by Ron Dick, CVC Elder
As Christians, God calls us to be good managers of all that He has entrusted to us. To describe this calling, we often use one of those words you only hear at church…“stewardship.” But what does that really mean? The concept in the New Testament that describes and defines what it entails to be a servant before Christ is the word “stewardship” (Greek – oikonomia) which means the management of a household or household affairs). We see the concept of being a steward in the Bible as early as Genesis 2:15 when God created a lush garden and commanded Adam and Eve “to work it and keep it.”
Most Christians have a basic understanding of stewardship such as managing our time, talents, and treasures for God. However, in a broader sense, stewardship refers to managing all that God has entrusted to us such as our witness (Matthew 28:19), scripture (Psalms 119:11, Colossians 1:25), our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), our minds (Romans 12:1-2), our words (Matthew 12:36-37), our knowledge (Proverbs 22:6), and God’s grace (Ephesians 3:2) to name but a few. In other words, all means everything. So why do we focus mostly on the stewardship of money and possessions?
Pastor and author Andy Stanley puts it this way, “It is impossible to be a committed Christ-follower and remain financially irresponsible.” Why does he make such a strong declaration? It’s because the Bible tells us there is a direct correlation between our faith and our finances. In other words, a person’s relationship to money and possessions always impacts their relationship to Christ. As a matter of fact, we find in Matthew 6:21 that money and possessions are an issue of the heart. If you want to know where someone’s heart is at, look at their checkbook. More directly, if you want to know where your heart is at, look at your checkbook.
When I share Stanley’s quote, I sometimes get asked, “Are money and possessions really that powerful to draw our hearts away from God?” My response is, “You bet!” How do we know? In scripture, God has more to say about money than about heaven or hell or just about anything else. In fact, there are 2,350 verses on money and possessions in the Bible including almost half of the parables Jesus taught. One of the most personally convicting passages for me is Luke 16:1-13, the Parable of the Dishonest Manager. (You can watch a message by Chad Allen about this parable here.)
In this parable, we are told about a manager who had full authority to transact business for his master. However, he was dishonest and wasteful with his master’s resources who, upon discovering this, tells him to settle all accounts as he soon will be fired. The manager, knowing he couldn’t provide for himself otherwise, decided to shrewdly leverage the debts owed to his master by settling them for less in order to win friends and secure his future. When he is once again caught by the master, he is surprisingly commended for his foresight and shrewdness. The idea is that we should use what God has entrusted to us for the kingdom to come and to secure our eternal future.
Jesus sums up the parable this way:
“If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (vv. 11-13).
Notice that Jesus does not say “should not serve” but “cannot serve.” More importantly, He is telling us we have a choice. Those who are Jesus’ true disciples can either serve God or money, but not both. If your heart serves God’s interests, you are laying up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20). However, if your heart serves selfish, idolatrous interests and you are a poor steward, Jesus tells us, in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), that the worthless servant is to be cast “…into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Whomever or whatever you choose to serve, there are eternal consequences, good or bad.
Thus, if Scripture tells us our money and possessions are the #1 competitor for our allegiance to God and if it is that important to Him, we must take it seriously! So I urge you to thoughtfully answer the following questions: Whom do you love? Whom do you serve? (…and would your checkbook agree?) If the answer is God…go deeper. Continue to grow spiritually in this area and, through prayer and studying Scripture, pursue God’s will for your life and how you can best serve Him with your money and possessions.
If the answer is anything other than God, then repent and choose Jesus. Trust in the One who can transform hearts and lives. Trust in the One who saves. That’s the best place to start.
To learn more about what it means to be a good steward along with practical financial information, you can attend “Managing Money God’s Way,” a 2-week class from 9am-12pm on Saturdays: January 18 and February 1. You can register for the class here. The class is hosted and taught by Generous Life, a ministry of Cuyahoga Valley Church which provides opportunities for people to learn about and live a Christ-centered blessed life by embracing biblical financial and stewardship principles. Our goal is to see every person become a Christ-centered steward who gives generously, saves regularly, lives debt free, and understands God’s perspective on money and possessions.
If you want to know more or need help getting started in your stewardship walk, CVC’s Generous Life ministry will lovingly meet you where you are and help you grow. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.