It’s All God’s
Deuteronomy 8:11-18, Psalm 24
Rev. Sandy Johnson
October 29, 2017
Top Ten Things You Never Hear In Church
- Hey! It’s my turn to sit in the front pew.
- I was so enthralled; I never noticed your sermon went 25 minutes over time.
- Personally, I find witnessing much more enjoyable than golf.
- How long is the waiting list to serve on the church cleanup committee?
- I volunteer to be the permanent teacher for the Sunday School.
- Isn’t it great to have the children running around the church after service?
- I love it when we sing songs I’ve never heard before!
- Since we’re all here, let’s start the service early.
- Pastor, we’d like to send you to this Bible seminar in the Bahamas.
- Nothing inspires me and strengthens my commitment like our annual stewardship campaign!
I am pleased to share that we don’t do an annual stewardship campaign. You know what I’m talking about don’t you? The program that some churches run to see how much they can increase their budget each year? Some churches even hire companies to run flashy programs to convince their people to let go of more of their money than the previous year. Some churches have the reputation of always asking for money. Others never have enough and beg, plead and guilt their members to give enough to cover the pastor’s salary.
While I totally support covering the pastor’s salary, what I want to talk about this morning isn’t about money really, but about stewardship. As a child growing up in the church, I always associated stewardship with the fall campaign where my parents filled out their commitment card of their pledge for the coming year. I imagine that the finance committee used that information to formulate a budget that was balanced, based on the projection of giving. And that is certainly one way to go about managing the finances of the church.
In the secular world it would be like a company who sets their yearly sales projections and then creates a plan to achieve those goals. When I worked as an Account Executive I set yearly sales goals every year and then broke down the goal into quarterly and monthly goals working hard by making sales calls, following up on leads and generating sales for the company. Simple, right?
Over the years I have studied churches and how they work with their members and friends to support the mission and ministries of their church. Most do the traditional month-long fall stewardship campaign. But that is not our tradition. I have always been intrigued with this church because this congregation understands that this church belongs to you; you understand that the things we do are in direct correlation to the dedication you all have to share your time, talent, gifts, service and witness. This congregation is one of the most generous congregation in our conference when we look at individual giving per person. So, I don’t think you need to hear a message on giving necessarily.
What I would like to share this morning is how we relate to our resources; how do we relate to our money and possessions. What does God have to say on this matter? Does God care about our money and possessions? It is estimated that there are more scripture verses on money and possessions and how to manage them, than all of the epistles combined. Apparently, God has a lot to say, so probably we should spend some time learning how God’s economy is set up and how we can best align our economies with God’s.
So, I begin by asking this very important question. Are we owners or are we stewards? “An owner is someone who owns something. They have a legal or rightful title to something,” often through the purchase of something. I can say that I own my car. In 2008, I went to Planet Hyundai and test drove a brand-new Sonata. I decided I wanted that car and negotiated the deal, put some money down and then I worked fulltime to be able to earn the money to make the payments. And in five years it was paid off. I can say with authority, “I own my car!”
Or do I? If I spend much time reading scripture, I learn a very different approach to my possessions. I remember years ago I thought that I was a very lucky woman. Things just seemed to work out for me. Some might have said I was charmed, or overly blessed. I was smart, that’s what it was, and I made great decisions. My career was going along beautifully. I did what the writer of Deuteronomy specifically cautioned us against. “Do not exalt yourself forgetting the Lord your God,…17 Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth.”
You mean that I wasn’t lucky? It wasn’t really me doing all of those things? God had something to do with it? Maybe ownership isn’t the way we are to look at our things? Perhaps we are stewards as the bible says? A steward is someone who manages things for the owner. Psalm 24 says that “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” So, is it God’s or mine? This would indicate it is God’s. God owns the Sonata, right?
“Stewardship is living with the awareness that we are managers, not owners; that we are caretakers of God’s assets. How we handle money and possessions demonstrates who we really believe is our true owner – God or ourselves.”
“If we really believe God is the owner of all that has been entrusted to us, shouldn’t we frequently ask Him, “What do you want me to do with your money and your possessions?” If it all belongs to God, then it affects the way we handle our money, doesn’t it? “After all, if God really owns it, then I’m responsible to Him for how I spend the money that He allocated to me.
“That means that every dollar I spend ought to have some sort of eternal purpose attached to it. It also means that God has infinite resources at His disposal, and He uses them to meet our needs and to bless us. God is greater than any business, government, or bad economy. It doesn’t matter how much doom and gloom there is in the world, or what the experts say. God owns everything, and gives us those resources when we call on Him.”
“When I take to heart the truth that God has a claim, not merely on a few dollars to throw in an offering plate, not on 10%, or 50%, but 100% of “my” money, it’s revolutionary. Suddenly, I’m not God. I’m simply God’s money manager. Money isn’t God. God is God. He is in His place; I am in mine, and money is in its place too.
“Not only does God own everything, God controls everything. Again, the implications are enormous. It’s in better hands than mine. God’s ownership and sovereignty offer such a life-changing and freeing perspective when the house is robbed, the car is totaled, the bike is stolen or when the diagnosis is terminal cancer.
“When I grasp that I’m a steward, not an owner, it totally changes my perspective. It’s the ultimate paradigm shift. Suddenly, I’m not asking, “How much of my money shall I, out of the goodness of my heart, give to God?” Rather, I’m asking, “Since all of ‘my’ money is really yours, Lord, how would you like me to invest it today?”
“Life becomes much clearer—and in some respects much easier—when we consciously recognize this and actively live this way. The question isn’t whether we theoretically affirm God’s ownership. The question is whether we’ve deliberately transferred everything to Him. Have we extended the invitation again after we’ve forgotten and taken things back into our hands? This self-surrender to God is the beginning of true stewardship. To make it real, however, it’s a surrender that must happen daily—every day for the rest of our lives.”
So how do we give up our ownership and take the role of steward that God intends for us? We can begin by examining every purchase in light of its ministry potential. This doesn’t mean that we stop buying things that we enjoy, but we must think about how would God want us to spend our resources. Next, we can pray before we buy something, we can postpone buying something and pray for God to provide it a different way. Or perhaps we decide that we don’t really need that new car anyway. Praying allows us to wait, which eliminates impulsive buying.
We can begin to understand that nothing is a good deal if we can’t afford it. And “God isn’t behind every good deal. Learning self-control often means turning down good deals on things we really want because God may have better plans for His money.”
We must learn the difference between spending money and saving it. “Saving is setting money aside for a future purpose; it says in our wallet or in the bank. It can be used for other purposes, including our needs or the needs of others. Money that’s spent leaves our hands and is no longer at our disposal. If we buy an $80 sweater on sale for $30, we’ve spent $30. If we think we’ve just saved $50, we simply don’t understand the concept of saving. If we keep “saving” like that, we’ll soon be broke!
“Next, we can “Look at the long-term cost, not just the short-term expense. If we buy a new car, we fret about dents, it costs money to put gas in it and make needed repairs, then we have to buy insurance to cover us in case of an accident. Count the cost in advance. Everything ends up being more expensive than it first appears.
To be good stewards for God, “we must understand and resist the manipulative nature of advertising. People earn master’s degrees in marketing to persuade us to buy things we don’t need. Advertising enlarges our wants by telling us, “You need this car,” “You won’t be loved unless you wear these kinds of clothes,” and “You won’t have fun unless you use this product.”
“Advertising is seductive and manipulative. It programs us. We must consciously reject its claims and counter them with God’s Word, which tells us what we really do and don’t need. We should withdraw ourselves from advertising that fosters greed or discontent. That may mean less television, less flipping through sales catalogs and newspaper ads, and less aimless wandering through shopping malls.
“We can learn to walk away from things you want but don’t need. And realize that little things add up. One dollar here and ten dollars over there; a hamburger here and mocha there; going to the movies and rounds of golf. These things may seem inconsequential, but they can add up to hundreds of dollars per month and thousands per year that could be used for Kingdom purposes. If a swimming pool is full of leaks, you can pump in more water, but it will never be enough until the leaks are fixed. We can take in more income, but until we fix the little leaks in our spending habits, we’ll never be able to divert the flow of money for higher purposes.
“Finally, we can set up a budget and live by it. Let’s imagine you entrust a large sum of money to a money manager, telling her to wisely invest it on your behalf. A few months later, you call her to see how the investments are doing. Embarrassed by your call, she admits, “There are no investments. None of your money is left.” Shocked you ask, “Where did it all go?” Sheepishly, your money manager responds, “Well, I can think of some expenses here and there, but for the most part I really can’t say. There was this and that, and next thing I knew, it was all gone.”
“What would you think? How would you feel? How does God think and feel when at the end of the month nothing’s left from the money He entrusted to us, and we don’t even know where it went? If some of us ran a corporation and handled its money like we do God’s, we’d go to prison!
“It’s not how much money we make, but how we handle it that matters. And it all begins by recognizing the money we’re handling is not our own. It belongs to another, before whom we will one-day stand, and from whom the best words we could ever hear are these: “Well done my good and faithful servant. Enter into your Master’s joy.”
 http://www.winchester.anglican.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Stewardship-Jokes.pdf Accessed October 28, 2017
 https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/owner Accessed October 28, 2017
 http://www.epm.org/resources/2010/Mar/23/managing-gods-money/ Accessed October 28, 2017
 https://godmoneyme.com/2012/03/27/god-owns-it-all/ Accessed October 28, 2017