Sabbath School Lesson for March 24-30, 2018
We have seen in the last three months many things about stewardship that we may not have thought about for a long time, or maybe never. Most of us have a pretty narrow view of what is involved with this aspect of our Christianity. Stewardship encompasses more than our service for God or our call to discipleship though. And it certainly is not just about where we decide to donate our money and how we manage our finances.
A very comprehensive definition of stewardship was given in this final week’s lesson. “Stewardship is the act of thriving while managing God’s call to live godly lives.” Jesus described it by telling the parable of the talents. He used the phrase, “Occupy till I come,” in telling this story. See Luke 19:13. This certainly has implications for what we are to do until Jesus, our Master, returns to this earth. How do we occupy ourselves while we wait for Him?
This parable is also told in Matthew 25. Here Jesus uses two expressions to describe the results of stewardship. When the Master returns, each of us, will hear either…
- “Well, done, good and faithful servant” or
- “Depart from me, I never knew you.”
Of course, our focus this week is on the results of that faithful servant. As we discover, the reward isn’t only when our Master returns. We see many personal and corporate/church benefits when we take our waiting period seriously by investing wisely in the kingdom to come.
But, first, let’s dwell briefly on the reason for the rebuke given to the unfaithful servant. He was told that the Master never knew Him. Certainly, this tells us the value of keeping Jesus always on our minds, as we tackle any of life’s many duties and responsibilities. If He isn’t the central motivating factor in our lives, we will never achieve the status of a good and faithful steward. Getting to know Jesus must be our main purpose in life. Then, and only then, will we be considered faithful when the Master comes back.
Sunday: Stewardship and Godliness
Several times, Job has been used to illustrate someone who lived a godly life, even after suffering the cruelest trials and hardships. We are told in the first chapter of Job that he was “blameless and upright” and that he “feared God and shunned evil.” This description reminds us that godliness involves, not only what we do, but what we don’t do. And that God must be in the middle of it.
Perhaps the simplest and best way to understand godliness is to see it as the evidence of true religion. It involves a commitment that reveals itself with actions that are pleasing to a loving God. If people saw more of this brand of true religion, perhaps there would not be so many people who shun religion of any kind in our society today. There are many unfortunate souls who go their whole lifetimes without seeing even one example of true religion. We, as a church and as individuals, must break that trend.
Godliness has often been seen as perfection. But, while we still have our mortal, corruptible bodies, sin will always be a problem, even for God’s most devoted followers. Godliness is merely the process of becoming perfect. All of us are in a different place in this process, and have all had different experiences in achieving it or not achieving it along the way.
When godliness is viewed as a continuum of life events and activities, we can more easily see godly characteristics in the people we know, and hopefully, in the person we are becoming. But let’s remember that these “sightings” of godliness are merely reflections of God’s holiness, shining out in the lives of those who bask in His light. We can take no credit for godliness in ourselves. It really belongs to Jesus, the Light of the World.
Read 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13-17. What is one thing that is able to help us identify deceivers, who may only appear to be godly?
Read Titus 2:11-13. What are the things that enable us to live godly lives?
Read 2 Timothy 2:22-26. What state of mind must we have in order to live godly lives? How easy is it to be led astray by Satan, especially when we allow pride to influence our decisions and actions?
Does being a good steward bring us contentment, or do we need a sense of being content in order to be a faithful steward? Perhaps contentment is just a quality that is needed throughout our Christian experience, as we wait in this sin-hardened world for Jesus, our Master, to return. A certain amount is needed to help us occupy till He comes, but our sense of contentment is also enhanced, as we faithfully perform our stewardship duties.
Once again, Job’s life can be seen as an example of being content. After unspeakable trials had all but taken his life, Job declared wholeheartedly, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him…” (Job 13:15 NKJV) This shows us that being content is not the same as being happy. I’m sure Job was not happy when this statement was made. It is more related to our trust in God. This trust forms the foundation of our contentment. We must trust that God is present, no matter what our circumstances may be at the time.
Just as our godliness has nothing to do with our state of wealth, the same can be said for contentment. Our contentment is not based on our level of income or amount of material possessions. Our contentment is based solely on our relationship with God. The closer we are to Him, but more we will enjoy the spiritual blessing of contentment.
Read Philippians 4:11-13. How does being content in various situations contribute to our ability to “do all things through Christ”?
Read 1 Timothy 6:6-10. Why is godliness without contentment dangerous? How is selfishness related to our contentment?
Read Hebrews 13:5. What does covetous behavior look like? How is contentment dependent on God’s presence?
Lessons about trust were poignantly expressed in Job’s story as well. Satan knew that it was easy for Job to trust God when things were going well, but Satan felt he could prove that Job’s trust would fade when he was assaulted by disasters that were not in Job’s power to control. Instead of his faith fading, we know that the opposite occurred. Job’s faith and trust in God were not dependent on his circumstances. And we, likewise, must exhibit a faith that is consistent with the trust we have in our Father, in good times and in bad.
It’s easy to trust God with things that are out of our control. Who else can we turn to in times of extreme distress? But stewardship demands that we turn over to God things that are within our sphere of control. As we faithfully allow God control over these areas of our life through habits of faithful stewardship, our partnership with God grows. We will find that our trust in Him gets sweeter and sweeter, because His control and presence in our life is more complete.
Just as godliness and contentment, our trust in God grows with practice over time. Let’s remember that Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please Him…” This verse goes on to say that we must not only believe that God exists, we must also believe that He will reward those who diligently seek Him. This kind of faith and trust must permeate every aspect of our life, and that is why stewardship is such an effective tool. It allows us to express that kind of comprehensive faith in God, and even to build it.
Read Proverbs 3:5, 6 and Matthew 22:37. Does our trust need to go beyond just acknowledging that God exists? Why does God require us to love Him? How does love build trust?
Read Hebrews 11:6. Why is it impossible to please God without faith, and what kind of faith is required?
Read Isaiah 55:9, 1 Corinthians 4:5 and 13:12. What are some of the ways that God’s thoughts are different than ours? How does knowing this about God help us trust Him more?
Wednesday: Our Influence
We can readily see that our stewardship must have some effect on how others perceive us. But can this same stewardship actually extend that influence? The Bible informs us that even angels observe and analyze our daily activities on this planet of sin, trying to understand God’s method of dealing with the universal conflict between Christ and Satan.
It certainly must have the same effect on those we encounter in our daily walk here on earth. People are looking for answers to problems in their life, and our attitudes, demeanor, and actions greatly influence what they think about God. The more our stewardship reflects godliness, contentment, and trust in God, the more others will take notice and benefit.
Another thing to remember is that we are told to walk IN the light, not to BE the Light. As humans, we tend to become proud when we think of our spreading influence. That’s why it’s important to constantly uplift God to those around us. The goal is for them to see Him, not us.
Some of the most humble people we know are probably ones who have had the biggest struggle with pride over the years. And it’s every bit as hard to fight the addiction of pride as it is to fight a drug addiction. It led to Satan’s downfall and it certainly has brought down many men and women since.
But, consistent stewardship can go a long way in reaching souls for God’s kingdom. Our work ethics, family life, personal habits, and volunteer activities must combine and present a consistent picture of someone who’s only purpose in life is clearly to serve and glorify God.
As this goal is accomplished, our influence will take care of itself. Nothing man has created, no media outlet of any kind, is needed to advertise the life of a faithful steward. God takes care of our publicity. Any attempts at self-promotion will be seen as that, and our influence may come crashing down on us.
Read Ephesians 5:8 and 1 John 1:7. Is there a difference in walking as children of light and walking as a child of light? Why would God seem to be recognizing the corporate nature of Christianity as we go about reflecting God? Why might it be advantageous to walk in fellowship and peace with others, especially while we’re still on this sinful planet?
Read Titus 2:7 and 1 Peter 2:11, 12. What kind of behaviors demonstrate our identity as a Christian?
Read John 8:12 and Matthew 5:16. Even though Jesus calls it “our light”, who’s light should the world really see? How does His light become ours, and why is it so easy for us to get these lights confused?
Thursday: The Words We Want (and Don’t Want) to Hear
Returning to the parable of the talents, it is important for us to remind ourselves of the only two options when it comes to our stewardship. Jesus mentioned to His disciples on more than one occasion that they were either for Him or against Him. We cannot serve two masters.
In the end, we will either hear a commendation or a condemnation from the lips of Jesus. The tipping point seems to be in how well we know Him. Several good works are mentioned by Jesus, but they were no guarantee of successful stewardship. That’s why the title of our lessons this quarter included “Motives of the Heart”. God does indeed look on the heart. Why do we serve Him?
Just doing all the right things will not result in the reward we are seeking. Knowing and loving Jesus is the only motive necessary for our admittance into heaven, our final destination, where love, peace, and perfect beauty beyond words exist.
We express our love for God and man by our stewardship though. Managing the gifts and blessings of God well is easy to do when our heart is in the right place. When this happens, we will gather, rather than scatter, those around us. It will result in a harvest of souls, besides our own, who will unite with our Lord and Savior on that glorious Day of the Resurrection.
Read Hebrews 11:13, 14 and Matthew 12:30. Even though strangers and pilgrims on this earth, what task should we be doing in order to enter that homeland above?
Read Matthew 7:21-23. How is knowing (and loving) God part of God’s will, mentioned in verse 21? How does not knowing God lead to lawlessness? What part of the law does it affect, and specifically how?
Read Romans 3:21-25, 4:6-8 and James 2:23. What is meant by “the righteousness of God apart from the law”? What made Abraham a friend of God?
The resulting blessings that follow faithful stewardship include…
- godliness–includes what we do AND don’t do, is an expression of true religion, demands commitment that reveals itself with actions, and is merely the process of perfection, not perfection itself (Sunday)
- contentment–based solely on our connection with God, not our circumstances, and not only is needed in stewardship, but is enhanced by faithful stewardship (Monday)
- trust--not just for those things in our life over which we have no control, but includes trusting God with the things we normally do control (Tuesday)
- influence–consistently uplifting God so others will see Jesus in our work and home life which extends our influence, even reaching angelic hosts (Wednesday)
- Jesus’ commendation or condemnation–doing all the right things for all the right reasons will get us to the right destination (Thursday)
Here are some of the definitions and descriptions of stewardship from the quarterly’s introduction, p. 2-3:
- Stewardship is managing tangible and intangible possessions for the glory of God.
- It is a powerful tool against materialism.
- It is the daily practical expression of what it means to follow Jesus.
- It involves our attitudes, conversions, commitment, self-discipline, and much more.
- It reflects God’s character to the world.
We’ve seen many other helpful ways to explain stewardship throughout this quarter. And this week we saw how it is the act of thriving while managing God’s call to live a godly life.
Be ready to explain to others how stewardship has personally increased your ability to live a godly life, your overall contentment with what you have, your trust in God, and your influence in the world and beyond. All these reasons can be used to enlist others to live the faithful, godly life of a good steward. Then, more of us will hear “Well done, thou good and faithful steward” when Jesus comes.
Next Week’s Lesson: The Cosmic Controversy (new quarter–Preparation for the End Time)
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/