The Foundation of Kingdom Stewardship
Topic: Biblical Verse: Mark 10:17–22
The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
October 10, 2021
Fall Stewardship Series
“The Foundation of Kingdom Stewardship”
As we all know, a solid foundation is essential for any building. One of the challenges to foundations here in the area where we live is something called marine clay (Marine clay - Wikipedia), which swells up when it is wet and shrinks when it dries out. All of this can create real problems for foundations as this expands or contracts against the foundation walls. Left unaddressed, this can lead to foundations that crack and shift, which can make the structure unstable. A solid foundation is essential. As we begin our 4-part Fall Stewardship series, entitled “Kingdom Stewardship,” we begin with what is basic in the realm of stewardship; that is, managing the gifts that God has entrusted to our care. Based on today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus’ conversation with the rich young man, the message is entitled “The Foundation of Kingdom Stewardship.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
I am indebted to Dr. Tony Evans and his book, Kingdom Stewardship: Managing All of Life Under God’s Rule (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2020) for insights and teachings about stewardship, and so I want to give credit where credit is due. I am using the 4-part division in his book for our 4-week Fall Stewardship series: “The Foundation of Kingdom Stewardship” (Oct 10); “The Scope of Kingdom Stewardship” (Oct 17); “The Approach of Kingdom Stewardship” (Oct 24); and “The Benefits of Kingdom Stewardship” (Oct 31, Reformation Day). I want to share with you the definition of kingdom stewardship found in this book. It is “the divinely authorized responsibility for believers to faithfully oversee the protection and expansion of the assets (time, talents, and treasures) God has entrusted to them to manage on His behalf” (pp. 12-13). This is the foundation of everything that will follow. The call to kingdom stewardship is not some manmade thing. This comes from the Lord God who made the heavens and the earth, and still owns them (Psalm 24:1, 89:11; Revelation 4:11). The truth is that we own nothing. We are merely the managers of what belongs to the Lord. Note especially in this definition that not only are we to protect the Lord’s assets, we are to expand them! We are to grow and enlarge what belongs to the Lord; not just sit on those assets and do nothing with them as Jesus’ parable of the talents illustrates (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27).
In today’s Gospel lesson (see also Matthew 19:16-30; Luke 18:18-30), a rich young man has a conversation with Jesus. He comes to Jesus very respectfully: he kneels down before him and addresses Jesus as “Good Teacher” (Mark 10:17). From outward appearances, he has it all, but his heart is not peace. He is a son of Abraham, and so is well versed in the Law and the Prophets. And yet… He has one nagging question that he must ask Jesus: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). Jesus then reiterates to him the demands of the covenant from Mt. Sinai: “You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother’” (Mark 10:19). His reply to Jesus is very revealing: “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth” (Mark 10:20). Both in asking and in answering Jesus, the rich young man’s emphasis is on himself: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” “All these I have kept.” The rich young man had much to learn, and so do we, when it comes to the kingdom of God. The truth is that there is nothing we can do to inherit eternal life. This comes only as a gift from God, received freely through faith in Jesus. We don’t earn it or deserve it. And we certainly aren’t able to keep any, let alone all, of God’s commandments. Before a foundation can be laid, there’s a lot of digging that has to be done. All of the excess dirt has to be removed and a level place prepared for that foundation to be laid. And if that’s true with the houses that we build, it is also true with the hearts that God would have for his own dwelling place. Within our own hearts, all of the excess dirt must be removed, the rough places made smooth, every valley lifted up and every hill brought low (see Isaiah 40:4), so that our own hearts become a temple holy to the Lord. We don’t do this; the Lord does. The Lord makes us his own through the cleansing blood of Jesus, shed for us and for our salvation. We receive this gift by faith as it comes to us through Word and Sacrament. It is here, in these Means of Grace, that God lays a foundation of faith, for faith.
Mark alone records the phrase, “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him…” (Mark 10:21a). Out of love, not judgment, Jesus offers the man an open door to the full and abundant life which he craves, and which Jesus himself came to bring (John 10:10). Wherever we look, we are bombarded with messaging that tells us we will find the full and abundant life through products and possessions. Like marine clay, all of this can exert constant pressure against the foundation of our faith. Funny thing, though, that before long these products and possessions no longer satisfy us like we thought they would. We also find out that they can come to own us, rather than us owning them. The man in today’s Gospel lesson had great possessions and wealth. But behind this façade of security was a heart which had lost its security and delight in God. The man was searching. And so Jesus calls on him to let these things go; sell his great possessions and wealth, give it to the poor, and come, follow Jesus. In doing so, he would have real treasure. This kind of sacrifice will not be appropriate in every call to discipleship, but Jesus did call for it in this particular situation with this particular individual. The man couldn’t do it, and so he “went away sorrowful” (Mark 10:22). But this doesn’t really do justice to the original word here (στυγνάσας), which says that “his face fell” – an apt picture of the disappointment, sorrow, and dejection that was etched on the man’s face. The rich man made a very poor choice.
The foundation of kingdom stewardship is that whatever possessions and wealth we may have, it all comes from God, the Maker and Owner of heaven and earth (Psalm 24:1). All of these things have been entrusted to our care for a brief time to manage, not just for our own pleasure, but for the good and blessing of others, especially those who are in need. When all is said and done, what the Lord desires from us is not our money or possessions. The Lord desires something far more valuable than these things; He desires the devotion and love of our hearts. That is something that you cannot put a price on.
True and lasting wealth is not measured in savings accounts, IRAs, investment portfolios, and the like. We have need of these things because we have to live in this world, pay bills, put food on the table, plan for retirement, etc. But when all is said and done, our greatest possession and highest wealth is something that cannot be calculated in monetary value. It is foundation of simple, child-like faith and trust in what God in Christ has done for us; the blood-bought redemption that Jesus has won for us through his suffering and death upon the cross. Jesus is our priceless treasure! When we come to Jesus as that man did in today’s Gospel lesson, asking questions that are rooted in sin and self, Jesus looks on us as he did on that man: “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” The saving love of God who did not spare the life of his own Son, but freely gave him up for us all is the foundation of kingdom stewardship. Amen.
Join us next Sunday as we consider “The Scope of Kingdom Stewardship.”