If you’ve been in and around church for a while, you’ve likely heard a sermon or two about being a good steward of your finances. Stewardship is one of those words often used in the church, assuming a common understanding of its definition.
So, let’s take a step back: what exactly is stewardship?
“Stewardship” comes from a combination of two Greek words: oikos (house) and nemein (to divide, distribute or apportion). The most direct meaning is “the administration or management of a household.” A steward is a trustee, one entrusted with something valuable.
As Christians, stewardship encompasses a deep conviction that how we manage our time, our talents, our finances — our very lives — is rooted in our relationship with God and his Word. The process begins with a commitment to a biblical worldview that acknowledges God has created (Genesis 1:1, Genesis 2:15), and therefore owns everything (Psalm 24:1, Psalm 8:6). So everything we have is ultimately God’s—and we are his trusted executors.
A good steward uses God-given resources to accomplish God-given goals. Our responsibility as Christians is to live within God’s world according to the will of God. Stewardship should not be confined to any one area of our lives. As Christian stewards, we are creative partners with God, working with him to achieve and serve his purposes.
In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus tells a parable about a wealthy man getting ready to go on a long journey. Before the man leaves, he entrusts one of his servants with five bags of gold, another with two bags and another with one bag. The first two servants invest their money wisely and double the amount they were initially given. But the third servant is so afraid of losing money, he buries the bag of gold. When the wealthy man returns, the first two servants are rewarded with praise and added responsibility; the third is severely reprimanded, as he didn’t even put the money in the bank to accumulate interest.
This parable goes beyond money. It invites us to ask questions such as: What does it mean to be faithful? Are we ready to take risks with the opportunities God gives us? Are our lives bearing fruit as we use them to serve our Master?
We are called to steward our very lives, and everything in them, for the glory of God. How we handle our finances is one of the ways we can reorient our human desires and live counter-culturally.
In a world where greed is ubiquitous and the pressure for more seems inescapable, following a biblical financial worldview can be incredibly challenging. We may want it all now. It could be that we have dreams, not attainable goals. We might use credit poorly or give up too easily. Or we may fail to realize the wealth of our spiritual and material resources.
The concept of “God owns, we manage” can be a huge barrier to overcome. Like the third servant in the story, we may be paralyzed by a fear of failure. We may feel so burdened with shame over the unwise financial decisions we’ve made in the past that we’re afraid to ask for help. Or we may simply feel like the money we have is ours to control—we worked hard for it and deserve every penny. We want to be self-sufficient instead of trusting that God will provide.
Jesus says this about money: “‘Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.’” (Luke 16:10-13)
A good steward uses God-given resources to accomplish God-given goals. Our responsibility as Christians is to live within God’s world according to the will of God. As Christian stewards, we are creative partners with God, working with him to achieve and serve his purposes. When we manage everything that God has entrusted to us in a way that glorifies him, it reflects our commitment to Christ. It’s a key component in our discipleship.
If we want to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls and minds, we have to include loving him with our money as well.