Re-examing stewardship

Few topics bring such grunts and groans around the church like that of stewardship. No one, of course, likes their possessions and their wallets attacked.

For too long there has been in the church a strong correlation between stewardship and the raising of money for the operation of a local congregation. Stewardship and paying bills seem to go hand in hand in most parishioners’ minds.

The truth is, we are all stewards whether we think so or not. Stewards who actually own nothing. In his book, The Grace of Giving, Stephen Olford writes, “Man is a created, dependent being and as such is a steward of all he has. Man is not a possessor. He is only a manager. God created all things; therefore, He owns all things. Man does not possess his own life, time, gifts or wealth. He manages them.” Stewardship, then, is really nothing other than managing something that belongs to someone else.

We live in a culture of ownership. Even inside the church. We believe that we are true owners, not God. The Old Adam within us, our sinful nature, tells us that possessions come by our own earning. We fail to recognize that whatever we have in our hands is a gift from the Creator to be used for His glory. It is sheer idolatry to imagine we’ve gained all we have by the work of our own hands. Everything belongs to God. Nothing belongs to me. I am only a manager of God’s stuff.

“Stewardship is strictly between me and God,” people say. As Christian stewards, we are under the Word and will of God. Stewards don’t manage His things as they wish nor at a whim of how they feel today. Stewards manage according to the Owner’s desires. A faithful steward is one who has proven that he or she is worthy of the trust of the Owner. This does not mean doing extraordinary feats or spectacular accomplishments for God. Faithfulness is found in the consistency by which we execute the general day to day duties and responsibilities entrusted to us.

How often we try to assume the role of the Owner. Instead of managing all we’ve been given for the Master’s interests, we use them to satisfy our own comfort and pleasure. Do we squander the time God has given us on useless activities and mindless entertainment when we could volunteer to help our neighbor who needs us? Or visit the lonely? Do we take the time to teach, rebuke, encourage and train our children in righteousness or use them to inflate our own egos and treat them as our pampered prima donnas? Do we make marriage to be what we want it to be instead of the sacrificial service God designed it to be? Do we invest our gifts and abilities for the sake of our neighbor or build little kingdoms for ourselves with excessive land and buildings? Do we manage our own bodies, nutrition, and care of health as though we are temples of God’s Spirit? Or do we pollute our lives with garbage going into our minds and garbage going into our stomachs? Making oneself a human dumpster is simply bad stewardship.

We are created. The created is the property of the Creator. God owns us and wants to hold sway over every aspect of our lives. We are called to be faithful in our living, managing what has been entrusted, as though the Master were doing the work himself.

Poor stewardship has eternal consequences. Jesus’ parables in Matthew 25 and Luke 19 remind us there is a day of accountability, a day of reckoning coming. What is given to us is a trust of faithfulness. When that trust is found lacking, the judgment will be complete and severe. Much room for repentance remains for all of us. But Christ’s faithfulness, giving His life on a cross for sinners to save us and forgive us, moves us to being faithful in our service as His stewards.

Stewardship is such a crucial part of the Christian’s life. And I haven’t even touched on the subject of money. In fact, from my experience, it’s not the church that has attacked my wallet. It’s my children!