|Stewardship - The following passages offer five reflections on the use of our possessions.
Bible Reading: Luke 16:1-15
Key Bible Verse: No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Luke 16:13)
Why did the Pharisees scoff at Jesus’ words?
Why is it important to be trustworthy in the way we use our possessions?
Reflection: Money must be managed or it will manage. Money has the power to take God’s place in your life. It can become your master. How can you tell if you are a slave to money? (a) Do you think and worry about it frequently? (b) Do you give up doing what you should do or would like to do in order to make more money? (c) Do you spend a great deal of your time caring for your possessions? (d) Is it hard for you to give money away? (e) Are you in debt?
Money is a hard master and a deceptive one. Wealth promises power and control, but often it cannot deliver. Great fortunes can be made—and lost—overnight, and no amount of money can provide health, happiness, or eternal life. How much better it is to let God be your master. His servants have peace of mind and security, both now and forever.
Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 14:22-29
Key Bible Verse: You must set aside a tithe of your crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year. Bring this tithe to the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored—and eat it there in his presence. This applies to your tithes of grain, new wine, olive oil, and the firstborn males of your flocks and herds. Doing this will teach you always to fear the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 14:22-23)
What was the purpose of tithing, according to verses 22-23? How does tithing accomplish this?
Reflection: Tithing is a clear way to demonstrate our priorities. The Bible makes the purpose of tithing very clear—to put God first in our life. We are to give God the first and best of what we earn. For example, what we do first with our money shows what we value most. Giving the first part of our paycheck to God immediately focuses our attention on him. It also reminds us that all we have belongs to him. A habit of regular tithing can keep God at the top of our priority list and give us a proper perspective on everything else we have.
Bible Reading: Ezra 2:64-70
Key Bible Verse: When they arrived at the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, some of the family leaders made voluntary offerings toward the rebuilding of God’s Temple on its original site, and each leader gave as much as he could. The total of their gifts came to 61,000 gold coins, 6,250 pounds of silver, and 100 robes for the priests. (Ezra 2:68-69)
Describe the way the family leaders made their offerings for the Temple’s rebuilding.
Reflection: God is pleased when we give generously. As the Temple reconstruction progressed, everyone contributed freewill offerings according to his or her ability. Some were able to give huge gifts and did so generously. Everyone’s effort and cooperation were required, and the people gave as much as they could. Often we limit our giving to 10 percent of our income. The Bible, however, emphasizes that we should give from the heart all that we are able. “Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have” (2 Corinthians 8:12). “Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.” (2 Corinthians 9:6). Let the amount of your gift be decided by God’s call to give generously, not by the amount of your leftovers.
Bible Reading: Acts 11:19-30
Key Bible Verse: So the believers in Antioch decided to send relief to the brothers and sisters in Judea, everyone giving as much as they could. (Acts11:29)
How did the believers in Antioch respond to the news about the famine in Judea?
What needs exist in your community or the world that generous giving would help?
Reflection: Generosity flows out of a concern for those in need. There were serious food shortages during the reign of the Roman emperor Claudius (A.D. 41-54) because of a drought that had extended across much of the Roman Empire for many years. It is significant that the church in Antioch assisted the church in Jerusalem. The daughter church had grown enough to be able to help the established church.
The people of Antioch were motivated to give generously because they cared about the needs of others. This is “cheerful” giving that the Bible commends. “You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. ‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.’” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Reluctant giving reflects a lack of concern for people. Focus your concern on the needy, and you will be motivated to give.
Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 8:1-152 Corinthians 8:1-15
Key Bible Verse: You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)
What was remarkable about the giving of the Macedonian churches?
How was Jesus an example of giving?
To whom can you show generosity this week?
Reflection: Sacrificial giving imitates Christ. There is no evidence that Jesus was any poorer than most first-century Palestinians; rather, Jesus became poor by giving up his rights as God and becoming human. In his incarnation God voluntarily became man—the wholly human person, Jesus of Nazareth. As a man, Jesus was subject to place, time, and other human limitations. He did not give up his eternal power when he became human, but he did set aside his glory and his rights. In response to the Father’s will, he limited his power and knowledge. Christ became “poor” when he became human, because he set aside so much. Yet by doing so, he made us “rich” because we received salvation and eternal life.
Sacrifice - The following passages describe five characteristics of sacrificial living.
Bible Reading: Matthew 8:18-22
Key Bible Verse: Then one of the teachers of religious law said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:19-20)
What did Jesus mean by his answer to the religious teacher?
What kinds of sacrifices do people have to make to follow Jesus today?
Reflection: God is pleased with the sacrifice of following his Son. Following Jesus is not always easy or comfortable. Often it means great cost and sacrifice, with no earthly rewards or security. Jesus didn’t have a place to call home. You may find that following Christ costs you popularity, friendships, leisure time, or treasured habits. But while the cost of following Christ is high, the value of being Christ’s disciple is even higher. Discipleship is an investment that lasts for eternity and yields incredible rewards.
Bible Reading:Matthew 19:16-30
Key Bible Verse: Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)
What kind of treasure would the young man have after he had followed Jesus’ instructions?
Reflection: God is pleased with a sacrificial attitude that puts everything we have at his disposal. Should all believers sell everything they own? No. We are responsible to care for our own needs and the needs of our families so that we will not be a burden on others. We should, however, be willing to give up anything if God asks us to do so. This kind of attitude allows nothing to come between us and God and keeps us from using our God-given wealth selfishly. If you are comforted by the fact that Christ did not tell all his followers to sell all their possessions, then you may be too attached to what you have.
Bible Reading: Romans 12:1-8
Key Bible Verse: And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. (Romans 12:1)
What is our sacrifice as believers, according to verse 1?
How does Paul describe this sacrifice in verses 2-8?
Reflection: God is pleased with sacrificial living, because it shows obedience and gratitude for his grace. When sacrificing an animal according to God’s law, a priest
would kill the animal, cut it in pieces, and place it on the altar. Sacrifice was important, but even in the Old Testament God made it clear that obedience from the heart was much more important. “But Samuel replied, ‘What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams’” (1 Samuel 15:22). “I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. . . . Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living” (Amos 5:21, 24). God wants us to offer ourselves, not animals, as a living sacrifice—daily laying aside our own desires to follow him, putting all our energy and resources at his disposal and trusting him to guide us. We do this out of gratitude that our sins have been forgiven.
God has good, pleasing, and perfect plans for his children. He wants us to be transformed people with renewed minds, living to honor and obey him. Because he wants only what is best for us, and because he gave his Son to make our new life possible, we should joyfully give ourselves as a living sacrifice for his service.
Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 21:1-30
Key Bible Verse: But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it for the full price. I will not take what is yours and give it to the LORD. I will not present burnt offerings that have cost me nothing!” (1 Chronicles 21:24)
Why did David reject Araunah’s offer?
What do you regularly give to God that you can turn into a sacrifice that costs you something?
Reflection: God is pleased with a sacrifice that costs us something. When David wanted to buy Araunah’s land to build an altar, Araunah generously offered it as a gift. But David refused, saying, “I will not present burnt offerings that have cost me nothing!” (v. 24). David wanted to offer a sacrifice to God. The word sacrifice implies giving something that costs the giver in terms of self, time, or money. To give sacrificially requires more than a token effort or gift. God wants us to give voluntarily, but he wants it to mean something. Giving to God what costs you nothing does not demonstrate commitment.
Bible Reading: Romans 9:1-5
Key Bible Verse: With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them. (Romans 9:1-3)
What was Paul willing to sacrifice for his people? What would motivate him to pay such a price?
Who do you know who is in spiritual need? What kinds of sacrifices can you make that will help that person?
Reflection: God is pleased with a sacrificial attitude that shows real love for others. Paul expressed concern for his Jewish “brothers and sisters” by saying that he would willingly take their punishment if that would save them. While the only one who can save us is Christ, Paul showed a rare depth of love. Like Jesus, he was willing to sacrifice for others. How concerned are you for those who don’t know Christ? Are you willing to sacrifice your time, money, energy, comfort, and safety to see them come to faith in Jesus?
This study is adapted from the Handbook of Bible Application (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2000), available everywhere books are sold.