Jeremiah 29:10-14, I Peter 4:10-11
October 23, 2016
We are continuing along our “journey” of Stewardship today. As we do, we often talk about the three “T’s.” We talk about Stewardship in terms of our “Time, Talent, and Treasure.” And those are good things to think about! But in our scripture for today Peter talks about our being “Stewards of Grace.” (And by the way, Paul says similar things.) I want us to think about that today. And I want us to see what a big thing that is!
First of all, what is a “steward?” In the bible, stewards were “caretakers.” Jesus told several parables about stewards. They were people who were entrusted with a person’s property or wealth. But it was more than that. The three stewards in the Parable that Jesus told in Matthew 25, were expected by the master to manage the “talents” they were given. Remember, the third man didn’t squander the master’s money. He kept it safe! What did he do? (He buried it in the ground!) He did nothing with it! And that’s what he was condemned for. Stewards were not just people who “watched over” a person’s property. They managed it. So think about that.
Then, let’s consider the word “Grace.” Now the classic definition of Grace is “Unmerited Favor.” That is, Grace is the “favor,” the love, the forgiveness of God, that we receive, even though we do not, and cannot, deserve it – or even “earn” it. That’s very important! We don’t “work our way into heaven.” We accept the “Grace” of God freely given!
Well, in the Old Testament there is a very similar word. In the Old Testament, we often come across the words “Steadfast Love.” Look at your “Call to Worship.” There they are! “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His steadfast love endures for ever!” (Psalm 118:1) That is the Hebrew word “Hesed.” You may remember me saying that word before. You may also remember me saying that “Hesed” – the “Steadfast Love” of God, was a very important thing for the Jewish people! It was a very big concept for them. God’s love for them was “steadfast,” and it “endured for ever.” And often that was followed by “…and his faithfulness is to all generations.” The Hebrews often wrote in those little “couplets.” Read the Psalms and you’ll see that!
Well, that Old Testament term “Hesed” is the equivalent to our New Testament word “Grace.” It is God’s “favor” – his love – which is “undeserved.” It is “steadfast,” no matter what we do! And the writers of the New Testament, most of whom were Jewish, knew all about that “Steadfast love” of God. They knew it to be very important. And I believe they made that connection to this New Testament term “Grace.”
So, those two things go together. When we see those words in the Old Testament, “The Steadfast Love of God,” we can think “Grace.”
I wanted you to make that connection today. The love of God, his salvation, his forgiveness, is not something we can deserve, or earn. It is what God gives us anyway! His love for us is “steadfast” even though our love for him is too often “inconsistent.” And we are dependent on that. I know I am! I hope you are, too! “It is by Grace we are saved through faith,” as Paul told the Ephesians. (Ephesians 2:8) And that is just as important to us, if not more so, than was his “steadfast love” to the people of old.
So, why do I take you through that again? Well, for one thing it’s a good thing to remember! Grace is a big deal! God’s steadfast love does endure forever, and his faithfulness is to all generations! That’s a good thing to revisit from time to time. But even more so today, because today we are linking this to “Stewardship.” We are stewards of God’s grace! That’s what Peter said here. God’s steadfast love has been entrusted to us, and we are to let that love show through us to others.
That’s a tall order, isn’t it? That goes back to this thing I’ve been saying throughout this month of Stewardship. What we do and what we say reflects on the kingdom of God. Like I said last week, the seeds we plant in others are part of the Mission of the Church.
So, how has that been looking in your life? Has that made a difference in what you’ve done and what you’ve said? Have you had any times when you were about to do or to say something that might not have reflected well on the kingdom of God, and then you didn’t?
Those are great moments, aren’t they? I think they are! Those moments are real practical applications of what we’ve been saying here. When you have such a moment, maybe you’ve said to yourself, “Wait! What I’m about to do or say reflects on God’s kingdom.” But then take that thought one step further, and say to yourself, “I am a steward of God’s grace… right at this moment!”
That’s one way this works. And it’s a real, good, practical one. Another way this happens is in the way we reach out to others. Maybe we’re reaching out to someone who is hurting, who is in need of some direction, who is in need of some healing or forgiveness. Maybe it’s a broken relationship we might have with someone. Maybe we need to bring some of God’s grace into that relationship. And, maybe that’s a way someone else gets to see God’s grace.
We’re stewards in that way, too! Aren’t we? We’re stewards of grace, not just in the moments when we need to change what we were about to do or say, but also in the way we live our lives. God is gracious to us. So we can be gracious to others, too! That’s what Peter is telling us to do in this scripture. He said, “Be unfailing in your love for one another.” “Practice hospitality.” “Be gracious people.” And showing that kind of grace is a choice, isn’t it? It’s a matter of directing our lifestyle!
That’s what Peter exhorts us to be – people of grace! And if you think about it, being gracious people makes us feel good! I hope we understand that! It makes us feel more spiritual. It makes us feel closer to God. And I think perhaps that’s because we are being more like God in those moments. And God is pleased with us! We’re representing him well. And maybe that’s the idea. If we had to encapsulate all of this, maybe we could simply say that being stewards of God’s grace means that we are “representing God!”
So, as you go today, I want you to remember that you are representing God to the world. God is gracious, so we must be gracious people. What we say and what we do reflects on his kingdom. If we want people to see what it looks like for God to be working in our world, we need to be people through whom God works in the world!
That’s what I believe God wants for us. That is a challenge, of course! But I believe, with God’s help, we can be the people he calls us to be. And he calls us to be “Stewards of his Grace.”
Eternal God, we know your steadfast love endure forever, and your faithfulness is to all generations. Help us to be people who live that, who know and show your grace, and who love with your love. Give us the strength to do that, and the ability to see this life through your eyes. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.