Christian Stewardship

Christian Stewardship

Introduction

Have you ever wondered why God has entrusted you with resources? You have 24 hours a day, you have some talents and some possessions. How do you use these resources? In this study we want to learn more about the biblical concept of stewardship and find out how it can strengthen our spiritual life, our relationships and how it can help us to live a life that glorifies the Lord.

Part I: What is Stewardship?

Understanding the concept of stewardship
Christian stewardship begins and ends with the understanding of God’s ownership of all. He has created the whole universe and he is the Giver of life. Therefore everything belongs to him and is under his dominion:
“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Ps 24:1).
“To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it” (Deut 10:14).
A second issue is necessary to understand the concept of stewardship in the Bible: God created man in “his image” (Gen 1:26), that means as his representative. He put man in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it (Gen 2:15). As God’s representative man is responsible to him, does not possess anything and is to reflect God’s nature.

Stewardship in the Bible

This understanding of man as the steward of God is widely found throughout the Bible. The patriarchs considered themselves “strangers” on earth (Gen 15:13; 23:4). Also the Israelites lived as “strangers” and not as “owners” in Egypt and in the desert (Hos 11:1-12), in Canaan and in exile. Even King David was aware that he and his people were strangers on earth (1?Chr 29:15; Ps 39:12).
In the New Testament Jesus taught his disciples in several parables about stewardship: He compared humans to servants who have been entrusted with talents, for which God will call them to account (Mt 25:14-30). In the parable of the wise manager he emphasized the importance of expecting the Lord at any time (Lk 12:42-48).
The concept of stewardship is also brought up in the context of salvation through Christ. The believers are strangers, as well as administrators of God’s gifts (Heb 11:9-16; Eph 2:19; Phil 3:20).

Conclusion

We recognize first that everything belongs to God and is under his dominion. Secondly we see that we are called to manage God’s creation. This leads us to the core of biblical stewardship: It is the duty to administer everything that God has entrusted to us in the best way possible to serve creation and to glorify the Lord.
This principle is not easy to understand. Actually, we like to take credit for the work we have done and so we think: “my power and the strength of my hand have produced this wealth for me” (Deut 8:17). But have we forgotten that without God we would have nothing? God must get all the credit for our success or our well-being. Everything we have in this world belongs to Him. He lends it to us to use and take care of. If we believe this, then our attitude toward our money, possessions, even our families, careers and plans for the future will take on new meaning.

Part II: The Values of a Christian Steward

As followers of Christ, we must embrace a stewardship mindset: we own nothing, and we are not here on our own business. As stewards, we manage the possessions of another, as ambassadors, we manage the affairs of another. The King owns everything, and we are on his business to serve and represent him in the world.

A Christian Steward seeks first the Kingdom of God

The Bible tells us what is important and what is not: “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Mt 6:31-33).
When the disciples asked Jesus about the greatest commandment, he answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Mt 22:37).
These two quotations show us that the top priority in our life should be our relationship with God. A true steward is committed to his master and will not pursue his own goals. “No one can serve two masters” (Mt 6:24).

A Christian Steward is faithful

According to Scripture, we are accountable to God for everything. Whether we have much or little, our key responsibility is faithfulness. “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1?Cor 4:2). In the parable of the talent (Mt 25:14-30) the slaves were rewarded not based on how much they had been given but on what they had done with it. Significantly, the first two slaves were equally praised, although the first was given five talents and the second was given two. We must resist the temptation to compare ourselves with others, because comparison is the basis for all dissatisfaction. What matters is not how much we have received but faithfulness to what God has given us and called us to do (Lk 12:42), even if it is against our own dreams.
Richard was a respected witchdoctor and knew all the tricks of his trade. People came from near and far to be healed by him and paid him a lot of money. One day he became seriously ill. During this time God spoke to him in a dream. Richard realized that his life would end in eternal darkness if he did not turn away from sorcery and stop misleading the people. So he repented, confessed his sins and received Jesus Christ as the Saviour of his life. From now on he went from one village to the next telling the people about Jesus Christ who had conquered the power of the devil. He invited the people to believe the Gospel and did not ask for personal gain. God answered Richard’s prayers time and again and restored many sick people physically and above all spiritually. Although an illiterate man, Richard now used his gifts and talents to honour God only. by Robert Oppliger

Part III: Areas of Stewardship

Stewardship means being faithful in using whatever God gives us, for his glory. Are we administrating our affairs and belongings as though they are ours or as though they are God’s? Am I the lord of my life, or is Christ the Lord of my life? Our answer to this question will determine how we manage the time, abilities, money, truth, relationships and everything else God has placed under our care.

1. Stewardship of Time

Each one of us has been given enough time to accomplish God’s purpose for us. The Scriptures exhort us to invest our time wisely, reminding us that God determines the length of our stay on earth. “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:15-16).
Time is our most valuable asset, but without a proper perspective, we will spend it foolishly. Life is brief (Jas 4:14), so we must make the most of our opportunities (Ecc 8:5; Col 4:5). Our use of time will reflect our priorities (Mt 6:19-21,34). Just as it is wise to budget our financial resources, it is also wise to budget the use of our time. God wants us to be faithful, not squanderers, of the time he has given us. Reflect prayerfully on the following questions:

  • How much time do you spend in God’s word and in prayer?
  • How much time do you spend in front of the TV?
  • How much time do you spend to make money? How much time do you spend training your children in the ways of the Lord?
  • If you are a pastor or elder, how much time do you spend teaching your congregation?
  • How do you use the time of work you are paid for? Who is glorifying the Lord – the hard-working or the lazy employee?

2. Stewardship of Talents

Our talents and special abilities were given to us by God and belong to him: “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you did not?” (1?Cor 4:7). God has entrusted us with skills and abilities, and as good stewards, we must use them for his glory and not our own. This is true not only of musical, artistic, athletic, academic and business talents but also of the spiritual gifts we have received. Peter specifically relates spiritual gifts to the concept of stewardship, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1?Pet 4:10). Faithful stewardship of natural talents and spiritual gifts requires that we use them to glorify God and edify others. Our purpose is not to please and promote ourselves but to serve others. “Each of us should please our neighbours for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself” (Rom 15:2-3).

3. Stewardship of Money and Belongings

When it comes to governing our belongings and financial affairs, we must choose between two radically different approaches: the values of our society or the values of the Bible. Society tells us to find happiness and peace through money while at the same time the increase of organized crime, drug- and human trafficking, smuggling of goods and immigrants, sexual abuse and exploitation etc. show how much the love of money has led to corruption and the downfall of our countries. The Bible, on the other hand, tells us to find the desire of our hearts in the Lord and to be content with what he gives us. Money is a good servant but a bad master. If we follow the world’s wisdom, money will dominate us, but if we submit to “the wisdom from above” (Jas 3:17), money will serve us as we use it to serve God and others.
More than 10% in the New Testament relates directly to financial matters. Why is there such an emphasis on money? We read in 1?Tim 6:9-10, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs”(See also Lk 12:15).
True, it is hard work to earn a living. And because it seems easier to borrow money even from church funds, many are tempted to make debts. Medical bills or trouble with the police can cause people to reach for these funds too. This is very dangerous because more often than not these debts are not paid back. Often Christians and pastors are under pressure from their families and clan as well, who demand a contribution for the community, for marriage celebrations or funerals, or even for compensation purposes of all sorts. This is a huge problem which could be avoided if we all did not spend more money than we earn. Please read Ephesians 4:28 on how to earn and spend money honestly.
Money also has a profound effect on interpersonal relationships. Many people spend more than half their time thinking about their material belongings, and financial difficulties are a major cause of marital conflict and divorce.
Scripture directly relates money to the love of God: “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1?Jn 3:17). The quality of Christian stewardship can be observed in the way Christians serve the poor and needy in their community.  Certainly, every family group should be concerned about the needs of their own relatives. But Christians with material possessions, as members of the new family of Christ, must learn to see the needs beyond their own door-step, even outside their own congregation.
A growing number of churches are not taking biblical stewardship seriously. Rather, they say that believers have a right to the blessings of health and wealth, which can be obtained through positive confessions of faith, the faithful payments of tithes and offerings (‘sowing of seeds’). But this is in total opposition to biblical teaching. Instead of stressing the importance of wealth, the Bible warns against pursuing it (see Mt 6:19). Our churches need to teach solid biblical principles on the subject of stewardship. The theological basis for this training is
a)    God owns everything and everyone because he is the Creator, and
b)    man is called to take responsibility and proper care for the things God has entrusted to him.
Our example is the steward and servant, Jesus Christ, who gave himself to help and save others. Christians should not be forced to give and serve. Rather they should embrace a stewardship mindset that comes from a faithful walk with the Lord.
Here are some practical hints for promoting biblical stewardship:

  • Make biblical stewardship an important concern in the ministry of teaching
  • Understand the act of giving as part of the Good News – Jesus who gave himself
  • Do not use un-biblical ways of fund raising (pressure, making false promises, praising those who give large amounts etc.)
  • Discourage wrong ideas of giving (i.e. giving in expectation of receiving back an even higher amount as a blessing)
  • Handle all money matters with extreme care, keeping church and private money separate
  • Give frequent account to the congregation about church donations/offerings and how the money is used
  • Encourage ways of giving that are appropriate to the culture (e.g. offering of services or food instead of money)

4. Stewardship of Truth

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded” (Lk 12:48). We rarely think of truth as a matter of stewardship, but all of us will be held accountable for the amount of light we have received. Our Lord prayed for his disciples, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (Jn 17:17). He told those who believed him, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:31-32).
God brought us forth by the word of truth, and he calls us to humbly receive and apply this implanted word (Jas 1:18-25). The Scriptures teach, reprove, correct, and train us in righteousness so that we “may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2?Tim 3:16-17). Since we are stewards of truth, it is our responsibility to remain students of the Word through consistent exposure to Scripture, willing to apply what God teaches.
This will also lead us to a conscious and careful handling of the truth in our daily life. Our words have to reflect the Spirit of truth who dwells in us. Unfortunately, it is a common practice also among Christians to say what they think the other person may like to hear, even if it is not true. It also dishonours God when we make a promise without intending to keep it. Another way of being dishonest is cheating on exams. What a shameful way for Christians to behave. Dishonesty goes hand in hand with corruption, which makes it impossible for a nation to prosper. As stewards of God we are called to resist and overcome corruption through truthfulness. Whether in the church, business, family or at the IRS office: Honesty is not an option, it is imperative for walking in the light.

5. Stewardship of Relationships

Scripture teaches that people are eternal beings, who are appointed to a resurrection of life or a resurrection of judgement (Jn 5:28-29; Dan 12:2). Since this is true, the time we invest in cultivating relationships by loving and serving people is never wasted.
Think about the impact of your life on other people. Are you a help and an encouragement for others to follow Christ? The highest calling as stewards of God is leading people to Christ and helping them grow in faith. Evangelism claims us as a whole person: Our time, our talents, as well as our finances and belongings. Here, finally, is the test, whether we are serving ourselves or the Lord.
The Example of our Lord Jesus Christ
Our Lord Jesus Christ was a true steward of the relationships he was involved in. Throughout his ministry, he was seeking the lost, he was not ashamed to be called a “friend of sinners” and he also welcomed children. Even in the last hours of his life, he served as a true steward of relationships: He took care of his mother, he prayed for the soldiers who nailed him on the cross and he led one of the criminals who was crucified with him, to Paradise. He gave us the enduring example of how to be a steward of relationships: Don‘t use people to reach your own goals, but serve people and lead them to the Kingdom of God. Help them to be useful in the Lord’s business.

6. Other Areas of Stewardship

God owns all things, and we are accountable to him for everything we have and use. As Christians, also our body belongs to Christ (see 1?Cor 3:16-17).  In this case, we will be careful to use it for his glory. So don’t destroy your body by the abuse of alcohol and drugs. Do not commit adultery, fornication (pre-marital sex) or any other form of immorality. Sex is a precious gift  of God to enjoy and use within marriage, so be faithful stewards especially when you think no one is watching you.
Also our mind belongs to God and it is up to us to use it in a way that glorifies him. Do not allow your mind to be exposed to filthy and sinful pictures, ideas and thoughts. Stay away from pornography and overcome temptations in the power of Jesus. Ask the Lord to renew your mind daily (Rom 12:2).

Conclusion

All we have comes from God. How we manage what God gives us reflects what we truly love and value. If our mind and heart are in line with God’s will, then we will live as stewards: Our highest longing cannot be our success or our wealth but God’s verdict upon our life: “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Mt 25:21).
Michael Büschlen and team

Application to your personal life

Answer the questions below and think about your personal relationship to Jesus Christ and his impact in your ministry.
You might need a separate sheet of paper for the answers. If you have questions, discuss them with another Christian leader.

  1. How would you define biblical stewardship?
  2. What are the consequences of God’s ownership of all areas of our lives?
  3. What are the values of Christian stewardship?
  4. Do you think you use your time wisely?
    How could you improve the stewardship of your time?
  5. How could you improve the stewardship of your talents?
  6. How should we manage our financial affairs and belongings related to our spiritual life?
  7. Do you know any un-Christian way of fundraising?
  8. Have you ever been in a situation where it was difficult for you to tell the truth or to be honest?
    How did you decide?
    Would you make the same decision today?
  9. Can you think of a person who has had an important impact in your life?
  10. How is your life influencing others in a godly way?


Bible Translations used: New International Version
Literature used:
–    Kenneth Boa, Conformed to His Image
–    Hans Häselbarth, Christian Ethics in the African Context.