In conversation I often hear people say “my car” or “my house” or “my children.” The reality is that none of those really belong to them. 1 Corinthians 10:26 (NIV) says, “The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it.” Whether we realize it or not, we own nothing. We are just stewards for God.
Stewardship is a concept that is foreign to most of us. It was very common back in the days of kings, but today it is relatively unknown. A property manager would be a reasonable example of a steward – someone who manages the property of another. However, in God’s kingdom there is more to it. A steward is someone who manages the resources God gives him/her in such a way as to result in an increase.
This reminds me of a story:
There was once a wonderful, loving king who was getting up in the years. He was tired of running the kingdom. His only son had been murdered many years earlier and so he had no heirs who could take over. The king called for the wisest men in the kingdom and presented his problem, hoping for a solution. Each presented their ideas, but none struck the fancy of the king. Finally, a young man said, “You could have a competition to find your replacement? Have everyone interested interview with a panel of judges and select eighteen candidates. Then over the next thirty days have them perform kingly tasks. The one who performs the best would be the winner. Since this person would be an apprentice king, you could call it "The Apprentice."
The king thought it to be fine idea and within a few days the eighteen candidates had been selected and were actively involved in kingly duties. The king and his advisors watched carefully and soon one young man stood out from the rest. At the end of each part of the competition, the king interviewed the winner and one candidate would hear those terrible words, “You’re Fired!” In the final episode, two candidates remained. The king conducted a final and grueling interview. The first candidate spent the entire interview telling the king about his talents and abilities and how worthy he was of running the kingdom. The final person, the young man who had caught the eye of the king, said to him, “I am completely unworthy of your kingdom, as I am not your blood son, however many years ago, when my father died, you were kind and generous to my family. I have never forgotten your generosity and love. Although I could never possibly replace you as king, I would be honored to be steward of your kingdom. The king, with tears in his eyes, said the words the young man was longing to hear, “You’re hired.”
As we see in this story, stewardship comes from the heart. Our King was willing to send His only Son to die for our sins. It is only through His generosity and love that we are not sentenced to eternal torment in hell. We should be stewards for God out of gratitude for what He has already done for each of us.
Ok, so we know why we should be stewards, but what of what are we stewards?
1. Manifold Grace of God
1 Peter 4:10 (NKJ) reads, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” The Greek word that is translated as manifold is “Poikilos” and means various colors or sorts. The dictionary defines manifold as “various forms.” So, we are to be good stewards of the various forms of God’s grace. As we know His grace abounds, but He relies on us to use our gifts and talents to spread the good word.
2. Mysteries of God
1 Corinthians 4:1 (NKJ) says “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” Salvation was one of God’s mysteries, until Jesus unveiled it on the cross. Unfortunately, it is still a mystery to many. God expects us to seek out the greater mysteries of God and to share those with others.
3. God’s Household
Luke 14:42 (NKJ) reads, “And the Lord said, "Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season?” If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and savior, then you are among the faithful stewards and hopefully are called a wise steward.
In the beginning, God gave dominion of the earth to Adam (representing all mankind). Dominion of earth transferred to Satan when Adam ate of the forbidden fruit. However, Jesus reclaimed dominion when He defeated Satan at the cross. Man once again has dominion over the earth and so each of us is expected to be a good steward.
We are to keep God’s house clean of sin (spotless bride of Christ). We are to keep His house in order and ready for His return at any time. Is your house clean and in order? If not, ask for God’s forgiveness and make the changes necessary to keep your house clean.
God doesn’t just expect us to figure out stewardship alone, He has given us an instruction book – the Bible. In it we find that God has given us certain things of which we are to be good stewards:
Talents and Spiritual Gifts
God has given us talents, such as writing, speaking, singing, mechanical, craftsmanship, etc. We are expected to inquire of God as to how we should use these talents to further the Kingdom. He will also use these talents to increase our income, so that we can use the money to further the Kingdom by blessing others. At times God will want us to improve our talents through education (i.e., classes, seminars, books, and tapes). We are to be open to God’s leading to use our talents in different ways. Plus, we should be open to new talents that God may give us for specific tasks.
God also gives us spiritual gifts. Romans 12:3 (NIV) says “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us." You will find these spiritual gifts listed in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 1 Corinthians 12:28, and Ephesians 4:11. Again, we are to inquire of the Lord as to our gifts and then be good stewards of them. As an example, my most dominant spiritual gift is leadership, so I lead men’s ministry at our church. In order to be a good steward of your spiritual gifts you should not think too highly of yourself (Romans 12:3 NIV), use your gifts for the common good of the body (1 Corinthians 12:7 NIV), use your gifts with love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NIV) and if you are a good steward, you will receive more and greater gifts (Matthew 13:12 NIV).
Time offers complete equality to all people. God gives us each 24 hours each day. No more and no less. What you do with that time will determine your ability as a steward. Look at your calendar, appointment book, planner, or PDA and determine who is lord of your life. Where your time is, that shows lordship. For most people, work will be lord. The key is whether you are using your work time to serve the Lord.
Here are some suggestions for committing your work time to the Lord:
a. Work as if you were working for God – excellence in everything you do. Even though it appears you work for your boss or the owner of your company, they are just the people God has allowed to be in positions of authority. Everyone works for God, because He is the owner of everything.
b. Treat every interaction as a chance to touch people’s lives. When you interact with co-workers, show them God’s love in your conversation and actions. Remember that actions speak louder than words, so you must talk the talk and walk the talk. Inconsistencies in the lives of Christians turn off more people than anything else. I must caution you to be careful with witnessing. Although God loves it, your boss may not. Witness through loving conversations and actions.
c. During your breaks, spend time with God reading the Bible and in prayer. Most people get a couple of 15 minute breaks and at least a half hour for lunch. If you invested all of that time with God, it would total at least 5 hours a week or 250 hours a year.
Now, here are some ideas for your non-working time:
a. Tithe your time. In the same way God expects us to give Him the first 10% of our money; He wants the first 10% of your time. Remember that tithing is a Lordship issue, not a money issue. Rearrange your day so that you can spend the first of your day with God. An hour would be great, but give Him as much as you can. If you have to, get up an hour earlier. It will be worth it and your days will go much better.
b. Give love offerings of your time. Instead of plopping down in front of the television after work, why not invest an hour of time in prayer or reading the Bible or both. While you are driving, turn off the radio and talk with God or pray for the people in your life or review memorized scriptures or listen to worship music and praise the Lord.
c. Prioritize your time. Evaluate everything as to whether it has eternal value or not. In other words, will this activity have an impact on the Kingdom or is it just worldly. Some activities will be both, but most are one or the other. Give the Kingdom activities the highest priority when scheduling your time.
We will all be judged by our stewardship of the time God gives us. Ecclesiastes 3:17 (NIV) says, “God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be time for every activity, a time for every deed.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV) reads, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.” Seek God for the right timing for each activity and you will become a good steward of your time.
As a Pastor, I am very sensitive to this issue. Many Christians get upset when clergy talk about money. This has always interested me, because Jesus talked about money a lot. Sixteen of the thirty-six parables refer to money or possessions. In the Gospels 288 verses deal directly with the subject of money. The Bible offers more than 2,000 verses on money and possessions (compared to 500 for prayer and fewer on faith). Obviously money is an important topic to God and it should be to us. In Luke 12:34 (NIV), Jesus says: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Many people think that if they get their heart right, their money will follow, however Jesus reversed it by saying that wherever your money is, that’s where your heart is also. So, where is your heart today?
Money is not inherently good or bad; it is just a tool that can be used for good or bad. Jesus taught us how we are to handle money in two of His parables:
The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30)
Get your Bible out and really meditate on this parable. Read it in different versions. I really like the Message Bible version. No matter what version you are reading, clearly Jesus is talking about the stewardship of money. In verse 15 Jesus is the master who left us some money. He knows our ability and gives us only what we can handle. Verses 16-24 show us that God expects us to put His money to work for Kingdom increase. When you tithe, or give to your church, missionaries, or other ministries that are doing the work of the Lord, then you are putting money to work for the Kingdom. Verse 26 shows that God will not reward a cautious or lazy steward. He expects us to use the money He gives us, not hoard or save it. Now, He doesn’t mind if you have some emergency cash in an account, but most of your money should be flowing through you into the Kingdom. Verses 28-29 show that if we excel in our stewardship of money we will receive more. However according to verse 30, if we are not good stewards of the money God gives us – in other words if we don’t tithe and give, we will end up out of God’s will.
Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:15-21)
Keep your Bible open and let’s meditate over another parable. Jesus warned His followers about greed. Greed is a love of money and the Bible says that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10 NIV). It also says that “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and in many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.” (1 Timothy 6:9 NIV). The key here is to have your money and your heart pointed always toward God and not toward your selfish desires.
The parable of the rich fool is a story of greed. In verse 15 we see that greed has entered the heart of this man. Greed is a tool that Satan uses to get Christians off track. He dangles financial gain in front of people and they become hypnotized. It is critical that we recognize this deception and stop it before it starts. Otherwise we will end up like the man in this parable. Verses 18-19 show us that we are not to get caught up in our abundance. As we focus our money and hearts on God, He will reward us with more. If we continue to give it back, He will continue to give us more. However, if we begin to hoard it (as this man did), then the flow will stop. Verse 20 shows that we can’t take it with us, so why not use it properly during our time on earth. Be rich in God first. Seek first His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33).
The best way to be a good steward of money is to get your eyes off the money and keep them focused on God. Luke 16:33 (NIV) says, “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Ecclesiastes 5:10 (NIV) tells us that “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.” If you are saying "show me the money," you will never be satisfied. There will never be enough and soon you will begin building bigger barns. However, if you keep your eyes on God and continue to inquire as to how you should steward the money you already have, the Holy Spirit will guide your decisions and according to Joshua 1:8 (NIV) “you will be prosperous and successful.”
Now let’s examine the keys to stewardship of your money:
The first 10% of your gross income and any increase belongs to God. Actually 100% of your money belongs to Him, but He has agreed to let you to keep the other 90%. The tithe is not a money issue, because obviously God does not need the money and it’s not something the church cooked up to fill their coffers. The tithe dates back to the days of Abram who tithed to the high priest Melchizedek, long before the Law of Moses was established. It’s not a money issue, it’s a Lordship issue. God just wants to see if He is Lord of your money.
Recently Barna Research (marketing research firm) reported that tithing was down 62%. As a Pastor I’m shocked at these figures. It’s no wonder to me that so many churches are facing financial struggles and have resorted to marketing programs and begging. Recently I read a story about a group of people who went on a mission trip to an impoverished area in Eastern Europe. They were all extremely impressed with the attitudes of the people toward tithing. They believed it to be God’s standard. However, the government had restricted (by law) giving to 2.5% of their income. These people were devoted to finding loopholes in the law so they could give 10% or higher. It’s interesting how these people who have so little are trying to find loopholes in the law to give more and here in the United States, the land of plenty, people are trying to find loopholes in the Bible to give less.
Tithing should be the minimum that we do in terms of stewardship of the money God gives us. Write the first check to God. Show Him that He is truly Lord of your life. Once you are consistently tithing, you can move up from there.
God expects us to give the first 10% of our income and increase to Him, but let’s us do whatever we want with the other 90%. Anything you give beyond the tithe is out of love. I call these love offerings and they show your love for God. The Bible gives us some tips on giving:
God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)
If you give, you will lack nothing. (Proverbs 28:27)
Give and it will be given back to you in the measure you use to give. (Luke 6:38)
Give something that hurts – God gave His only Son for you and me.
The Bible instructs us to take care of the poor. Every city has its poor that are typically ignored or cast off. My wife and I recently visited Chicago and were shocked to see that the government had put up fences under every overpass to keep the homeless from living there. Many cities are pushing the poor out, so that they won’t be an eyesore for visiting dignitaries. Forgive us Lord!
We should each set aside a certain amount of money (seek the Lord for the amount) to give to the poor. When you see beggars and homeless people, give them some money or buy them some food or warm clothing or a blanket or coat. Visit your local homeless shelter and offer your alms. Jesus said that when we take care of the poor, homeless, and hungry, we are loving Him.
Research studies show that the average Christian gives less than 2% of his or her monthly income to the church, yet they won’t think twice about giving a waiter or waitress a 20% tip. God was willing to give 100% to us, which shows where His heart is. He loved us so much that while we were still His enemies, He gave up His only Son for us. His heart is right, is yours?
Stewardship is all about the heart. Is your heart turned toward God or the world? Are you seeking more of Him or more of what the world has to offer? As in the story I told at the beginning of this article, we should steward out of gratefulness to God for what He has already done for us. He has given His all and so should we.
The Stewardship Principle
Are you a good steward of God's gifts?