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What is Biblical Stewardship?

October 20, 2023

The Bible is arguably the greatest money management instruction book ever written. Have you ever thought of it that way? Of course, it’s much more than that, but the fact is the Bible says a lot about money. On the one hand, it makes sense that God would help us in this area. Money can be a complicated topic. God loves us and wants the best for us. So, His Word has plenty of guidance on how to provide for our family and use money to do some good in the world in His name. But there’s a lot more at stake here.

When Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24), He declared money to be His chief rival for our heart. And the Bible warns us: “Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs”.

(1 Timothy 6:10)

  • A unique worldview

Biblical stewardship begins with our financial identity. While our culture calls us consumers, the Bible describes us as stewards or managers of God’s resources. We see this in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Jesus tells the story of a wealthy landowner who is about to go on a journey and entrusts his property to three of his servants. The landowner represents God, the servants represent us.

It’s clear from the parable that everything in our possession actually belongs to God. We are to manage what He entrusts to us according to His principles and for His purposes.

These two identities—a consumer and a steward—are completely at odds with each other. Whereas a consumer believes, “Life is all about me,” a steward knows that life is all about God (Matthew 22:36-38). While a consumer believes that happiness comes from money and things, a steward knows that happiness comes from relationships (Matthew 22:39). And whereas a consumer believes life is a competition to have more, a steward knows that life is an opportunity for contribution (1 Corinthians 12:7, MSG).

  • Day-to-day money management

What does this look like in terms of practical day-to-day money management? The Bible teaches us to:

  • Work as though working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24). That should motivate us to do our work with excellence. As the British theologian Dorothy Sayers said, Christian work is “good work well done.”
  • Be proactive and intentional in our use of money (Proverbs 21:5), not reactive and haphazard. A budget can be a great help here.
  • Make generosity our first financial priority (Proverbs 3:9). One of God’s most defining characteristics is generosity. He gave us His Son. He gave us our lives. In fact, He gave us everything we have. Since we were made in His image, that means we were designed to live generously.

The Bible does not say that we are all to give the exact same amount of money. Instead, the Bible teaches proportionate giving (1 Corinthians 16:2). God started His Old Testament followers at 10%—or a tithe (Leviticus 27:30)—of their “increase,” a practice Jesus affirmed.

(Matthew 23:23)

  • Maintain a reserve. Proverbs 21:20 tells us it is wise to save some of what we earn and foolish to spend all that we receive.
  • Be extremely cautious in our use of debt so as to avoid becoming enslaved to creditors (Proverbs 22:7).
  • Multiply the resources entrusted to us (Matthew 25:19-21). The Bible gives us certain principles to follow in our investing, such as such as diversification (Ecclesiastes 11:2) and taking a long-term, patient approach to building wealth (Proverbs 21:5, TLB).
  • Make spending decisions with the understanding that all financial decisions are spiritual decisions since it all belongs to God (Luke 16:10).
  • The heart of a steward

Biblical stewardship isn’t just about what we do with money. As I said, it begins with our financial identity. That identity, and the practical steps listed above, all get strengthened through the cultivation of certain attitudes of the heart.

In the midst of financial storms, such as the loss of a job or a plunging stock market, we can experience peace. That comes from knowing and leaning into the fact that God knows our needs and has promised to provide for us (Matthew 6:25-34). 

In the face of a culture that does its best to foster discontentedness, we can find contentment through gratitude. In fact, God’s Word teaches us to make gratitude part of our prayers when we come to God with our needs (Philippians 4:6).

  • A different path

So, what is biblical stewardship? It’s recognizing that everything we have is a gift from God. It’s managing His resources by following His principles for His purposes. And it’s living with peace, contentment, and gratitude.

The biblical way of managing money is a counter-cultural way, and it won’t always be easy. There are a lot of voices in our world, tempting us to take a different path. So we need to remember who we are: children of God (1 John 3:1). We need to know God’s Word and let it dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16). And we need to do what it says. In doing so, God will be glorified and we will be blessed (James 1:22-25). 

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.

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