If you’ve been around church circles for any length of time, you have probably heard the term, “stewardship.” What’s your impression of that word? What does it mean to you? Unfortunately, it’s been my experience that many people misunderstand what it’s all about.
In some churches, stewardship is just another word for giving. Perhaps there’s an annual “stewardship campaign,” which is either an effort to increase giving to the church or to raise money for a particular initiative. Other people may rightly understand that “everything belongs to God,” but that has made stewardship feel like a heavy burden or responsibility. In trying to understand what the Bible teaches about money, they imagine it’s as if God is saying to them, “Here’s some of what belongs to me, now don’t lose or break any of it.”
And too bad because these are not the messages of biblical financial stewardship. While it’s true that God designed us to living generously, giving is just one part of stewardship. And while it’s also true that God is the creator and rightful owner of everything, He doesn’t have us under His thumb, watching us like a hawk to make sure we don’t mess up. He has generously entrusted us with some of what belongs to him and He eagerly sends us out into the world to make something more of it — to multiply it, use it to do some good in His name, and enjoy it.
Just look at the Parable of the Talents. There Jesus depicts himself as a wealthy landowner who, before leaving on a long journey, leaves his property in the care of three servants (us!). Within this short passage are several invaluable lessons about stewardship.
First, the amount we’ve been entrusted with is the amount that God knows we can handle right now.
“To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability” (Matthew 25:15, emphasis added). By the way, a talent was a unit of money.
Second, we are encouraged to make something more of what He entrusts to us—to use it to provide for our families and be a blessing to others. God’s Word is filled with instruction about how to do that. It teaches us to work with all our heart (Colossians 3:23), plan diligently (Proverbs 21:5, NIV), give generously (Proverbs 11:25), save prudently (Proverbs 21:20), invest patiently (Proverbs 21:5, TLB), avoid the bondage of debt (Proverbs 22:7), enjoy it as a good gift from a loving Father (1 Timothy 6:17), and live with gratitude (1 Thessalonians 5:18), which leads to contentment and joy.
Then, as we multiply God’s resources by managing it according to His principles and for His purposes, incredibly, the Bible says He will entrust us with more to manage.
“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master’”(Matthew 25:21, emphasis added)
Seen that way, stewardship is not a heavy burden or responsibility. It’s an amazing opportunity.
To be sure, practicing biblical financial stewardship isn’t always easy because it often runs hard against the grain of our consumer culture. And if you’re new to all of this, it may take some time to align your use of money with God’s instructions. Ultimately, though, as you embark on this journey and the further along you get, you’ll discover that managing money according to God’s instructions is the most exciting, satisfying financial path possible.
Matt Bell is the author of Trusted: Preparing Your Kids for a Lifetime of God-Honoring Money Management. He speaks at churches and conferences throughout the country and writes the MattAboutMoney blog.
This article should not be considered legal, tax, or financial advice. You may wish to consult a tax or financial advisor about your individual financial situation.