THE STEWARDSHIP ATTITUDE
- Learn the mandate to exercise authority over creation and fulfill your stewardship responsibilities
- Develop and practice a stewardship attitude
- Trim your budget by decreasing small expenses
The Biblical Concept of Stewardship
Key Scripture: On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. - 1 Corinthians 16:2
God as the Creator of all things has the undisputed right to rule. While still retaining this authority, he has granted much of it to humankind as his stewards. A steward is someone who has been given the management of a household or who has been delegated authority over another’s property and affairs. Therefore, a steward is not a "free agent" in discharging his duty, for authority implies limits. Furthermore, a Christian steward who cares for the property and affairs of the Most High God has an awesome responsibility and a divine mission.
From Genesis to Revelation, God’s stewards are commanded to:
Rule over his creation. "God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground’ " (Gen. 1:28).
Be found faithful. "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful" (1 Cor. 4:2).
Reign as kings and priests to serve God. "You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth" (Rev. 5:10).
To comply with God’s stewardship mandate, you need to pause and contemplate the obligations and privileges of being a Christian steward. There are five biblical implications concerning the proper handling of your responsibilities. You should:
1. Set priorities. "Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine" (Prov. 3:9-10).
2. Give generously. "One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed" (Prov. 11:24-25).
3. Practice patience. "The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty" (Prov. 21:5).
4. Give cheerfully. "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work" (2 Cor. 9:7-8).
5. Establish credibility. "Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else" (2 Cor. 9:13).
Those desiring to be good stewards should follow the six principles found in Mark’s account of the feeding of the five thousand:
1.Get alone with Jesus and ask what he has to say. "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest" (6:31).
2.Do not become totally committed to a particular plan. "When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things" (6:34).
3.Do not listen to "good" advice that is not godly. " ‘This is a remote place,’ they said, ‘and it’s already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat’ " (6:35-36).
4.Obey in spite of circumstances. "But he answered, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They said to him, ‘That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?" (6:37).
5.Act on God’s direction, even if you don’t understand. " ‘How many loaves do you have?’ he asked. ‘Go and see’ " (6:38).
6.Don’t plan God out of your finances. "Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. . . . They all ate and were satisfied" (6:41-42).
Developing a Stewardship Attitude
The development of a stewardship attitude requires:
A knowledge of what stewardship really is. " ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty" (Hag. 2:8). Since God owns everything, we are merely managers of God’s property.
A personal acceptance of that knowledge. "Humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you" (James 1:21). Knowledge needs to be transplanted from the head to the heart.
An implementation of that acceptance in works. "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:22). James realized the importance of acting on what you know and have accepted.
A joyful submission to the calling of God. "By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life" (Ps. 42:8) Blessings follow joyful actions whose source is a truly obedient heart.
When a Christian begins to plan financially, he or she must be careful that the aim is not solely monetary gain. A believer’s duty to God is much greater than gathering riches here on earth. All financial planners deal with money; yet one thing distinguishes secular financial planning from Christian financial planning—their focus. While secular planning concentrates on money, the power of compound interest, and investment return, Christian planning focuses on stewardship, the power of God, and obedience to God in financial investment.
Stewardship implies certain duties to be carried out by the steward. Generally, God spells out these duties to each individual. For example, a person who has been blessed with a large bank account must seek God’s will in the distribution of the money. The owner may direct you toward a specific investment and/or ministry, or he may have you to prepare specially for your family’s future. Whenever and wherever you discern God’s will, go in that direction.
While the specific task for each person is different, all Christians will be judged by the same standard. God has given different gifts, abilities, and callings, so each believer is called to be faithful in using these talents. Christians must account for their deeds and will be rewarded according to their faithfulness in stewardship.
With God’s guidance, goals should be set in three specific areas of stewardship:
Support of the ministry of the gospel. "Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor" (Gal. 6:6). In applying your stewardship resources to the support of a ministry, you should ask questions such as:
What is my personal knowledge of the missionary or organization?
Does the ministry exhibit good business practices?
For which ministries do I have a burden?
For which ministries do I have an interest?
How can I best promote and assist these ministries?
Should I designate time, talent, energy, or assets to these ministries, and in what proportions?
Support of family. "He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)" (1 Tim. 3:4-5). In family and personal matters, faithful stewardship is also a developed attitude. Christians should consider their family as God’s family. Therefore, it is only logical that some of the Owner’s resources should be used for their support and maintenance.
Pursuit of a career. "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field" (Matt. 9:37-38). Developing your talents and abilities is another opportunity to be faithful to God. Submitting your career choices to him and seeking his guidance in your decisions and plans is a way in which you can glorify God. If you are already established in a career, periodically ask him: Am I where you want me? Is my performance pleasing? Is a change needed? Asking is meaningless, however, unless you listen for his answers and then obey.
Stewardship attitudes in each of the above areas need to be practiced. Repeated application of God’s truth to the situations of everyday life will at last become righteous habits.
Life Application: Complete Worksheet 3-A, "The Giving Plan." After completing it, you will have answered the three important questions: When should I give? Where should I give? How much should I give? Remember to seek God's counsel first.