Stewardship redefined

By Michael Smith

Jesus talked more about money than he did about love or grace. Jesus talked more about money than he did heaven. But when we think of Christ’s message to us, these are often the themes we tend to think of first. The kingdom of God was the only other topic that Jesus talked more about than money. For Jesus it was the kingdom of God, then money, in terms of what he wanted to convey in his teaching. Often we find Jesus talking about both of these subjects at the same time. This is because the two are closely linked.

Dave Ramsey, a New York Times best-selling author, is very helpful in lending a humorous definition and understanding of stewardship. He says that, ‘In church language, stewardship is code for building a building.” As funny as it may be, sadly it is also very true. The only time we really begin to get serious about financial matters in the church or other nonprofit organizations are when they need money. Unfortunately, these are all misuses of the word and overall concept of giving.

Steward or stewardship isn’t in my language today. I can’t remember ever using it as part of my daily conversations. When was the last time you mentioned stewardship? “Honey, make sure you put your money in your piggy bank so you use it later in your stewardship.” Stewardship needs to be redefined for us.

The New Oxford American Dictionary has three ways of expressing the definition of a steward or stewardship:

1. A person who looks after the passengers on a ship, aircraft, or train…
2. An official appointed to supervise arrangements or keep order at a large public event…
3. A person employed to manage another’s property, especially a large house or estate…

All three definitions reference the concept of looking after or supervising something that does not belong to the individual steward. They are, as the third definition states, called to manage another’s property. To be a good steward is to be a good manager. So when the King James Bible was being translated in feudal England, this was a concept that would have been understood by the readers. God is the giver of all good gifts; we do not own anything, so we are the stewards of God’s resources. Fast forward to today… we do not own anything, but we are God’s managers. God owns it all, so we should be good managers for God’s glory and purpose.

For example, the parable of the talents expresses several truths, but one of the most forthright is the concept that the servants were called to manage the talents that were given to them by the owner. They did not own the talent, but were given talents according to their ability. The owner’s approval or disapproval was not based on their worth as individuals, but the judgment is based on what each servant did with their talents. The one who earned five more is not necessarily a better steward than the one who earned two. This is not the message from Jesus. The point is made in the one servant who buried the talent and earned nothing. This individual in the parable is supposed to be for us a clear example of what not to do. If we do not get the point, then Jesus has some hard-to-hear statements about the servant being cast out. But let us not be so hard on this one servant.

We are all created in the image of God. As part of being created in that image is the understanding that we can share God’s character. God is a tremendous giver. You remember one of the most popular verses you learned as a child, “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only son…” We are created to give, and tempted to keep. Rev. Adam Hamilton says that there are two voices that tempt us away from our God-created purpose of giving- the voice of fear and the voice of self-gratification.

The voice of fear is something inside of us that causes us to worry or doubt our source of security. It is a voice that says, “What will happen to you if you give this money?” We begin to hold and hoard the resources that God has given to us. But like that servant, our hoarding does not truly provide us with any true security. The voice of self-gratification is a recapitulation of the voice from our culture that tells us that we are defined not by who we are but by what we have. It says, “If you give, there will not be left for you to get this or that.” It is a voice that drives us toward obtaining the treasures on earth, while the voice of truth speaks for us to obtain treasures in heaven. Both of these voices impact our lives in different ways. We hear them throughout the day and in different places. The big game is coming up and even though we have a decent TV, it would look so much better if we had a larger screen. The voice begins to whisper. We are out shopping and the voice of self-gratification begins to work its magic as we convince ourselves that this item that we want quickly turns into an item we so desperately need. We are living in fearful times.

The financial consequences to our actions are coming to fruition. The house we couldn’t afford, the car, (with payments) we just had to have, the items we put on credit have caught up to us now with high interest payments. We are afraid because for many of us, there is, “too much month left at the end of the money.” We hear the voice of fear every time we may watch the news or read the newspaper.

The only way these voices can be silenced in our lives is through trust. When you give your life to Christ, and put your life in God’s hands, you begin a journey of trust. You live your life in a different way. Your life is no longer lived for yourself, but you begin to lead a life that is pleasing to God. Your life is an act of worship. You begin to put into perspective what you truly value and what your priorities are. So when the voice of fear begins to pop back up, (and it will), you are exercising faith when you trust in God. You align your life with God’s word and finally realize that God has some interesting things to say about how we handle our resources.

When the voice of self-gratification begins to whisper again, you can remember that you are seeking things that are above and you have learned how to live a generous and self-giving life. This is a life that is Christ-like. If Christ was a giver, then we ought to be givers. The true joy found in giving occurs when we make a difference in the life of someone else. Wesley further encouraged us to:

“Render unto God, not a tenth, not a third, not half, but all that is God’s, be it more or less; by employing all, on yourself, your household, the household of faith, and all mankind, in such a manner that you may give a good account of your stewardship… Brethren, can we be either wise or faithful stewards unless we thus manage our Lord’s goods?”

Today let us become good managers of all that God has entrusted to us. Let us love God by how we give. Can you continue to trust God as you give to the ministry of Delanco Camp? We are anticipating and expecting another great summer of ministry out at camp and we encourage you to become financial partners with us. As you give, would you prayerfully remember Delanco Camp?

Go to delanco.org/support for more information about how you can support the camp with your gifts, offerings and talents.

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