A resource that I have come to increasingly cherish, through regular use, is the NIV Stewardship Study Bible. It sounds rather boring doesn’t it? Who wants a whole study Bible just on stewardship? But if you think about it what could be more important, at least for real Christians, than to get a better grasp on what the Word of God says about our being good stewards? Stewardship is a virtual synonym for discipleship in the New Testament so I submit this study Bible is a genuinely worthwhile tool. The Stewardship Council, formed in Michigan in May of 2005, the Acton Institute, now over twenty years old, and the publisher, Zondervan, all three partnered to create this lovely, unique resource. Donors made it possible for every person who attended the Lausanne gathering in South Africa last October to each get a copy of this Bible.
The Stewardship Council seeks to reclaim the privilege of our role as stewards of our gracious and generous God. Its mission is to produce resources to foster effective stewardship. The mission of Acton Institute, which I have the privilege of serving with as a teaching fellow, is to promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles. Acton aims to educate the leaders in the church, in business and in the academy.
The Stewardship Study Bible suggests in the introduction to the Letter to the Hebrews that “the looming persecution of the church reveals the primary stewardship principle of Hebrews: to throw off what hinders” (1606).
The point here is that you cannot successfully run a race with excess cargo. Christians are called to run in a race, not to walk in a leisurely stroll. Contestants in this race of life must “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (12:1). While it is not extremely difficult to spot sin, especially if you’ve been a Christian for some time, it is much harder to acknowledge those things that hinder us. Why? Things that hinder us are not always sinful. They are not even bad for us, at least in themselves. The issue is not “right” versus “wrong” when it comes down to buying this or indulging that. The issue is: “Will this hinder the pursuit of the kingdom of God and my divine holiness?” What is truly best for my spiritual growth in holistic stewardship? This, says the NIV Stewardship Study Bible, is how we determine what is best for our long term race.
Hebrews makes it abundantly clear that one of our greatest stumbling blocks in pursuing whole life discipleship is the pursuit of material stuff. Things are not evil. But our pursuit of things takes time, attention and much of the energy of our mind and heart. These can easily divert us from the joy that has been set before us as people of faith (12:2).
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My current understanding of the theme of Hebrews is that we need to focus intently on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Things that hinder are those that pull our attention away from Christ. Material wealth, and anything else that God gives us, can become an idol that distracts us from his glory, or it can be used to construct a Christ-centered lifestyle.