The Steward: Full of Faith
Christian stewardship is the faithful response that we offer God for the giftedness of our lives. Being a faithful steward, like being a disciple, begins with God’s initiative. God reaches out to all of us through His son, Jesus Christ, to offer us great gifts, the greatest of which is the promise of eternal life. We are gifted. We are blessed. Yet, we are challenged everyday through our own sinful tendencies to believe in our own ability and power rather than the ultimate dominion of God. He is the true owner of all that we have in life. Faithful stewardship is a lifestyle choice recognizing that everything is a gift from God. Our responsibility as Christian stewards is to manage all the gifts that we have received from God in faithful ways. Christian stewards serve as trustees or managers of God’s kingdom. Paul reminds us, “Those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” (I Corinthians 4:2b)
A high percentage of preaching and teaching on stewardship is limited in its scope to money and possessions. We often overlook the holistic definition of Christian stewardship that encompasses much more than monetary value. A faithful steward lives obediently to God by offering prayers, worship attendance, spiritual gifts, financial resources, witness, and service. Thus, faithful stewardship involves all aspects of our discipleship. Yet, our financial response to God often conflicts with our own personal desires and choices. We face challenges everyday to make financial decisions that are obedient to God’s call to serve as faithful stewards.
Our choices in earning, giving, saving, and spending are either faith-filled or faith-less decisions. Most often these decisions are faith-filled, but faith in what? Some of our financial decisions reflect far more faith in our own ability and possessions than in God. Jesus was clear: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24) So how do we make financial decisions that are full of faith reflecting God’s call to be stewards of the Kingdom?
We begin by placing God first in all areas of our lives. When we fail to enlist God as our top priority, we will surely fail to serve as faithful stewards. Do your financial decisions reflect God as your top priority? This period of global economic recession may be a tremendous opportunity to reexamine the place of God in our lives. Countless people placed trust and security in their wealth and possessions, rather than in God. The economic downturn has left people wandering in the “wilderness” searching for contentment, peace, and joy. This spiritual fulfillment of contentment, peace, and joy is provided through accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and serving Him as a faithful follower.
Like the Israelites wandering in the wilderness (see Exodus 16,) we need to be reminded to trust in God’s provisions, to live life one day at a time, and to observe the Sabbath. Many biblical scholars regard Chapter 6 of the Gospel of Matthew as Jesus’ teaching about the Israelites exodus. Jesus underscores the Old Testament principles. He teaches us to seek God first, to worry less, and to trust in His provision. Faithful stewards embrace a lifestyle that is characterized by placing God first and by recognizing God as the ultimate provider.
Observing the Sabbath is one measure of placing God first. Our attitude toward work is another measure. Our work is to be productive and to please God. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” (Colossians 3:23) Work is the primary method by which we acquire money. Once we have earned money, we face several choices in what to do with it. We may give, save, or spend it. Clearly, we are to earn money not for the mere sake of increasing our purchasing power or hoarding wealth, but for serving God. If we consider our family as one of God’s gifts, then financially providing for our family is one way to serve God as a faithful steward.
Giving is the fundamental response of the Christian steward. We are to share generously with others. Generous giving requires a commitment to action. Tithing is the benchmark for generous giving. When our first decision is one of giving, we place a greater level of trust in God. We begin by saying, “Thank you God! All that we have received is a blessing from you.” Giving frees us from the bondage that money can have over our lives. Tithing encourages us to focus on God as the source of our strength, rather than our own achievements or financial assets. It helps us to acknowledge that we worship God and not money! Tithing leads to spiritual growth. It introduces spiritual discipline to our financial choices. Generous giving offers possibilities of economic justice, moderate consumption, and self-control.
Saving money is sequentially the next priority for our earned income. Saving financial assets can often be a way to achieve long term goals. Moreover, if we have saved adequately, then we will maintain our ability to give even when we face unexpected expenditures. Saved assets are often earmarked for future spending and giving. They may be designated for retirement income, higher education, essential major purchases, and charitable bequests. We should consider three major areas of savings – emergency, sustainable, and long term savings. Emergency savings covers completely unanticipated expenses. In today’s economic environment, it is advisable to maintain an emergency savings balance equal to six months of income. Sustainable savings is designed to replace durable goods that are necessary to maintain a moderate lifestyle. Since this lifestyle varies greatly across the world, we should consider prayerfully our needs in contrast to our wants. Long term savings is focused on our later years of life and may include both spending and giving. Saving is a wise, biblically-grounded financial choice provided that its purpose is not focused on hoarding or egocentric desires.
Spending money is intertwined with giving and saving financial resources. For many people, spending is their first financial decision. The result of spending first is little, if any, remaining balance to give or to save. The faithful steward makes giving and saving choices first and spending choices last. God wants us to budget wisely (Proverbs 27:23-24) and to beware of greed (Luke 12:15). He wants us to enjoy the fruits of our labor, yet to do it with moderation (Proverbs 30:8-9) and without waste (John 6:12.) Needs and wants are easily confused in a world that idolizes possessions over religion. The faithful steward is able to maintain a balance between the bipolar contrast of the self-indulgent culture and the God-honoring lifestyle.
A faithful steward reflects God’s self-giving ways. We become defined by the One whom we follow. God has entrusted us to be His faithful stewards. Our response to God is a sign of our obedience to Him who has provided for all of our needs. We are called to place God first in our lives. We are to work with steadfastness so that we have the ability to be generous givers, methodical savers, and careful spenders.
This article also appears in "Dynamic Steward," published by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Click here to visit this journal.