Carefully and responsibly managing something entrusted to one’s care.
Most Christians could probably give a fairly accurate definition of stewardship – but far too many don’t practice good stewardship.
As a matter of fact, we don’t use the word stewardship much in everyday conversation, but we’re all familiar with the term management. A business manager oversees the use of a company’s resources including money, machinery and personnel in order to profitably provide a product or service in harmony with the company’s purpose and values – and that’s stewardship.
- The Bible tells us that God created the earth and everything that’s in and on it. So, it is safe to say that God owns it all – as in lock, stock and barrel.
“The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it. For He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers” (Psalm 24:1–2 NASB).
- And the Bible clearly indicates that we have been created in the very image of God and are given the task of managing God’s wonderful property – all of it.
“God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves o[Or creeps ]n the earth’” (Genesis 1:28 NASB).
“The LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15 NASB).
Whatever else “created in God’s image” indicates, at least it implies that we have the prospect and privilege to be full partners with God in maintaining His vast creation, not as slaves of menial tasks, but as gifted managers commissioned to creatively oversee the resources around us in order to produce what God values most.
However, problems can arise in the struggles of day-to-day living that cause us to lose sight of our awesome and honorable assignment as managers, or stewards, of God’s property. God has divided the job among so many of us that most of us have direct responsibility for what may be only a very small amount of resources.
What resources has God asked you to manage? Of course you’ve got a car, maybe a house with a mortgage and possibly some money in the bank. Chances are that you don’t see those things as assets you’re managing on behalf of God – you see them as your possessions. But, are they yours?
What might happen if you were to understand that those things that you consider yours really belong to God? Your life would dramatically change if you were to understand that what you’ve thought of as yours really belongs to God, and you need to manage those things according to His values and in pursuit of His extremely important agenda.
Admitting that what you have belongs to God doesn’t limit your importance in a faulty world. Instead, this perspective actually gives you dignity you may not have known was yours.
God’s goal isn’t simply to keep you and your family reasonably comfortable – He has a kingdom to build, and you’re a part of His management team in accomplishing that plan.
- The bad news is that often we’re prone to behave as though we own what we can get our hands on and then set our own rules for how we use those things. But if we look around us we can see how mismanagement – lack of good stewardship – based on sin has yielded some pretty disastrous results.
- The good news is that when King Jesus came to earth, the kingdom of God arrived. And as the King’s voluntary subjects, Christians are to acknowledge Jesus as the rightful owner of the resources we manage. That means we’re to manage His property according to God’s values and to accomplish His will according to His Word – stewardship.
Christians need to understand that opportunities to achieve God’s agenda in building His kingdom involves not only our material possessions, but also our abilities, knowledge, skills and relationships.
To make it really simple – everything from your backyard and bank account to your mind and body - is a resource that you must manage for God. No false humility required here, you are an important member of God’s management team – stewardship.
You may be thinking, Sure, sounds good, but I have a job, medical bills, the car needs tires, the kids need braces and the economy has all but flat-lined. So, if God owns everything – can’t He do most of this stuff Himself or at least help with some of my bills?
Building the kingdom of God and stewardship aren’t simply “nice ideas” for which missionaries, pastors, Bible teachers and youth workers are responsible. Kingdom building certainly includes those responsibilities, but ministry and stewardship begins with God working inside of you and me.
The key to having an appropriate sense of stewardship, with the ability to make clear and wise choices, is to consciously take this first step: hand over ownership of all your resources to God. You could look at it this way. You don’t have – and you never will have – enough money, possessions or time not to take this step. The alternative will draw you to, or keep you in, the modern rat race that leads nowhere.
Stewardship can seem daunting. After all, being managers of our families, possessions, the earth and builders of a kingdom isn’t small stuff. But remember, God promises us that He’ll never require something of us that we cannot accomplish. Furthermore, whatever God may require of us, He provides the ability to achieve.
“God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed”(2 Corinthians 9:8 NASB).