Stewardship 6 – mastery

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on our relationship to God and recognize his faithful provision to us.

Scripture

Matthew 6:24-25

24  No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.  25  Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Observations and reflections

Note: Matthew 6:19-34 contain Jesus’ revolutionary teachings on possessions, money and security.  We focus on one or two such teachings each day and consider our own attitudes and behaviors in the light of his words.

  1. In your own words summarize verse 24.
  2. How do you understand the link between verses 24 and 25?
  3. What does Jesus mean with “[to] serve… money” as master? Give examples.
  4. What is the opposite to “do not be anxious” in this context? [hint: consider the verses following…]

Application

Consider two scenarios common today where people become slaves to money:

  • Being over-worked for higher salaries to enable “better living standards”.
  • Being in debt to enable “better living standards”
  1. What is another / more fitting term for “a desire for better living standards”?
  2. To which degree are you enslaves yourself to money by these two?
  3. What is the problem with being enslaved to money by these two things? [hint: your energy and time is primarily engaged in temporal pursuit at the bidding of those who pay you… so you are not free to…?]
  4. What is the solution to escape this enslavement? [hint: if we are enslaved to money by “the desire for more” (covetousness/greed) or “fear of poverty/ lack” (anxiety) – what are the opposite heart conditions…?]
  5. How will you respond to today’s choice? What will you do about Jesus’ words today?

Prayer

Ask the Lord to speak to you about your relationship with money – how does He feel about it. Tell the Lord how you feel about trusting Him, and confess the areas where you are anxious for lack and greedy for more.  Ask Him to reveal that to you and deliver you from slavery to money. End by thanking Him for what He freely and faithfully give to you.fa

Stewardship 5 – trust

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on our relationship to God and recognize his faithful provision to us.

Short Sermon to the Birds by Francis of Assisi (around 1220 in Bevagna, Italy) meant for onlookers in the park:

Francis of Assisi

“My little sisters the birds, you owe much to God, your Creator, and you ought to sing his praise at all times and in all places, because he has given you liberty to fly about into all places; and though you neither spin nor sew, he has given you a twofold and a threefold clothing for yourselves and for your offspring. Two of all your species he sent into the Ark with Noah that you might not be lost to the world; besides which, he feeds you, though you neither sow nor reap. He has given you fountains and rivers to quench your thirst, mountains and valleys in which to take refuge, and trees in which to build your nests; so that your Creator loves you much, having thus favored you with such bounties. Beware, my little sisters, of the sin of ingratitude, and study always to give praise to God.”

Scripture

Matthew 6:25-34

25  Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  26  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

27  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  28  And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  30  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31  Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34  Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Observations and reflections

Note: Matthew 6:19-34 contain Jesus’ revolutionary teachings on possessions, money and security.  We focus on one or two such teachings each day and consider our own attitudes and behaviors in the light of his words.

  1. In your own words paraphrase Jesus’ teaching regarding money in these two verses.
  2. Can you think of one short phrase that best summarizes Jesus’ teaching in this section?
  3. List the things Jesus says one should not be anxious of.
    1. What is the main reason Jesus says one should not be give in to anxiety? [verse 32]
    2. What does that imply about the nature of these anxieties?
    3. Considering verse 34, what more do we learn about human nature and these types of anxieties? [hint: “do not be anxious about tomorrow…”]
  4. What do we learn about God (and his relationship to you/us) in this section?

Application and prayer

  1. List every anxiety you carry or feel – write what are the things you stress about. Then confess it as wrong to God and ask for His peace to reign in your mind and heart.
  2. Write all your needs (both immediate and foreseeable) down on a piece of paper.
    1. Paul taught that we should “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by not prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6). So before we pray through the list, take good time to thank the Father for all his faithful, loving provision in you life that you do see and have seen.
    2. Now “cast your cares in Him – for He cares for you” (1Peter 5:7). Ask him for each need – be specific.  Thank God that he has heard your prayers – as your Father who loves you.
    3. Lastly, pray for God’s Kingdom to reign in your life, family, community and work place. Let His righteousness, peace and joy reign where you live and move!  Ask God what you can do to make it come!

Stewardship 4 – perceptions

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on our relationship to and perception of money and material possessions.

Scripture

Matthew 6:22-23

22  “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Observations and reflections

Note: Matthew 6:19-34 contain Jesus’ revolutionary teachings on possessions, money and security.  We focus on one or two such teachings each day and consider our own thoughts and actions in the light of his words.

  1. In your own words paraphrase Jesus’ teaching regarding money in these two verses.
  2. Can you think of one word that best summarizes Jesus’ teaching in these two verses?
  3. Give synonyms for “full of light” and “full of darkness” in these verses.
  4. Jesus’ teaching on the “eye” is in the midst of his teaching on money and our relationship to it. How is it that your “eye” can change the whole experience of your life?

Application

Jesus said that your eye (or relationship to money, or your perception of money) will determine your outlook on life.

  1. Jesus teaching demands a choice of attitude adjustment to live a fulfilled life without a change in circumstances. How would you help someone with a “dark” (critical or negative) attitude to make such a change in his/her approach to life?  How can you “train the eye” to adjust one’s reality to “light”?
  2. Take a metaphorical step back and look at your own current situation:
    1. If a really rich person would eat, dress and live with you today, how would he feel?
    2. If a really poor person would eat, dress and live with you today, how would he feel?
    3. How does that challenge your perspective of your own material blessings?
  3. From this teaching of Jesus – what can you do “live in the light” today?

Prayer

Do you have a critical disposition and tend to see the glass half empty? Bring your negative outlook to God and ask him to heal your eyes.  Ask God to help you see his beauty and provision in your life in every circumstance.  Then start right away to make a list of God’s provision and thank him for it.  Do this throughout the day and week – train your eye to see God’s hand in your life!

Stewardship 3 – affections and security

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on security and affections relating to possessions.

Scripture

Matthew 6:19-21

19  “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Observations and reflections

Note: Matthew 6:19-34 contain Jesus’ revolutionary teachings on possessions, money and security.  We will focus on one or two such teachings each day and consider our own thoughts and actions in the light of his words.

  1. Read the text above again and in your own words summarize Jesus’ teaching regarding money contained in these verses.
  2. Regarding the “treasures on earth / in heaven” metaphor:
    1. What are the “treasures on earth”? What does Jesus mean? Give examples of what earthly treasures could be for you.
    2. Why does Jesus say one should not store up “treasures earth”? He mentions two things – but what is his core motive?
    3. What are the “treasures in heaven”? [hints: (1) what are the things God promise to reward eternally? (2) what remains beyond this life?]
    4. What two reasons do Jesus give to motivate the gathering of “heavenly treasures”?
    5. What is the link between one’s treasure and one’s heart?

Application

  1. Consider the material possessions you cherish most – list it.
    1. In which ways can it be lost or destroyed?
    2. In the light of our eternity and the temporal nature of earthly things – how significant is this “earthly treasure”?
  2. Consider your [attempt at] monetary savings – why do you [desire to] do it?
    1. In the light of Jesus teachings in the text above – how should you consider your money now?
  3. What will you do today to “store up treasures in heaven”? Write it down as to-do list.

Prayer

Ask the Lord to give you an eternal perspective that permeates through to your daily decisions.  Pray about your heart’s affections and security regarding earthly treasures.  Bring your desires from more and trust in much to God.  And commit to obey Him and store u treasures in heaven.

Stewardship 2 – desires and riches

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on the Christian approach to riches.

Scripture

1 Timothy 6:5-19

5… From such [who suppose that godliness is a means of gain] withdraw yourself.  6  Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8  And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.

9  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

11  But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 12  Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses…

17  Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18  Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19  storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

Observations and reflections

  1. To get to the heart of Paul’s instructions in this chapter, summarize each sub-this section in a short phrase:
    1. Verses 5-8
    2. Verses 9-10
    3. Verses 11-12
    4. Verses 17-19
  2. Paul quotes some teachers who say godliness is a means of gain” but responds by saying “godliness with contentment is great gain.”
    1. What do you understand by each of these phrases?
    2. Then Paul says we cannot “carry” anything out – why does he say that? [hint: what can we take out of this world…? see verse 6]
    3. So in light of this, why would Paul be content with only “food and clothing”?
  3. Paul is often misquoted as saying “money is THE root of ALL EVIL”; what does he say in this text above, and what difference does it make?

Application and Prayer

  1. Paul refers to people who once served God but have backslid in pursuit of earthly wealth. Do you know individuals who once served Jesus passionately but have since then become more wealthy and consequently more worldly, with less care for God and his things?  How did it happen?  Or, can you recognize in your own life that more possessions bring more cares and also more carelessness for God’s and his things?
  2. Paul gives command to wealthy people in the congregation Timothy oversees:
    1. “to not be haughty [proud]” – do you recognize in yourself that you more easily look down at poor people that at rich people? What is the right attitude?  And how can you rectify that?
    2. “not to trust in …riches” – do you find (or long for) security in savings or insurance? What is the right attitude?  And how can you rectify that?
    3. “who gives us all things to enjoy” – do you sometimes feel ashamed or guilty for having more money than others? What is the right attitude?  And how can you rectify that?
  3. Pray to God about your attitude regarding money and earthly possessions – both that which you have and that which you desire or need. But take your time to thank God for that which you have and have had in the past – recognizing him as the “giver of all good things”!  Then ask God what you should do with what you have now.

Stewardship 1

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on the Biblical principle of ownership and evaluate one’s heart towards material possessions.

Scripture

Hebrews 13:5-6

5  Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

6  So we may boldly say: “the Lord is my Helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

Observations and reflections

Note: the letter to the Hebrews was written during a period of mounting persecution (probably that of Nero), which lead to the Christian’s loss of jobs and plundering of their possessions, even imprisonment at that stage.

  1. In the first half of verse 5 the author opposes two issues of the heart; what words does he use? Explain your understanding of these two words.
  2. From verse 5, what does the author say the persecuted church should be content with?
    1. Why do you think the author should say that is enough?
    2. How do you feel about that? Or, what would you feel like when your pastor says that to you today?
  3. What promises for provision do you read in these verses?
  4. What do you understand the author means by inserting verse 6 (a quotation from Psalm 118:6)? What does he try to say to the persecuted, impoverished church?
    1. How do you feel about this attitude of the writer about people wronging us, leaving us suffering?

Application and Prayer

  1. Considering material possessions, do you recognize a longing for more things (i.e. covetousness)? Or are you discontent about your current salary, house, clothing, car, holidays etc?  Then confess you feelings to God and repent of a heart that is covetousness for earthly things.  [Take your time here, and don’t justify anything – just bring your heart attitude to God in light of the truth].
  2. Is your heart content with Christ only? Is He your greatest “Treasure”, your “Pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:44-46)? Like the recipients of the Letter to the Hebrews, are you content to lose all that you may keep Jesus only?  Honestly search your heart and confess your heart attitude to Jesus, asking Him for grace.
  3. On a day-to-day pace, how much are you concerned with temporal things and concerns, and how much with eternal things and spiritual concerns? Give a rough percentage of each.  Pray about this, and ask God to help you “set your heart… and mind on things above” (Colossians 3:1-2)
  4. What one thing you can do today to indicate Jesus is more important that worldly things?