“Your checkbook reveals all that you really believe about stewardship . . . . A person who has been a Christian for even a short while can fake prayer, Bible study, evangelism, attending church, but he can’t fake what his checkbook reveals.” Ron Blue, Master Your Money
I recently read a book titled Don’t Say $#%&cX in Church by Bo Chancey. It begins with this sentence: “Let’s talk about money and God. More directly . . . let’s talk about your money and your God.” We are generally okay with having conversations about money or conversations about God, but conversations about our money and our God are off-limits because it becomes very personal and specific.
Trust me, I get it – the majority of mail, spam messages, and telephone calls we receive are trying to manipulate us to do something, buy something, or donate something. Vacationclubs, timeshare deals, mortgage refinancing, police/fire supporters, and hosts of other people and causes try to convince us to give to their cause or buy their product. To be honest, some of us try to absent ourselves from church when we know that “Stewardship Month” is in full swing. There is something uncomfortable in having conversations about our money and our God.
Perhaps the idea of Biblical stewardship is uncomfortable because it requires us to evaluate our hearts and our financial responsibilities through the lens of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. But the reality is that God sees our financial issues as connected to our heart. Ron Blue masterfully observes: “Your checkbook reveals all that you really believe about stewardship . . . A person who has been a Christian for even a short while can fake prayer, Bible study, evangelism, going to church, but he can’t fake what his checkbook reveals” (Master Your Money).
God understands that money matters to us and, therefore, it matters to Him. The Bible contains more than 2,000 verses about money. Jesus used money more than any other subject in his teachings. Almost half of the parables and 15 percent of Jesus’ teachings are centered on money. Perhaps God provides His people with these vast instructions because He knows how much His people struggle with this issue.
When I was a congregational minister, I would preach one series (four sermons) each year on stewardship. However, if we followed the pattern of Jesus and spoke 15 percent of the time on finances, the church would regularly hear messages about money about eight times a year.
Biblical stewardship begins with the understanding of the principle of ownership. Psalm 24 begins with “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” In the beginning of Genesis, God creates everything and puts Adam in the garden to work it and to take care of it. It is clear that man was created to work and that work is the stewardship of all of the creation that God has given him. This is the fundamental principle of biblical stewardship. God owns everything: we are simply managers or administrators acting on his behalf.
Therefore, stewardship expresses our obedience regarding the administration of everything God has placed under our control, which is all-encompassing. Hugh Whelchel, Executive Director, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, says, “Stewardship is the commitment of one’s self and possessions to God’s service, recognizing that we do not have the right of control over our property or ourselves.”
One concept many people share finds a voice in Deuteronomy 8:17: that our wealth is the result of our own hard work. That voice states, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But the very next verse, Deuteronomy 8:18, brings us back to truth: “Remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” We are stewards of God’s money; everything we have is to be held in trust to advance his kingdom.
Another principle of biblical stewardship is responsibility. Bill Peel writes in his book Leadership Is Stewardship that “Although God gives us ‘all things richly to enjoy,’ nothing isours. None of the possessions are owned by us – everything is owned by God. We are managers of those things that belong to God; we’re responsible for how we treat it and what we do with it. Owners have rights; stewards have responsibilities.” Here is a commandment that some of us may have tried to ignore: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Tim. 6:17).
One of the clearest teachings in scripture is found in Matthew 25:14-30, the Parable of the Talents. A talent was worth about 20 years of pay at the rate a day laborer was paid. A master called his servants together and gave one servant five talents, another two talents, and another one talent. The master told them to use that money and that he would settle up with them when he returned. The first servant invested well and doubled the five talents to ten; the second was faithful and doubled the two to four. But the servant given one talent buried it in the ground. The two servants that doubled their master’s money were praised as “good and faithful servants” (vv. 21, 23). The servant that buried the talent – and yet returned the original amount to the master – was called “a wicked and lazy servant” (vs. 26). This passage clearly shows that Christ-followers are responsible and accountable to God for everything He entrusts them with. So, either Jesus is Lord of all or he is not Lord at all. If he is Lord, then we are stewards of everything entrusted to us and will be held accountable for what we do with all of it.
As 21st century Christians, we need to embrace this larger biblical view of stewardship that connects everything we do with what God is doing in the world. Consider the work done around the world in the name of Jesus through His Church. Think of the billions of people whose lives have been transformed by the generosity of faithful Christians handling money in ways God desires. We have hospitals, homeless shelters, orphanages, addiction programs, mental health care, mission organizations, prison ministries, Christian colleges and seminaries, and much more. Bo Chancey writes, “It is impossible to imagine how dark our world would be if not for the light of God shining through the generosity of His Church” (Don’t Say “$#%&X” in Church, p. 10).
Our financial giving to the church, Christian organizations, and mission enterprises builds bridges to advance the Kingdom of God around the globe. That is something to be thankful for and excited about!
Building bridges to advance the Kingdom,