Thoughts of Stewardship
By Rev. Thomas J. Conant
I have shared about managing time as if every second was a precious commodity given to us by God that is to be spent wisely in order to bring Him the most benefit and pleasure. Also that we should view every talent, skill, learned ability, or spiritual gift as uniquely shaped in us by God so that it can be used by Him to build and advance His kingdom purposes. In this area we become like a violin in the hands of the virtuoso performer. As we allow Him God brings beautiful music from us through the gifts, talents, and abilities He has given to us. By the same token, if we do not surrender these abilities to Him, we can never get the same musical quality on our own.
Another dimension of our lives is very down to earth and personal. It is the dimension that best represents the sum total of our labor, productivity, sweat, and energy in life. This area is our wealth and possessions. The Bible is very clear in reminding us in many ways that the things we possess, whether monetary or material, all come to us through the favor and kindness of God. Psalm 24:1, says, The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. It is vital, as God’s children, that we come to understand that our Father in heaven owns every thing and person, especially His redeemed, adopted children (You are not your own. I Cor. 6:19).
When we reach the place of fully acknowledging that God owns all the stuff that is in my hands, we can begin to accept that He has the authority to direct me in how to manage that stuff. An analogy might be if I worked for Best Buy as a store manager. The entire store is trusted to me by the owner, or board of directors. I understand that I have a certain amount of autonomy as the manager to accomplish the job they give me, but I am expected to manage the store according to the company’s philosophies of managing and leading. I am expected, at the end of the day, to represent the company in a way that makes the owners look good and results in a profit. As the manager, if I carry out the owner’s directions and profits come in, I stand to benefit because of the owner’s pleasure with my management.
Christian, this almost perfectly describes what stewardship of wealth and possessions is about. God puts into our hands the “store”, so to speak. He gives us a certain degree of autonomy as the “store manager”, yet has laid down some management guidelines that He expects we will follow. He also expects that as we manage “the store” for Him, it will continually point to His own goodness and generosity, and eventually bring Him a profit. On top of that, God actually promises that there will be bonuses if we manage according to His direction. Malachi 3:10 actually challenges us to test whether God’s guidelines will result in bonuses – Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.
Wow! That is a tremendous promise and challenge. Maybe you haven’t yet tried to put God’s money management guidelines into practice. Perhaps, the idea of giving a tithe (10% of your income) as what Proverbs 3:9 calls the first fruits of your increase, still makes you a bit nervous, thinking, “How will I make it if I give 10% to the church?” I admit, it almost sounds counterintuitive from a fiscal perspective. I am sure that it is something that frightens many Christians the first time they consider doing it.
Let me assure you, I would not even tell you about this if I had not seen God keep His promise over and over and over. I am so sold out on the idea of God’s methods of money management that I am more fearful of not tithing than of tithing. I know of one family who committed 10% of part time income to missions and another 10% to the building fund. I think that was after they already tithed, because they are tithers. That year the income they received from that part time job doubled! I have experienced giving up to and just over half of my family’s total income in tithes, faith promises to missions, building fund offerings, etc., and somehow God supplies every single need our family has and then some.
Paul shared a principle in II Cor. 9:6-8, that shows us God’s commitment to us in terms of our management of His resources. Listen to what He says, Remember this, Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. Think about it. God’s promise is not only that generosity will be rewarded with a great harvest but also that He will ensure that we always have what is necessary to meet our needs and, as we practice generosity, we will have enough to continue to abound in every good work. The more generous we are, the more generous, He will enable us to be.
Now let me throw out a hard question. With these promises in mind, do we really believe that what we believe is really real? In other words, do I believe that God really will take care of me? The answer to that is revealed clearly in how I practice stewardship. If I believe God will take care of me, tithing is not a problem, it is a pleasure! If I believe God will take care of me, I can make it an adventure to find ways to give so that I get to experience the creative ways that God gives me more so that I can give more.
Written by Rev. Thomas J. Conant, Senior Pastor at Christian Chapel in Virginia Beach, Virginia.