Stewardship Dedication Sunday 11/15/20
“Wisdom that Inspires”
Judges 4: 1-7; Matthew 25: 13-40
Pearl: An awareness of God which inspires and empowers creative use of all that we have.
Function: To motivate listeners to us their gifts, talents, resources creatively and joyfully due to an appreciation (wisdom) of the mighty goodness of God who wants us to live out of faith rather than fear.
“No Fear” is a slogan that was popular on shirts and as a statement that many people liked to display. As a skier I remember seeing that notion a lot on clothing and even on equipment.
- Perhaps those who sported that slogan took a few more risks than others. Perhaps they were being a little reckless. But “no fear” is helpful on the slopes sometimes!
- But it is a biblical message. “Fear not” is recorded often through the pages of scripture.
- Reading through the Proverbs it actually commends the “fear of the Lord.” But this is not fear in any pathological sense but I like to say a “healthy fear” which is really a true “appreciation” of God. Instead of fear, a better word is “reverence” and I suggest “appreciation” which comes from knowledge of God.
- In the fictional book series, “Dune,” a recurring theme is “fear is a mind-killer.”
- I would suggest that the wrong kind of fear is what kills the mind and restricts healthy living and action.
- I am talking about fear because the third servant who was given a talent to manage and to expand upon was inhibited by a distorted appreciation of the Master such that he did not make use of the talent and hid it away only to return it to the Master when he returned.
- This did not please the Master.
- The third servant needed to have a better informed understanding of the Master. This comes from wisdom and knowledge.
- Deborah was a woman of God who was one of the Judges, a leader of God’s ancient people, prior to the time of Israel’s kings.
- Yes, you heard me correctly, a woman was a Judge and a leader of God’s people.
- Deborah was that Judge.
- There was something about her which qualified her to be this leader. The scriptures read that “she used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgment” (Judges 4:5).
- What good was “sitting under the palm of Deborah? How did that qualify her as a leader of God’s people, Israel?
- She would sit and reflect and meditate and through those means she came to know the Lord.
- In turn people went to her for judgment, advice, counsel, and guidance.
- She knew the Lord.
Deborah’s knowledge of God taught her to live from faith not from fear.
Wisdom guides us to appreciate the true God. In the Bible, wisdom is personified. The scriptures use the feminine pronoun in speaking of wisdom. She guides and informs us of God. Knowledge of God, of the Master, is necessary in order to serve Jesus as fully as God intends.
- Jesus told this parable of the faithful and unfaithful servants to commend the knowledge of God which leads to productive living. He commended knowledge of the Master which helps his followers to live out of faith and not out of fear, or rather, to live out of a full understanding of Jesus rather than out of a distorted understanding of God.
- How do you gain this full understanding of Jesus?
- You weigh all that you hear about him.
- You consider your experience of him.
- You weigh all that you were taught.
- You meditate on what is written in the Bible.
- You worship God.
- Through all of these and certainly other spiritual practices, you come to know Jesus and so you come to know God.
- Wisdom and knowledge of God come with time and age. Of course, young people can know a lot about Jesus but what you know must grow and season. So be humble about what you think you know. Remember how big God is and that you are mortal but God alone is immortal.
- Humility is necessary in the knowledge and understanding of God.
- Like the Judge, Deborah, sit often. Knowledge and understanding of God comes as you worship and reflect and weigh and ponder.
- But all of this sitting should lead to action. Action also teaches us. At some point you must venture and risk and act. You must live life. Faithful action and the use of all of our gifts, talents, and resources lead to further learning and appreciation of God, the Master!
Live by faith not by fear. Imagine what can be done in Jesus’ name and take risks.
The servants in Jesus parable were given differing amounts of money to manage. One was given five talents, the second was given two talents, and the third was given one talent. It so happens that a talent was worth more than fifteen years’ wages of a laborer. So these were large amounts given to these servants. The first one had the equivalent of 75 years wages of a laborer, a lifetime of earnings, practically!
- The first two servants acted and doubled the value of what they were given by the time that the Master returned from his journey. The third servant only buried his talent planning to give it back when the Master returned.
- As we know when the Master returned the first two were praised for their industry and expansion of what they were given.
- The third servant was rebuked for his failure to enlarge upon and do something positive with what was given to him.
- When he defended his actions to the Master he spoke of fearing the Master and so took no risks and did nothing with the considerable amount.
- So this servant’s risk-averse inactivity was based upon a distorted understanding of the Master.
- Some of what he understood about the Master was true but it was not a full enough picture of the Master.
- The first two servants immediately went to work with the considerable resources that were put into their care. They did so very likely from love for their Master. They did so from a more full and robust knowledge of their Master.
- The third servant was crippled by a distorted knowledge of the Master.
- Let this be a lesson, and an encouragement to continue to grow in your knowledge and understanding of God so that you can make the fullest use of all of your gifts, talents, skills, and resources for the benefit of the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
- From a fuller and fuller appreciation and reverence for God, you are better inclined to serve Jesus with your life.
- You will live and act more from a foundation of love than from a foundation of fear!
- Isn’t that a powerful concept for today?! Too many are crippled and motivated by fear.
- You cannot live an abundant life from a foundation of fear and paranoia.
- God does not want you to live from a posture of fear but from a posture of faith: faith in his immense goodness toward his creation!
Full of wisdom and insight into God, live from faith not from fear!
Trusting the immense goodness and faithfulness of God to provide, take risks with all that you have; do something with what you have; attempt to use what you have for the sake of Jesus, for the sake of his kingdom, trusting that good will come from your generous use of what you have. Imagine. Dream. Act.
- The Spirit of God is a creative spirit. Holy Spirit is an active and living Spirit. Living, venturing, and trying from a posture of faith in Jesus makes good things happen.
- I love what happened some years ago at Olivet Lutheran Church in Fargo, North Dakota. A donor approached the pastor of the church. He was inspired by the parable of the faithful and unfaithful servants. He wanted to give every member of the church $10 to manage with no strings attached.
- The pastor had reservations since the church was running on the edge financially. But the donor persisted and the pastor decided to try it. Each man, woman, and child was given a $10 bill in an envelope and told to do something with it. The total of all that was handed out was $6,800.
- The results were surprising and heart-warming:
- A fifth grade Sunday school class started a small company and sold buttons on Mother’s Day.
- A ten-year-old girl pooled her $10 with her mother’s to put on a concert, taking in almost $225 in donations from a 54 member audience.
- A woman on the church’s stewardship committee went together with friends who enjoy gourmet cooking and put on a seven course feast. “We invited ten people and charged them for dinner, and it was really fun. Several of them left sizable tips, so we were able to more than double our $10 and return it to the church,” she added.
- An accountant (this ought to be good) pooled his money with his wife’s money and they used it to bake brownies, popcorn, and other goodies to sell at his office.
- When the returns were counted they totaled $12,169—almost doubling the original $6,800. The original $6,800 was returned to the donor. The other $5,369 was used for social services and other church functions. To them Jesus’ words apply: “Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner” (Peterson’s paraphrase from The Message).
- These folks were creative and industrious. They took chances. They tried to do something. They ventured.
- Followers of Jesus, motivated from a robust love for him, for God, can venture and try and risk from a foundation of faith in his immense goodness.
- Have “no fear.” “Fear is the mind-killer.” Fear is the Spirit-killer. Fear constricts and inhibits.
- Your faith is in the loving, good God. Faith expands and enlarges life.
- Wisdom teaches you to trust the goodness of God.
- Be inspired and empowered to live from faith, not from fear.
- Imagine. Dream. Act…in Jesus’ name.