Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ – Matthew 22:21
In the name of our Great God, who is Creating, Liberating, and Sustaining. Amen. +
You have longed for sweet peace,
And for faith to increase,
And have earnestly, fervently prayed;
But you cannot have rest,
Or be perfectly blest,
Until all on the altar is laid.
Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid?
Your heart does the Spirit control?
You can only be blest,
And have peace and sweet rest,
As you yield Him your body and soul.
I believe I can sit down now. You see, that hymn – those 66 words, 7 commas, two question marks, and one period – give us all that we need to know about Stewardship. The answer to the question of how much we are called to render in the service of God is easy – Everything.
Every single atom of our being is called upon in the service of God. That’s why when Jesus calls his disciples he calls them to leave everything behind and follow him. That’s why he says “whoever doesn’t hate mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife, partner, BFF, homeboy for my sake is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” In saying that he is saying, I want all of you.
All of you. How do we get from “some” to “all?” How do we make that transition from dipping our toe in the river to wading in the water? How do we get to the point where we fearlessly place all of ourselves in God’s hand?
Will you let me help you, this morning?
I want to suggest that the question of stewardship is fundamentally not a question of quantity, it is a question of quality. We see this from the beginning of the Bible to the end. In the book of Genesis when Cain and Able bring their offerings to God, God approves of the offering that Able brings and disapproves of the offering that Cain brings. Why? Not because Able brought more than Cain, not because of the quantity of the gift, but because of the quality of the heart. Stewardship is fundamentally about the quality, and the disposition of your heart.
So, this morning, I want to talk to your heart. Is that alright? Can I talk plain this morning? Stewardship is a spiritual discipline that requires us to interrogate the disposition of our heart because if our heart ain’t in it, then everything we do is for naught. So let me talk to your heart this morning.
In one of my favorite quotes by Howard Thurman he says this “There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.” Do you want to know what I have discovered in my short tenure on this earth? So many of us have no idea who we are. We are at the mercy of forces, and stimuli, and powers, and velocities that have us so turned upside down that we don’t know our left from our right, our down from our up, our coming or our going. When someone asks us who we are we apply all types of superficial labels to ourselves – a doctor or a lawyer, a mother or a father, a Royals fan or God forbid a Gaints fan – but when we strip all that away, I wonder if we really know who we are at a soul-level, at the level of our heart.
That’s what our Gospel is all about, it’s about identity, it’s about knowing who we are, it’s about understanding ourselves on an essential ontological level, it’s about the heart. Do you know who you are?
Jesus is standing in the Temple and he has just told three stories about authority which, naturally, angered the Pharisees whose authority he was calling into question, and so they respond by trying to trap him into a question of legality. “Jesus,” they said, “Jesus, is it lawful to pay the tax?” Jesus, onto their scheme, turns to them and says, “Y’all are getting on my nerves. Show me the coin. Show me the money!” So one of them reaches into his pocket and pulls out a denarius and shows it to Jesus who says, watch this, “Whose image is this on the coin?” The “Head Pharisee” says, “it’s the emperor’s image on the coin.” So Jesus responds “then give the emperor what belongs to the emperor, what has the emperor’s image on it, but give to God what belongs to God, what has God’s image on it.”
Do you know who you are? Do you know that you have the Image of God stamped on the seal of your heart? Do you know that God’s divinity, a divine spark, is alive in you? Do you know that it is in God that we live and move and have our being? Do you know when you wake up in the morning that you are filled with the Image of God? Do you know when you lie down at night that you are oozing the Image of God? I wonder, do you know who you are?
The world needs people who have given their all in their service of God’s purposes. The world needs people who are unafraid to put their all on the altar. The world needs people standing up for justice, standing up for righteousness, standing up for hope, standing up for love, the world needs people who have been empowered by the very Spirit of God to be agents of God’s Reign, but in order to get there, we have to know who we are. We have to know, that we know, that we know, that we know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, from the crown of our heads to the very soles of our feet, that we bear the Image of God and therefore have no other choice but to “…give God the things that are God’s.”
I wonder, do you know who you are?
Jesus is inviting us today to look deeply into our hearts, I told you I wanted to talk to hearts today, and to know whose image is right there in the middle, and from that revelation to commit ourselves to moving deeper into the call to move from “some” to “all.”
You can only be blest,
And have peace and sweet rest,
As you yield him your body and soul.