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Edward F. Markquart


Stewardship Sunday     Luke 16:1-13    
(Also, Pentecost 16 C)

Jesus said, “Turn in an account of your stewardship.  Give me a record of how you are handling the responsibilities that I have entrusted to you.”  Jesus continued, “I have discovered that people who are faithful in the little things are faithful in the big things.  The person who is not faithful in the little things is not faithful in the big things.  The person who is faithful in both the little responsibilities and the big responsibilities, I will give even more to that person.  The person who is not faithful in the little things and not faithful in the big things, I will relieve that person of all responsibilities.  To whom much is given, much is required.  If you are not faithful with the little things of life like money, who will entrust you with true riches? When the Pharisees heard this, they scoffed at Jesus because they were lovers of money.

A steward.  A steward is a person who takes care of precious property which is not his own.  The following are four stories about stewardship.

Some years ago, my wife and I were going to take a trip to the Holy Land with several members of our congregation. We were not going to be gone for merely two or three days but two or three weeks.  We faced the inevitable questions: who is going to take care of the kids, the house, the pets, the plants, the mail?  Who is trustworthy enough to take care of our most valuable possessions?  It was a tough question, but we finally asked my parents.  You don’t ask just anyone to care for your children for a few weeks.  You trust them with someone who is very all the small day-to-day details and all the large important details.  Stewards are people who take care of precious property that is not their own.

Another example.  Sharon Colello is here today.  She is the director of our day care, our child-care center.  Every morning between 6:00 and 8:00 AM, 60 parents drive into the parking lot to drop of a precious cargo, their child.  During those long days at the daycare, the parents want and pray for that their children will be well cared for...especially with all the little unseen details.  The bruised knee.  The hurt finger. The book carefully read. The loving tone of voice.  All the little crucially important details that will never appear on a formal report.  When that parent unexpectedly arrives early from work, that parent hopes that he/she will see their child being well cared for.  Stewards are people who take care of precious property that is not their own.

Shirley and Dale Beasely are old friends of mine.  They were caretakers of a large mansion down there on Marine View Drive overlooking Puget Sound.  The mansion belonged to a congressman who often traveled to and lived in Washington D. C.  This congressman hired the Beaselys to manage his mansion for him.  The Beaselys thought that this was a grand idea; alot of fun; a lark living in a beautiful mansion in Puget Sound.  Until they mowed the lawn.  That lawn is so huge, so spacious, so much grass. Until they started to take care of the rose garden.  Do you realize how much work roses are?  Pruning, weeding, fertilizing, watering.  Until they started to care for all the china and silver.  Do you realize all the hours it takes to polish all that silver?  And the pets.  The dogs, the cats, the rare bird collection.  They thought living in the mansion was going to be a picnic, but they discovered what an enormous amount of work it was.  If they didn’t do that work, it all fell apart so quickly.  And there were numerous times when the congressman came home unexpectedly, and he expected to see his estate well cared for.  Stewards are people who take care of precious property that is not their own.

A World War II story.  There was wine steward who was responsible for caring for the finest collection of wine in all of Europe, the wine cellar at the Chateau of Monaco.  At that time in history, the chateau was well known for its vintage, rare wines.  But the Nazis had overrun the city and now lived and dined in the chateau, expecting and wanting to drink the world’s finest vintage wines.  The wine steward resented those “slime Nazis” and cleverly and carefully hid all the most rare wines deep in the cellar, serving his enemy only the cheapest and youngest wines, pretending that those wines were the best.  Stewards are people who care for precious property that is not their own, often preserving it from disaster.

It is with these stories that we approach one of Jesus’ stories about a steward.  There are several such stories in the Bible.   “Once upon a time, there was a rich man who owned a villa.  He was going on a long trip and so he appointed a steward to take care of his property while he was gone.  He gave the steward some specific instructions.  There was nothing in his instructions about taking care of the house or stables or animals.  The owner, instead, told the steward to make sure that the servants were paid their food allowance for their work.  That was important to the owner:  make sure you pay the servants their food allowance while I am gone!!!  Don’t cheat the servants!!!  Well, the owner was gone a long time, and then one day, unexpectedly, he showed up.  He was pleased to find that the steward had taken care of his entire estate, and especially that he had paid the servants their food allowance.  Now if that owner had come back unexpectedly and found the steward had not paid the allowance, and if instead the steward was “eating, drinking and making merry,” he would have taken a switch to that steward and given him and paddling. He would have fired him and gotten a new steward, so the Bible says.

Jesus continued.  I have found that people who are faithful in the little things are faithful in the big things; and people who are not faithful with the little details are not faithful with the big details.  People who are faithful with both the little and big details, they will be rewarded and given even more.  Those who aren’t, they will suffer the consequences.  To whom much is given, much is required.

Steward.  Stewardship Sunday.  When we think of Stewardship Sunday, we normally think of the Sunday where the preacher gives a “fundraising” sermon to raise funds for the church.  The preacher, if he or she is good at it, is supposed to do it like a dentist, first gently putting in the right amount of Novocain in to numb the pain and then doing the tough stuff about raising money but in a painless way so the patients won’t feel it.  Or it is “time, talent and treasure” Sunday and so we talk about the time, talents and treasures we are going to pledge to Christ and the church.  Or, we may think of a steward and stewardess on an airplane.  A steward and stewardess are people we can easily visualize as they bring the food and beverages on an airplane, the pillows and blankets, answer questions and provide for the safety of those flying. 

But stewardship is not about that narrow slice of life we call offerings to the church or that narrow slice of our time, talents and treasures that we give to church.  Stewardship is taking care of the precious property/people that God has entrusted to us and that is what I would like to talk about today.

Steward comes from the Greek word, “oikos”, which means house.  Stewardship is taking care of household matters. A related word is “oikonomics” from which we get the word, “economics:” Stewardship is taking care of money matters that God has entrusted to us. Still another related word is “oicology” from which we get the word “ecology”.  Stewardship is taking care of the earth that God has entrusted to us.

Jesus said, “Give me an account of your stewardship.  Give me a record of how you are taking care of your household affairs.”  How are you taking care of things around the house?  Your clothing?  Your car?  Your furniture?  Your plants?.  Your animals?  All the property that has been entrusted to your care. 

In the children’s sermon for today, I asked the children how many of them had toys.  Yes, of course, they all had toys.  And what was the purpose of toys?  Of course, to play with them.  But also to learn to take care of them.  One of the most important purposes of having toys is caring for them, putting them away, not playing with them so roughly that they break.  When you grow up, it is important that you have learned how to care for things.  If toys are not taken care of, they break real quickly.  I asked the kids, “How many of you have plants that you care for?”  So many children do.  How very imprint this is, to care for plants, to water them, feed them, give them sunlight.  If you don’t, It is disastrous to the plants.  When you grow up, it is important that you have learned how to care for plants and flowers.  Human beings have always loved plants and flowers that enrich and beautify our lives but we must learn how to do this.  I then asked the children, “How many of you have pets and what are the kinds of pets you have?”  What fun!  What stories!  But children need to know how to care for living things, for living things that love them back.  If the children don’t learn how to care for their pets, they will have not learned a valuable lesson in care for living things.  Then I asked them, “How many of you have mothers, fathers, grandmas, grandpa, brothers, sisters, friends, cousins?” and all their hands shot up as they squealed with delight.  What more important lesson is there to learn than to care for people with gentleness.  Jesus said, “Give me a record of your stewardship.  Tell me how you are caring for that precious property and people that have been entrusted to you?”

And none of this belongs to you.  Your clothes, your house, your furniture, your pets, your toys, your plants, your family.  None of it belongs to you.  Can you take it with you when you die?  Of course not.  It’s not yours.  Everything in life belongs to God who entrusts you and me to care for these precious possessions.

“Oiconomics.”  Jesus said, “Give me an account of your household finances.  Give me a record  of how you are managing money.”   It is so important that we learn to manage money rather than having money manage and dominate our lives. We need to learn to manage money wisely.  Of course, we teach our children these values also, often giving them an allowance or work for an allowance, so they have money, not merely to buy things, but to learn to manage money effectively.  

In the Biblical texts for today, Jesus wisely said, “If you can’t manage the little stuff, like money, who will entrust you with true riches.  The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, laughed and scoffed at him.”  Now, we would have said just the opposite, “If you can’t handle important stuff like money, who would trust you with real responsibilities? Our culture thinks that money is so important.  If you can’t handle money, you are in big trouble. Jesus had the opposite point of view. To Jesus, money was part of the little stuff.

Now, the Pharisees were people who couldn’t handle money.  That is, they were tithers; they were the ones who could give the full ten percent to God.  Give me a few more Pharisees in our parish, I often think to myself, so we can pay the bills.  The Pharisees were tithers, giving ten percent, but they weren’t good stewards.  Not good stewards.  Of course not.  You see, they “loved” money and used God. They also used people.  God’s plan is just the opposite:  we are to love God and love people but use money.  People who love money will never know true riches, the true riches of loving God and loving others.  What greater wealth is there than that?  Any anyone who loves money and what it can buy will never know true love and true riches.  That’s just the way it is in God’s world.  The Pharisees, the poor souls, gave their ten percent faithfully, but never discovered the true riches of love for God and neighbor. 

Jesus said:  “Give me an account of your money.  Are you managing your money?  Is it managing you?  Do you love money too much?   Do you?  Could it be that you love money more than me?”

Besides, you don’t own it anyhow.  Your checking account.  Your savings account. Your IRA.  Your investment program.  Your retirement funds at work.  Yes, your name and social security number may be on those accounts, but they aren’t yours.  You just may die tonight or tomorrow.  I guarantee you, you can’t take it with you when you die.  Nobody has and nobody ever will, although the Egyptians Pharaohs tried very hard to take it with them.  Nope, like everything else, your money belongs to God.  It is one more of the pieces of property that God has entrusted to you. 

Oicology” is the last word we want to look at.  Ecology.  Taking care of God’s good earth.  Living here in Seattle, we have come to appreciate the namesake of Seattle, Chief Seattle himself.  It is always a pleasure to visit his grave on the other side of the Peninsula.  Chief Seattle was a wise, wise chief, a wise, wise human being, who understood and appreciated the intimate interplay between human beings and the earth.  I quote from his profound words of one hundred and forty years ago.  He said:  “The earth is not the white man’s brother, but his enemy.  When the white man has conquered the earth, he moves on.  He leaves his father’s grave, and his children’s birthright is forgotten.  The air is precious to the red man, for all things breathe the same air:  the beasts, the trees, the man.  But the white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes.  Like a man dying for many days, he is numb to the stench.  All things are connected.  Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth.” Those are powerful words. 

Chief Seattle was right:  what happens to the earth, happens to the children of the earth.  What happens to the water will soon affect the human race.  What happens to the air, will soon affect us.  What happens to the soil, will soon touch our lives.  For as Chief Seattle said, all things are connected.

So we Christians are concerned about our earth and ecology.  We are concerned when massive forest fires cover large regions of Asia.  We are concerned when toxic waste is reground into fertilizer and put into our soil.  We are concerned about the pesticides that are sprayed on our plants.  We are concerned about the contaminants that flow down the Mississippi River and into New Orleans that has one of the highest cancer rates in the USA.  We are concerned about fluorocarbons and the melting of the polar caps.  We’re all connected. 

Today is Stewardship Sunday, and we hear Jesus as he asks us that persisted question:  “Give me an account of your stewardship.  Tell me, give me a record of how you are caring for your household...the finances...the earth…those precious properties and peoples that I have entrusted to your care.  Come on now, I want to know, I want to hear from you:  Tell me how you care caring for all I have entrusted to you.


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