October 21, 2023 - 21st Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 24)
The opening of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is a powerful passage on the life of the church. God in this passage is active, empowering, encouraging, and persistent in those who have turned their lives to God.
God’s activity is woven through these verses of the epistle like the slow and steady changing of the seasons. The church is in God, God loves the congregation and has chosen them, and God’s actions and words “sound forth” through them (vv. 1, 4, and 8). Paul actively watches for God in the life of the church and proclaims God’s action warmly and at the beginning of the letter, not as a postscript.
God in the Holy Spirit is especially active here. Paul hasn’t seen simply a cooperative spirit, but the Holy Spirit in their lives (vv. 4-5), something that is beyond their own doing, something sacred in which they share. 1 Thessalonians was sent specifically to young believers in the newly established church in Thessalonica, although it generally speaks to Christians everywhere. Here especially, the message of the empowered action is not incidental – it is central to the cooperative way that God works in the world. The Holy Spirit builds people to take action… together.
Stewardship is the responsible use of the resources that God has entrusted to us, such as our time, talents, treasure, and environment. For Christians, stewardship is a way of honoring God, serving others, and participating in God’s mission in the world. It’s also a response to God’s grace and love, which we have received through Jesus.
Our stewardship is motivated by faith, love, and hope. Paul commends the Thessalonians for their works of faith, labor of love, and endurance of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. Their faith led them to receive the Good News of God with power and joy, despite much persecution. Their love prompted them to share the gospel with others and to serve as an example to other believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. Their hope inspired them to wait for the return of Christ, who would deliver them from the wrath to come.
Our stewardship is based on the recognition that everything belongs to God. In the Gospel reading today, Jesus was challenged by the Pharisees and the Herodians about paying taxes to Caesar, the Roman emperor. In response, jesus asked them to show him a coin and asked whose image and inscription were on it. Jesus’ response, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” implied that the coin belonged to Caesar because it bore his image, but that everything else belonged to God because it bore God’s image.
Stewardship is a blessing because it enables us to participate in God’s work and enjoy God’s gifts. But it is a challenge because it requires us to be faithful, generous, and wise in our decisions and actions. Stewardship is an opportunity to grow in our relationship with God and others, as we learn to trust God more and serve God better.
My friends, this week, I leave you with four questions for you to ponder over the next week. First, how can we show our faith, love, and hope in our stewardship of God’s resources? Second, how can we use them to advance the gospel and glorify God? Third, how do we acknowledge God's ownership of everything in our lives? Finally, and most importantly, how do we give to God what belongs to God?