Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Principles of Stewardship – Part IV

For more on stewardship from a Christian perspective, please see my earlier posts.

We generally hear the term “stewardship” only in church, and then usually relating to money. Occasionally we might hear the term used with regard to the earth, as in “We have not exercised good stewardship over the earth.” The term “stewardship”, as I’m sure you all know, refers to managing money or property for someone else, typically the owner. In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), for example, the servants were given stewardship over the money entrusted to them by their master when he went away on a trip.

Today somebody who has stewardship over another’s money or property is an administrator, a money manager, an agent, or an executor if an estate. The legal term, especially relating to money or securities, is “fiduciary.” So those servants in the Parable of the Talents were given a fiduciary responsibility by the master – to manage the funds entrusted to them. Two of the servants took that fiduciary responsibility very seriously, and made money for their master because they cared. The third servant squandered his opportunity, and was rebuked and rejected by the master because of his lack of caring.

Basics of Stewardship

How does this term “stewardship” relate to our money, since it is our money we are talking about, isn’t it? We can look at the concept of stewardship (or a spiritual fiduciary responsibility) in three ways:

1. God owns it all

The first spiritual aspect of stewardship is that God owns it all, so we are really stewards or managers of what God has entrusted to us (we don’t own).
God said in Psalm 50:10-11:

For every wild animal of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the air,
and all that moves in the field is mine. NRSV

So everything belongs to God, not us, despite what we may think. God provides for us out of his abundance, although we certainly have to do our part as well. As Martin Luther said, “God provides the birds with their food, but he doesn’t throw it into their nests.”

So we are responsible and accountable to God for how we have used (or misused) what God entrusted to us. How have you been doing?

2. Our children and grandchildren

A second aspect of stewardship is that we have a responsibility to our children and even grandchildren, as well as our spouse and maybe parents. For example, a man who gambles much of his paycheck away, is being irresponsible, and his wife and children suffer because of it. A less harsh example might be the man who buys himself an expensive TV. It has high definition, 42 inch plasma screen, and surround sound, yet his wife and children desperately need new winter coats.

In both cases these men are not exercising good stewardship, both from a spiritual point of view as well as from a practical point of view. As a matter of fact, these men were being selfish and irresponsible. We should also realize that how we spend our money is being observed by our kids, whether we realize it or not. What values are you passing on to your kids regarding material goods, stewardship, responsibility, and money management?

3. Our own future

The third aspect of stewardship, after being accountable to God and being responsible for our family’s welfare, has to do with our own future. Think about when you retire: will you be prepared? Do you have anything set aside for emergencies? For college?


You should try to save as much money as you can in your dialing living. Costs are going up, due mainly to higher energy costs, so it is important to save as much money as you can. Save energy especially, which has benefits beyond just saving you money, but be prudent in other expenditures as well. Remember, however, that I’m not saying you should become a cheapskate. What I’m saying is that you should be wise in how you spend your money, not wasting it – in other words, exercising good stewardship. We should be generous when generosity is called for, but be prudent in daily living. We often tend to be generous with ourselves (“I deserve it”) and less than generous with others and with the church. It should be the reverse as we are told in Hebrews 13:16:

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. NRSV

The Apostle Paul advised the following in 1 Timothy 6:17-19:

As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life. NRSV

These and many other passages echo what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6:19-34, which can be summarized like this:
Don’t store up treasures on earth – too easy to lose and can’t take it with you.
You cannot be the slave of two masters – usually money will win out.
Don’t worry about having something to eat, drink, or wear.
Don’t keep asking yourselves, “Will we have anything to eat? Will we have anything to drink? Will we have any clothes to wear?”
Don’t worry about tomorrow.

I suggest that you begin a program that will free up significant amounts of cash each month. In that way you can offset the higher costs you can’t control, use less of those things that are costly, and free up enough cash to increase your offerings to your church and donations to charities. God wants us to use the resources he’s given us wisely and responsibly, and expects us to give to God our first fruits. Giving generously to God becomes a lot easier when financial pressures are eased, so that’s why I am suggesting better money management.

Let’s commit follow the advice of Jesus, who told us to stop worrying about our needs and trust in God. Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel (Matthew 6:32-34):

Your Father in heaven knows that you need all of these. But more than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well. Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. CEV

Let’s commit to store up treasures in heaven, where they will be secure, and where rewards await us. Make your life on earth rich by being content with what God has given to you, making it a priority to serve God with your time, talent, and treasure.

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