Defining Biblical Stewardship

Defining Biblical Stewardship

The Word-Faith Movement is one of the most controversial movements within modern Christianity. It is particularly popular among Pentecostals. Sad to say, a number of well-known television preachers are advocates of that doctrinal position. We have, in previous articles, identified some of those teachers and documented the problems of Word-Faith theology.

Needless to say, we regard most of their teachings as unbiblical. One especially grievous area of distortion is that of the meaning of stewardship. Many of the Word-Faith teachers claim that God promises that anyone with enough faith will enjoy material prosperity and good health (especially if they donate generously to their ministry). That principle implies that if a person does not receive those blessings they simply do not have enough faith and are not giving enough money.

We will not rehash our evaluation of the Word-Faith Movement here, but you may want to review our earlier articles at: Unmasking the Word-Faith Movement – Part 1 (http://www.marketfaith.org/unmasking-the-word-faith-movement-part-1/) and Unmasking the Word-Faith Movement – Part 2 (http://www.marketfaith.org/2012/06/unmasking-the-word-faith-movement-part-2/).

In this article we will look more positively at what the Bible actually teaches about stewardship of our material resources and how we are correctly to demonstrate it in our lives. Stewardship is a direct reflection of our worldview. So here we will consider three basic biblical principles for understanding Christian stewardship and examine some practical ways it should be exercised in our lives.

Stewardship Principle One: God is the owner of the entire world because he created it, owns it, and keeps it going.
The Bible obviously tells us that God exists and created everything in the universe. This is, in fact, the first and most basic Christian doctrine. The very first verse in Scripture says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The Psalmist affirms that point and professes that He owns it all. Psalm 24:1 reads, “The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.”

Perhaps the most significant element of this concept is that God also created humanity. We are the pinnacle of His creation – the only creatures made in His own image. Genesis 1:27 says, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

This means that everything in the universe belongs to God. Everything we think is ours is really not ours at all! Look at your stuff: house, car, TV, lamps, rugs, chairs, pets, lawn, etc. Then take out your check book, stocks and bonds. Then consider this fact: it all belongs to God! Some Christians think only the tithe (10%) is God’s. Wrong- it all God’s!

Stewardship Principle Two: God is the owner of the world but He has appointed us as His executive managers.
After God made man and woman He gave them an awesome command. In Genesis 1:28 we read, “God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”

God put the whole world under man’s care. He made him his steward. A steward is the executive manager of an estate. In Greek it is oikonomos (the word from which is derived the English word economics) and literally means “manager.” In ancient days a steward was the slave of a wealthy landowner or merchant. As a slave the steward owned nothing, not even his own life.

Jesus used this fact in a powerful parable to illustrate our relationship to God and the world. In Matthew 25:14-30, He tells of a rich master who left on a trip. He gave each of his three servants (slaves) a certain number of talents to invest. A “talent” did not refer to a person’s natural abilities as we think of today (singing, writing, etc.). A talent was actually a weight of measure of money or gold (not clear how much). The master gave 5 talents to one of them, two talents to another, and only one talent to the third. They were each responsible for using and investing it well. The meaning of Jesus’ parable is that the master is God and we are the slaves. God has made us His stewards. Essentially we own nothing but He has entrusted us with the material resources at our disposal.

Most people have the mistaken view that Christian stewardship only involves giving to the church by tithing. Actually God is concerned about all the ways we manage the resources He provides. There are at least six ways this truth is applicable.

(1) Earning – God is concerned about how we earn our livings and get the material resources we have. He expects us to make it honestly, ethically, and in ways that glorify Him. Obviously this means there are some jobs that Christians should not do. For instance it would never be acceptable for a believer to be involved in any kind of illegal business such as stealing or selling drugs. But, likewise, even something legal may not be ethical from a Christian perspective. For instance, should a Christian be in the pornography business? Of course not, that would be bad stewardship.

(2) Spending – God is also concerned about how we spend the money He provides for us. We should be frugal and purchase things that are glorifying to God. Also, where we spend it also matters. Should we support businesses that promote activities that are immoral or harmful? I am always a bit dismayed when I go into a grocery or convenient store and see people buying cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, or lottery tickets. Do any of those promote the glory of God? I don’t think so.

(3) Saving – God expects us to save some of our resources for the future. Obviously, I am not talking about hoarding. God does not desire us to hoard our resources but to save a reasonable amount for special needs that may arise in the future. We never know when something may happen that we did not expect, or we may want to plan for the educations of our children. Having a reasonable amount of health insurance would also be under this principle.

(4) Investing – Where and how we invest our resources is also a part of stewardship. It matters to God how and where we put our finances. We want to draw the highest return possible, but, again, only in ways that are ethical and glorifying to Him. We should always consider the moral probity of a company when purchasing stocks or bonds. Is the business worthy of our investment? For instance, is it good for a Christian buy stock in a tobacco company?

(5) Making a Will (Final Disposition) – Ever wonder what happens to a person’s estate if they do not have a valid will? In many cases it winds up in court with various claimants coming out of the wood-work. Or, a large chunk winds up going to the government. A far better way is for a good steward to make a will.

In that regard, we should not forget that much of what we leave behind can still be used to further the kingdom of God. We can guarantee that our material possessions will still be useful for the furtherance of the Gospel long after we are gone by purposefully leaving some of our estate to Christian causes or foundations.

Clearly that’s what Jesus meant when he said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19- 21).

(6) Giving – Last, but certainly not least, good stewardship includes giving generously and sacrificially to support God’s work. Nothing is more important for us to do with our financial resources than to support those ministries that are legitimately doing God’s work.

Of course, we should start with giving to our local church. We should do our part to pay for the ministries and to pay the ministers of our local congregations. We should also support those ministries and ministers that do special work outside the purview of the local church (e.g.: MarketFaith Ministries). In all cases, we should be vigilant that the support we give is going to worthy biblically sound causes. We should be sure the objects of our support are totally transparent about their financial practices. God will hold us accountable not just for how much we give but to whom we give it.

A good place to begin is to tithe, that is to give 10% of our income. We need not be legalistic about tithing, but we can all make it a worthy goal. Also, we should not see it as a limitation, either. Many Christians assume that if they tithe regularly that is all that is expected. Actually many people can and should give above that level. Remember what the Lord said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more” (Matthew 12:48b).

In any case, nowhere in Scripture does it promise that if we give money to support our church or any other ministry or person, that God will automatically multiply our income or give us good health.

Stewardship Principle Three: God is the owner of the world and will hold us accountable for how we manage His resources.
In Matthew 25:4-30 Jesus’ tells a parable about a master who finally came back home after an extended time. He called in his servants and wanted an accounting of what they had done with the talents he had entrusted them with. The first slave had doubled his amount, a 100% increase! The master commended him and said he deserved even greater responsibility. The second servant increased his allotment by 40%. He, too, was commended. The third slave, however, only made excuses. He had hidden his one talent – NO increase. Though he had lost nothing the master was not pleased and took away all else he had.

The point is, our master is coming back. Jesus has appointed us as His stewards and expects us to invest our lives and material blessings in ways that will increase the Kingdom of God in the world. Stewardship is a spiritual concept and we must ask ourselves: When Christ comes back will we be found faithful?

© 2014 Tal Davis