Distinctively Christian Stewardship
When Christians think about money, we often encounter a Psalm 73 moment—“I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For they have no pangs until death, their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. Therefore pride is their necklace…always at ease, they increase in riches.” That is the stewardship of the world. Yes, it can be impressively philanthropic at times; but it aims at a prosperity that begins and ends in this life. Distinctively Christian stewardship, on the other hand, begins, aims, and ends elsewhere.
Primacy of Regeneration
The first thing you must steward is your heart. You cannot be a distinctively Christian steward until you yourself are first distinctively Christian. “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23). The opposites of biblical stewardship—coveting and envy—seethe unbridled and unexamined in the unregenerate heart; and though hidden, they boil over into self-serving priorities (Mark 7:21-22). When the heart remains closed to the gospel, the home remains privatized, the wallet stays shut, and expenditures remain self-directed and therefore self-absorbed. “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Among the other sins we repent of is embezzling God’s assets in order to build our own kingdom (Gen. 11:4). Yes, we enjoy God goodness to us and thank Him for it; but now we enjoy directing the energy and assets at our disposal to building God’s kingdom and promoting His name (Matt. 6:9-10, 33). Our joy now increases proportionately to the magnification of God’s glory instead of our own. This calculus of Christian stewardship will escape you, though, if you never repent of your sin and self-reliance, if you refuse to die with Christ to self-protection, self-promotion, and worldly self-interest, in order to trust in Christ’s righteousness. Only then can you live for His name in this world, and for His glory in the world to come. To fake it here is to forfeit eternal wealth (Mt 25:29-30). Mere conservatism doesn’t account for the cross; only Christian stewardship does that. Click To Tweet
Christians are stewards, not owners. To be a steward means to be something of a household manager. We own nothing in God’s house. “What do you have that you did not receive” (1 Cor. 4:7)? Even our bodies are from Him and for Him—“you are not your own…” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). God richly provides us with all things to enjoy and use for His purposes (1 Tim. 6:17); but His purposes are his own glory through the spread of the gospel, the honor of His name, and the building up of His churches (Isa. 42:8; Ezek. 36:22-23, 32; Mal 1:11; Matt. 16:18; 28:18-20). Let’s not confuse Christian stewardship with fiscal conservatism—either saving voraciously or avoiding risk like the plague. Christian stewardship is gospel investment of intellectual, physical, financial, and material resources for the expansion of God’s kingdom of grace in the lives of others so that you reap an eternal reward, not just an earthly one. The master in the parable of the talents doesn’t just want his money buried—He wants it back with interest (Matt. 25:14ff). Christian stewardship, then, is not sanctified stinginess. It’s wisely investing and improving what God has entrusted to you—not to enhance your personal standard of living, but for the purposes of God’s grace, gospel, and glory in people and churches, both locally and globally as you have opportunity (2 Cor. 8:12).
Set Your Minds on the Things Above
Christian Stewardship requires us to trust God. Long story short—you and your church are less like savings accounts and more like checking accounts that actually bear heavenly interest with every wise check you write. God rewards generosity (Mal. 3:10), not stinginess; faithfulness, not fear. And God expects you to trust Him as the faithful provider He is. He is happy to give you plenty of daily bread (Matt. 6:11); but he expects you to seek Him and His kingdom first (Matt. 6:9-10, 33). That means you have to trust Jesus that if you prioritize His kingdom and righteousness, he’ll provide for you (Matt. 6:33). Jesus lived like this: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9). That is Christ’s version of stewardship—it’s sacrificing for the spiritual good of others. How did he do that? By faith, even to the death: “He kept entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:23). We ought to follow His lead (1 Pet. 2:21), trusting as He promised that “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way” (2 Cor. 9:11; cf. Phil 4:10; 1Tim 6:17). That is neither self-congratulating philanthropy nor selfish conservatism. It’s Christ-like, sacrificial stewardship.
We steward all the assets entrusted to us for God’s gospel and kingdom, not just money. If I myself am not my own (1 Cor. 6:19), then neither are “my” time, energy, giftedness, skill, possessions, or priorities. Every kind of asset I have—bodily, material, intellectual, vocational, relational—is entrusted to me for God’s glory and should therefore be at his disposal. Sister, since your body is not actually your own, that means if you’re pregnant, you don’t have the right to end the life growing within you. You’re called to steward that life for God’s honor, even if the only way you can do that is to put the child up for adoption because you are not in a position to steward that life beyond birth. If you’re rich, God gave you riches so that you’d use them to become rich in good works (1 Tim. 6:17-18). Every Christian is gifted, with some degree of grace, to build the house of God in your local church (Ex. 31:3-7; Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-11; Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Pet. 4:8-11). God has given us one day in seven to steward as time dedicated to his people, purposes, and pleasures. Are you stewarding the Lord’s Day with His people, or just a couple hours of it mid-morning, and saving the rest for self? Yes, the Christian is free in Christ—but freed from slavery to sin and self-interest in order to steward God’s assets with a newfound zeal for holiness and love for others (Rom. 6:12-14; Gal. 5:13). Yet even as we serve and invest for God’s purposes, he promises us a share of the eternal returns (Matt. 6:19-21; Luke 18:29-30). And whose kingdom do you think will give you a greater return on your investments—yours, or Christ’s?
Stewardship, Hospitality, and the Gospel
What can Christian stewardship look like? A heart opened by the gospel will steward the home for gospel hospitality. Your apartment, your house—even your dorm room—can become a place where others encounter and enjoy Christian Scripture and grace, maybe even for the first time. It might be hosting a home Bible Study or prayer time. It might be hosting biblical conversation over coffee, desert, or a meal. It might be hosting guests overnight periodically, like hosting a visiting missionary for a night or a week (2 Kings 4:10). You might put your own car at his disposal while he’s with you for a time, or volunteer to pick her up from the airport. It might be hosting longer-term guests. You might host pastoral interns for a summer or a semester at a time. Or consider hosting a college graduate for a year so they can minimize costs and pay down student loans. Maybe you can adopt a child in need as a way to reflect God’s adoptive love for us in Christ (Rom. 8:15-17; Gal. 4:4-7).
But stewardship is broader than hospitality. A heart opened by the gospel will open the mouth for speaking truth in love with a self-forgetful attitude in conversation with others (Eph. 4:15-16). How well do you steward your speech for Christ and His cause? The gospel of grace will motivate you to work hard so that you have something to share with those in need (Eph. 4:28) instead of spending it all on self or being a wrongful drain on others (1 Thess. 4:9-12). A good steward of Christ will have a wide margin in his weekly schedule for disciple-making, serving, and meeting the needs of God’s people. A heart opened by the gospel will be open-handed with energy, money, time, and giftedness for the building up of the local church (Hag. 1:2-4; Mal. 3:10; Eph. 4:15-16; 1T 5:17). A gospel-opened heart will attend church gatherings, pray, serve, give, know and be known, so that the local church becomes a dwelling place for Christ’s glory in our relationships (John 13:34-35; Eph. 3:10; 1 John 4:20). Local church ministry, international missions, and Bible translation work are simply impossible without the faithful generosity of gospel stewards. A Christian’s heart will be eager for good works in the church and in the world, because that’s why God saved us in the first place, not to be passive, but to be productive for His purposes (John 15:1-8; Eph. 2:10; Titus 2:14). We’re all tired. We’re all busy. We’re all inadequate…and we’re all called to be cheerful givers and eager servants. The Christian steward is not a miser, but a maximizer of delegated assets for God’s glory in and through the churches. Which one are you?