Idols will demand everything from you, but Jesus treasured you and continues to treasure you enough to do everything for you, and give everything to you (Deuteronomy 7: 6-8).
Read and ponder a while on Ecclesiastes 3: 9-15—what really matters in life. And since this month also recognizes the anniversary of the September 11 tragedy, think and reflect on how we steward suffering as saints joined to the suffering and resurrection of Jesus (see 1 Corinthians 12:26, 2 Corinthians 1:3-8, and Romans 5: 1-5). Start praying and evaluating more and more how you (and we together) can steward September in a way that becomes a pattern for the whole year and all of life.
Teach us, O Lord, true thankfulness divine,
That gives as Christ gave, never counting cost,
That knows no barrier of "yours" and "mine,"
Assured that only what's withheld is lost.
Open our eyes to see Your love's intent,
To know with minds and hearts its depth and height;
May thankfulness be days in service spend,
Reflection of Christ's life and love and light. (Lutheran Service Book, 788)
Your Servant and Steward in Christ,
Pastor Aaron Boerst