Sneaking in through the Doggie Door
We have always had an alarm system in our home since one of our neighbors had a break-in a few years ago. The alarm system was controlled and monitored by people miles away. But if the alarms detected one of our doors or windows opening when we weren’t home, the alarm signaled the people who monitored the system to notify us and the authorities. It worked well — at least until one Sunday afternoon, we discovered the alarm didn’t tell us someone had broken into the house, but that there was motion in the kitchen and living room. The dogs were too low to the ground to set off the alarm, so the company informed us that someone was in the house. Confused? So were we.
By the time we (and the sheriff) got to the house, we saw nothing missing, and the alarm was re-set. The alarm system said there was movement in the living room. Our walkout basement door was ajar, but was not detected. What was the conclusion? The kids from next door had come in through the doggie door in the sunroom and decided to leave via the basement door and left before causing any trouble.
That alarm system is a kind of stewardship. It is a safeguard against anyone taking our possession without permission – unless of course they gain entry through the doggie door. Stewardship is our subject for this month. “Oh, no! He’s going to talk about money again!” No – stewardship is not only about money. Silver and gold and US Script is only a small part of that, but God’s Word has a larger meaning of stewardship that isn’t limited to money.
In the Old Testament, the title of “Asher” was given to a person who was in charge of safeguarding the possessions of the kings and princes. It wasn’t just silver and gold, but all possessions that belonged to the kingdom (I Chronicles 28:1). Their sole responsibility (at the risk of their own life) was the safekeeping of everything that was the king’s possessions.
Jesus, St. Paul and St. Peter spoke about this concept of stewardship calling every Christian to be entrusted with the safekeeping of the possessions of the Kingdom and everything that belongs to the King. St. Peter explains, “Therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (I Peter 4:8b-11, ESV)
In I Corinthians, St. Paul makes it clear what responsibility the stewards of God’s mysteries must have: So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” (I Corinthians 4:1ff, ESV)
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus explained the idea of stewardship (perhaps with a little of a jaded example of the unfaithful steward) that applies to all possessions. “Give an accounting of your stewardship,” the unfaithful servant was told. It was his management of all the goods entrusted to his management that was being questioned. The Greek word used in the New Testament makes this clear: we are the oikonomos – the keeper of the things that belong to the house of the Lord.
Within this concept, we have to acknowledge that every good thing comes from God. Our money, house, home, family, friends, neighbors, and the like are all gifts from God. How we deal with them is part of our responsibility of being oikonomou theou – keepers of the things of God. Everything we have – including our life – is a gift from God. When we begin to understand this biblical truth, our concerns for our fiscal security become less burdensome because we know God cares for us more than He cares for the birds of the air.
The Christian Church is meant to function with the proper use of the manifold gifts of God that flow from His grace. But, it’s not just money! Our very existence within the body of Christ – the Church – is a gift (according to St. Peter) that is meant to serve others with the mysteries and possessions of His House – the Holy Christian Church. Foremost in these gifts is the Word and blessed Sacraments of God (as mysteries) that offer the forgiveness of sins, the promise of life everlasting, and the joining of us together in the unity of Christ by faith. Who can explain these things? That’s why they’re called mysteries, because they surpass our human understanding. We can only begin to understand these by the gift of faith that’s offered through the Holy Spirit through His means and in the Word.
Each congregation functions because the servants of Christ – His people – are enabled to gather their gifts for the preservation and protection of the possessions of the Church. That may come in the form of money, but also includes our time and the talents God has given to us by His grace to do the work of His Kingdom. None of Christ’s people is without specific gifts God envisioned that would bring about the purpose of our communion of faith.
The District and the Synod cannot function without the manifold gifts of God being extended from the faithful people of God and the support of the local congregations. Local congregations are enabled to grow and flourish because of the time, talents, and treasures His faithful people offer in service to the Church. Our very presence in worship is a stewardship in mutual support of the body of Christ. By the same token, God has richly blessed our District with generous and faithful people. We have never been more fiscally blessed than we are today. But, as Jesus reminds us (Luke 16:1 ff), using all the gifts He gives for the good of His kingdom is of a paramount importance.
This is why we continue to support church planting and world mission. This is why we support students studying to become servants in the Church. This is why we want to assure every generation will have the Gospel message of Christ’s saving grace for decades and generations to come. This is why we boast in the Lord by being faithful stewards of the Gospel of Christ when we embrace the change in our DNA with “Each 1 – Reach 1.” This is why the Mid-South District offers a stewardship program like Financial Peace University, that we might gain a deeper understanding of God’s gracious provision, and our stewardship of all He gives. The most precious “possession” we have isn’t money, silver, or gold. God has entrusted us with being oikonomou theou – “keepers of the things of the household of God” for all the world as our mission field. The greatest gift we have is the Gospel of Christ. It’s not meant to be buried, but to be proclaimed in every corner of the world, that those who are still living in darkness may come to the marvelous Light of our Savior, Jesus Christ (I Peter 2:9). It’s a stewardship that belongs to everyone joined to Christ by His means of grace.
Having an unsecured doggie door made our possessions vulnerable to outside intruders. Protecting the possessions of the Kingdom of God needs security as well. We are charged with the responsibility to protect the sacred doctrines of the Church and Her people. Keep the intruders away, and be about the privilege of being “Keepers of the possessions of the House of God.”
Your servant in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Roger Paavola