The Scope of Kingdom Stewardship
Topic: Biblical Verse: Mark 10:23–31
The Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
October 17, 2021
Fall Stewardship Series
“The Scope of Kingdom Stewardship”
Today’s Gospel lesson picks up where we left off last Sunday. As we heard last week, Jesus’ conversation with the rich man resulted in that man walking away disheartened and sorrowful (Mark 10:17-22). He could not let go of his many possessions in order to follow Jesus, and yet Jesus loved him. All of this leads to what is before us today and Jesus’ words about how “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25). That’s a pretty dramatic comparison! Stunned by all this, thinking that the rich were in the best position to use their riches for God and his kingdom, the disciples blurt out: “Then who can be saved?” (Mark 10:26). Jesus’ reply is one that we would do well to remember: “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). “All things are possible with God.” When we’ve exhausted all of our resources and hit a brick wall, when everything comes to a screeching halt and we have nowhere left to turn, nothing is too hard for the Lord (Jeremiah 32:17). God is more than able to make a way where there seems to be no way. Based on today’s Gospel lesson, our Fall Stewardship series continues under the theme “The Scope 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.
The title for this preaching series comes from the book by Dr. Tony Evans, Kingdom Stewardship: Managing All of Life Under God’s Rule (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2020). 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). As we heard last week, the definition of kingdom stewardship found in this book is that 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). Sometimes our scope in life is extremely limited. We often see only what is directly in front of us, but the big picture in life, the really important things, can elude us. We don’t see the forest for the trees. The scope of our vision has to be clarified. Anyone who wears glasses or contacts can relate to this. My own vision is pretty poor, and I have worn glasses since I was in the fourth grade. Without my glasses, I would be unable to see anything. My dream is to wake up in the morning and not have to squint to look at the bedside clock to see what time it is. And so glasses and contacts are that corrective to faulty vision. Now, I could choose not to wear my glasses, but that would be disastrous not only for me, but for everyone around me. My scope of vision needs that correction, but I have to be willing to put those glasses on and wear them. In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus is correcting the scope of vision for his disciples about life in the kingdom of God.
Peter, who often served as spokesman for the disciples, said to Jesus: “See, we have left everything and followed you” (Mark 10:28). We can rephrase that. What Peter was really saying was something like this: “What about us? We’ve given up so much to come after you and be your disciples, what do we get?” Like you and me, all Peter can see is what’s immediately in front of him, or what’s behind him. The scope of Peter’s vision, along with that of all the disciples, had to be expanded in their role as stewards of the kingdom. They needed some corrective lenses through which to see all that God had in store for them. Blessings would abound, but those blessings would come about through trial and suffering, as Jesus made clear: “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:29-31). In Jesus’ upside-down kingdom, for every sacrifice that is made, there is blessing that comes from the hand of the Lord. In Jesus’ upside-down kingdom these blessings are going to look different. It’s not about privilege, power, or possessions, but realigning the scope of our vision so that it aligns with the Lord’s vision for his kingdom and for our lives. When we get new glasses, that new prescription for our vision can take a while to adjust to. Initially, it can be challenging; we can even get headaches. But the greater good, the larger purpose, is to strengthen our eyes and the scope of our vision so that we see with greater clarity. And so it is with the Lord, who is at work in our lives to help us see with greater clarity our calling in life to serve as his stewards of his kingdom.
The scope of kingdom stewardship must reflect the King whom we serve. The closing verses of today’s Epistle lesson (Hebrews 4:1-16) remind us what kind of a King we have – a King who is also our High Priest. “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16). As our great High Priest, Jesus has offered himself as the sacrifice on the cross, shedding his own blood as the price of our salvation. The scope of Jesus’ love for us is without limit. How will we then express our thanks and praise to Jesus for all that he has done for us? Jesus has corrected and expanded the narrowness of our vision to see that all of life belongs to him – not just an hour on Sunday morning. The life we lead on Monday afternoon, or Wednesday evening, or Friday night all belongs to our King and great High Priest. The scope of kingdom stewardship includes all that we are and all that we have; our selves, our time, and our possessions. It all comes from the Lord as a gift from his hand. The question then becomes: How will we harness these resources for good? How will we put these things to work for blessing? As Luther once said: “God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does” (Gustav Wingren, Luther on Vocation, 10). The scope of kingdom stewardship must of necessity include our neighbor, and as Jesus made clear in his parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), our neighbor is anyone who needs our help.
In two weeks’ time, we will celebrate the Festival of the Reformation on the actual day itself: Sunday, October 31. On that day, we will be privileged to set aside a portion of what God has placed into our hands for the sake of his mission to the world. An email to the congregation in this regard was sent out last week. As we give thought, prayer, and discernment to what we will do in response to all that God in Christ has done for us, may our response be one of joyful thanksgiving as stewards of the kingdom. To God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Join us next Sunday as we consider “The Approach of Kingdom Stewardship.”