The Generous Life-Stewardship of Relationships

Monday, November 1, 2010 at 12:46PM

Due to technical difficulties, (the message wasn't recorded yesterday) I'll be copying my message below along with the questions that we discussed.  Would love to hear your thoughts, comments, ideas, etc...

So we are in the midst of a new series called “The Generous Life” looking at the issues of stewardship.  Stewardship of finances was our first week, last week we did stewardship of time, this week we are covering stewardship of relationships, and the final two weeks we will cover talent and the environment.

As we look at the stewardship of relationships I want to start with a story/cartoon that is found in the book that some of us have probably read called Blue Like Jazz.  The story is called Don the Astronaut and goes like this….There once was a man named

Don Astronaut.  Don Astronaut lived on a space station out in space.  Don Astronaut had a special space suit that kept him alive without food or water or oxygen. One day there was an accident.  And Don Astronaut was cast out into space.  Don Astronaut orbited the earth and was very scared.  Until he remembered his special suit that kept him alive.  But nobody’s government came to rescue Don Astronaut because it would cost too much money.  (There was a conspiracy, and they said he had died, but he hadn’t.)  So Don Astronaut orbited the earth again and again, fourteen times each day.  And Don Astronaut orbited the earth for months.  And Don Astronaut orbited the earth for decades.  And Don Astronaut orbited the earth for fifty-three years before he died a very lonely and crazy man—just a shell of a thing with hardly a spark for a soul.

So what is the point of this story?  I believe it has to do with the importance of relationship and community in the existence of humankind.  God made humankind as a social creature and without relationships; we dry up and become “just a shell of a thing with hardly a spark for a soul”.  Miller says more about relationships and gives us more insight into Don Astronaut when he says, “I thought faith, mine being Christian faith, was something a person did alone, like monks in caves.  I thought the backbone of faith was time alone with God, time reading ancient texts and meditating on poetry or the precepts of natural law and perhaps, when a person gets good and godly, levitating potted plants or pitchers of water.”  But, in reality, God has made us for relationships from the very beginning.  Let’s look at a Scripture found in the 1st book of the Bible, a book called Genesis.  Let’s look together at Genesis 2:18 and see what it might say to us regarding what it means to steward our relationships.

Genesis 2:18 says, “The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."  I find this text extremely interesting.  In the first chapter of Genesis we see this literary rhythm taking place where God creates, and then calls his creation good and the rhythm continues.  The only time that rhythm in the first two chapters of Genesis is broken is found in this verse.  For the first time, God seeks something that is not good: the aloneness of the man in the garden.  God never intended us to be alone.  But have you ever thought about it?  In a very real sense Adam was not alone; he had God to walk with him very literally.  But God knew that Adam needed someone that was like him to make him fully complete.  Humanity, in the state of being alone, is incomplete, unfulfilled and lacking in much that we were created to be.  Perfect solitude would turn the Garden of Eden (paradise) into a desert, and a palace into a dungeon.  To be alone in the world is a depressing condition.  The writer of the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes says this about being alone vs. being in relationship, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?”  In this text we see the necessity of relationships and I believe to be fully human and to fully live out what God calls us to, we desperately need each other.  In our best state in this world we have need one another’s help, for we are truly connected to each other.

This interconnectedness that God calls us to reminds me of the story of the redwood trees.  The huge redwood trees of California amaze mankind. They are the largest living things on earth and the tallest trees in the world. Some of them are 300 feet high and over 2,500 years old. One would think that trees so large must have a tremendous root system that reaches down hundreds of feet into the earth. But not so! The redwoods have a very shallow root system. If one was to get down on his knees and examine the redwoods' root system he would find that all the roots intertwine. They are locked to each other. When the storms come, the winds blow, and the lightning flashes, the redwoods still stand. They are not alone for all the trees support and protect each other. Each tree is important to all the other trees in the grove.

This is a great picture of what it means, to me, to be a good steward of the relationships we have.  To intertwine together so that when one experiences the blowing of the wind, the storms of life, and is threatened to be blown over, that we help support that person.  We do what the Apostle Paul (an early follower of Jesus) says we should do in the New Testament book of Philippians, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  Stewardship of relationships requires that we look at others through the eyes of Christ. Jesus can help us see past the outside layer– whether that is a false bravado or a false “lone ranger” attitude– and see the hurts and pains that are really common to all of us.

Not everyone will respond nicely to us, but we can let them all know that the door is open. We want to share life with them just because they too are special, unique persons of worth created in the image of a loving, gracious God. No hidden agendas, no “check marks” on a list, no “brownie points” for inviting someone to church– just loving them because God loved them first.

I believe that understanding the sense that we truly and deeply need each other, that we need to put others first, and that seeing others through the eyes of Jesus, means that we will become better stewards of the relationships that God has given to each of us.  That we will begin to realize the amazing beauty of relationships and community.  God continues to challenge me, encourage me, convict me, and amaze me through the community that we are becoming together and I want to be a good steward of this community by loving each of you, by challenging each of you (and myself), by supporting each of you (as you support me), and by putting your needs and the needs of the wider community and world before my own.  That we would make decisions as a faith community that we be more focus on others needs than our own.  I don’t believe you can be a good steward of your relationships until you can put the needs of other before your own.  That is a foundational step to being a good steward.  Or as Donald Miller puts it in Blue Like Jazz, “If we are not willing to wake up in the morning and die to ourselves, perhaps we should ask ourselves whether or not we are really following Jesus.”

How do you and I steward the relationships that God has given to us?  What does it look like to steward the relationship between husband and wife?  Between parents and children?  Between friends, roommates, co-workers, neighbors, etc..?  How do we die to ourselves and put the needs of others before our own?  Let’s take some time and discuss together what stewardship of relationship looks like, times we have blown it, and times we have gotten it right and what it might mean in the midst of our Veritas community.

Discussion Questions:

1.  What comments, thoughts, ideas, disagreements, insights, questions, etc.. do you have regarding stewardship of relationships?

2.  How do you or could you steward the relationships/people that God has given to you?  What practical examples can you give in this area of stewardship?

3.  How have we or how can we as a community, be good stewards of the relationships within our community and also in the wider community/world?  Where have we done a good job and where do we need improvement?