Before I go into the material at hand I want us to understand that the term "stewardship," in the Bible, is not simply another word for the giving of 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, therefore, knows how to handle money, whether it is his own or it belongs to someone else.
In the previous chapters we reviewed the motivation for giving as well as the manner in which we give. In this chapter I would like to examine how we, as good stewards, are to plan for the various opportunities that God regularly places before us in order to challenge our giving.
Proper Response of a Steward
If you were a V.P. or a manager in a company, or a supervisor at a plant or federal/state agency and your superior called you in and laid before you a job, contract, goal or objective of some kind, what would your response be? In other words, if you were a contractor, independent businessman, tradesman or one who provides a service of some kind and were faced with a new job, client or project, how would you react? Would you pout and stamp your foot? Would you groan and complain and try to find a way to avoid the task? Of course, if you had made it to the point of being a manager, successful businessman or vice president of some organization you would undoubtedly know that pouting or complaining was not the proper attitude to have when presented with a new challenge or task.
In many ways 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 in this regard is that in the church everyone is a steward, not just a few. When God presents us with a challenge, a goal, an objective or a job to do we need to respond like good stewards, not bad ones who complain, try to duck the responsibility or agree to go ahead but do so with a sigh and a negative attitude. A good steward will see the task ahead, the challenge or the call and will respond with a willingness to serve and a desire to succeed in ministry to the Lord.
Practical Plan for Generous Giving
Many times when the church raises money for costly but necessary projects (e.g. replacing the roof on a church's building, etc.) the objective needs to be viewed not simply as the need to raise a large amount of money. The objective should also be seen as a way to encourage every steward (each person in the church) to view the project as a personal opportunity to improve their ministry of giving (Romans 12:8 - liberality). Simply announcing a large number from the pulpit depersonalizes the exercise in giving and thus renders it too distant as an objective for a single individual. This is why the objective for each person (who is a steward) must become more reachable, more tangible. When the focus is removed from the corporate goal (e.g. $450,000 is the cost to replace an outdated and leaky roof) and centered on the personal challenge to give more generously in this instance than in similar situations when called upon in the past, then we are calling upon the individuals in the church to respond with a steward's heart no matter what the project or its cost. This "steward's heart" that I speak of is developed when we do the following 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).
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. The basic distribution could be described in the following three categories:
If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.
- I Timothy 6:8
- Devote the first portion of what we receive to the Lord (e.g. offering towards the work of the church).
- Devote the next portion of what we receive for our own use in maintaining Christian homes and families in an unbelieving world.
- Devote the balance of what we receive for the maintenance of an orderly society (taxes, etc.).
If this is our mindset, we are thinking like stewards and not like worldly-minded unbelievers who think...
- That all they have or own is the 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 for the Lord and not a basic responsibility.
When we begin thinking like stewards, however, it affects not only our handling of money but also influences every aspect of our lives. For example:
- We gain a new spiritual balance and poise. If our income is down, then as stewards we trust God and wait for Him to provide as we continue to 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 that God is the owner and source of all, we want to please Him with our management of wealth and not give in to purely selfish desires. As stewards we are more concerned about unnecessary debt than a lessening of income. Some Christians are so in debt for frivolous or overly expensive things that they have nothing left with which to serve and glorify God. If we foolishly use up all of the resources we have been blessed with, we will then lack the wherewithal to properly serve and honor the One who provides these resources in the first place.
- Stewardship mentality helps us in the way we spend the money we do have. Good and faithful stewards always consider the effect on God's Kingdom that their lifestyle and purchases are going to have. 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 how we, as trusted managers, should act:
- Our giving will follow the pattern set down by the Bible. The pattern for giving found in I Corinthians 16:2 that I explained previously in this book.
- 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 and thus feel a burden of personal responsibility for its well-being and growth. A good steward does not think that the church belongs to the preacher or elders and they themselves are only visiting. A good steward wants not only financial accountability from church leaders, but also desires to fulfill his own responsibilities in making sure that the church is financially stable and equipped to fulfill its role in bringing the gospel to its community and the world.
...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 stewards 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 does accept it because He is trying to teach and bless us through this activity. This teaching includes the following:
- 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 through 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.
- Good stewards themselves experience more perfectly and fully the wonder of God's grace. When we have given up focusing only on self, spending exclusively on self or serving only our own needs and begin to live as God's stewards, we will experience His care for all of life's needs. This will reveal one of the spiritual life's most important lessons: Where your strength ends, His begins to be revealed (II Corinthians 12:9).
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 try to avoid our stewardship role here on earth because we are being prepared for a far greater role as God's stewards in the future.