Passing on the Basics
Back in 1988, while writing the first version of my book Money, Possessions and Eternity, I was tempted not to use the word stewardship. It seemed an old and dying word that conjured up images of large red thermometers on church platforms, measuring how far the churches were from paying off the mortgage.
Still, I decided that stewardship was just too good a word, both biblically and historically, to abandon. I’m glad I didn’t abandon it, because in recent years the word has gained new traction, even among unbelievers who frequently talk about “stewardship of the earth.” The foundational meaning of Christian stewardship is found in its biblical roots, especially as seen in what Jesus taught in his stewardship parables.
A steward could simply be defined as “someone an owner entrusts with the management of his assets.” God expects us to use all the resources He gives us to best carry out our responsibilities in furthering His Kingdom. This includes caring for our families, our homes and businesses, our planet, and whatever else He entrusts to us.
The parable of the talents (Matt 25.14–30″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Matthew 25:14–30) shows that we’re each entrusted by God with different financial assets, gifts and opportunities, and we’ll be held accountable to Him for how we’ve invested them in this life. We’re to prepare for the Master’s return by enhancing the growth of His Kingdom through wisely investing His assets.
A steward’s primary goal is to be “found faithful” by his master. He proves himself faithful by wisely using the master’s resources to accomplish the tasks delegated to him (1 Corinthians 4:2).
Seen from this perspective, stewardship isn’t a narrow subcategory of the Christian life. On the contrary, stewardship is the Christian life. God’s ownership of not only “our” money and possessions but also “our” time and abilities and everything else should be central in our thinking. I believe there’s no more foundational truth for pastors to pass on to their church bodies than the truth that God owns it all, and we are His stewards. If there’s one game-changing paradigm shift, it’s in the realization—not just saying the words—that “my” money and possessions really do belong to God.
Discovering Joyful Giving
Giving is not the entirety of financial stewardship, but it is an essential and revealing part of it. We desperately need prophetic voices in our churches decrying our self-centered affluence and indifference to global needs and calling us to a joyful generosity that exalts Christ, helps the hurting and fills our souls to overflowing.
In my book The Treasure Principle), He emphasized how “in his joy” the man went and sold all that he had to gain the treasure. We’re not supposed to feel sorry for him because it cost him everything. Rather, we’re supposed to imitate the man. It cost him, yes, but it filled him with joy! The benefits vastly outweighed the costs. That is how we need to approach giving.
I think pastors should emphasize what Jesus did in Matthew 6:19-21 when He gave people the reasons for laying up treasures in heaven, not on earth. When they start reading this passage, many people think, “Jesus is against laying up treasures for ourselves.” Wrong. He commands us to lay up treasures for ourselves. He simply says, “Stop laying them up in the wrong place, and start laying them up in the right place.”