We often find in scripture what we look for in scripture. Too often we study scripture for verification of conclusions formed prior to study. Too seldom do we study scripture for discovery of its message with the objective of being well informed before we form conclusions. Too often we approach scripture assuming we know its basic message. Too seldom do we approach scripture with open minds and hearts that ask scripture to reveal its message to us.
In the 1950s the Church of Christ was typically "that church on the other side of the tracks." Typically our church building [if we had one] was a small frame building in the poorer section of the community. Our "physical complex" typically consisted of a small foyer, a sparse assembly room, and few [if any] classrooms. My boyhood congregation had one room. Sunday morning Bible classes consisted of three groups: one adult and two children. The three groups met in different areas of the narrow room [that seated less than one hundred people].
There were few education buildings, few education programs, few facilities for fellowships, and few "church offices." Physically, congregations reflected their members' reality. Most were lower middle class or poor. Most did not have advanced educational opportunities. Most were in rural communities or small towns. Physically, the typical facilities and membership of today's congregations in the Church of Christ bear little resemblance to congregations in the 1940s and '50s.
As our prosperity increased, we wanted to be better equipped to spiritually educate people. We were growing numerically. We desired to meet the special needs of the disadvantaged. We desired to do foreign mission work.
A common approach to motivate Christians to give financially used an appeal based on Jesus' promises. As possibilities increased for better facilities and equipment, improved education programs, and ministry development, greater financial support was essential. A specific concept of stewardship was used to motivate Christians to be financially generous. "You cannot out give God. Jesus promised that if we were generous, God would materially reward our generosity."
Some missionaries used a specific concept of stewardship in their appeal. They obtained help by using the following approach. "To know to do good and refuse to do it is sin. The mission need I presented to you is a good work. If you refuse to help this work, you sin." The stewardship principle was simple: "When God gave you the financial ability, He gave you this responsibility."
The "proof text" approach was used to verify the expansion concept of stewardship and the missions concept of stewardship. Neither approach dealt with the scripture's complete concept of stewardship. Each "spiritually customized" stewardship to support its objectives.
Read Matthew 19:23-30.
Questions concerning context:
Read Mark 10:23-30.
Questions concerning context:
Read Luke 6:20-38.
Context: this was Jesus' sermon on the plain. Matthew 5-7 was Jesus' sermon on the mountain. The two sermons were similar. [As Jesus shared his message in many places, he often stressed the same truths using similar approaches.] He shared beatitudes. He stressed proper conduct in hostile situations. He gave the foundation reasons for the "new conduct of the new humanity."
Focus: give attention to verse 38. What was the promise? What was the responsibility?
Read Matthew 10:34-39.
Context: the twelve were sent exclusively to the Jewish people in Palestine to alert them to the coming of the anticipated kingdom. Matthew 10 is Jesus' instructions to the twelve prior to this mission.
Question: would Jesus' impact on people's lives result in earthly peace and material prosperity?
Please understand scripture must define stewardship. All Jesus' statements in this lesson involve stewardship realities. The full, biblical concept of stewardship includes all of them. As we continue this stewardship study, be aware of two truths: (1) the truth concerning Christian stewardship must be a worldwide truth, not just an America truth; (2) God's greatest avenue of blessing is not physical. Among God's great New Testament stewards were Jesus, the twelve, Paul, and devout early Christians. What happened to them physically? Read Acts 5:40, 41.
Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 4, Lesson 6
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