Stewardship is the word the church most frequently uses when speaking of money—-it essentially means looking after what belongs to someone else. Stewards manage resources that do not belong to them. When you put your money in the bank, the bankers act as stewards of your money. They take care of it for you. You entrust it to their good judgement. You express confidence in their ability and integrity. Frequently lawyers, stockbrokers, investment companies and trust companies act as stewards of our finances.
Great problems arise when these stewards begin to act as though the funds entrusted to them belong to them. The bank teller who begins to use the deposited funds as personal income is quickly removed. The lawyer who draws on entrusted funds for personal use is immediately discredited.
In one church, there was a treasurer where everyone, including herself, said she “looked after the church’s money as if it was her own.” The difference was that only she thought that was a good thing! She had forgotten it was money given to the glory of God, for God’s use, and that she wasn’t God. And the church suffered for it.
For the people of God, stewardship expresses the realization that everything we have ultimately belongs to God. Followers of Jesus are gradually learning that what they have always referred to as my money is, in fact, God’s money. What we have previously thought of as my time, is in fact time that God has given us to use wisely…. This talents I thought I had gained on my own, as a “self-made” person, are actually things God prepared me for!
The book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell says something that Christians have known all along. He looks at highly successful people in our world, and searches for the origins of their success. Not once does he find a self-made person who engineered 100% of their own success. Each had unique opportunities handed to them, which allowed them to excel. This is how Christians have always known our lives to work!
This is a shift: We are now managing the money, time and talents that have been entrusted to us by God, in order to make sure that God’s work is done. When applied to personal finances, to how we use our time and our natural skills and abilities, “stewardship” is an absolutely radical concept. It goes to the very core of who we are and how we see ourselves.
Growing Christians are learning that our money, our time and our natural skills are resources to be used in ways that will allow God’s purposes to be realized. Amazingly we are given total freedom in this. There are no set rules or specific suggestions, only the objective. The challenge is to use our imagination and our creativity in thinking out how we will apply our money, for example, to this purpose. As we learn more about God our awareness of the opportunities to use our money in this way will increase….charities, individuals, families and church ministries will all show us ways we can make a difference.
Obviously this perspective isn’t developed overnight…..The ability to live with this perspective is a mark of advanced Christian maturity, and none of us are likely there yet.