Faithlife Sermons

The Obstacle of Stewardship

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Just a few weeks ago this scene flickered onto our laptops and flat screens. The people who witnessed it said it felt like an earthquake. It left this smoldering building in ruins. You remember what happened:

Joseph Stack, in some kind of dispute with the IRS over his taxes took matters into his own hands. On his website he had written, “I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.”

He burned his house to the ground, and headed for the Georgetown Airport, 40 minutes north of Austin Texas. Witnesses said that they saw his aircraft flying low towards the centre of the Echelon building at full speed, skimming over traffic lights, before crashing into the building.

The remainder of the manifesto on his website read like the angry, frustrated ramblings of a man who felt ignored by his Government and the people who were supposed to represent his interests. Mr Stack cites the government bailouts of banks and auto companies and the “murdering [of] tens of thousands” by the greedy insurance companies while his government representatives sit idly by and only help the rich.

Mr Stack added: “I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind. Nor, for that matter, are they the least bit interested in me or anything I have to say.

“I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand,” Mr Stack wrote before declaring: “I also know that by not adding my body to the count, I insure [sic] nothing will change.”

Well, Joe didn’t live long enough to see that, regardless of the body count, nothing really has changed. He threw away his life getting back at a system that will now just dismiss him as a lunatic and castigate him as a murderer. Where’s the logic in that? What’s the point?

I think that really is the point. The point is . . . there really isn’t any point. There never is anything logical about the mad desire to so seek what this world offers, or even to preserve what you’ve achieved in this world that you’ll do anything to get it, or to keep it. There really is no logic to that, yet it is something that goes on constantly.

Perhaps that’s why the last couple of years have been so anxious in this country. People, who in 2008 would not even go to the polls, in 2010 are showing up at town hall meetings to shout at their congressman. Why? One word: MONEY! People, just like Joe, see their financial situation slipping and they are filled with fear. Like a cancer it has spread until our whole system has almost locked up. As one philosopher said, “There is no passion so contagious as fear.”


Now, at one level, it’s really understandable. When the government which is usually given to painting our canvas too rosy, begins to use words like “crisis” and “meltdown,” anyone with half the sense God gave a grape will be concerned. However, I must tell you that this financial fear, this “wealth worry” seems to contradict scripture. Do you remember what Jesus said in Matt 6:25?

Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Now I know that just about everyone in this room has heard these verses, probably many times. But will you take a fresh look today? You see, I know that some of you have had your trust weakened by what you’re going through. Your financial fear has weakened your trust because your whole paradigm has been destroyed. You had it all down. Things were going well, but then the business collapsed, or the job failed, and you want to trust, but you’re really struggling. You’re not sure you’re going to make it, and in the back of your mind is that question. “Where’s God? What’s He doing about this?

And as a result of this weakened trust, you’ve lost your passion for God. Can we just be really honest for a minute? It’s hard to develop an intimate relationship with a God you do not trust, isn’t it. What’s happened is that you have lost your passion for God. You still in worship, but your voice has lost it’s ring and your step has lost it’s spring.

And all of this has happened because of this last thing. You see, not only has your fear weakened your trust and stolen your passion, it has also clouded your view of God. You know what the Bible says about Him, but saying that God is good, or that God is sovereign just kind of stick’s in your throat. When it comes to God you feel like you’re walking around in a thick spiritual fog, and all of it flows from your financial fear.

Wouldn’t you like to over come that? Wouldn’t you like to get your faith back? Wouldn’t you like to have a passion for the Lord like you once had? I believe you can and I believe these verses tell you how. In the first place, if you want to overcome financial fear, you can



V. 25 begins with a negative statement: “Do not worry about your life what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put . . .” Basically, Jesus is telling us here that our lives will have one of two preoccupations: We will be either be taken with our needs or taken with the supplier of our needs. If I am taken with my needs, I will worry. That’s the thing Jesus warns us against. In the Bible, that word “worry” literally means, “to have an anxious concern, based on apprehension about possible danger or misfortune.” Doesn’t that paint a picture. The worried person anxiously wonders if the car note will be paid, or if the spouse will be fired, or if the kids will go to an expensive college. They are preoccupied with needs.

Jesus warns against worry because worry betrays a false priority. When I worry, I get so caught up in what I need that it does damage to my spirit. For one thing, it denies faith. In fact, the Greek word for worry is actually the opposite in meaning to the Greek word for faith. The opposite of faith is not doubt, it is worry. When I worry I do not trust and when I trust, I do not worry.

But there’s another way worry damages my spirit. The Bible hints that worry can even destroy life. V 25 adds, “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” And when He asks that question, He’s expecting a “yes it is” answer. What Jesus is getting at is this: When I worry, I am actually destroying the real value of my life. One commentator wrote:

An obvious characteristic of anxiety is its tendency to be all-consuming: the scope of life narrows under its pressure. It may well be that it is precisely to this narrowing that the question is directed. In the larger context seeking the kingdom (v. 33) will be excluded by the anxiety-induced restriction of focus (and thus mammon will have dominated in the attempt at double loyalty), but at this stage the point is more general and requires only the recognition that life is more than the basics of survival. The first reason, then, for not being anxious is that it narrows life intolerably.

Isn’t that a great way to put it? Worry narrows your life till all you can see is what you need. But life, Jesus says, is about a whole lot more than that! He implies a kingdom principle in this statement that He clearly states in v. 33 He says that life isn’t about our needs but about His kingdom. Now that’s important to understand because when I elevate my worry about my essentials to the level of my focus on His kingdom, I have turned my light bill into an idol and my house into a shrine.

This really is where overcoming financial fear begins: I have to get my priorities straight. I have to see what’s really most important in my life and begin pursuing it. And when I do that, something amazing begins to happen: Instead of my worry narrowing my life, my pursuit begins to narrow my worry. I begin to see that whether I keep the house or not, God is at the center of my life and all of my life is in His hands. Until I do that, however, I remain in bondage to the narrowing impact of worry and that worry destroys my life.


By the way, that destruction isn’t just theoretical either. It’s real! Fear will kill you!

During the Gulf War of 1991, Iraq launched a series of Scud missile attacks against Israel. Many Israeli citizens died as a result of these attacks. After the war was over, Israeli scientists analyzed the official mortality statistics and found something remarkable. Although the death rate had jumped among Israeli citizens on the first day of the Iraqi attacks, the vast majority of them did not die from any direct physical effects of the missiles. They died from heart failure brought on by fear and stress associated with the bombardment.

Psychological studies conducted on Israelis at the time showed that the most stressful time was the first few days leading up to the outbreak of war on January 17th and peaking on the first day of the Scud missile attacks. There was enormous and well-founded concern about possible Iraqi use of chemical and biological weapons. The government had issued to the entire Israeli population gas masks and automatic atropine syringes in case of chemical attack, and every household had been told to prepare a sealed room.

After the first Iraqi strike turned out to be less cataclysmic than feared, levels of stress declined markedly. As in other wars, the people adapted to the situation with surprising speed. Then as the fear and anxiety subsided, the death rate also declined. There were 17 further Iraqi missile attacks over the following weeks, but Israeli mortality figures over this period were no higher than average.

It was fear and the psychological impact of the missiles, not the physical impact, that claimed the majority of victims. That’s what worry and fear do. They steal our lives and narrow us down to a futile pursuit that is ineffective and idolatrous. Overcoming fear is the result of realizing this truth and resetting our priorities.


So let me ask you, Christian, What’s most important to you. What means the most to you? What are you concerned about? Remember there are many things that money cannot buy: Money can buy: A bed but not sleep. Books but not brains. Food but not an appetite. Finery but not beauty. A house but not a home. Medicine but not health. Pleasures but not peace. Luxuries but not culture. Amusements but not joy. A crucifix but not a Savior. A church building but not heaven.

Some of us have been living under a cloud of fear and the reason is because we’ve been valuing the wrong things. Hey, Why are we worried about keeping our house? Well, it’s because we think it’s our house that makes us happy. That’s why. Why are we worried about keeping our health? It’s because we think its our health that makes us happy. Why are we worried about keeping our luxuries and our amusements and even our church buildings? It’s because we think that our real life depends on these things.

Jesus observes our priorities and what we think and He says “If you think that, you’re wrong.” And as long as you think that, you’ll be afraid. Life, real life depends on one thing and one thing alone: Your relationship with Jesus Christ. And I tell you some of us need to refocus our priorities!

That’s what you must to if you are to overcome financial fear. But there’s also another step this passage tells us to take: If you want to be free from financial fear, you can:



Someone anonymously pinned the following acrostic. Fear is: F - False; E - evidence; A - appearing; R - real. Fear is “False evidence appearing real.” For followers of Christ, at least, you can rephrase it like this: Fear is a matter of perspective. When I am seeing things as they really are, according to Christ, I do not have to worry. When I am seeing things from the wrong perspective, worry will be my fastest friend.

Let me show you what I mean. VV 26-30 go on to talk about our most basic needs. He says:

Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

He mentions three specific needs. He talks about our need to eat and says that, if God feeds the birds, surely He’ll make sure we eat. Then in vv 28-30, He moves to our clothes and tells us that, if God clothes the grass with such splendor, grass which is intended for the oven, surely He’ll make sure we have something to wear.

Between the discussion of our food and clothes is a somewhat curious question in v 27 about adding to our height. Actually, the word “stature” in this verse can and probably should be “life” and the word cubit, “hour”. The idea is that by our concentration or even our work we cannot even add one hour to our lives.

Do you get the picture? I think the mention of these three specific things reveal to us the things that are our only legitimate focus in this life. Everything else that we tend to focus on are the extras. You might sum it up like this: When it comes to my needs they are smaller than I may think. See, I tend to add lots of things to the list, things which, by the way, do not belong there. The promises in this verse really do not cover our vacation homes, our stock portfolios, or even our IRA’s. If I am to defeat financial fear, I must realize that my real needs are smaller than I think.

But it doesn’t stop there. Not only are my real needs smaller than I think, but also, God’s is more compassionate than I can imagine. V 31 draws this contrast clearly. Jesus says there, Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek.

He says, don’t worry about these necessity needs I just mentioned because, “after all these things the Gentiles seek.” The idea here is that Christ-followers live in confidence that God will supply what they need because they know that’s just the kind of merciful Heavenly Father they have. The Gentiles, on the other hand, “are characterized by worry. That is the reason for their constantly babbling in prayer to their idols. They badgering a reluctant deity to take notice.

But that’s not the way our God is! He is compassionate. He can be trusted. You see, if I am to let go of financial worry, I must realize that my needs are smaller than I think and my God is more compassionat than I can imagine. V.32 gives the last change of perspective that conquers financial fear and here it is: God is more sovereign than I have believed. Now I say that because of how v 32 ends. It says “For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” Jesus is saying that worry is foolish because your caring Father has full awareness of everything that you need and is compassionate to supply them for you. Grasping these truths; fully coming to terms with them; Allowing them to change your perspective is how you overcome financial fear and worry.


By the way, did you know that it is your perspective that often leads you to be afraid?

In the middle of summer, a woman was sitting in her car in a parking lot in Arkansas when she heard a loud bang and felt a sharp pain in the back of her head. She was sitting holding her hands behind her head when someone walked by and asked, “Are you OK?”

With fear in her voice, she screamed, “Call 911, I’ve been shot and I’m holding my brains in.”

Well, as it turned out, it wasn’t her brains at all. It was dough. Biscuit dough. Yeah, a Pillsbury biscuit can had gotten so hot in the back seat that it had exploded, making a loud noise and shooting biscuit dough into the back of that poor lady’s head.

Now this poor lady’s anxiety grew out of a wrong perspective. She was afraid because her view of the event was skewed. That’s the way it is with us. How many times are our fears the result of our perspective.


Christian, your fear depends on your thoughts. If you think fearful thoughts, you will be afraid. If your perspective makes you think that your needs are greater than they are or that your God doesn’t care, or that He does not know, somehow, about what’s going on in your life, you will be afraid.

Listen, your all-powerful, completely compassionate God knows your real needs and He is going to meet them. You can relax! That’s how you overcome fear: You re-think your perspective and you reset your priorities. Last of all you can



You find this principle in v 33. To summarize all He’s been saying, really, Jesus says there: But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

What immediately jumps out at me from this verse is it’s priority. When are we to seek God’s Kingdom. We are to seek it first! Now, I just have to tell you that this doesn’t happen very often. Most often people aren’t even seeking God, let alone seeking Him first. Even as believers we have trouble with this priority. One person wrote:

Some people today associate faith with being able to obtain possessions from God, but Jesus did not even associate it with seeking basic needs from God. Pagans seek those things, he warned; we should seek instead God’s kingdom and his righteous will.

That is the primary action we must take if we are to let go of our financial fear. We must reorder our lives so that our primary focus is his will. And this “reordering” is not a “have to” that true disciples resent and seek to avoid. O no! The truly regenerate disciple longs for this kind of life, whether he even realizes it or not.

I say that because of one word in v 33. It’s that word “seek.” When the verse says, “But seek first the kingdom of God . . .” the word seek there is a strong verb. It’s the same word used for the Gentile’s anxious search for material possessions in the prior verse. The righteousness of God, mentioned in this verse, according to one commentator, is the object of eager desire comparable to hunger and thirst . . . The disciple’s deepest wish and resolve must be to live in God’s way.

You see, when I build my life around God’s values and I become passionate about following Him, those desires that used to bring worry to my heart fade. I lose my attraction to that job I want, but God forbids. I lose my desire to pursue financial goals I don’t need to seek. I am no longer strongly attracted to those pleasures that can be derived from the “toys” of life. These and a million other distractions that I used to think of as “needs” fade into insignificance and I become so passionate about the Kingdom of God, that I give everything I am and everything I have to it.


Kim Peek is the man who inspired the 1988 film Rain Man about an autistic savant with astounding mathematical skills. Peek is what doctors call a mega-savant. A savant possesses remarkable expertise in 1 to 3 subjects. Peek is an expert in at least 15, including history, sports, space, music, and geography. No one in the world is thought to possess a brain as extraordinary as Peek's. He has total recall of 9,000 books. It was discovered that each of Peek's eyes can read a separate page simultaneously, absorbing every word. In fact, a page that might take you or me 3 minutes to read, Peek can read in 10 seconds and never forget.

Kim Peek once went to a performance of Shakespeare's play, Twelfth Night. As the play was ending, Peek stood up and said out loud, "You've got to stop it, stop it, stop it." It turned out that the actor had skipped the second to the last verse of the play. The actor then apologized saying, "The verses are so much alike I didn't think it would matter."

Peek responded, "It mattered to William Shakespeare, and it should matter to you.”

That’s passion! And when my passion for the Kingdom get’s reordered, I say, “If it matters to God, it matters to me! Hey, all that I am and all that I have belongs to God. In fact, I don’t really “have” any of these things. They are His!”


Now that’s the ultimate place a steward can be. They aren’t glumly walking around thinking about all they’re sacrificing. They realize that their sacrifice now is what will be richly rewarded later. They realize that their gifts now mean that God’s Kingdom will be advanced and His return may even be hastened.

And, by the way, they are not participating in a “quid pro quo.” They aren’t saying, “Ok, Lord. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch Yours. They aren’t giving to attempt to manipulate God. They are giving their time and their talent and their treasure because their passion is real.

And again, you might be saying, “How, Rusty? How do I drop my mediocre commitment for that kind of excellence. How can I give and really do it from the heart?”

Well, let me try to answer that question. You see, if you really want to develop that kind of all our passion for God when it comes to your giving, you must first of all, believe in the REALITY of the kingdom. I must really believe that Jesus is Who He said He is and that His Kingdom will be visible on this earth. You see, if I really believe that, it will absolutely revolutionize how I handle His resources.

And yet, believing in the reality of the Kingdom really isn’t enough to bring passion. You also must feel the URGENCY of the Kingdom. This is what kills most people when it comes to their giving. They mean to do it, but they don’t see it as being urgent. They might even tell you that they understand the urgency of the Kingdom, but they really don’t feel it. It has not gripped them. Why not? Because they really don’t have a very big picture of Who God is nor what God wants. Listen! You cannot read Isaiah 6 where the prophet Isaiah encounters a vision of God without walking away realizing that something happened. Where the prophet may have been lacksadaisical before, when he sees God, he is gripped by a new sense of urgency. AT the end of the story, when God asks for someone to go and carry the kingdom, Isaiah answers, “Here am I, send me.”

And yet, the believing the reality and feeling the urgency of the Kingdom may still not be enough. You see, I must believe in the ECONOMY of the Kingdom. I begin to see that all I do for the Lord is not lost. In fact, its an investment. It will reap a reward for you here through the ministry you do and the people you reach. It will reap a reward for you there because God always rewards His own.

And when that happens, the preacher doesn’t have to beg me to tithe. I finally understand just what is important. My greatest fear is not that I will not have enough here, but that I might not send enough there.


What are you looking at this morning. When it comes to your money, what is it that has captured your attention. Where are you seeking your reward? I want you to know that God is faithful. If you will seek Him first, all these things will be added to you!


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