Tony Evans - The Spheres of Kingdom Stewardship
God has a house. It's all of creation, "For the earth is the Lord's, the fullness thereof", and all the world, all who are in it who are part of this world. It's his house. His word for his house is called kingdom. That's his house word. His kingdom is his rule over all of his creation. It's his house. God claims ownership of his house, and because he claims ownership of his house, he has set the rules for how his house is supposed to work. But, unfortunately, kids have come into his house with new rules. His creation has decided that a lot of his rules they don't like, so they have created their own set of rules. The only problem is, they've done it in his house.
The concept of kingdom stewardship is simply the responsibility to protect and expand the resources that God has placed under our managerial care on his behalf. You and are I managers, caretakers, you are not, I am not, we are not owners of anything. God has four spheres, four realms, covenantal stewardship realms, covenantal kingdom stewardship realms in which all of life is to be placed underneath his ownership, because he owns all. But he has four covenants. Remember, a covenant is a divinely created relational bond. It's an official agreement and arrangement established by God through which his kingdom values are to be understood, yielded to, and followed. He has four of them. Psalm 128 is the sine qua non, it is the irreducible minimum, it is the summary of these four realms.
Now, let me give you some good news to start with. There is a big payday for God being the owner of all of your life, you being the owner of none of it, and merely the manager of it, it's a big payday. He repeats it throughout this passage. The first word in verse one is, "blessed". The last word in verse 4 is "blessed". The third word in verse 5 is "bless". To speak of blessing is to speak of divine favor. It is experiencing, enjoying, and extending the goodness of God in your life, and everybody wants the payday without the management. We want God to bless us while we change the rules in his house. We want divine favor on us while we make up our own rules or piggyback off of the rules of his enemies while we pray for a blessing. But the word "bless" in this passage is tied to you submitting to your managerial responsibility and not claiming ownership of anything.
You and I, we and us, own nothing. And if you will grab that, accept that, that God is the only owner and you are only a manager, now you and the owner can get along. These four covenantal spheres, where all of life is under the rule of God are laid out for us. He starts off with your personal kingdom stewardship, your individual kingdom stewardship. "Blessed is everyone", every individual, every person, "Who fears the Lord and walks in his ways. When you shall eat of the fruit of your hand, you will be happy, it will go well with you". He starts off with you, everyone.
So, let's pretend you are the only one in the building right now, because he is now speaking to every one of you individually. Your responsibility as God steward, my responsibility, if no one else was here, is to fear God. "Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord". The question is, what does that mean? A synonym for fearing God is take God seriously. So, if you want a synonym for what it means to fear God, it means to take God seriously, as opposed to taking God casually. We live in a culture that takes God casually, not seriously. He's good for the invocations and the benedictions, as long as he stays out of the information between the two. He's good for us to say grace before a meal, as long as he does not interrupt the affairs of my day.
God is not taken seriously today on any level, but he says that the favor that God offers is tied to the fear that he demands. How do you know if you fear God? How do you know that? How do you know you're not just talking smack? How do you know you're not just talking a good game? How do you know that this thing is real and not just religious conversation and Christian-ese? He says, because, at the end of verse 1, you walk in his ways. You fear God with your feet, not with your feelings. You fear God with your movement, not just with your mouth. You fear God with your life, not merely your lips, with your walk, not merely your talk. If you want to know if you fear God, see which way your feet are moving, because you walk in his ways.
So, there is a contradiction between fearing God and moving in the opposite direction. And he says if I can get you to connect with me, to pursue me, relationally and ruling, the two Rs. You're pursuing a relationship and you're submitting to a rule under his kingdom covenant and authority. If you do those two things, proven by your walk, not by your talk, then you have positioned yourself in the place of favor. God is not against blessing. He's not against favor. He is against blessing and favor that's independent of relationship and obedience. He says if you walk in my way, if you execute my will, according to my word, then you'll see me show up. He says there's a threefold reward in verse 2.
He says, "You shall eat the fruit of your hand", that's your labor. That's your labor. You'll see God join you in your work, your career. You'll see God join you with his favor. To eat the fruit of your hand is to enjoy the benefit of your work. It's one thing to work and not be able to eat from it, it's another thing, because this is agrarian, to work and be able to eat from it. It means you're benefitting from your work, because a lot of folk have work who don't benefit from it.
And then, I love this one, "It will go well with you". That's your future. "It will go well with you". In other words, I'll be two steps ahead of you, ten steps ahead of you, a year ahead of you, working things out next year that you can't even see this year. "It will go well with you". See, when you take God seriously, he's way out in front, and you don't even see what he's doing, you just know nothing is working out now, but he is manipulating things, and twisting things, and tweaking things, so that when you arrive, it's already been set up, because it will go well with you, in spite of how it may look right now. But the condition is that in your individual decision making, you fear God. You take him seriously. He then goes to the next category, the next sphere of life, the family.
Verse 3, "Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house, your children like olive plants around your table". That's the family. We're living in a day of the dumbing down of the family. The family is not a human creation. The Bible says God owns the family. It says marriage is a covenant. God claims to own the family, and so it is critical that we do not allow the rules of the world to infiltrate the kingdom of God in the name of being sensitive. We must be sensitive, but it must be compassion without compromise. In other words, you don't dumb down God's standard just 'cause the rest of the neighborhood has come up with a new rule.
He says, "Your wife shall be a fruitful vine within your house". He talks about the stewardship of the husband here, and his stewardship is to make his wife as productive as she can be. Because he says, "A fruitful vine", a vine is a vineyard, vineyards produce grapes, grapes ferment and produce wine, and you know what wine will do, it'll make a man happy. The man is to steward his family, is to oversee the wellbeing of his family, he says, and what this means is that you just can't walk out because you mad. You just can't decide "I want a divorce", 'cause you're not happy right now. Who says you were supposed to be happy to begin with? He says, "If you fear me, I'll make you happy".
So, no, it is a responsibility, but it is the breakdown of the family that is the greatest social crisis of our day. It has produced poverty, it has produced abandonment, it has produced criminology, it has produced increase in prisons, it has produced an increase in the tax base to support all the single parents who now have to raise these kids without the man in the home. There is crisis, after crisis, after crisis, after crisis because men have redefined the family and have abandoned them. It is a stewardship responsibility. But ladies have a responsibility, too. It says, "She shall be a fruitful vine in your house". That her commitment to facilitating the home and honoring the one who is to make her a fruitful vine. Your husband should feel your honor. Experience your honor. It says she is committed to her home, committed to her kids, because she is within the home, and she hasn't abandoned it.
It says, "Your children will be like olive plants around your table". Not olive trees, olive plants, it takes 15 years for an olive plant to become an olive tree. So, not olive trees, olive plants. It takes 15 years, but if you nurture it right, it'll produce olives for 2.000 years. Over in Israel, there are 2.000-year-old olive trees still pumping out olives, you know why? 'Cause their roots run deep. Because their roots run deep. We have a generation of unrooted kids, because parents haven't been there long enough to tender to the roots. It says, "Your children shall become olive plants", and guess where? "Around your table".
The stewardship of the table, to use that table time not just for eating, but for leading, and ministering, and guiding, and correcting, and mentoring. God says that he's calling on you to have a stewardship in the sphere of the home. If you have a family, that is a primary responsibility, and it is one you own. There is no such thing in Scripture as no-fault divorce, or divorce for illegitimate. God has legitimate reasons, but they're very narrow. So, he goes from the individual to the family, then he goes from the family to the church.
Verse 5, "The Lord blessed you from Zion". Zion is a lofty word. It was God's holy dwelling places: Mount Zion, the city of Zion, the temple called Zion, all three are called Zion; mountain, city, temple. Here, he's talking about the temple, because he's gonna talk about the city in a moment. The temple was a place of worship. Worship is the recognition of God for who he is, what he has done, and what you're trusting him to do. It's the celebration of God. It was the job of Zion to set the standards that were to infiltrate the culture. Zion was to set the agenda for the culture, starting with the recognition of the true God.
2 Chronicles 15:3-6 says, "In those days, there was no true God, no teaching priest, no law". Conflict individually, conflict at home, conflict nation to nation, conflict city to city. It was conflict because God had not been presented properly in the culture. Today, we're living in the dumbing down of God, and the reason we're living in the dumbing down of God is the dumbing down of the church. That because we have reduced him in here, they have reduced him out there. "The Lord blessed you from Zion". The Lord give you a blessing.
See, this is critical, because there are certain blessings that come because of your attachment to Zion, that do not come simply because you're a Christian. Because if you're not attached, the Bible knows nothing of an unchurched believer. Because God wants you investing in the lives of his other saints, not just asking God to invest in you. That's why there are all the one another's in Scripture. But we live in a day of spiritual hitchhikers, everybody thumbing for a free ride. The Bible says in Hebrews chapter 12, verse 22 and 23, when you come to worship, you come to Zion, where the presence of God is in the church, collectively, if the church is operating under his stewardship and governing kingdom authority. The fourth and final category, "And may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life. Indeed, may you see your children's children. Peace be upon Israel".
Now, he's just going to the city and the country, Jerusalem and Israel, that's the city, that's the country, to the nation. Now, it doesn't take a genius to see that we are a nation in turmoil. Political turmoil, social turmoil, racial turmoil, gender turmoil, economic turmoil. We are in a hot mess. And when God describes it in the passage I mentioned to you in 2 Chronicles 15:3-6, he says you're in a hot mess because I'm not in the vicinity. You're in a hot mess because I've been excluded from your life, excluded from your schools, excluded from your churches, even. I've been excluded from your families. I've been excluded, and when I'm excluded, it doesn't matter who you elect. Because when I'm excluded, and my presence is no longer being felt, then that vacuum is filled by conflict and chaos. And so, the challenge today is for Christians who are disciples of Jesus Christ to go public with their faith.
Jeremiah 29:7, "Seek the welfare of the city in which I have placed you, for in its wellbeing you will have wellbeing". In other words, the place should be a better place to live if the church is doing its job. There should be community impact. If you're taking God seriously, that means you're going to find out what he wants on the frontend, and then adjust your footsteps to that. And where you haven't done it, you're going to repent and say, "God, I've been going the wrong way, but now I am turning to move in your way, so that you can now move with me", in whatever area you need to repent.
Then the family, you fight for the family. You go to war for your children, for the marriage, for whatever your family situation happens to be. You fight for it. And then, you become part of God's broader spiritual family, not just sit, soak, and sour, but engaged in making the church as strong, as impactful as it can be, collectively. And then, we go public, we go public. We let the world know, the society know, our community know, that Jesus Christ is Lord. We're not ashamed of the gospel. We're not ashamed of our faith, and we do it with love, but we do it with clarity, because a charge to keep I have, and a God to glorify.
I'm a steward of individual life, family life, church life, and for the wellbeing of the community in which I live, work, play. In radio, in television, and movies, they show you previews of coming attractions. These are the hot clips of the upcoming show. Fight scene, love scene, chase scene, the hot scenes, and they stitch 'em together, because they want you to look at the movie. So, they stitch all the hot scenes together.
Now, you look at it, it may have been a terrible movie, but you wouldn't know that by the clips, because the clips are one hot scene right after another hot scene. One day, there's a big show coming to town. God is the producer, the Holy Spirit is the director, Jesus is the superstar, and it will be a worldwide production. It's when the kingdom of God comes down to this earth. But in the meantime, he's left you, you, you, you, you, you, you, you, you, me, and us here as previews of coming attractions. We're supposed to be the hot clips of the upcoming show. People are supposed to see the clip of your life, the clip of your family, the clip of this church, the clip of your influence in the society, and they're to say that clip is hot, that clip is hot, that clip is hot, so that they now say, "Where can I buy a ticket", and that's when we can tell 'em, "You don't have to buy a ticket, the price has already been paid".
We have a stewardship, first of all, with our personal lives. To surrender on a daily basis our lives to God's purposes for that day. The Bible makes it clear that this is a daily walk. Your time, your talents, my time, my talents, treasures, ought to be yielded to him. Then we have a family stewardship responsibility. This fear is caring for your mate, your children, those who are in your family, to make sure that they are stewarding their lives in accordance with God's will, God's plan, and God's purpose. Happiness is a benefit of family, joy is a benefit of family, but kingdom purpose is the responsibility of family.
Then there is a third sphere, that is our connection with our local church. The church has been given the responsibility to advance God's kingdom corporately in the world. Every Christian is expected to be a functional part of a local church. That means you're not just there to sit, soak, and sour, you're there to contribute your time, your talents, and your giving to the church's strength of being able to be an impactful agent for the kingdom of God, impacting you and your family for your spiritual development, but through your gifting, impacting the body of Christ as it flows into the broader society.
That leads to the fourth sphere. This fourth sphere or realm that our stewardship should impact are the communities in which we live, we work, and we relate to other people. That includes the government. That's why you should vote, because you have the opportunity to exercise responsibility, because leadership has a lot to say about what God does in a society. But also, your community involvement, whether it's with your PTA, or a community agency, to lend God's voice to the decisions that are made for the wellbeing and stability of the place where you live, and work, and raise your family.
Because when those four spheres are stewarded correctly, then you find God's blessing covering those spheres. When they're not stewarded correctly, and you're out of alignment, your family's out of alignment, the church is out of alignment, the community is in chaos, and I think you see that all around us today, then we don't see God's favor coming upon those realms through our stewardship. So, remember, you are to steward the four realms under the rule of God.