August 6, 2017

Truths That Transform: Stewardship and the Greatest Commandment

He had spent his life studying the Law. Keeping every single commandment all the time was impossible, of course, but overall he had been consistently obedient. He had spent most of his adult life teaching the Law to others, guiding them with regard to the Law’s requirements and how they applied in specific situations.

Lately, though, he had begun to think that there must be more. On the one hand, he knew that it was impossible to be fully obedient – as much as he had tried, there had been times when he had fallen short. And he had seen the same in all the other religious leaders. If perfect obedience was what it took to really please God, no one he knew – including himself – was hitting the mark.

And on the other hand, even when he was obeying every commandment he knew of, he still felt distant from God – as though perfect obedience was at once an impossible achievement and somehow also insufficient. Surely there was more to God and to knowing him than this!

As he listened to Jesus speak, he began to sense that this man knew God in a way that he didn’t, but longed to. The Pharisees and Sadducees, always caught up in minutia, had been trying to trap him in his words. But he could tell that Jesus’ answers came from a different understanding of God than the questions had. Perhaps this Teacher could help him zero in on what God really cared about.

“Teacher, which is the most important of all the commandments?”

“It’s this: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.’ And right next to that is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Yes! This was it! Finally, a purpose to life that he had not been able to find in all his efforts at obedience. Here was a mission, a reason to live – something that made sense out of the Law. Suddenly, he felt as if the Law had jumped out of his scrolls and into his heart.

Fast-forward 2000 years. Have you ever wondered why you take the effort to make a budget and to track your finances? Have you chafed at the idea of waiting until you had savings to pay for purchases, rather than simply putting them on credit like your neighbors do? Do you think of stewardship as the “Law” – a set of rules and guidelines to live by that ultimately become an end in themselves?

Good stewardship does provide guidelines for our finances, but the heart of stewardship is something much deeper. It’s love for God – knowing that He is the source and owner of all that has been entrusted to us, and desiring to please him in our use of those resources. It’s love for our neighbors, leading us to curb our own desires in order to have more to provide for those in need. Stewardship is the financial version of the Two Great Commandments.