Stewardship and Sacrifice
The Life Abundant
an introduction to the spiritual disciplines of stewardship and sacrifice
What if you have to give it all?
Stewardship and sacrifice, as well as contentment. These, in my mind, go hand in hand. And they can only come, from what I see, through a solid knowledge of what you have been given. Even a hippie type that prides himself on being happy with what he has is only content when he is content. What I mean is, their faith, their contentment, their spending their money well or giving their time to good causes and to the people around them are destroyed in a simple moment of weakness. Like Quakers worship their lack of stuff worship, a person who serves for the sake of service or sacrifice for it's own sake is nothing. “Though I give my body to the flame, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13). When contentment is for contentment's sake, what happens when you are suddenly not content? When you are a good stewardship so that you can handle money well, for the sake of handling it well, what happens when you run out of money?
Let's read the verse for this week, Philippians 3:7-11.
Philippians 3:7-11 (NASB95)
7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.1
Look at that. Whatever things were gain...count as loss for the sake of Christ. In fact everything is loss next to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus. Someone said to me recently that they had a hard time doing what was right, what they knew they should be doing: “I mean, grace is free, right? I'm forgiven for everything, so why work so hard to do what is right? It's just too hard.” It's hard to know what to say to that. I can't really explain the direness of sin. I could draw that picture of me and God and the huge gap of sin and the cross that bridges that gap and allows me to commune with God, but it is just a picture. Maybe if I made sin a big, ugly monster with fangs and blood drips and a breath that could kill on first smell. My best picture is from Paul where he says sin is death (Romans 6:23, 8:2) (1 Corinthians 15:56) (Ephesians 2:1, etc.) and being in sin is like treading in a pool of decaying bodies. That is the nastiest thing I can think, but if you have not experienced sin, it has not affected you or caught up to you, then the gift of being freed from that through the death of Christ is a cheap thing to you. Listen to Paul, “the surpassing value of knowing Christ.” He did not say the free grace that lets me do whatever I was going to do in the first place. IT IS THE SURPASSING VALUE, THE GREATNESS OF KNOWING CHRIST.
I can't say that enough. Neither could Paul (Romans 5:15, 6:23) (1 Corinthians 5:57) (Ephesians 2:8, 3:7). So I will say it again. If you could know:
1 The Creator of the Universe
2 The One willing to die in your place
3 One able to do all things, to work all things for your good, to rise, victorious over death
4 The only One that knows you, all of you, and loves you in spite of your weakness and because of who you are
wouldn't you want to? Is that not an important and wonderful thing, a gift of “surpassing value”? And Paul goes on, “...in order that I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” There's that grace part, too, worked in here to our verse. Not only can you know God, but, through Jesus, we can spend forever getting to know Him better by defeating death just as Christ has already done. This is a big deal, all of this. Sit back for a minute and think about it all, all these gifts we have been given and all the disgusting death we have been freed from.
So, enough introduction. What of sacrifice? How can this be a discipline?
Romans 12:1-2 (NASB95)
1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.2
Ephesians 5:1-2 (NASB95)
1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.3 Philippians 3:10 (NASB95)
10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;4
In Luke Jesus says to take up our cross and follow Him. That sounds a lot like sacrifice to me. The thing is, you sacrifice for whatever you believe in most, what you desire. Like all things, sacrifice can show you where your heart is. What do you give to, what give for, what you sacrifice for, that is what you care about. The parents know this better, I think. They give of themselves and what they want to be able to give their children their needs and frivolous desires.
Let's read Matthew 6:19-33. This is the worry passage, but it also speaks of sacrifice. Seek God's kingdom first, sacrifice for it, and you will have all you need.
Genesis 22:2 says what? Abraham sacrificed for God and became the father of God's chosen people, a thing he only witnessed the very beginning of, but God provided for him, took care of him, and fulfilled His promises to him.
Stewardship? How is this a discipline to better know God?
Luke 6:38 (NASB95)
38 “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”5
2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (NASB95)
6 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;6
James 4:14 (NASB95)
14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.7
1 Corinthians 10:26 (NASB95)
26 for the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains.8
Now, these are some simple verses. And here they are taken out of context. Go back and read them in context. What are they about? Are they really what they seem to be here? Stewardship can be a part of sacrifice. Using your time and money well give you more opportunity to give them sacrificially. Realizing that time is not in your hands, that your money is not ours will allow you to release it easier. Knowing that these things are actually God's, that He controls time and gives (and takes) money and other blessings lends itself less hoarding and more giving. Knowing and noticing where the time and money go can help you see the things that are important to you and help with the reordering of your rule of life. What you treasure is where you are living. Are you living in front of a TV, in a good book, at the gym? Or are you living in the kingdom of God?
Spend some time next week looking over these verses, and find out where you live. Find out if that's where you want to be living. Read Proverbs 3:5-8.
I want to tell you about Jess and I real quick. We started tithing a little bit ago, something we haven't done in a while. We have been tithing even when we didn't have money, but we are not going hungry. In fact, Jess found out that she is going to have so many students this summer that we will have the car paid for by the end of July, freeing up quite a bit of money each month. God will take care of you if you seek first His kingdom and Righteousness.
1 New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
2 New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
3 New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
4 New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
5 New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
6 New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
7 New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
8 New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.