Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 August 14, 2022
“Fundamentally Sound: Stewardship”
I learned from one of my seminary professors that the two shortest commodities in a pastor’s life are time and money, in that order. This surprised me—I agreed with the commodities, but I thought the order would be reversed. However, my experience, and that of many others, has proven that wise professor correct. Moreover, though these commodities seem scarce to many engaged in vocational pastoral ministry, I expect that they seem scarce in any number of callings.
Be assured, beloved, that these resources, among others, are things that, if we be not careful, will master our souls. In order to be most fundamentally sound in Christ, we must exercise stewardship over the resources that fill our lives. These resources are not to rule us. On the contrary, we are to steward them for holy—and, therefore, wise—ends. Let consider this more as we hear this portion of God’s Word read and proclaimed in this place.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Jesus tells His disciples, then and now, that it is impossible to serve two masters. First, let’s see what Jesus means by the verb serve (Greek douleuo [douleuw]).1 The verb means, most literally, to be a slave, but we have more interest in its figurative uses today. To serve in the sense of which Jesus speaks in our text is, first, to be under the control of some influence and to serve the interests of said influence, and, second, to serve both in a humble manner and in response to the demands or commands of others. This is what it means to serve, according to this morning’s text. Second, let’s see what Jesus means by the noun master (Greek kurios or kyrios [kurioV]). In our text, master means one who rules or exercises authority over another. The Greek word has other uses in the New Testament: it is used as a title for Jesus Christ, as a term of respect when addressing a man (i. e., sir), and as a term indicating the owner of something. We now see how thorough this form of service is, and we see how absolute a master is.
Yet we may ask, “Why are we unable to serve two masters?” Jesus tells us. According to Jesus, the one attempting this either will hate the one master and love the other, or he will adhere to the one master and despise the other. This appears to be due to the very natures of servanthood and master-hood. The intensity of the service, and the intensity of the ownership or rule, precludes multiple services and masters. Let’s now see a particular application of this truth—an application raised by Jesus at the close of the verse.
In particular, we cannot serve God and money. By money (Greek mamonas [mamwnaV]: the transliteration of the Aramaic [i. e., late dialect of the Hebrew Old Testament] mammon) we mean wealth and riches—but with a highly negative connotation. We view mammon chiefly as wealth and riches viewed negatively, but Matthew Henry extends the concept of mammon to include whatever in this world is, or is accounted by us to be, gain (Philippians iii.7).2 He then lists, in his Commentary, things such as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—things which, according to 1 John 2:16, are passing away. Henry continues in this vein, citing the belly (Philippians 3:19), one’s ease (Proverbs 6:9), and one’s riches (James 4:13). There is a significant material element to mammon, but there is also an immaterial, or intangible, component as well. Jesus tells us what now appears to be self-evident: If we serve mammon, we cannot serve God. If we serve God, we will not—yea, we cannot—serve mammon.
The choice is clear: We are to serve our three-in-one God alone, to the exclusion of any other master. We are to be under the control and influence of Almighty God, and we are to serve as He commands and directs. Let us see now how this applies to types of resources that God entrusts to us—and let us note how we best steward them.
First, God gives and entrusts to us time: not only our seconds and minutes, but also our seasons and years. This indeed is the most precious resource, for we cannot manufacture or obtain any more of it. Nor can we increase or decrease the rate of God’s dispensing it to us. Hence, just as Moses prayed through the Spirit, “Teach us to number our days, that we may apply ourselves unto wisdom,” (Psalm 90:12), let us use every year, season, month, week, day, hour, and moment for God’s glory as He directs.
Second, God gives and entrusts to us talent—that is, our abilities, both innate and acquired. Sometimes we are tempted to hoard or to utilize these for our selfish purposes—or we are tempted to display them to reap praise for ourselves. Let us, rather, seek to deploy our God-given and God-empowered talents for His glory, for the good of His Church and every soul therein, and for the good of those not inside Christ’s saving love—in order that these may come to saving faith in Him, just as many of us have.
Third, God gives and entrusts to us treasure—that is, our material resources. We, like the other resources, are tempted to hoard them, to misuse them for selfish aims, or to fritter them away as those who need never give account. On the contrary, let us, the redeemed people of God in Christ Jesus, place our material resources at His disposal—in order that He may lead us in the wise saving, using, and giving of them. Let us do these things generally, in all areas of our lives, but especially as an act of worship and faith via tithes and offerings.
Let us exercise God-directed, God-empowered stewardship—and let us do this to two ends. Second, let us, in this and like exercises, become increasingly Christ-like as we exert ourselves in the Spirit unto Godly life and habits. First, let us, in this and like exercises, do all that we do to the glory of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3;17). May He bless our efforts to steward every resources that He gives and entrusts to us.
1 The lexicon that I use for my Greek word studies in this case, and generally, is Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989).
2 Matthew Henry, Commentary, Matthew vi.24. The Scripture references in support of his remarks are his.