Elder Wm. Doyal Thomas
Pastor - Philadelphia Baptist Church
Decatur , Alabama
"Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful." (I Corinthians 4:1-2).
    In this text, the diligent student of the Bible will find the requirements that God places upon His servants in order that they may, properly, labor for their Master in such fashion as to receive His commendation. Clearly, the Lord has stated His case, and that is, "... that a man be found faithful."
    It appears to be a general consensus among professing Christendom that one must only do the best that one can, with that standard becoming more and more uncertain with each passing generation. Even within a given generation, the standards seem to be ever lowering, and always more lenient, thus allowing each to be his own judge of what is that good and acceptable behavior, that God must accept because a more enlightened, sophisticated population has directed Him to do so.
    Popular figures of the world make sure that the people hear from them, and they all surely seem to insist upon flaunting their own vain imaginations of grandiose accomplishment in the face of others. Such as have been elevated by pride, and acclaim by the masses, have assumed a position that gives them assumed authority to say what they will, when they will, to whom they will. After all, these proud peacocks proclaim, "I have, by my obvious successes in the world, become imminently well qualified to tell you how to live and how to throw off those archaic restraints that only impede you in your quest for success."
    Such statements as, "The ten commandments are old and out-dated", or "The age of enlightenment has forever put to rest those remnants of the dark ages, and man is at last free from their confining, limiting influences", or "Awake, America, to the modern world. Awake, world to the modern day in which each and every individual can, at last, be truly free, answerable to none, but able to soar to uncharted heights". (Beware of New Age and New World Order.)
    Because the world of professing Christendom receives a bombardment of Satan's tales, being hurled from every direction with such frequency and pseudo authoritativeness, many are caught up in these pernicious snares. Being thus entrapped and made captive by Satan, at his will, the masses follow blindly into an ever deepening and widening maze of madness. They quickly become advocates of this same propaganda pandemonium and are assimilated into this army of rebels who speak against, and fight against God and His ways.
    But, reflecting upon the text (I Corinthians 4:1-2), we are reminded that God does not measure His stewards' accomplishments based upon the successes of their human lives, but upon their faithfulness to the assignment that He, their Master, has prescribed. It is "faithfulness", not "success" that God demands. It is "fidelity" and "veracity" that God recognizes, not "fiscal" and "verboseness" abundant.
    The words steward, and stewardship, in their noun forms denote the manager of a household or estate, according to the Greek scholar W.E. Vine. He further states that this steward was, generally speaking, a slave or other bond-servant to another. He was not in "ownership"; he was in "management". The resources over which he exercised his management duties were the property of his master, not his own at all. He was steward over someone else's property and resources. It was not his to claim, nor to misuse. It was his to manage; to "Occupy till the Owner returned", at which time he would be held fully accountable for his management and investment faithfulness of his master's goods.
    Remember the 10 pounds, and the 5 pounds, and the 1 pound? (Read Luke 19:11-17.)
    Let me strive now to lay before us all a clear picture, as the Scriptures portray this principle of stewardship, then tell us how men have failed in this work, and the consequences of this failure, and finally, God's solution to the problem.
    In the writings of the prophet Malachi, God has given a panoramic view of this entire matter, and we will browse through the declarations of God by Malachi, "my messenger", to Israel, seeking to properly discern the problem, the consequences, and God's prescription.
    As Malachi begins, he brings God's people great assurance from God that they are His people, and their relationship with Him is not the issue. Their association with Him and their fellowship and communion with Him is very much the issue, however. He begins this discourse with God's message, "I have loved you, saith the Lord." (Malachi 1:2). I have loved you, and I do love you, God says. You have belittled me, and my love, and good provision for you, but my love is not conditioned upon your actions, or inactions. My love for you is my love, and is unconditional. My love for you will not be augmented, nor diminished by you, for you are not the author or controller of my love, God teaches.
    Nevertheless, God continues, I am not happy with your conduct, nor with your demented motives as you continually profane my temple, my worship, and my character. You despise me and my commandments and go after the ways of infidels and their false gods and their false ways. You have disobeyed me, and you have violated everything that I told you to do, and you have gone the way of pagans.
    In chapter 1, verse 6, God says, " 0 priests, that despise my name", and you say, "wherein have we despised they name?" And God answers, "Ye offer polluted bread upon my altar; and ye say, wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible," in verse 7.
    Here's the gist of the matter: Because of previous sins and backslidings of Israel, God's chastening hand had been upon His children, in that He had permitted heathen nations to prevail upon them and carry them from their homeland as slaves and servants. While in their captivity, they had neglected to teach their children of God's ways, and to insist upon their children the necessity of obedience to God. Since the disobedience of the parents in the first place, had led to God's chastisement, is it any wonder that they did not properly teach their children God's ways? Is there a parallel here? Listen Christian parents. Listen!
    While in captivity, the people grew more and more careless in their conduct and practice, and neglected God's order of worship of praise and sacrifice. This antinomian spirit of lawlessness became a way of life with Israel, and they continually despised (held in contempt, or belittled) God's commandments and His ways.
    By the time they came back to their homes, sacrifice according to God's ways had become of little value to the people, and consequently, their priests thought nothing of offering lame, blind, diseased lambs in sacrifice (verse 8), when God had so plainly demanded the very best that they were blessed with. God demanded the "firstlings of the flock, and the fat thereof", and they were profaning God's table by offering these rejects, these left-over trash and garbage upon His altar. And God was furious, and He said, "Take it to your governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy persons? said the Lord of hosts." (verse 8).
    God says to a disobedient and rebellious people, "Don't bring your left-over trash to me and expect me to praise you for it." He rebukes these people and tells them in effect, "If your earthly rulers will not accept your refuse, why do I get your refuse? Why do you bring your junk to me and expect me to be pleased with it?"
    I wonder. Have you, or I, ever done as Israel was here doing? Don't we read this and think, surely God's people, Israel, should have known better, and surely after all that God had done for them, they would have loved Him so much, and desired to please Him so much until they would have obeyed Him and worshiped Him with the firstfruits and the very best of what He had so graciously given them. Were the lame, blind, diseased lambs an actual, truthful expression of how much they loved Him? What about you? What about me? Is what we give Him an accurate expression of how much we love Him, and how thankful we are to Him for all He's done for us in saving us, and in keeping us? Is it? Shame! Shame! Shame!
    As a consequence of the general abuse of God's commandments by His people, Israel, God says further to the priests, "And now 0 ye priests, this commandment is for you. If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, said the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to your heart." (Malachi 2:1-2).
    Dear one, please stop right here! Read the entire book of Malachi before you read another word that this poor sinner has written. God's word says it all so much better than I, or any, could ever say it. My shame is great, for I see myself in so much of this, and I cannot adequately tell you of the greatness of God and of His worthiness to be praised and worshiped. But, He has already told us through "His messenger", Malachi!
    Now, after your reading, may we continue.
    It seems that Israel had done nothing right, and that everything that God had commanded, they had ignored, or openly rebelled at doing. Every aspect of worship, praise, and duty had been set aside by those "modern day" prototypes of our present society, especially present day religious professors.
    The priests had done wrong, and they had taught the people to do wrong. They had put stumbling blocks in the path of the people, and were leading them, and urging them to be imitators of themselves. And there is a multitude of religious fakes, frauds, and charlatans in the world today who are leading the people to depart from God's ways, and from His commandments.
    Israel also had an agricultural problem at this time, as we can see as we read the book of Malachi. God's ways had long ago been made known to Israel, as is recorded in Exodus, chapter 23, in which God instructed them to use the land in an orderly and God honoring manner. Specifically, they were instructed to divide their land into seven parcels, and then to cultivate six of the seven parcels every year, but on a rotating schedule so that each parcel was given a "sabbatical" year every seven years. This was to allow the land to rest from its required "bringing forth". That was God's way. Would it profit us if we followed such rules today?
    The people were to bring the tithe of the land, along with the tithe of the increase from all that God provided for them. This tithe was to be brought into God's storehouse, and was able to be used as God directed. It is still God's way, even today in this so- called modern, enlightened age of 1994. Regardless of what the scoff ers say, it's still God's way.
    Now it seems that Israel was not doing this, and God had directed that it be done. And their excuse was, "The land is no longer producing much, THEREFORE, we are excused from giving much." Does this feeble, pitiful, ridiculous excuse sound familiar today? Listen, non-tither, you need to take heed to God's word.
    Not only was the ground not producing much, and this being God's rebuke for the sin of Israel in disobeying Him, He also sent locusts, "the devourer" to eat up that which was produced by the land. Even when the land was abused, God still caused it to "bring forth" some increase, but nowhere close to its capacity to produce. A lesson to be learned?
    When the people said, "The land is not producing much, therefore, we can't give much", God said: "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, said the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, said the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed:
for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts." (Malachi 3:10-12).
    When the people reasoned, "we can't give", God said, "Bring ye ALL the tithes into the storehouse ..." But, listen, God, we don't have ..."  "Bring ye ALL the tithes into the storehouse ..." "But, we're poor, and we have our obligations ..." "Bring ye ALL the tithes into the storehouse ..."
    "But, God, the land isn't producing much!" To which God might reply, "If you don't TRUST me enough to OBEY me, guess what's going to happen to the land?
    "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings." (Malachi 3:8). God says, "Ye are cursed with a curse: FOR YE HAVE ROBBED ME, even this whole nation." (verse 9).
    Will a man rob God? Placing emphasis upon that question, it reads, "Will a MAN rob GOD?" Will a puny, insignificant, vile, wretched, miserable MAN even presume to imagine that he can rob God and get away with it? God declares, in fact, "No man robs God." You may think you're getting away with it, but you're not. Not at all.
    Remember where we commenced this message?
    "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful." (I Corinthians 4:1-2).
    God's preachers MUST, if they are to be found faithful, as good stewards, proclaim the word of God, as it is, to people as they are. They must teach man of God's commandments, and of God's ways. They must lead God's people by example and by word, so that the people will know of God s ways. They must know, else they will not obey. They must then teach their children, and their children's children.
    Each and every one of the Lord's people, be they preacher, teacher, leader, or follower, must obey God. Each is duty bound to be obedient. Each, having been apprehended of the gospel, have been made to be new creations in Christ, and have been given their own stewardship responsibilities.
    None are excused. None are excepted. None can come before God and say, "I have no responsibility to serve you, for I have nothing to serve you with." Rather, we have all been given much, and God requires of us that we trust Him, obey Him, and follow in all things, at all times, forever.
(The Baptist Herald - February , 1994)

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