This is our third study on the topic of stewardship. Before I go on I want us to understand that the idea of stewardship in the bible is not just another word for giving money. To be a steward means to have a position of responsibility, to be a good manager of someone else's goods as well as your own. A good steward knows how to handle money, his own as well as someone else's.
In our last few lessons we have reviewed the motivation for giving as well as the manner in which we give. Today I would like to examine how we, as good stewards (that is what we are as Christians, steward's of God's blessings) are to plan for the various opportunities that God regularly places before us in order to challenge our giving.
Propper Response of a Steward
If you are a V.P. or a manager in a company, or supervisor at a plant or federal/state agency and your superior calls you in and lays before you a job, a contract, a goal, an objective, what will be your response? If you are a contractor, independent business man, tradesman or one who provides a service of some kind and you are faced with a new job, a new client or class how do you respond? Do you pout and stamp your foot? Do you groan and complain and try to find a way to avoid the task? If you are a manager, business man, V.P or one responsible, you know that you did not get where you are by having this kind of attitude towards a new challenge.
Stewards are God's V.P.s, His managers, His supervisors who maintain and distribute His resources. The difference between the world and the church is that in the church everyone is a steward, not just a few. In the world only a few supervise. When God presents us with a challenge, a goal, an objective, a job to do we need to respond like good stewards, not bad ones (who complain, try to duck the responsibility, or who go ahead but with a sigh and a negative attitude, in a word, a man of little faith). A good steward (a good and faithful steward) will see the task ahead, the challenge, the call and will respond with a willingness to serve and a desire to succeed in service to the Lord.
Practical Plan for Generous Giving
As far as our various projects are concerned, the objective has not been simply a large amount of money, the objective has been to encourage each and every steward (each person in the church) to give generously. Just throwing out a big number is too impersonal, seems too far away as an objective for one single individual. This is why the objective for each one of us is a little more personal. The challenge, the objective, the goal in our giving is that each one of us give more generously than we have in the past, regardless if there is a project or not.
In order to reach this individual goal, to break this psychological and spiritual barrier, we have to have a plan, a steward's plan for generous giving and that plan requires that each of us do five things:
1. Think Like Stewards
We need to understand how things work in the kingdom when it comes to wealth. We need to learn how to think and see things like one who is a steward in the Lord's church. For example:
A. We need to realize that God owns everything and what we have, we have because of Him (rich or poor), not whatever you do not have, whatever you do have.
Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.
- I Timothy 6:17
B. Our role as stewards is to manage what He has provided and give God glory with its use.
If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.
- I Timothy 6:8
- So much of it for the work of the work of the church (offering).
- So much of it for our use in maintaining Christian homes and families in an unbelieving world.
- So much for the maintenance of an orderly society (taxes, etc.).
If this is our mindset we are thinking like stewards and not how worldly minded unbelievers who think:
- That all they have or own is a result of their efforts.
- That their wealth is to be used to purchase their own comfort and security.
- That "giving" is a favor they do and not a basic responsibility.
When we begin thinking like stewards however, it affects not only our handling of many, but also affects every aspect of our lives. For example:
- We gain a new balance and poise. If our income is down then as stewards we trust God and wait for Him to provide as we serve Him with what we have (II Corinthians 8:12). If our income is up we rejoice and serve Him faithfully without pride or greed (Deuteronomy 8:18).
- We avoid becoming materialistic. If we know god is the owner and source, we want to please Him with our management and wealth and not give in to purely selfish desires. As stewards we are more concerned about getting into overloading debt. Some Christians are so in debt for unnecessary or overly expensive things that they have nothing left to serve and glorify God with, we use up all our resources so we do not have to serve the Lord with any of them.
- Stewardship mentality helps us in the way we spend out money. Stewards always consider the effect on the kingdom their lifestyle and purchases are going to make. If we are going to act and give like good stewards of God's blessings, we have to begin to think like stewards and not like unbelievers who only think of themselves and this world.
2. Act Like a Trusted Manager
Psychologists tell us that the way to change behavior is to change thinking. If you begin thinking like a steward it will not be long before you begin acting like a steward. Our actions as trusted managers will be noticeable because the Bible describes what trusted managers act like:
- Our giving will follow the pattern set down by the Bible. The pattern I explained last week in I Corinthians 16:2.
- Regular giving - each first day.
- Personal giving - a personal responsibility.
- Prepared giving - an amount previously decided.
- Proportional giving - in relation to our blessings.
- Good Stewards are careful about their giving because they know that it is a mark of their stewardship.
- We will consider the welfare of the church as a personal responsibility. True stewards have a sense of "ownership" concerning the church, they feel the burden of responsibility for its well being and growth. A good steward does not feel that the church belongs to the preacher or elders and they are only visiting. A Good steward wants not only financial input but wants to pull his or her weight in supporting the church. Our projects now and in the future will not succeed unless everyone has a realistic investment of money, time or service in their final completion. Hopefully, financial challenges will transform many of us being members to becoming stewards.
So if we want to create a steward's plan for generous giving we must think like a steward, act like a steward, and...
3. Feel Like a Precious Heir
If we understand that our role as a steward is preparing us for future blessings we will be able to give generously, cheerfully, and share the burden for church growth. God does not need our money or our help but He accepts it because He is trying to teach us and bless us through this activity:
- Good Stewards learn to trust in God and not in themselves or material things. There is great joy, peace and satisfaction that comes to a person who has learned to trust in God, as stewards must do.
- Good stewards become witnesses of God's providence. Only though effective stewardship do we become aware of how God works in our lives and the lives of others and this builds our faith and hope. Only when you break the barrier do you find out what God can do.
- Good stewards themselves experience more perfectly, more fully God's grace. When you have totally given up focusing on yourself, spending for yourself, serving your own needs exclusively and begin to be God's steward, you will experience his care for you and your life's needs. Where your strength will end, His will begin.
Stewards are being prepared for the day when they will sit on the right hand of God to reign with Christ as stewards. We should not groan or weasel out of our stewardship role because we are being prepared for a far greater role in the future.