Stewardship is not just a way of life; it is a good way of life. In fact, for many, it is a way to a better life. Stewardship means belonging to God. It means allowing God to rule our lives, putting God in charge of everything, including our time and our money. Surrendering control does not come easily to any of us. But God is good at ruling people’s lives. If we really do belong to God and if we really do put God in charge of everything, we will not be the worse for it.
Giving is one way of participating in a relationship with the God who loves and cares for us, of enjoying a deep and satisfying relationship with the God to whom we belong. Understanding the good news of stewardship means discovering the way of life that the Bible calls “belonging to God.”
Mark Alan Powell in his book, “Giving to God: The Bible’s Good News about Living a Generous Life” begins by exploring the good news of Scripture that makes giving to God something we want to do. It is an act of worship, an expression of faith, and a spiritual discipline.
An Act of Worship
Giving is an act of worship, an instance in which we are invited to give up something that we value – our money – as a sacrifice to God. We come to church to worship God and the offering is a high point of our liturgy. We are invited to give not because the church needs our money but because we want and need to give it. Through our offerings we can express our love and devotion for God in a way that is simple and sincere. The motivation of the giver is what counts most.
People give for all sorts of reasons, but the good news of biblical stewardship is that we are encouraged to give out of glad and generous hearts, motivated by sincere love for God. If we give out of a sense of compulsion or out of self-interest, there is a good chance that we will end up feeling used. Giving that is grounded in the good news of biblical stewardship never leaves us with hollow emotions. When we give cheerfully, as an act of worship, the very act of giving moves us to devote ourselves to God.
An Expression of Faith
Stewards are people who live in a place they do not own, making full use of (but also taking care of) things that do not belong to them. Sometimes, stewards forget they are stewards and think the property entrusted to them is their own. Being stewards is not something we choose to be. We may choose to be faithful stewards or unfaithful stewards, but that we are stewards is a given. What a high privilege it is to be stewards of God. We are agents chosen by God to bring about God’s purposes.
Theologian Douglas John Hall has explored what is implied by the symbolism of calling people stewards. He tells us that this “ancient piece of wisdom about the human vocation” locates us in the grand scheme of things: not divine, but divinely chosen. We own nothing but manage everything. God trusts us in a way that we are reluctant to trust each other and places confidence in us beyond anything we can imagine.
Stewardship is a matter of putting our faith into action, figuring out what it means to believe this, in down-to-earth, practical terms, and living accordingly. Stewardship is an expression of faith that moves us from creed to practice, from claiming to believe something to living out that belief in real and obvious ways. Stewardship puts into practice our faith in God as our Creator, our Redeemer, and our Sustainer.
Perhaps the most important implication of believing in God as Creator is, believing that we are creations. This is only logical, but many people find it easier to believe that God is the Creator than to believe that they are creations – that their very existence, their personality, their intellect, and all of their various traits and abilities ultimately derive from something other than themselves. Those who live as people who belong to God experience life at its absolute best.
Giving is a Spiritual Discipline
The Bible presents stewardship as a spiritual discipline. When we come to understand stewardship as a spiritual discipline, we move away from a focus on requirements (“what we are supposed to do”) to a discovery of possibilities that we might not have known were available. Of all the spiritual disciplines that are presented in the Bible, stewardship is special in that it is the most directly connected to the status and condition of our hearts. Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Our treasure is whatever we value – our money, our time and our possessions, our families and our physical bodies. Whatever we value – that is our treasure. And Jesus says that what we do with our treasure affects our hearts – it determines who we are inside. It determines what sort of people we become. We can control our hearts by deciding what sort of people we want to be, and then giving our treasure to those things that we want to care about.
Paul instructed Timothy to tell the people “to do good, be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
POJ Associate for Stewardship
(*Excerpts from “Giving to God: The Bible’s Good News about Living a Generous Life.”)