Day 4 – Embracing the Role of a Steward
A steward, in biblical times, was a person who managed someone else’s property, finances, or other affairs, and were not owners of the property they managed. Stewards were chosen from the most loyal and capable of servants within a household, and were held in high regard. With the position, the steward gained special access to their master, and along with that enjoyed extra privileges and favor. In return, the steward was expected to manage the household as if it was his own.
Likewise, God, as a wise master, entrusts His things and His wealth to those specially tested servants who are genuinely and acutely aware that they own nothing. Until we recognize that God is the owner and we are His money managers, nothing else the Bible says about finances is going to work for us the way God intended. (How Heaven Invades, p.71). Our understanding of our role, and capacity to manage and redirect God’s blessings to advance His Kingdom is what opens up the opportunity for God to direct blessings through us.
If one of my young children were to inherit $10,000 from a relative tomorrow, I would have a choice as their parent what to do with this (potential) blessing. Imagine, for a moment, telling an 6 or 8 year old that they were about to receive $10,000… to a young child that represents almost unfathomable riches! To give them full access to it would be an extravagant gift, but would it really be a blessing? No!!! A child does not have sufficient understanding of how to manage money to effectively handle this gift, and therefore it would either become squandered or a burden. So, what do we do as parents? We steward the money for our children until the time that they are prepared to manage it for themselves.
In the same way, God – who has access to limitless riches – often has to hold back the floodgates of blessing (material or otherwise) not because of who he is, but because we are not prepared to properly manage them. Jesus taught that “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will you Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him.” (Matthew 7:11) Our Heavenly Father desires to bless us extravagantly, but also is discerning as to when and how to do it.
So, what is our responsibility then as stewards? How do we become stewards who are prepared to receive full access to God’s blessings? Above all else, it first requires a heart that is locked in with God’s. Jesus taught to “seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33) If we are not in the practice of regularly renewing our minds and hearts and seeking after God’s will, we will never be able to function as his proxy here on earth.
As we align our hearts to God’s, we also must continue to grow in knowledge of how to effectively steward. Proverbs 2 tells us to “tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God. For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (v. 2-6) Would you entrust your life’s savings to a financial planner who had spent no time or effort studying personal finance and investing? Of course not! In the same way, God expects us to continue to seek after wisdom in the area of stewardship.
Armed with God’s heart and wisdom, we then have to start acting as stewards! It is not enough to have heart and mind connected to God’s will if we don’t put it into practice. In the parable of the three servants (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus tells the story of three servants who were entrusted by their master with various sums of money. All three servants knew their master and how to increase what they had, but only two of the servants actively worked and invested while he was away. As a result, when the master returned the two were rewarded with more abundance and responsibility. Isn’t it telling that the master was not so concerned with evenly distributing his money equally across the three? Rather, he expected each servant to be diligent and produce a return proportional to what they had been given.
God has given us a clear and simple blueprint of how we are to steward the material gifts he has entrusted to us – give, save, spend. These are purposely ordered, not necessarily in terms of percentages, but in how we should look to prioritize them to keep our hearts aligned to God’s character. “Money is a litmus test of where your heart is, who you are serving, and what you really believe about God.” (How Heaven Invades, p.104)
Jim Baker sums it up well in stating, “If you don’t see the value in following Christ enough that you would surrender your identity, your life, and even “all your possessions,” you will never get the basic points about life in the Kingdom. Giving 10% out of habit is not what Christ is after. We must renounce all ownership of all wealth and possessions. We must become obedient stewards.” (How Heaven Invades, p. 74). Giving is not about begrudgingly placing our tithe into the offering each week, it is about recognizing that we own nothing and are called to use everything we have to advance God’s Kingdom. In his first letter to the Corinthians (13:3), Paul writes, “if I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” Giving with the wrong heart is of no benefit – it’s just attempted bribery. (How Heaven Invades, p.3)
God expects us to not only give out of our abundance, but to prudently save in anticipation of future needs. Proverbs tells us that “the wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down” (21:20) and that “a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” (13:22) Through saving, we put ourselves into a better position to be a blessing to our families and those in need – not only today, but into the future.
Finally, we must also take time to spend and enjoy God’s blessings. The Father has specifically, intentionally designed this world for our enjoyment and benefit. He certainly doesn’t need it! Paul exhorted Timothy to “learn to enjoy the material world God created without falling in love with it.” (1 Timothy 6:17) The steward’s mindset is that we do not find joy in wealth because we possess it, but because we serve a master who delights in blessing us with his limitless riches!
“The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it.”