Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Stewardship / Longing For Jesus

Last Friday, during SWYF sharing, Andre talked about stewardship - how we Christians are appointed mere stewards of God. This is an interesting topic especially in an era of materialistic world, where we Christians tend to forget that we do NOT actually own whatever we are having now.

He began with mentioning that he is proud of himself being a Chinese, especially after watching the movie Red Cliff, which talks about loyalty, courage, and teamwork. He also mentioned that he is also proud of being a Catholic because of what Aussie people in Sydney experienced during World Youth Day - there were peace across the land, and signs of revival were observed in the land. And, all these happen because people are willing to give themselves to the church.

However, many Christians do not understand the art of giving. As observed in the local churches, many Christians concentrate in receiving or wanting to receive the blessings from God. Most of the time, we would see people holding on to what we already own, as if the very thing we own gives us comfort - sometimes we cast blame on God for failing to achieve what we seem to be rightfully ours.

This led to the sharing of a Scripture verse - Deuteronomy 10:14. It stated that "Behold, to Yahweh your God belongs heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth, with all that is therein." The direct meaning to the verse is simple. Everything belongs to God. No exception. Period.

So, who are we in terms of our relationship with our property? Do we really own the pocket money we earn every month/week? Do we possess our apartments? Do we really possess our own car? Deuteronomy 10:14 says all these belong to God. So, who are we? We are mere stewards. If I die tomorrow, I will leave all my 'posessions' behind - nothing will I bring even to the grave.

Fast-forward to Sunday Mass. During the Homily, a visiting priest - Fr Mark - told us a story that went like this. There was an elderly man who had a vast collection of beautiful paintings from some renowned artists. He had a son who was out in the battlefield. The son eventually died because he had saved the life of one of his comrades. Later, this soldier who was saved came to this old man's house, and out of gratitude of the old man's son having given his own life to save himself, he handed the old man a portrait of the son that he painted. The old man wept, and yet he thanked the soldier for his mindfulness. He hung his son's portrait in front of his house, and would invite his visiting friends to admire the new portrait before he allowed them to look at the rest.

Later, the old man passed away. He left a will, where it stated that all his portraits was to be auctioned. The auctioner, acting on the will, began with the auctioning of the amateur painting of the dead soldier - the old man's son. The guests were appalled at the decision, for they thought that they should not waste their time placing what was seemingly worth least to be auctioned first. The auctioner just responded that it was part of the old man's will. At last, the portrait was sold to a poor farmer sitting at the back of the hall - the farmer could only offer a small amount of money, which was apparently whatever he had. After that, the auctioner closed the auction session, and revealed to the rest of the outrageous guests that, in the old man's will, whoever takes possession of his son's portrait would inherit his entire collection of portraits.

And this is the message - the person who receives the Son, receives everything (from God).

It is amazing that, under God's providence, the talk during SWYF meeting and Mass Homily were pretty much connected! We do not own anything. Rather, we owe our stewardship of worldly material to God. However, if we long for Jesus Christ, we would receive everything from God! Rather, we would be entrusted with many things from God.

Our challenge is how are we going to use the everything that God provided. Use it for the building of the Kingdom of God, or just leave it there to rot? Multiply the gifts, or leaving it alone? Allowing the gift to benefit others, or holding on to it as if it is too precious to be let go?

The parable in Luke 16:1-12 stated clearly that the one who invest the gifts (talents) and multiply it will be entrusted with more by God. However, there is also a danger - if one is unwilling to invest the gifts and make it fruitful, God will take it away from him, and God will keep His presence from him forever (eternal separation, Hell, gnashing of teeth...).

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