Psalm 24:1 The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and those who live in it.

Today we focus our attention on stewardship as we continue to roll out a programme which will assist all of us in becoming more aware of God’s call to us to be good stewards of the many gifts he has given us.

I was in another place some time ago when the Priest announced that he wanted to introduce a stewardship programme at the Church and the response from the congregation was one of quiet acceptance – or so you would think. Sometime after church however in discussing the programme one parishioner was outspoken enough to state that the priest only trying to get more money from we now with this programme.

That member was wrong.

But sadly however that seems to be the most popular view about stewardship – in other words stewardship means asking for money.

Today I shall not talk about money. But I shall surely talk about stewardship. 

What then is stewardship?

Stewardship is about living a life which reflects an understanding that we are really not owners of the many things we possess since the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and those who live in it.  We are merely caretakers.

And so the Psalmist some three thousand years ago captured the essence of stewardship when he, or perhaps she, penned those familiar words in the text for this sermon. These are words which we know well and many of us, particularly the more mature ones in the congregation would recite, from your heads – or your memories – as the occasion arises.

But it is perhaps because of this very familiarity that sometimes we lose the very important message of this verse in the Psalms.

Indeed when we look at the world today and the manner in which we are caring for it, we can only  conclude that these are empty words which we pious Christians sing from time to time in our worship.  Or maybe I am too harsh. Maybe we do believe what we sing - that the earth really is the Lord’s. In this case we condemn ourselves as being bad caretakers of all God’s creation and gifts to us.

For the Jews of that time however these words were a very powerful reminder of the love of God, their King of Glory, for them, God’s people.  It also reminded them of their need to be loyal to the King of Glory. Love and loyalty. Later in the psalm they were invited to express this loyalty in their daily lives by aiming to be transparent in their actions, pure in heart and truthful.

In highlighting the special bond between God and his people based in love and loyalty this psalm points back to the two creation stories which we find in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 and which provide the starting point for any understanding of the ‘why’ of stewardship.

In both accounts we read of God creating the world and we are told there - at verses 25 and 31 of Chapter 1- that after God finished his work God saw that his creation was good - it was very good.  And it is this good creation that he gave to man “to till and to keep”. – In other words to maintain the earth in the good order that it was given.

From the beginning then we see a loving and trusting God calling mankind into a special bond with Him – a relationship in which man was invited to take care of all the beauty and goodness of God’s creation. In other words a relationship in which mankind would be stewards for God.

But how has man taken care of this beauty? How has he taken on his responsibility?

He has sought to own God’s earth and to own as much of it as he cans, for himself, little caring about the needs of his brother. In the interest of his material development and advancement, man has removed forests and overgrazed lands, and in some cases over-fished our seas. And in that regard I should add here that in Barbados we are guilty of frustrating God’s creative activity by the way we over-harvest  our sea eggs.

Man has also polluted the earth.

The result of all this is that the world is now experiencing changes in our patterns of climate which we have not experienced before.   These occurrences are not by chance but are the direct result of the work of mankind as stewards of God’ creation. And for the future, those experts who claim to know tell us that it will only get worse except we put measures in place to control it.

Man has not been good stewards of God’s creation. In his daily lifestyle man behaves as if the things of the earth are really his to own and to be used for his own satisfaction. To use without caring for the other person now and in the future.

As Christians we still have a responsibility to be good stewards.

We have that responsibility because we have committed ourselves to God’s service. We recognize first that our God is a giving God – a God who owns all that there is and all that he gives.

We believe that He even and especially owns us.

We also accept that every new life on the earth is God’s gift to mankind even as God uses man to accomplish his creating and recreating work.

The implications of this are that:-
 (1) We must be faithful in how we care for our responsibilities – God is faithful and can be depended upon and so must we, and
(2)  We must be prepared to account for our stewardship to God at the appropriate time.

Now we are not each given the same gifts or even the same quantity of any gift. But we are all given gifts which we can come to discover through prayer and reflection and we are required to use these gifts for the building up of the body of Christ. And we should not begrudge anyone their gifts or be unhappy with our own. We are simply to use the gifts which God gave in his wisdom bearing in mind that from everyone to whom much has been given much will be expected. Lk 12.

We said earlier that we believe that God has called us into a special relationship with Him. It is a relationship which both points up to God as its embraces each other in community – it is the only relationship in which we realize our full humanity.

A bond of sharing and caring.

It is only because of this bond that God entrusts to us the care of his creation as we are expected to share it with each other. 

But the manner in which we share with each other is determined by the way we see each other and in this bond we are called to see each other as gifts. Can we see ourselves as gifts to each other and each other as gifts to us?  Can you imagine what our church would be like if we saw each other as gifts and not as threats or burdens?   And if we can do that would it not make a difference in how we treat them?

If we move outside the wall of this church can we imagine the street character perhaps, or some of those ZR drivers on the street who are rude and boorish, or the individual at work who seems bent on causing discord and enmity or any of those persons who we would rather not see for one reason or another – can we begin to see these as gifts from God to be treasured. 

Christian stewardship is about learning to see each other – especially the unloved and unlovable – as gifts and to treat them accordingly.  In fact Christians are asked to go further and to be especially caring for the poor, the hungry, the stranger, the sick and those in prison and Jesus reminded us in Mt 25:40 when he said “…..just as you did it to the least of these who are members of my  family you did  it to me.”

Finally we have a responsibility to be good stewards because we believe in a God whose actions are based in love and who in the same way calls us to love.   It is out of an abundance of love that God continues to give to man, even and especially when he is not grateful. The Old Testament speaks frequently of God’s steadfast love – of the “great, mighty and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love’. In the Gospels that familiar verse in John 3:16 speaks to the extent of God’s love – he gave his Son.  Paul in Romans 5:8 sees this gift of Christ as the proof of God’s love since while we were yet sinners Christ died for us and he elsewhere refers to the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge Eph 3:19..

God gives us an unconditional love which does not depend upon our response – upon what we give or how much we give or even how often we give – but we are required to show and share this love with each other – indeed it is the command of God that we love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind, and our neighbours as ourselves.

My brothers and sisters in Christ to live for Christ is to live as good stewards of God’s many gifts. It is to recognize that God owns all, God loves all and God calls us to care for and to share with all, of the gifts which God has given. The responsibility is awesome but God gives us the strength to live as good stewards.

It is my prayer that as we continue our journey we may become better stewards for Christ.

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