The Benefits of Kingdom Stewardship
Topic: Biblical Verse: John 8:31–8:36
The Festival of the Reformation
October 31, 2021
Fall Stewardship Series
“The Benefits of Kingdom Stewardship”
When you hear the word “benefits,” what do you usually think of? Our mind probably goes to those things that often come with a full-time job – the perks, the add-on’s that have come to be expected in most work environments today. These may include things like health care coverage, vision and maybe even dental care as well. Benefits might also include sick leave, vacation, as well as a 401(k) or 403(b) plan that can serve as a retirement savings account. Sometimes there may be educational benefits that help pay for student loans or assist with getting an advanced degree. As anyone in a job search will tell you, some of these benefits may not be as common as they used to be. But there may be other, less tangible benefits that bless our lives: people whom we enjoy working with; trust and flexibility from supervisors and coworkers that enable us to do our job; a positive work environment. All of these things are benefits that enhance and bless our lives. On this Festival of the Reformation, based on Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel lesson, our 4-part Fall Stewardship series concludes with “The Benefits 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.
One more time! As I’ve shared over the last three weeks, 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).
On this Reformation Sunday, that word “benefits” may not set well with us. It may conjure up in our minds a sense of entitlement: “I earned this benefit through my own hard work. I’m entitled to it.” And this is certainly true in the workaday world, but when it comes to matters of faith, before God our heavenly Father, we are entitled to nothing. This is what Paul the apostle makes clear in today’s Epistle lesson (Romans 3:19-28): “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” There it is, clear as day. If you’re trying to make yourself right with God through your own efforts, you’re going nowhere fast. We don’t buy our way into God’s grace and favor. We don’t earn the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation by good conduct or meritorious service. God cannot be bought. The benefits, the blessings, of God come about as a gift that is freely given by God and received through faith in Jesus alone. Like the angel in that first Scripture reading (Revelation 14:6-7), we also have that “eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.” This is our calling Christ until Christ shall come again.
One of the benefits, one of the great blessings, that we have received through the Reformation is the truth that we are saved by God’s grace alone, through faith in Jesus Christ alone, made known through holy Scripture alone. These are the three great solas of the Reformation. So in today’s Gospel lesson when Jesus says, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), what does this mean exactly? Does the truth always make you free? A husband or wife discovers that his or her spouse has been unfaithful. Parents discover that their son or daughter has been hiding a drug habit. An employee discovers that his or her supervisor is doing questionable things with company finances. They have all discovered the truth, but that doesn’t mean they are free. And yet, in the end, most of us would prefer to know the truth than to live in ignorance. There is a truth that slays us; one which we usually begin worship with. We acknowledge that we are sinful and unclean; that we have sinned against God “in thought, word, and deed, and that we cannot free ourselves from our sinful condition.” This is the truth that drove Luther to the depths of despair. How could he love a God who expected him to do the impossible? How could he, a poor miserable sinner, love a holy and righteous God who seemed all too ready to condemn him? But there is a greater truth at work here; one which Luther struggled mightily to understand, and through whose struggle we are blessed today. It is true that we are poor miserable sinners, but that is not the end of the story. The greater truth is that God has not abandoned us in our sin and misery, but sent his only begotten Son to rescue and redeem us. Jesus entered our sinful world as the sinless Lamb of God (John 1:29), offering his very life as the atoning sacrifice for all our sins on the cross. This transformed Luther – completely changed his understanding of faith, as he wrote: “I felt that I had been born anew and that the gates of heaven had been opened. The whole of Scripture gained a new meaning. And from that point on the phrase, ‘the justice of God’ no longer filled me with hatred, but rather became unspeakably sweet by virtue of a great love” (Quote by Martin Luther: “I felt that I had been born anew and that the g...” (goodreads.com). By the power of the Holy Spirit, so does this saving truth continue to transform lives – our lives – to this very day.
Now, what will we do in response to this benefit, this great blessing? Will we go out through these doors, get into our cars, and drive off to resume life unchanged? God forbid! The truth of God’s saving love made known in Jesus calls us to new life. No longer do we see our selves, our time, and our possessions as my own, but we see these as what the Lord has entrusted to each one of us to manage in his holy Name. My daily life becomes my personal mission field. My words and actions reflect the One who loves me and laid down his life for me. Kingdom stewardship means that all of life is under the lordship of Jesus Christ. The benefits, the blessings, of kingdom stewardship begin now in this present life, but they extend into eternal life. And that is truth that really does set us free. Amen.