We Are Stewards, Not Kings

The Indescribable Blessing of Giving Back to God

I — Text: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

 

II — What’s the Big Idea? In His Word, we see that God expects His people to give back to Him a portion of their time, money, and talents, for the building up of His kingdom on earth. Through Paul, God calls this our “ministry of giving.”

  • When we recognize daily, the reality that the world and everything in it already belongs to God, then we naturally assume the attitude of stewards and not owners, and no less than three wonderful things happen: we glorify Him by fulfilling the expectation He has for us to give, we prove to ourselves and to the culture around us that we truly belong to God, and finally, we enjoy the indescribable blessings of God….

….who is pleased with such selfless acts born out of the new heart Christ has given us.

 

III — Gandalf & Denethor: Brief illustration of “stewardship” vs “kingship/ownership.” (summary) The whole reason that the “line of kings failed,” and that the “kingdom of Gondor was given over to lesser men,” was because the kings became selfish with their wealth and power, and began to spend it on themselves instead of spending it on the kingdom over which they’d been given charge.

If we translate this illustration to ourselves today we would say that, God entrusts His people in this world as stewards, not as kings/owners, because He is the King/Owner of this world and everything in it (We find unquestionable affirmation of this truth in Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 50:12)

 

IV — How Our Individual Understanding & Attitude About Giving Affects the Church:

 

A — What the Church Is Called to Do

  • God’s design for the Church has two essential components: To shepherd, through loving discipleship and discipline, those who already belong to it through faith in Jesus Christ alone; to proclaim and live-out the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the sake of the culture of which it is a part, for the specific purpose of souls being converted from eternal death to eternal life.
  • And while we don’t want to de-emphasize the massive importance of caring for our own as we grow in our faith; we must nevertheless be resolved, that the Church is not a place where we grow complacent in how large we’ve become, or how beautiful our buildings are, or how much staff we have, or how much the pastors make, or how many influential people we have in the community. All of those things could be true of the church, but not one of them means a thing if they don’t translate to the fundamental purpose of what it means….

….to be the church (that’s us, btw, not the cool stuff we’ve mentioned); and what it means to be the church is to always be striving to bring souls to Christ by the ways that we live and speak. We have no greater purpose, except to glorify God, and nothing glorifies Him more than when a soul comes to Christ!

 

B — An Ineffective Church

The chief reason that the Church has not been as effective as she could be in fulfilling the mission she’s designed for—particularly in a consumer-driven, self-preserving Western Culture such as modern America—is because more of her people than not still believe that they are the kings/owners of their possessions, and not God. And to be clear, it’s not necessarily what is being given or held back that represents the benefit or the problem, respectively, for the Church; for God can grow His kingdom without any help from our bank accounts or talents.

No, if we’re talking about what represents the Church’s biggest problem of why it hasn’t flourished in the culture as it should, to this point in the history of Western Civilization, again, it’s not in the holding back of our means, but instead the reason behind why we hold back our means. What is that reason? We just said it a moment ago:

We still think we own the possessions God has entrusted us to steward over!

The Church has not been the force that it should be in modern culture because, by not giving freely to God what is already His, the Church follows its own way and not the way of its Master, Jesus Christ, who laid down everything He owned in order to please His Father (Philippians 2:3-9). Again, it’s not the means or lack of means that the Church has that makes it the force it’s supposed to be in the culture—it’s the heart motivation and inspiration behind the giving and not giving that makes the difference, because it’s an indication of our spiritual condition.

In the Philippians passage I just mentioned, Jesus lays down everything He otherwise has a rightful claim to, and gives it over to God, for Him to use as He sees fit; “Spend Me as You wish, Father!” says Jesus—and what God spends His Son on is an unworthy people who hate Him and are destined to an eternal torment, in order that they would instead become a worthy people who love Him, whose destinies are then changed, so that they are guaranteed an eternal life of peace and joy in the Presence of God, forever! That’s the Gospel! And in so doing, God honors Jesus and gives Him so much more in return, as it were! And that’s how it works for Christians, because, of course, we live in the very identity of Christ, Himself!

I want my heart to be tuned to the melody of Christ, so that I can freely, naturally, and with the greatest joy, be able to say to God, “Spend me as You see fit, Father! Spend me for the sake of others!” He will honor that prayer, and our church will grow and be effective in the culture around us!

C — An Effective Church

  • A church that’s effective in speaking the Gospel into the lives of the culture around it does not first need the money and talents of its people. It first needs its people to be saturated in the Word of God, the love of God, and thus the natural deference to God, which is, that everything that appears to be ours actually belongs to God, and therefore causes us to be gladly willing to give back to His purposes.
  • We’re talking about the cultivation of a mindset—a heart-change—where we no longer compartmentalize what is ours and what is God’s. It’s all God’s. So when we, through fear & selfishness, don’t give to His purposes, we could rightly ask, in today’s vernacular: Exactly who do we think we are when we hold back what is rightfully His to begin with? Answer: We think we are the “god” of our possessions, but, of course, we are not.
  • In contrast to the compartmentalization of much of the modern Church, the early Church in Acts had already begun inwardly & outwardly proving the reality of its conversion to Christ, by its people selling their possessions and bringing the proceeds to the Apostles of the Church. And as a result, the surrounding culture was being converted to Christ! Acts 4:32-35 speaks to this. I’ll paraphrase some of the text for emphasis: “All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. [As a result, when the apostles preached the reality of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, many believed it because they saw the fruit of it in how His people trusted Him enough to give back to Him], and [therefore] God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.”
  • So as we talk about the “effective church,” let’s zero in on a few key verses in our main text this morning in Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthian church
  • 2 Corinthians 9:6 — “Giving 101”: Invest small, small return; invest big, big return. And God isn’t like Wall Street, where you might lose big as easily as win big. He guarantees us that if we give big, He will return bigger back to us! Malachi 3:8-11 is God speaking to His people, telling them that they have actually robbed Him by not giving to the needs of the temple (OT equivalent of “church,” basically). He says, “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do….

….says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.”

  • 9:7 — Decide in your heart—according to the convictions God gives you—how much to give. And don’t give just because this is the message being preached this morning! We give back to God out of the overflow of our hearts—out of what He has given us! And since He has given us everything, in the life and death of His Son for our sake, our prayer should be that He frees us from self-preservation, knowing that He is our preservation, so that we can give with a cheerful and glad heart.
  • 9:8-9 — Bottom line: When God gives us resources and means, He does it so that….

….we will have plenty for ourselves…and for others. God never blesses us so that we spend it all on ourselves.

  • 9:10 — This is warning of sorts. In case we get to thinking that it’s our hard work alone that’s the reason for our resources, God reminds us that the farmer certainly does work hard—but the farmer doesn’t so much as have a seed to work with unless God gives it to him. Therefore, if everything we have comes from God’s own resources, then we must learn to be inclined to cheerfully give back to Him what is rightfully His.
  • 9:11-15 — Through our “ministry of giving”: believers and non-believers will be blessed by their needs being met; they will glorify God by thanking Him through our giving; our generosity then becomes the living proof that Christ really does live within us; the prayers offered up for us will be deep and heart-felt, which ultimately means that those who are praying for us….

….will be enriched in their own prayer lives because of the depth by which they draw near to God—all because of our generosity.

 

V — Discussion:

  • I want to discuss primarily from our theme. We said that three main things happen as a result of giving, and I’d like to hear from you whether you think those things are true or false, how important those things are to you, and some reasons for your answer:
  • The three things that result from our generosity are: We glorify Him by fulfilling the expectation He has for us to give; we prove to ourselves and to the culture around us that we truly belong to God; and finally, we enjoy the indescribable blessings of God, who is pleased with such selfless acts born out of the new heart Christ has given us
  • Bonus question: Is there anyone who doesn’t give because, while they might trust God….

….they don’t trust what His people will do with their giving?

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