Stewardship Part I
Q: What does stewardship mean to you?
There are two words that send the average congregation and common churchgoer into fear and panic, from the leadership and pastorate, that fears to offend or drive people away, to the church member who may be too far stretched in time and giving, and cannot give anymore, to the person who does not want to be convicted, lest he be forced to reach for the sacred will of his wallet or the exercise of His call. Yet, these two words are simple, and needed, because the church and the body of Christ could not function without them being proclaimed and exercised: These simple words are Stewardship and Evangelism.
Why such fear? Perhaps they necessitate a response that requires us to get up and do when we would rather sit down and don't. So, a cold shiver goes up the back of our complacency. These two words strike at the very heart and will of plans and ideas that we have set up for ourselves. They strike at our comfort, and the way of life we like and have designed for ourselves. Perhaps they even put us in front of the mirror of duty and requirement, of responsibility and a response to our free gift of grace, which we would rather not give. Then there is the world of complacency, where a Christian will just "pew sit" his way though life in his walk with Christ. A Sunday visit from time to time is more of a greater sacrifice than he can handle. His time is booked with the duty of his own plans and ideas. So when stewardship comes up, he realizes his failings. Guilt rears its ugly head, and calls for the primeval reaction of fight or flight. Thus, we can think we can fight against such requirements and proclaim they are not needed so we do not have to meet them. Or, we can run to another church that has no such requirement, so we can hide our inadequacies. I received my gift of grace, yet I will not send a thank-you, nor will I use it. It is to sit on my shelf for my comfort and insurance only. And, for the most part, God will let us keep it there.
That is the beauty of grace--no strings attached. But, what good is a car if all it does is stay parked? Without care, it will rust, degrade, and be of no value, even with 0 miles on the odometer. Yes, grace is given without strings attached, except for our faith. But, as the book of James proclaims, what good is it? What good is our salvation if it is only good for comfort and security? Of course, there is no greater Comfort or Security than our faith in Christ, so, why should we worry about temporary earthly pleasures, when so much more awaits us?
But, these words of Stewardship, sometimes referred to as tithing or Evangelism, and sometimes said of discipleship, do not need to be scary. Stewardship can be an act of love, and even fun! It can be a response to His love, which will give us much, much greater comfort than any plans or ideas on our part. Perhaps Christians want to give, but they do not know how. Maybe they just need to be told that all we have is not really ours to begin with. We are just temporary stewards of His treasures, time and talents. With such a view, we may see a pleasure in giving, and see the benefits as they help build the body of Christ.
"The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it" (Psalm 24:1)
The word, stewardship, simply means to manage someone else's property. For the Christian, as Scripture proclaims everything belongs to God, we manage the property of our Lord. Since everything belongs to Christ, we need to have the attitude and view that our things are His things, our stuff is His stuff, that all we could have now, all we have lost, all we will have, is His, including our very bodies and spiritual gifts. We are mere lessees of the property, money, relationships, talents, time, and even our lives. That means all that we are and all that we have are not really ours to begin with. They belong to God. So, the duty of the Christian is to learn how to become responsible stewards of our Lord's resources entrusted into our care. It means to manage everything to the best of our abilities for His glory (1 Cor. 4:2).
Looking to God and not to Self
Some Christians will have a big problem with what I am trying to get across here. Perhaps their will, pride, and assumptions have clouded their thinking. All we need to do is carefully and honestly examine what God's Word has to say!
Read each of these verses: Proverbs 3:9-10; Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2; 6:19-20; Ephesians 5:15-16
· What does Paul have to say?
· What does stewardship mean in these verses?
Stewardship is a reflection of our spiritual condition! We should never separate money and finances from our spiritual life. The distinction that the material world is not for the Christian is an old heresy called Gnosticism. The material world is God's too, and we are the stewards, the caretakers, of it. So, how we allocate the resources that God places in our care is a prime Christian duty that has no separation from the spiritual depth of Biblical character and maturity. All the areas in our life of work, learning, relationships, spiritual gifts, and resources will come through our obedience or our laziness--to God's glory or to waste.
Try to see it like this: we are on a playground that God owns, building equipment for the furtherance of the kingdom. At the same time, the storms of the devil and our complacency cause a hindrance and breakdown to the work. With spiritual strength we can fend off the devil, but it takes diligence, and a will surrendered to God to build the park and play the game.
· Stewardship honors God with all of the relationships and resources in our life! Thus, we are able to give Him gratitude for what he did for us and recognize His sovereignty, which is His control and ownership of all things. In this way we can honor Him with our worship as well as with our material goods and abilities.
· Stewardship is a priority! We need to take what we have and put it to the right use.
· Stewardship is exercising the gifts He gives, not letting them waste away. We are to find them and put them to use with joy. To do otherwise is a big waste and a travesty.
· Stewardship is being His faithful servant. It is the understanding of who we are in Him and being grateful for that. In addition, it is being willing to put forth the effort to please Him, even though we do not have to.
· Stewardship is recognizing that we belong to Him as a human being in His grace, that the church is not the building, but the body that gathers for worship and leaves for ministry! Those who just dwell in a building end up doing nothing there.
· Stewardship is being wise to the ways of the world, so we do not fall prey to it.
Read Matt. 25:14-30: What is the meaning of unfaithfulness?
· Stewardship is the wise use of our materialistic goods and abilities, as well as with our time. Wasting time, in the eyes of the Puritans, was a sin, and that notion did not originate with them, but with God's Word.
· Stewardship is being neither reckless or hiding from our duty by playing it safe.
Read Psalm 24:1; Acts 20:35; 2 Cor. 9:7; James 1:17: What are the standards for stewardship we are to have?
· Stewardship is recognizing that we, as Christians, as well as everything in creation, belongs to God.
· Stewardship is proportionate to what we are able to give. The poor person's small gift is just as important as the rich person's big gift! Sometimes, we cannot give as much as we would like to, due to economic realities, job loss, business not good, sickness, etc., so, we give honestly and efficiently whatever we can.
· Stewardship is the giving of ourselves and our resources with joy and gratitude for what we have been given. Stewardship is not something that results from a forced obligation or a bad attitude. Giving should always be cheerful! If it is not, then you are not really giving--are you?
· Stewardship is the comfort of knowing that everything comes from God. He gives us our clarity and the vision and character of what to be and do. We can trust in Him, and not in our materialistic goods.
Read Matthew 6: 25-34: How are worry, and the ability to give, tied together?
· What about our time? Do you always live in a rush? If so, does that please God? Does it leave time for important things, such as relationships and ministry?
· What is Righteousness?
· What about the Body and Kingdom of God?
· Stewardship is not worrying, but rather, trusting in Christ.
· Stewardship is not just focusing on our self-interests, but on His interests and on the interests of others as well.
· Stewardship means knowing that God is concerned with us personally--what we go through, deal with, and how we manage what He entrusts to us.
· Stewardship is focusing on God and not on the material things in and of themselves. We are always to view the material world with the perspective of being God's caretaker of it, not of its lust or greed.
Read Ephesians 5:15-21
· Write a list of the priorities in your life. Then, with the above verses in mind, ask yourself," How do my priorities line up with God's?"
· What can you do to line your up your priorities to be more like God's?
· Stewardship is the attitude of gratitude, being thankful in all things, even when we do not feel gratitude or see it.
· Stewardship sees every purchase as an investment, from food and gas, to houses and cars.
Stewardship is about being in community, working together and complementing one another's gifts, and abilities, and with what we can offer. It is the way we use the gifts He has given us in order to benefit the people in our church and those around us.
Read Rom. 12:3-8; and 1 Pet. 4:10: What are the gifts and abilities you have?
· How are you using them for the Body and the glory of Christ?
· How can you use them for the Body and for Christ's glory?
· Why does our Lord so often cite the use of money as an illustration?
· Stewardship means not making yourself the king when there is only one King. It is not to lift us up, but to lift up the Cross. It is to think soberly of who we are in Christ.
· Stewardship is recognizing our gifts and abilities as well as opportunities, then exercising the responsibility of their care. It is also cooperation with other stewards, to work as a team.
· Stewardship is recognizing the amazing wonder and power of grace that we did not deserve.
Read Hebrews 6:10; 13:16
· When we serve God and when we give, it is never in vain. It is never forgotten by the One Who counts!
· Why would God be pleased when we sacrifice?
· Why do most people, including Christians, hate to sacrifice?
· What can you do to be a person who sacrifices so it pleases God, and one who is mindful of the responsibly to be wise in doing so?
· Stewardship pleases God!
· Stewardship is worshipping God!
Read Proverbs 20:10; 22:7; Luke 12:15; 16: 10-11; Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 6:10
· Why is money important to you?
· Why and how is it important to the Lord?
· Stewardship means not being dishonest, not rationalizing dishonesty for personal or even Kingdom gain. We always need to bow to the covenant we have in Him not to dishonor or deceive.
· Stewardship is not the storing up of treasures for our comfort, for He is our comfort. Nor is it coveting what others have, even if we can rationalize it for Kingdom gain.
· Stewardship is taking care of the small, because it is as important as the big.
· Stewardship is not seeking the easy way out of work, but, rather, working hard.
· Stewardship is not loving and worshiping what we are to care for, while we forsake the One who gave it. It is not the material things that are evil; it is what we do with them that in violation of His character that is evil. Money, in and of itself, is not evil; it is the abuse of it that is.
Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15: What are the principles of giving cited here?
· Stewardship is not being cheap and skimping so we save a little, while we waste much more.
· Stewardship is the glorification of our Lord and Savior.
· Stewardship recognizes that our giving is a grain of sand to the beach that He gave us.
Read Mark 12: 41-44; Romans 12:10; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19-20; 3 John 2:
· What does it mean to you that God considers you His temple?
· With this information in mind, how are you going to respond to Him, and with the time, treasures, and talent in your life?
· How can you take better control and care of your body?
· Stewardship is a sacrifice of our will.
· Stewardship is honoring our relationships and the people around us.
· Stewardship is prospering in our maturity and relationship with Christ.
Read Psalm 50: 14-15; Proverbs 22:9, 28:13; Job 36:11; Isaiah. 48:17; Luke 6:38; Philippians 4:19
· What are God's promises regarding stewardship?
· Spend quality time in surrendered prayer; that is, pray with your will and desires set aside so you can listen to God and His wonderful plan for you!
· Prayerfully decide on how you plan to implement God's desires and call to be a better steward of all the relationships, time, talent, money, and resources in your life!
· Stewardship means knowing that if we obey, God will bless us for it.
· Stewardship means not covering up our sins, but confessing, and repenting.
· Stewardship will allow us to let God be our teacher.
· Stewardship means knowing that we are in community with those around us, so, we should exercise sound judgment and encouragement.
· Stewardship means trusting in our God, who provides for our spiritual and physical needs.
· Stewardship sees tithing as an investment, with eternal values in mind, not a loss of temporary goods.
Read 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:8-15
· Christ gave up His position and gave of Himself to save us. The widow gave what she had of herself through sacrifice (Mark 12; 41-44). The size of the gift is relative to what we are able to do. We are never to give what we do not have and expect God to put it back in our account. This is the action of the fool in Proverbs.
· Stewardship does not abuse the giver! You do not need to give beyond your ability to do so! The giver is not to abuse stewardship through false promises or by what he does not have, even if he has good intentions. Nor, should we ever give for the sole purpose that God will bless us! Our giving is a response, not a tool to get!
· Stewardship is a regular, normal, and daily endeavor!
Suggestions to better enable our financial giving:
View your promise to give to God that which is referred to as your tithe, like an income tax. Although it is not mandatory, it is a reflection of your character and response to His grace. As the government so nicely swipes away your hard-earned money from the top of your paycheck, consider joyfully setting also the top 10% of your net, or better yet, the gross income, for the Lord's service-- before the bills, expenses, and entertainment. Do not include the tithe in your budget. Make your budget on the net assets you have after the tithe and taxes. Then, you will have a more realistic budget and keep yourself from getting into debt. That way, it is done and out of the way. Then, carefully decide to whom it should go. The primary responsibility is first to your local church, and second to ministries that are doing the Lord's work. Remember, the people who set aside the first fruits of their resources to God are dedicating themselves to God, and not themselves to themselves.
This will also allow you to give more easily and continually. We will look more at this in the next few months.
Richard Joseph Krejcir is the Director of 'Into Thy Word Ministries, 'a discipling ministry. He is the author of the book, Into Thy Word and is also a pastor, teacher, speaker and a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena California. Hehas amounted over 20 years of pastoral ministry experience, mostly in youth ministry, including serving as a church growth consultant.