by: Rev. Ed Schneider
Beloved, I want to share with you some important thoughts concerning a rather touchy subject — stewardship.
Some of you will be happy to find out that this writing has little to do with money but rather the overall attitude that comes with a transformed heart and an inward desire to follow The Will of God. From a Christian perspective, the word stewardship has a broad spectrum of thought and application. Stewardship involves far more than mere dollar management.
Effective and Godly stewardship quite literally interacts with every part of our lives; and, when thought of correctly, it places us directly under the authority of Divine will. For those of us who take seriously this walk of faith we call Christianity, the practical display of stewardship is a constant reminder of both our “spiritual destination” and how far we are from achieving it. Beloved, our attitude toward — and the demonstration of — stewardship is a primary indicator of just how far we have traveled down the road of faithful, loving and Christlike maturation. In no small way, the world around us stands as a witness of our relationship with God Almighty as evidenced by our approach toward stewardship.
Many churches each year will organize, promote and implement a “stewardship” campaign. Undoubtedly, some of you have experienced this yearly drama of handing out “pledge cards” or “steward commitment” forms. Sadly, the entire process is centered on money. Yes, I know that a trustee, campaign chair or minister will give lip service to other peripheral things about giving and service in other aspects of the Christian life; however, let’s be honest, it’s about money. Beloved, the truth is money is only a very small portion of the Biblical idea of positive and Godly stewardship.
Stewardship involves all aspects of the gifts God has bestowed upon an individual’s life. So, the real question ought to be: “How broad is your concept of God’s gift upon your life?” Do you believe … really believe … God has blessed you with “life” itself? Do you believe … really believe … God has blessed you with your spouse, your children, your income or the place you get to call home? If you view all aspects of your life as an extension of God’s grace then stewardship takes on a much broader and deeper understanding of The Divine’s “universal” presence and participation in the components of your daily life.
Remember, the basic definition of the word stewardship carries the idea of taking “great care” of something that, in fact, belongs to another. If we look at three New Testament Scriptural sequences it will easily bring this universal concept of Christian stewardship to light.
In Luke 12:35-38, it says,
“Be ready and keep your lamps burning just like those servants who wait up for their master to return from a wedding feast. As soon as he comes and knocks, they open the door for him. Servants are fortunate if their master finds them awake and ready when he comes! I promise you that he will get ready and have his servants sit down so he can serve them. Those servants are really fortunate if their master finds them ready, even though he comes late at night or early in the morning.”
There are two essential elements to pay attention to: (1) The very act of stewardship is never-ending; and (2) The final evaluator is Christ Himself.
Being a good and faithful steward isn’t something “you do,” rather it is something “you are.” If you are grafted into Christ, if you are infused with the love of Christ, if you are actually owned by the blood of Christ then you no longer represent yourself. In all that you do you represent Christ. If you’re owned by Christ, you will be ultimately judged accordingly.
Beloved, if you are owned by Christ then by that very definition you are carrying the very essence of the crucified savior within you. The question then becomes, ”Are you taking care of the ‘character of Christ’ that has been invested within you?” Are you first and foremost thinking of another’s comfort and spiritual well-being before your own? Are you finding ways in all that you do to point to the Christ that is within you? When your wife, husband, children, grandchildren, friends or other church members see you, do they in fact experience “the Christ” you claim lives and breathes within you? When you accepted the blood-stained banner of Christ, then you claimed Christ not only as the “head of your life” but the very source of life itself.
Another tangible aspect of being a good and faithful steward is found in 1st Peter 4:10. It reads, “Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well.” Far too many of us sit around and never use the gifts given to us. If God has given you the gift of singing, accounting, painting, hospitality or whatever, don’t sit around and waste it. Use your gift to glorify God! Letting the gift waste away because of underutilization is shameful. You can’t properly care for something unless you intentionally exercise its usage. If someone gives you a field and you plant nothing, you have failed in being a good steward. If you have been blessed with a family, friend, career or a home then you have the responsibility to not only care for it but to utilize and grow that gift.
Why? Because God gave it to you to care for with love, respect and sincerity.
Finally, in Titus 1:7, we are warned that “Church officials are in charge of God’s work, and so they must also have a good reputation. They must not be bossy, quick-tempered, heavy drinkers, bullies or dishonest in business.” Those who’ve been given the great privilege of caring for a congregation — both laity and clergy — should strive for and be held to an extremely high level of Christian love, quality of ethics, patience, forgiveness, emotional health and universally “radical grace.” If not, they have already failed in their call to be good stewards of God’s people. All of us in church “leadership” should first and foremost have the attitude that we are to “care for” God’s property, not our own. Each soul, each pew, each note played or sung, each blade of grass, piece of literature, prayer offered or late-night visitation connected with the house of God needs to be taken very seriously.
In our care is God’s property, and it has been bought with a price. Beloved, the understanding of perpetual stewardship can never be lessened or cheapened by limiting stewardship to just money.