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Servant-hood & Stewardship

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Servant-hood and Stewardship
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” ()
A significant dimension of our Christian existence is that we now belong to Another: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (). All that we are and all that we have now belong to God. Of course, everything—our personality, intellect, gifts, abilities, opportunities, possessions—has been given to us by God anyway ()!
Conversion simply gives the believer the opportunity to offer all of this back to God for His glory and for our eternal good.
A common metaphor in Jesus’ parables is that of the servant—we are not called to be great as our culture defines greatness, but to serve faithfully. The words we
long to hear on that final day are “Well done, good and faithful servant” (, ).
Such is the nature of the Christian life: Serving is not something we do on occasion—it is a way of life.
The Christian journey is not one of observation, but participation. In this lesson we will explore two of the primary ways we are called to participate in this
journey: (1) Service as “Servants” and (2) Service as “Stewards” (the faithful use of our resources) within the context of the local church.
Service as “Servants”
The Christian’s Call to Be a “Servant”
There are no passive participants in the church. Indeed, one of the express purposes of our salvation is to rescue us from an existence leading to death and to
set us free to serve God.
how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” ()
Serving is, therefore, a God-given expectation of every Christian. It is, however, more than merely a duty—what higher privilege is there than to give one’s life in glad service to our gracious, sovereign God who saved us? Since our service for God is closely connected to our salvation by God, we begin our exploration of servant-hood with the greatest servant of all: Jesus Christ.
Jesus set an example as a servant
Although He was worthy of the worship and service of all creatures, He humbled Himself as a servant, and set an example for all who would follow
him.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” ()
… whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”” ()
Jesus called His followers to become servants
While we can do nothing to earn our salvation, our salvation nevertheless ushers us into a life of following our Master, surrendering our prerogatives
and rights. To follow Christ is to heed His call to become servants ourselves.
If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” ()
The Cross is our motivation to be servants
At the heart of all of our service to God stands the cross. Because we stand forgiven, we are set free to find joy in knowing and serving God. Because the Spirit indwells us, we find we have fresh affections for God and a new desire to glorify Him. We do not serve in order to be forgiven or to gain God’s favor, but because we have been forgiven and have received God’s favor as a gift. Gratitude and joy are the reason for our service to God and
others.
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” ()
The Characteristics of a Christian “Servant”
The cross of Christ provides the primary basis for our service to God. When this is the case, we will be characterized by certain qualities that reveal godly motivation for service and assure that our service is glorifying to God.
Christian service is God-centered
When we serve other people, whether fellow Christians or non-believers, we are rendering service to God Himself. Knowing this helps to purify our motives for serving, teaching us to resist sinful pride that often comes in
the form of selfishness or a craving for other peoples’ approval.
And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” ()
Christian service is others-focused
Grace-motivated service will not be self-serving. Rather, it will be characterized by a genuine desire to glorify God and to meet the needs of others. It places God’s desires and the needs of others above our own.
For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” ()
Christian service demands humility
A servant will not demand recognition or dictate how he is to serve. Instead, he takes delight in being used by God to meet the needs of others.
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” ()
Christian service is empowered by the Holy Spirit
We labor for God by the power He provides. Dependence upon God for our motivation, strength, and effectiveness in serving assures that He receives the glory for our service. God gives every Christian spiritual gifts that motivate and empower us to serve for His glory and others’ good.
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” ()
Finding Your Place to Serve within FBCR
Where to Serve
The discipline of service is a distinct benefit and obligation for our members. Our service will often come in two forms:
Spontaneous care
God provides an abundance of spontaneous opportunities to serve Him and others through personal care. These situations—whether practical care or prayerful support—encourage us to depend on God’s work through us to serve others. It is important we have eyes to see others in need, recognizing that these occasions are a God-ordained means of cultivating a servant’s heart.
Structured ministry teams
The majority of structured ministry in the church is carried out by volunteers who devote their time, gifting, and energy to serve within the context of organized ministry teams. We expect every member to participate in at least one ministry team. A wide variety of teams exist to utilize your God-given gifts for the benefit of others.
Begin serving as soon as possible!
It is wise to start small, desiring to serve wherever needs exist, and trusting that God will use it to help you grow in blessing others, whatever the role.
Service as “Stewards”
Stewardship involves the faithful use of resources that belong to another. An important part of following Christ is the use of our material resources for God’s purposes and to meet the needs of others. In fact, Scripture is clear that an authentic relationship with Christ will include the faithful use of our resources for His purposes. This involves the use of our money and possessions for the glory of God, the work of His church, and the well being of others.
The Reality of Stewardship
The faithful use of our resources begins with the realization that God owns everything! All that we have comes from Him, and therefore we don’t really own
anything; we are merely stewards—overseers or managers—over things that belong to God.
For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine. “If I were hungry, I would not tell you; For the world is Mine, and all its fullness.” ()
The Significance of Stewardship
The faithful use of our resources is commanded by God and is an undeniable indicator of our spiritual health. Materialism, selfishness, greed, hoarding, and
anxiety over money—all of these reveal that our trust lies not in God but in money.
Conversely, generosity and faithfulness reveal that our trust is in God—by such things we confess that God is the source of our life, not our possessions.
Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”” ()
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” ()
The Substance of Stewardship
In addition to meeting our physical needs, God provides us with material resources to further the work of His kingdom through the local church. Throughout salvation history, God has called His people to support His work through giving.
In the Old Testament, God’s people were to give a tithe, the first tenth, of their income to God. Though it predated the giving of the Law (; ), this practice was later formalized in the Law of Moses for the maintenance of the temple and provision for the priests and Levites who served there (; ).
In the New Testament, giving to support the work of the church remains an expectation of believers. There are a few intended uses for the giving from the church.
Giving to support the needs of individuals
Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.” ()
Giving to support the church’s leaders, so they can devote their
time and energies to serving the church
Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” ()
Giving to support the extension of the gospel
Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.” ()
The Old Testament practice of tithing illustrates important guidelines and provides a helpful starting point for regular giving to the church. While there is not a direct application of Old Testament tithing in the New Testament, the practice of giving is often associated with the Old Testament’s general teaching on tithes and offerings. For example, the financial support of the New Testament church is likened to the support of the temple in the Old Testament.
Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” ( cf. )
Additionally, believers are commanded to financially support the local church where they receive care and training.
Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”” ()
Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.” ()
We are to give regularly and systematically. This demonstrates a commitment to God and a trust that He will provide for all our needs (see ).
On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.” ()
In the New Testament, walking in the will of God is intensified due to the transforming work of the Spirit in light of Christ’s work on the cross (e.g., hatred is likened to murder in ; lust is likened to adultery in ). In the same way, our giving is not merely to be thought of as “paying our dues,” but should flow from the giving of our entire lives to God. In light of all this the Old Testaments example of giving 10% from our first-fruits is an appropriate starting point for our giving under the better covenant of Jesus Christ.
For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.” ()
Offerings over and above our regular giving provide for special needs, specific ministries, care for the poor, and the expansion of the gospel.
Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.” ()
Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.” ()
The Heart of Stewardship
What we do with our money reveals the condition of our hearts (). But, in addition to the command to give, Scripture also instructs us in godly motivations and attitudes toward giving. Here is just a sampling:
Giving is to be generous, not stingy
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” ()
Giving is to be enthusiastic, not grudging
So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” ()
Giving is to be deliberate, not haphazard
Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.” ()
Giving is to be discreet, not showy
“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” ()
Giving is to be with faith, not anxiety
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.” ()
The Privilege of Participation
One of the great tragedies of western Christianity is the misconception that “church” is an ornate building or a service to attend, rather than a community of God’s people saved by His grace and called to serve Him and one another. Sadly, this contributes to Christians who are observers, rather than participants, in church life.
By contrast, we feel strongly that members of the church are participants in the life of God, with the people of God, made possible by the grace of God. Thus, participation through service is the call and responsibility of every person redeemed through the work of Christ on the cross. Having been purchased by God, we have the awesome privilege of offering all that we are and have to Him for His glory.
Ultimately, the giving of ourselves as “servants” and “stewards” is not merely a duty—as if we somehow could “repay” God for the grace we have received. On the contrary, before we can give, we must possess, and before we can possess, we must receive. Therefore, all of our serving and giving is simply offering back to God what has always been His anyway! Our time, talents, and resources are all gifts from Him, and it is an honor to use them for God’s glory and His purposes. Who could imagine for themselves a more noble, meaningful, and fulfilling purpose?
Key Concepts and Terms from this Session:
Stewardship
Servant-hood
Humility
Grace
Ministry Teams
Giving
Tithing
Pray
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