Listen to Psalm 24 --
Well, what do you think about it? What sort of difference does it make when we recognise that "the earth is the Lord's"? when we truly "fling wide the gates" to welcome our great King?
How about this quote? "The true intent of the Eighth Commandment (You shall not steal) ... is to guarantee to man the privilege of responsible stewardship in the possession and use of material values... to provide the guarantee that the stewardship privilege granted by God shall not be annulled by man... Stealing involves interference with the stewardship of another by appropriating or removing from his control any part of that which God has entrusted to him."
Did you get what he was saying? What is mine is never mine in an absolute sense. My ownership is really a trust from God. Finally it is still his.
Do you own a car, a block of land, a house, a television set ...? Do you own a book, a bike, a game, a favourite toy...? I am not asking whether you have one, but do you own it?
Think about this one. You have spent money to buy computer software and, as you read the fine print at the beginning of the manual, you are greeted by a notice that says, "The software company remains the sole owner of this program. The software company grants to you and you accept a nonexclusive license for the use of this program."
Perhaps this modern example helps us to understand our ownership in the light of the continuing fact that "The earth is the Lord's." What I own may be the fruit of my labours. It may be part of an inheritance, the fruit of a parent's labours. It may be a gift, the fruit of someone else's labours. But, however I have come to own it, I am to hold it as a trust from God himself.
"The world and all that is in it belong to the Lord." How does God want me to use his car, his block of land, his house, his television, his book, his bike, his game, his toy.. Of course, there are some books that are written, videos that are produced, songs that are recorded, toys that are made... that are wrong. Someone has misused God's trust and they shouldn't be at our place either! Does God have any use for what dishonours him? 1 can't really own it, can I?
So today's reading gives us this picture of Jesus at the Temple treasury. Jesus had been talking about the teachers of the Law who strutted about in their long robes, making a big show of how worshipful they were and telling everyone else how they should live. But their religion was a big deception they would even "take advantage of widows and rob them of their homes." Perhaps they were some of the "many rich men" who "dropped in a lot of money."
Well ... it looked a lot, but was Jesus impressed? Why not?
To help us understand what was happening at that Temple treasury, here is a list of the contributions that the Israelites were expected to give:
The Israelites must have given about a third of their income. But when all this was done, faithful Jews could still only say, "We are unworthy servants, we have only done what was our duty" (Lk.17.10). It was after this point that voluntary (freewill) offering could begin, and the extent of this is given on two great historic occasions at the time of the erection of the tabernacle in the wilderness and of the Temple in Jerusalem (Ex. 35.436.7; 1 Chron. 29.119). In modern terms the gifts for the Temple probably represented more than $1000 per person and that was over and above their tithes, sacrifices, firstfruits and so on!
Some of them were exceptionally particular in how their calculated their tithes, even to the point of counting the leaves in their herb garden! Their gifts looked impressive.
But then this widow came along and dropped in two little copper coins and Jesus knew that it was all she had! She was giving in an incredible act of faith and love. She knew that all that she had was God's anyway1 and she could trust him to provide.
So often we give with no expectations at all. We own what is ours and give a bit to God. We have no appreciation of what God has done for us and no expectation or trust that he might want to do something for us. So unlike this widow who put in all she had!
Does God own your house and your car? What are the other things he owns at your place? You hold them in trust from him, but don't hold them from him! You are a steward, and you will show that by giving back to him part of what you hold in trust. He has entrusted it all to you. Are you going to trust him to provide for you?
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