I am going to begin with an uncomfortable question today. Are you a giver or a taker? I want you to give this a serious thought. Take a moment to think about the last week and make a mental list of what all you have taken and what all you have given. Think of material things, think of non material things. Think of love, think of care, think of time, think of support, think of comforting words, think of encouragement, think of food , think of clothing, think of money. Which side do you find the balance tilting towards?
I have been speaking on the topic of Servant Leadership whenever I get a chance to speak here. As I had indicated in my earlier sermons, there are ten Servant Leadership Characteristics and Stewardship is one of them.
There are two aspects of Stewardship. One is the community aspect, and the other is the individual aspect. The community aspect is less controversial. So let us see that first. Servant Leaders are expected to understand and know that that the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it (Psalm 104). Hence Servant Leaders are expected behave like stewards of the things on earth and not as owners. Servant Leaders are also expected to understand that god has given us all different roles and all roles have an equally important part to play in the Kingdom of God. Paul takes great pains in explaining about unity in diversity using the metaphor of the body and it’s part in 1Corinthians 12:4-31. He stresses the point that all are equally important in the Church, but they are meant to be diverse. Thus Servant Leaders believe that in all institutions CEO’s, staff, directors, janitors, drivers, cooks and trustees all play significance roles in holding their institutions in trust for the great good of society.
That is when we are the leader of an organisation, leader of a community etc. But remember, we are all leaders in the sphere of life that God has called us to. We are called to influence others (1 Peter 2:12. John 15:16) and going by the definition that “Leadership is Influence” we are all called to be Leaders, once we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. So the question is what does Stewardship mean to us as individuals? What does Stewardship mean to us at a personal level?
This is where I come back to the question that I started with. Are we a giver or a taker? I might have told you this story before, but I am going to repeat it here. There was a man pushing a pram with a baby in it. The baby was screaming, crying, throwing tantrums etc. the man kept on telling “Keep cool Andrew. Keep Cool Andrew”. A lady walking by saw this dialogue between the father and son, and was impressed. She knelt down and played with the baby and said to him , “Andrew, you have a good dad”. The father told her. “Madam, thank you, His name is Antony, I am Andrew”. So if any of you get angry with what I am about to say, please remember to keep your cool.
Are you a giver or a taker? Believe me, there are no other options in this multiple choice question. There are only two options, one can either be a giver or a taker. The answer, as the song goes, might be blowing in the wind. Let us think about how we pray. How often do we ask to be blessed and how often do we ask to be made a blessing for others? How often do we ask to be healed, than ask for an opportunity to heal some one else? How often do we ask for travel mercies than to be merciful to others while we travel?
Let us take this a level down. What is our attitude to giving? A common approach to giving is, once we give some thing, we are parting with it from what we have. Our self worth reduces by the quantity that we give. This equation makes us poorer every time we give. The equation is simple. I have Rs 1000 with me. I give Rs 100 as offertory, I end up being poorer by that much and I am left with Rs 900 only with me after that. I am poore by Rs 100/- .The fact is that we do not have the same view when we put in that Rs 100/- in bank account or buy an asset with it. You see we then consider it as an investment. That is a key difference. If we give, with the mentality of being poorer due to that act, we have the scarcity mentality. This type of giving could be driven by charity, sentiments, peer pressure, recognition or even guilt. Some of us extend this equation to even non material things, like love, patience etc. This leads us to hoard what we have. This is the taker mentality.
All of us know the parable of the Talent. Let us take another look at it this morning. Matt. 25 : 14-30 . The story is probably known to you. The master gives gold bags to three servants, before he leaves on vacation. The servant who got five bags of gold, invests that money and doubles it by the time the master comes back. The servant who gets two bags of gold also does the same. But the servant who gets one bag of gold is afraid that he might lose the money and hence goes and hides it, and returns the same amount when the master comes back. The master comes back, and when he hears that the first two servants has increased the money given to them he is very pleaded with them and rewards them even more. When he hears that the third servant hid the money and gave it back as it is , the master gets very angry with the third servant and punishes him, takes away the single bag of gold he had given him, and gives it to the servant who had invested and doubled the amount. What is the message for us in this parable? To me, there are three messages in this parable.
1. God expects every Christian to give an account of what we do with our lives and ‘gifts” that He has given to us. We all know that Grace has been given to us. But we are not expected to receive the grace in vain. “As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain” Paul tells us in 2 Cor 6:1.
2. The gifts given to us, are not ours to enjoy. It is expected that we invest those gifts for glorification of God’s name and extension of His Kingdom. We are called to use the gifts given to us. God expects us to invest the gifts for other’s benefits.
3. God expects us to be courageous with the gifts that are given to us. It is easy to be like the third servant and play it safe, and hide the gifts given to us. It takes courage to go ahead and invest those gifts. There is always risk in investing. How many of us are afraid like the third servant, and how many times have we shied away from using God given talents outside?
Some times we think investment is a bad word for Christians. Is it so? Let us look at the scriptures. Galatians 6:7 says “A man reaps what he sows”. The principle known widely as the Golden Rule says this “Do to others as you would have them do to you” Luke 6:31. Paul sums up the law of investment very nicely in 2 Cor 9:6 “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” See the law of investment is simple. If you invest some thing, you will receive it back many times over. Luke 6:38 expresses it very clearly . “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” You want friends, invest friendship, you want respect, give respect, you want love, invest love, do you want fear, invest fear. Do you begin to see giving as an investment now? This is what happens when we see giving as an investment. We suddenly see that we do not become poorer as a result of giving, but we actually become richer. This mentality is called the abundance mentality. God calls us to an abundant life. So it is expected that we do not harbor the scarcity mentality, but an abundance mentality.
This morning I do not want to remind you about the Tithing principles detailed in Deuteronomy. You see, the problem with the instructions given in Deuteronomy is that they are seen by many as a “duty”. When some thing is seen merely as a duty, one is in a situation where one has to do it. You know the difference between having to do some thing and choosing to some thing. This morning God is asking us to choose to give. Choose to invest in his kingdom.
Let me end by highlighting some things that we need to take care while practicing stewardship and the law of investment. Dr John Haggai, the founder of the Haggai Institute of Leadership , has listed down what he calls as the Ten commandments of Investment. Let me briefly take you through s a few of them.
1. Recognise that God is the Provider: Abraham called God Jehovah- Jireh. In Genesis 22, when Isaac asked Abraham “Look the fire and wood is here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham trusted God to provide. God provides us with all the resources necessary to accomplish His will.
2. Invest on the front end: A farmer does not say I will sow the seeds if I have a good harvest. A builder does not say, when every body has paid up, I wil start building the apartments. Investment is required upfront. Invest in advance for things that are to come in future.
3. Be Patient: A farmer does not expect a crop overnight. The farmer does not plant a seed and dig it up the next day to see if it has germinated. We have to be patient with our investments in God’s kingdom. There could be failures, there could be difficulties. You might have invested love and you might have been betrayed. You might have invested friendship and you might have been insulted or hurt. You might have invested money and might have lost some money. But it does not mean that the law of investment is wrong. It only means that we have to be more patient with what we have invested.
4. Give God the Glory: Do not start thinking that you are special because your invest starts paying off. Because you get praised for a great voice you have. Because you have great friends, because you got materially blessed. Remember, you might have planned well, you might have sacrificed a lot to reach where you are. But remember that it is God who provided your reward. 1 Cor 3:7 says “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow”
So in summary, God is asking us to be stewards of all that He has given to us. He is asking us not to hoard the things that He has given to us. He is calling us to invest the talents and gifts and wealth that He has given us. He is calling us to be givers and not takers this morning. What is our reaction to this call?
God is not interested in what we do not have
God is interested in what we do with what we have.
Let us Pray.