The Christian “S” Word
By David Fisk, MDiv ‘ 10
Each year, Covenant Seminary’s preaching students select several of their senior-level fellows as outstanding representatives of the homiletic arts, who then have the opportunity to preach in chapel before the whole seminary community. We offer here a sample of one such sermon as we celebrate these servants of God’s Word who are graduating this year and going forth to minister in Christ’s church.
Today’s sermon is about everything—every aspect of life, who we are, what we have, what we want, what we know. It’s about everything tangible and everything intangible. Everything. My wife and I have done a lot of house sitting while we’ve been in seminary. At one of the homes—a very large and beautiful one—the owners showed us around and eventually took us to the garage. There sat a silver Aston Martin. I’m not usually a car guy but when I saw that car, even I knew it was something awesome. We admired it for a while. Then the woman of the house said, “We don’t like it.” Surprised, I asked, “Why not?” “It’s too low to the ground,” she said. “We can’t go over speed bumps, we can’t go into parking garages, and we have to park it on the street. But we don’t park it next to other cars because it could get scratched too easily.. Parking this car is so difficult, it’s as if the car controls us.”
You probably don’t have an Aston Martin, but you know how it feels to be controlled by something—grades, money, things, a relationship, an ability. You know what it’s like to be consumed by somethingYou know—and so do I—because we have an inability to let our possessions go.
How can we control our things rather than letting them control us? We’ll look at three things we need to remember to help us answer that question: 1) God is the owner of all things, 2) We are God’s managers, and 3) we have a common goal. But first, we’ll start at the beginning—the beginning of Creation
God is the Owner of All Things
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
— Genesis 1:1
As the Creator of everything, God owns everything. That seems simple enough, but of course what we usually think is, “Whatever I possess, I own. I can do whatever I want with it.” The truth is, however, that God owns everything. “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,” Psalm 24:1 tells us.
Do you know what that means for us? It means that all our things are not ours. They’re God’s. Our money is not ours. It’s God’s. Our computers, our pictures, our houses, our blogs, our bodies, our children, our churches, our time, our relationships, our spiritual gifts, our achievements—all of these belong to God. None of them are ours.
There’s a well-known story about when John Wesley was in town one day and a big commotion erupted because something had caught fire Everyone ran to the fire, including Wesley, who suddenly realized that it was his own house that was burning. His famous response was, “Oh no! The Lord’s house burned! I guess that is one less responsibility for me!”
I want that kind of freedom—and I know you do too. But if you’re like me, you usually live in fear of your things being taken away. So you hold on to them so tightly that it leaves you with incredible anxiety. Don’t you want the ability to let go of the illusion that you have some control over all your things? When we begin to understand that they’re God’s things, not ours, then we will have the freedom to let go, the freedom to turn control over to God, and the freedom to trust him with everything.
We Are God’s Managers
So, what do we do with the things we have? What is our responsibility? God gives us the responsibility of managing his things ( We can see this in Genesis 1:26–28.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
— Genesis 1:26–28
God gives man a responsibility. He sets up a hierarchy for dominion. He sets up the hierarchy of God à Man à Possessions. We’re to have dominion over his possessions, to manage his creation. If you haven’t figured out yet what the Christian ‘S’ word of my title is, it’s stewardship.
A few weeks ago, some friends asked me to drive them to the airport in their car. They gave me their keys and said I could drive the car while they were gone. After I dropped them off, I started thinking, “This car is way nicer than mine. I wonder how fast this thing can go?” So I pushed the gas pedal and took off. But when I got over the speed limit, I stopped and thought, “Is this how my friends would drive their car? Is this how they would want me to drive it?”
I’m going to say it again—the Christian ‘S’ word—stewardship. We say that word a lot but don’t always know what we mean by it. Stewardship can be defined as “using the things the owner has given you to accomplish the same intentions as the owner.” Adam was to manage the Garden. He was to have dominion in that hierarchy of God à Man à Possessions. So we have to ask ourselves not only, “What am I going to do with my money?” but “How I am going to manage everything in my life that God has entrusted me with, just as he did with Adam in the Garden when everything was right and pure?”
Adam did have dominion over God’s things until Genesis 3—the fall. That’s when the hierarchy turned upside down. Adam was called to manage God’s things, and he failed. What did God do? Did he chuck his tainted possession? No, he set up a plan to fix it and rid it of Adam’s sin. So he made the promise of the Savior in Genesis 3:15. And you can trace that promise through the Pentateuch, the historical books, the Psalms, the Prophets, into the New Testament and the Gospels where Jesus, the Savior, comes, lives, dies, and then is resurrected. And as he ascends to heaven, he gives us the Holy Spirit—which leads us to Acts 2.
We Have a Common Goal
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
— Acts 2:42–47
In Acts 2:42–47 we see what God wants us to do with his things as we manage them. We are to manage God’s things to advance his Kingdom. In this passage, the Holy Spirit comes down onto the believers, and we see them advancing God’s Kingdom in two ways. First, they advance the quality of God’s Kingdom by devoting themselves to teaching and fellowship. Awe comes upon every soul, people believe, and they have all things in common (v. 42). In verse 43, we see their common goal of managing their things so that they could strengthen the Kingdom of God.
Not only are they advancing the quality of God’s kingdom but they also increase the quantity of the Kingdom. They sell their possessions (v. 45), they live together, and the Lord adds to their number daily. (v. 47). They were managing God’s things in a way that would add to the number of his Kingdom. They had a common goal with their possessions—to advance God’s Kingdom so that it could go to every tribe, nation, and tongue—to the very ends of the earth.
In On Christian Doctrine, St. Augustine said that everything is either an instrument or an end. It’s something you use to accomplish a goal, or it becomes the goal itself. What are the believers in Acts 2 doing? Are they managing God’s things as instruments? Or are they managing God’s things as ends? I recently talked with a friend who moved away to begin a ministry. When I asked how it was going, he explained that he and his wife were struggling over whether to put their kids in private school or public school, or to home school them. He said they were praying that God would show them where their kids would best advance God’s Kingdom. Pardon? What? It was like my brain broke because here was my friend managing his children— his most prized possessions—as instruments to advance God’s Kingdom.
I was shocked, and I admired him because too many times we get caught up in managing our things, our abilities, and ourselves in ways that build our kingdoms instead of God’s. To what goal or end are you managing your things? We build kingdoms of comfort based on what’s easiest, safest, and the most fun for us. ecause it’s all about “me.”But that’s not what God calls us to do.
Why would I shift from advancing my kingdom to advancing God’s? Why would I manage all these things for God? Consider three things. First, God gave up his most prized possession—his only Son—to save a people who had rebelled against him, turned their backs on him, and corrupted his creation
Second, Jesus, had all the riches of heaven and gave them up. Why did he do this? To gain the one thing that he didn’t have with him in heaven—us!. He managed his life so that you and I could be added to God’s Kingdom.
Third, the Holy Spirit came to us and guides us in managing our things for the sake of God’s Kingdom. He directs us, convicts us, challenges us, grows us, and teaches us. He reminds us through the Word who the true owner is, what our responsibility is, and what our common goal is.
I know a seminary couple who were victims of something close to identity theft. They were left with tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Another couple—let’s call them Brad and Julie—heard about the seminary couple’s trouble and asked them to lunch one day. As they talked, Julie brought up the topic of the debt and said to the couple, “Brad and I have been talking and praying about this. We do not want money to keep you from advancing God’s Kingdom, whether that is from the pulpit or having babies, or whatever.” And Julie slid a check across the table. It was written for enough to cover the couple’s debt. The couple began thanking Brad and Julie profusely, but Brad and Julie would not have it. They said, “Thank God because it’s his money; we’re just trying to be good stewards.”
When we understand that God owns everything and that he has given us the responsibility of managing his things with the goal of advancing his Kingdom, only then will we begin to have the ability to let our possessions go. Only then will we gain the freedom we so badly want. Only then will we be free from the bondage of control. Let us praise together the God who gives so much so freely!