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The Faithful Steward
1 Corinthians 4:2


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Eighth Sunday After the Epiphany—February 27, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

In today’s Epistle Reading, the Apostle Paul says, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.”  That modern translation does not use the traditional word to describe one who has “been given a trust” that is found in other versions: “Now it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.”  That’s what a “steward” is: one who has “been given a trust,” to use on behalf of someone else, in fulfillment of their purposes.

In ancient times a steward was a servant who was entrusted by his master with caring for his property.  The best example in the Bible in Joseph. Genesis says that after he was sold into slavery in Egypt, his master “left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything.”

In 2nd Corinthians, Paul explains the basis and motivation for Christian stewardship, of all that God has entrusted to us: “For Christ’s love compels us, because . . . he died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and rose again.” 

Because of our sins, we were separated from God and deserved only his wrath, punishment, and damnation.  But, for us men and our salvation, God’s own Son came down from heaven and was made man, was crucified, dead and buried, and rose again.  As Paul says Ephesians, “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as an offering and sacrifice to God.” 

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was an offering and sacrifice for you, to pay for all your sins, on your behalf, in your place.  Because of his life, death, and resurrection for you, your sins are all forgiven.  As the book of Acts says, “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. . . believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”

“For Christ’s love compels us, because . . . he died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and rose again.”  That is the basis and motivation for our Christian stewardship: In response, out of gratitude for God’s amazing, forgiving love toward you in Christ, you desire in your life to use all that he has entrusted to you for the fulfillment of his purposes.

It is unfortunate that when we hear the word “stewardship” the first thing that comes to mind for most modern Christians is “money.”  Biblically speaking, money is only one part of a life of Christian stewardship.

Paul begins today’s Epistle Reading, “So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”  Paul had many blessings in his life of which to be a good steward. 

He was the brilliant kid who got a perfect score on his ACT and was accepted to the best school.  He is described in the Bible as having “great learning” and was a graduate of the premier rabbinical training school.  He was a prodigy, who at a very young age already had the equivalent of a doctorate degree.  He was a rising star in the religious hierarchy, destined for greatness.  There are today several branches of rabbinic interpretation named after their famous founders from thousands of years ago.  If Christ had not intervened in Paul’s life, appearing to him in a vision on the road to Damascus and calling him to faith, one of those schools of rabbinic interpretation would surely be named after Paul.

Paul also had the great advantage of being a Roman citizen, which was a privilege that few in the Empire actually enjoyed.  And in an era when most people in their lives never traveled beyond their little village or valley, Paul traveled widely and visited the great cities of Rome, Athens, and Jerusalem.  He also had a secular talent, a side occupation he used to support himself, as a tentmaker, probably a family trade that he had learned from his father.

For the rest of his life after that encounter on the road to Damascus, all of this, everything Paul was, everything he had, he used to serve his Lord and Master.  “For Christ’s love compels us, because . . . he died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and rose again.”

In today’s Epistle Reading, Paul is talking about a wonderful treasure entrusted to him, and the other Apostles, and all those down to this day who have been called into the Christian ministry: “So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”  The “mysteries of God” refers to the Gospel and the Sacraments.  Paul and the other Apostles had been entrusted with this precious treasure, and they did not bury it in the ground like the unfaithful servant in Jesus’ parable.

The full name of the book of Acts is “The Acts of the Apostles,” which along with their Epistles tells the astounding story of how these 12 mostly former fishermen transformed the world for Christ.  As one of their opponents in Acts complains, “These men have turned the world upside down.”  “So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”  The Apostles were faithful stewards of the treasure, the precious Gospel and Sacraments, entrusted to them.

Another example from Church history is Martin Luther.  After he had his own Damascus road experience, rediscovering the Gospel, which the Church in the Middle Ages had largely forgotten, he too devoted his life, everything he was and had, to spreading that Good News, and in the process he too transformed the world for Christ.

You and I are no Paul or Peter or Martin Luther.  But, Paul says in Ephesians, “To each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”  And Peter says in his 1st Epistle, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”

Like Peter and Paul and the rest of the Apostles, like Martin Luther and other heroes of the faith, you too have been given gracious gifts from your heavenly Father, entrusted to you for the fulfillment of his purposes.  As Paul says in Romans, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.”

“So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and stewards . . .”   You have your own unique, special gifts, to use in service to Christ.  Paul puts it this way in 1st Corinthians: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

“Now it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.”  What has God entrusted to you, for you to be a faithful steward for him in your life?

There is his gift to you of time, talents, and abilities.  Maybe you have a gift for working with children and could use that gift by being a Scout leader, coaching a team, teaching Sunday School or Vacation Bible School.  Maybe you have the gift of musical abilities and could sing in or direct the choir, play the piano, organ, or other instrument.  Maybe you have a knack for figures and could be the treasurer for a civic group or in the church.  Maybe you’re a good cook and could help with church dinners or at the homeless shelter.  Maybe you’re artistic and could make a banner or help with crafts for Vacation Bible School.  Maybe you’re a good listener and have a sympathetic personality and can help people by showing loving Christian concern for them.  The possibilities are limitless for service to Christ, not only in the church but also in the world.

There is also of course your earthly occupation, in which you are serving both Christ and the world.  Just last week a hospital patient was describing to me a very intricate surgery, and I said, “I’m just thankful there’s people who are able to do that, because I know I couldn’t.” 

Every honest occupation, from doctor to construction worker to farmer to engineer to office worker to homemaker, is in some way vital for the welfare of others.  The different value that we place on various occupations is reflected in the salaries they receive, but in God’s eyes they are all equally important and equally a highly esteemed service to him.  Because whatever kind of work you do, God needs people like you in this world to do that work on his behalf for the welfare of others.  Paul puts it this way in Colossians: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. . .  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Finally, good stewardship does also include what we usually think of when we hear the word “stewardship,” your earthly possessions, including money.  Paul says in 1st Corinthians, “Each of you should set aside a sum of money, in keeping with his income, saving it up for the collection.”  And in 2nd Corinthians, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

“So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and stewards . . .”  Stewardship does indeed include money and other material possessions, which is an important part of being a good steward of God’s gifts.  But, Biblically speaking, money is only one part of a life of Christian stewardship.  “Now it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.”  What has God entrusted to you, for you to be a faithful steward for him in your life?

Amen.

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