Dear friends, I would like to spend some time on the subject of stewardship, the giving of our time, talent and treasure back to God.
What “public” subject do we always talk about openly; but when it is “personal,” refuse to utter a word? What do we always offer advice and counsel about to others, but refuse to hear a single word from them about—because it is NONE of their
business. What of “theirs” do we think ought to be common knowledge but of “ours” ought to be a secret? What can we manage better than they can? What subject are we more reluctant to discuss than sex, especially in church?
But of course … the subject is money—my money and what I do with it!
What is it about your and my money that makes it a taboo subject in church? We always talk about the “church’s” money … but “who” is the church but you and me. Moreover, there comes a time when we must talk about our money and how we use it to do God’s work, the work of the church, and to begin that conversation we need to have a common understanding or basis to work from, and for us Christians, which is biblically based.
So, let us look at the subject of money from a scriptural perspective.
—a person put in charge of the affairs of a large household or estate, whose duties include supervision of the kitchen and the servants, management of household accounts, etc.
one who acts as a supervisor or administrator, as of finances and property, for another or others
a person morally responsible for the careful use of money, time, talents, or other resources, especially with respect to the principles or needs of a community or group
Scripture tells us that all we possess, which includes our money, belongs to God and that we are stewards of His possessions; therefore, what we do with, or manage, of God’s is relational. Hence, we must understand our Stewardship as Relationship—a relationship with God and all of His creation.
Let us begin by reflecting on the relationship that God has established with mankind, as He pours out the goodness of His grace and love. God’s benevolence is boundless and unconditional to those who simply accept it; His love is a free gift to all believers. God gave of Himself by taking on human flesh in Christ Jesus and enduring the cross for the benefit of fallen mankind. John 1, “1
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … 14
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” This Word, Jesus the Christ, became flesh and established by example the right relationship between mankind and God and fellow creatures. The foundation of this relationship is love, as Paul states in Romans 13, “8
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” and in 1 Corinthians 13, “7
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8
Love never ends.”
God’s will for us is to love our neighbor as He loves us: freely, unconditionally, and generously as a response to His grace and love. This giving is to be a gracious responsive work founded in the grace that we first received from God. We are called to be imitators of God, to live in the image of Jesus and to be examples to others (2 Corinthians 9:8).
Out of God’s graciousness, we respond as stewards of His gifts. In our Baptism, we are called to be “stewards,” not just caretakers of His affairs or household; but in a broader sense:
The steward is a particularly apt metaphor for humanity because it encapsulates the two sides of human relatedness, the relation to God on the one hand and to the nonhuman creatures of God on the other. The human being is, as God’s steward, accountable to God and responsible for its fellow creatures.
Our relationships with family, friends, congregation, church, community, nation, and all people are reflections of our relationship with God. The right relationship with our sisters and brothers and all creation are based on Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.”
Stewardship is a response to Christ’s example of giving; He gave of Himself so that others might be enriched. 2 Corinthians 8:9 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.” Christ gave man’s ultimate gift for man’s ultimate need, His life for the atonement of our sins. We therefore, must respond by meeting the creaturely needs of others, as exemplified by the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 “36
‘Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You go, and do likewise.’” Our giving is to be a thanksgiving to God for all of His benevolence, 2 Corinthians 9:12 “For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.”
Paul states in Philippians 4:18 “I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” The fruits of our stewardship are to be overflowing, more than enough to meet the basic needs, a fragrant gift, a sacrifice. Jesus defines a sacrifice in Matthew 19:21 “Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’” Our giving is to be motivated out of our love of God and our neighbor. Stewardship is the enactment of our love not simply a warm fuzzy emotion, inflated promises or well-meaning intentions: it is agapa
action—love that is reaching out transforming human lives by converting words into realities. One is not to be boastful about one’s self but humble, 2 Corinthians 8:24 “So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men.”
Stewardship is giving of one’s self and one’s resources in service to God and our brothers and sisters. We are to imitate Christ in our commitment and service in the realization that we are children of God and servants of Christ, not autonomous beings. Perhaps it would be better to say that we are slaves because, 1 Corinthians 6, “19
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” God has complete entitlement to our lives, who and what we are, our possessions and resources. Our giving in relationships can be signs of our commitment to His will, “stewards in all phases of life—in [our] relationships with one another, in [our] everyday worldly existence, in [our] attitude towards nature, and in [our] conduct of individual and corporate public life.”
Giving is a test of maturity. Those who are truly grown-up, give. The immature do not. It is wise to practice giving in every area of life. Give your feelings to others. Give money where it is needed and can truly help someone. Give attention. Give thoughtful, well-reasoned advice. If you are lonely, it is especially helpful to give. Give by taking on charity jobs or helping with fundraising. But — most of all — give thanks to the Lord for your many blessings and let us begin our conversation about money.
Douglas John Hall, The Steward, A Biblical Symbol Come of Age, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company and New York: Friendship Press, 1996, p. 26.
Douglas John Hall, The Steward, A Biblical Symbol Come of Age, p. 241.