Live Like God Can Use Me
Luke 7:1-10 and Luke 8:16-18
October 8, 2023
Last week in giving examples of Lectio Divina, and how we look at scripture on First Fridays during our Contemplative service, we read and considered a portion of the Philippians scripture, and I chose a couple phrases that might have stood out to you. Later, someone stated to me that I had not mentioned the phrase, “in humility regard others as better than yourselves,” which was something that spoke to her in reading the scripture. I too, had noticed this phrase when reading the scripture, and thought what a new take on saying, “don’t think you are better than someone else.”
In today’s scripture of the centurion, he shows just this humility. More on that in a moment.
First, with today being our stewardship kickoff Sunday, let’s pause a moment to explore what Stewardship means. While we hear it all the time, it may be that we associate it only with being asked to give more money. While this is a part of stewardship in order to maintain church building and church staff, it is not the whole of how we are to live into the action of Christ.
One science definition is noted as saying ‘the concept of stewardship is a form of collaborative planning and responsible management of the environment through sustainable natural resource management practices that respect the ecosystem functions.’ Two take-aways from this definition are “collaborative planning,” and “responsible management.”
Now when we look at Christian stewardship, one definition refers to it as the responsibility that Christians have in maintaining and using wisely the gifts that God has bestowed upon us. God wishes human beings to be his collaborators in the work of creation, redemption and sanctification (declaring something holy).
R.C. Sproul describes Biblical stewardship as the following:
The concept in the New Testament that describes and defines what it means to be a servant before Christ. It refers to economics and the managing of resources, while a steward in the ancient world was a person who was given the responsibility and authority to rule over the affairs of the household. For example, Joseph became a steward over Potiphar’s household: he managed everything in the household and was given the authority to rule over the house (Gen 39:1-6). In that role, he was responsible to manage the household well; he was not to waste the resources of the family but to make wise decisions.
Foundations for stewardship, however, are found in the early chapters of Genesis. In Genesis 1:26-28, we read: Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over every living thing that moves on earth.”
Human beings were commanded to be fruitful and multiply. This was a command of productivity, which has stewardship implications rooted in creation.
Fundamentally, stewardship is about exercising our God-given dominion over His creation, reflecting the image of our creator God in His care, responsibility, maintenance, protection and beautification of His creation.” (R.C. Sproul, Reformed Theologian and Presbyterian Pastor)
Now, that we have a better understanding of stewardship, let’s look back to our First Reading of Scripture and consider the centurion and his interaction with Jesus, and think about how we live so God can use us.
In the Roman army, a centurion was a commander of a military unit of about 100 men. Centurions were promoted for being exemplary soldiers, expected to then become a strict commander of his subordinates, and to be in the front leading their troops by example. Centurions often had important social status and held powerful positions in society.
When I reflect back on being humble and not thinking of yourself better than others, it almost seems the opposite of what you would think of this centurion with all his authority. Yet, this centurion had compassion for his servant.
Being in the Roman army and among the Israelites, he heard about Jesus, and in his compassion for his servant to be healed, he summons Jewish elders to go to Jesus to ask for his servant to be healed.
The fact that these Jewish elders would even respond to this centurion is also remarkable and speaks to the centurion’s character that he would have a good relationship with the Jews, enough so to call upon them for a favor. As the elders approach Jesus, we learn why there is a favorable relationship between these Jewish elders and the centurion, because he has built their synagogue.
Hearing this, Jesus goes with the Jewish elders to meet the centurion, and as they approach the house, the centurion sends friends to stop Jesus from coming to his house, because the centurion does not believe himself worthy to have Jesus in his house.
The centurion understands that he does not need to see Jesus for him to heal his servant. He does not need to have Jesus touch his servant, because he knows that Jesus can heal simply by giving the word that it be so.
And Jesus, using this as a teaching moment, turns to his followers, and in his amazement of the compassion and humility of the centurion, he tells his followers, not even in Israel among his own people, has he found such faith as this centurion has displayed.
Are we living with the same compassion and faith as this centurion? Are we asking ourselves, how can I live so God can use me?
Luke goes on to tell us in our Second Scripture Reading, we are to listen, we are to pay attention. The centurion surely had been. Once we know the light of Jesus, once we experience it, there is no way to undo that experience.
How do we live so God can use us? We don’t hide the light of Jesus. We put it on a lampstand in our lives and we let it shine bright so that others, like the centurion, see it. So that others can listen and understand all they need is faith to know that Jesus can heal our brokenness, whatever weighs us down.
We do not receive light to hide it. God did not give us light to put it out, rather to shine forth in all his glory. And what happens when we allow our light to shine? God provides more blessings to share. And here is where we have to be careful how we live with those blessings. If we horde them, if we keep them to ourselves and don’t live with compassion toward others, those blessings will be taken away.
How do we live so God can use us? Are we using the blessings that God has provided, or are they being taken away to be used where they are accepted somewhere else? When we think we don’t have enough, are we missing the blessings that we are not sharing as good stewards of Christ?
Compassion and Faith. God has given you your life to steward for his glory and your good. As the owner of everything, God desires for all things to be redeemed (Col. 1:20), including people, governments, businesses, and the arts. Said another way: God desires for everything to bring him glory.
Are we living a life that amazes Jesus the way the life of the Centurion did? Isn’t that an awesome thought! That we might could do something or accomplish something that would amaze Jesus. I’m pretty sure last Sunday we did when we packaged 10,000 meals in 85 minutes with about 100 people from our congregation, sister churches, and friends. I have not heard the count from Presbytery, but the goal was 55,000. I’m sure Jesus is amazed!
I think of the light that went into packaging each of those meals, and the light that shines when each bag is opened!
I’m sure Jesus is amazed that we are able to feed 30-40 people Monday through Friday a hot meal that they otherwise would not have to eat through Break Bread Together volunteers.
We can amaze Jesus in other ways, too. Like picking up mail for a member who is hospitalized, preparing communion month after month, relocating doors, moving candles, planting flowers to make our property look loved, and going to meetings that help take care of your congregation and this church. These are just a few of the wonderful acts that I see you doing in our church when being good stewards in our congregation and in our community. These are a few of the ways we are giving glory to God.
Like the centurion, we don’t have to see Jesus to know that he is alive and active in our lives. Let us continue to live so God can use us by being responsible with our resources, and let us continue to plan and collaborate so that Jesus can continue to be amazed by our faith and compassion. To God be the glory!
*Cover Art used with subscription, Unsplash.