August 29, 2021
A Caretaker’s Response to God’s Grace!
Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (NIV1984)
Dear fellow stewards of God’s grace,
A couple of days after my Grandma’s funeral, her immediate family gathered in her home for a very solemn yet very common task— the distribution of her “things.” Unbeknownst to me, my Grandma had a notebook in which she had written down everyone’s name and under their name she listed the material possessions she wanted them to have. One of the items my Grandma left to me was a beautiful old mantel clock. As soon as my aunt revealed that Grandma had left the clock to me, my older sister ran out of the room crying. When I went to find out why, she said that years ago she was up in the attic with Grandpa. When Grandpa saw her admiring that clock, he told her that someday it would be given to her. I immediately told my sister that she could have the clock. She refused. Grandma had left it to me. Since I lived in Miami at the time and the rest of my family lived in Minnesota, I asked my sister if she would hold on to the clock and take care of it for me. She quickly agreed— as long as everyone knew that someday I would take possession of the clock. That was the day that my sister officially became— The Caretaker of the Clock. Although she knows that the clock is technically not hers, I am confident that she will love it and cherish it and take care of it as if it were. And eventually, some year when I do decide to take possession of the clock, I know that my sister will give it back to me.
Today, my friends, as we gather together on this Stewardship Sunday, I’d like us to take that situation between my sister and my clock and apply it to our entire lives as children of God. Using these words from Matthew 22 let’s see that when it comes to our role as Christian stewards all we really need to remember is this: Christian Stewardship Is A Caretaker’s Response to God’s Grace!
Whenever we are talking about Christian stewardship one of the very first truths we need to emphasize is that we do not “own” anything! We are merely “caretakers” of whatever the good Lord decides to temporarily place into our hands! How can I say that? Because that’s what God’s holy Word says! Through His servant David God tell us, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters” (Psalm 24:1-2). As the Creator of heaven and earth and as the Giver of all life, the Lord our God is the One who truly “owns” absolutely everything— including us! As Christians we also recognize that not only has God created us, not only has God given us physical life, but the Lord our God has redeemed us— He has “bought us back” from the power of sin, death and the devil not with gold or silver but with the holy precious blood of the innocent Lamb of God. (Pointing to the cross)
As proof that we do not “own” anything is the fact that when we die, all of our “things,” all of our “stuff,” will be given to others who will in turn eventually hand them over to someone else. Caretakers, managers, stewards— whatever term you want to use makes no difference. They all emphasize that everything we have is only ours temporarily. In reality, the rightful “owner” of all things is the Lord God of heaven and earth.
With that truth clearly before us let’s turn to verses 19-21 of our text. This is where we see how Jesus responded to the Pharisees who were trying to “trap him in his words” (22:15). We read, “’Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’ They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, ‘Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. Then he said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.’”
While Jesus’ response to the “evil intent” (Matthew 22:18) of the Pharisees is quite familiar to us, we may not automatically associate His response to our life as Christian stewards. How does “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” help us as we strive to remember that Christian stewardship is a caretaker’s response to God’s grace? It is actually quite simple, my friends. While the Scriptural teaching of Christian stewardship leads us to recognize that everything we have— including our time, our talents and our treasures— have been given to us by God, at the same time the Scriptural teaching on Christian stewardship leads us to realize that God also guides us on how He want us to use the things He has given to us— including our time, our talents and our treasures.
Jesus makes two very specific applications of this truth when He says to you and to me, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Since I want us to focus on the second application, “Give to God what is God’s,” I encourage you to read Romans 13:1-7 when you get home. This is where the Lord gives us much greater detail into what we as Christian stewards owe our government.
“Give to God what is God’s.” Since we have already noted that absolutely everything in heaven and on earth rightfully belongs to God, we don’t even need to ask the question, “What is God’s”? The question we do need to address is this— What did Jesus mean when He said, “Give to God what is God’s”? For me the answer to that question is found in the words of Proverbs 23:26, “My son, give me your heart.” (See also Micah 6:6-8) While our God could easily appear to us in awesome overwhelming displays of power and majesty, justice and glory and demand the allegiance of our heart, He doesn’t! Purely by the grace of God you and I are the dearly beloved adopted sons and daughter of the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth. In His grace He sends us sunshine and rain. In His grace He provides us with so much more than just our daily bread. In His grace He gives us opportunities for both work and for pleasure. In His grace He gives us our time, our talents and our treasures. In His grace He gives us His Son as the atoning sacrifice for all of our sins. (Pointing to the cross) And in His grace He says to us, “My son, my daughter, give Me your heart.”
So you see, my friends, Christian stewardship truly is a caretaker’s heartfelt response to God’s grace! We look at all the things which the Lord our God has given to us, we look at all the things the Lord our God has done for us and through the power and the guidance of God the Holy Spirit, we respond to this awesome display of God’s grace by giving Him our heart. Once the Holy Spirit has empowered us to give our heart to the Lord then our entire life will be a visible act of stewardship. Once the Holy Spirit has empowered us to give our heart to the Lord then we will joyfully embrace the fact that a caretaker’s response to God’s grace will have a positive three-fold impact in our life.
First, once the Holy Spirit has empowered us to give our heart to the Lord then the way in which we prioritize our time will reveal a caretaker’s response to God’s grace. As a caretaker of the time which God has given to us, worship, Bible study and prayer will be at the top of our spiritual priority list. To let days or even weeks go by without talking to our heavenly Father, without listening to our heavenly Father, without worshiping and praising the God of our salvation will be unthinkable! As caretakers responding to God’s grace we freely chime in with great King David when he says, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD’” (Psalm 122:1).
Secondly, as caretakers of the talents which God Himself has placed into our minds, our tongues and our hands, our heartfelt response to God’s grace will be to use those talents in service to our Savior God and in service to our fellow human beings— especially our brothers and sisters in the faith. I personally have a great deal of difficulty understanding how any child of God could say that their heart is dedicated to the Lord, but they just can’t seem to find a way to use their God-given gifts, talents and abilities in service to the Lord’s Kingdom. There are so many ways to serve our Lord! If you cannot stand up in the front of church and lead the worship service, you can support and encourage your brothers and sisters in the faith by gathering together alongside of them to worship and praise our God. If you cannot serve as a missionary in far away lands, you can share the sweet simple message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with people in your own community— especially your children and your grandchildren. If you cannot visit the ill or the elderly you can call them on the phone or send them a card in the mail. There are so many ways to serve our Lord by using your gifts, talents and abilities to serve in His Kingdom! With that reality clearly before our eyes, a caretaker’s response to God’s grace will lead us to joyfully ask, “What may I do to help?”
And yes, although we don’t always like to talk about it, a caretaker’s response to God’s grace will include using the earthly treasures which our Savior gives to us to support the Gospel ministry of our congregation and through our congregation we support the Gospel ministry of our Synod. Both our Old Testament lesson (Exodus 35:20-29) and our Epistle lesson for today (2 Corinthians 8:1-7) give us clear insight into how a caretaker’s response to God’s grace guides and directs what we give as an offering to our Lord.
Look once again at those two portions of Scripture. In our reading from Exodus the Holy Spirit gives us a real-life example of what He would inspire the apostle Paul to write to the Corinthians, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Look at what the Holy Spirit led Moses to record for you and for me, “…everyone who was willing and whose heart moved him came and brought an offering to the LORD…All who were willing, men and women alike, came and brought gold jewelry of all kinds…Those presenting an offering of silver or bronze brought it as an offering to the LORD…All the Israelite men and women who were willing brought to the LORD freewill offerings for all the work the LORD through Moses had commanded them to do.” In our Epistle lesson the Holy Spirit led the apostle Paul to write, “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability…But just as you excel in everything…see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”
When the offerings that we bring to the Lord are an accurate reflection of the faith, the love and the thankfulness that is in our heart then our offerings are pleasing and acceptable to the God of heaven no matter what those offerings may be. But if our offerings are given out of a sense of obligation, or if our offerings are a more accurate reflection of what is left over after we’ve paid all our bills and after we’ve had all of our fun, then our offerings no longer fall under the description of a caretaker’s response to God’s grace.
One of these years I will go back to Minnesota, I will go over to my sister’s house, and I will ask to see my clock. I may even decide to take it back and bring it home with me. Until that time arrives, however, I am very content in knowing that as The Caretaker of the Clock my sister will take good care of that clock for me— enjoying it and loving it as if it were her own. In a similar way, one of these years the Lord God of heaven and earth will ask us to give an account of how well we have taken care of the time, the talents and the treasures which He has graciously yet temporarily placed into our possession. May God grant that when it comes time for us to give that account that it will be very easy for the Lord to see that we truly understood that Christian stewardship really is a caretaker’s response to God’s grace.
To God be the glory!