Stewardship at most churches is an awkward topic because most of us look at it as a means to give up “our” money. We all have worked hard for our money and naturally want to protect it, which is in fact good stewardship. According to a recent article in Church Leaders, Christians are now giving at 2.5% of their income but gave 3.3% during the Great Depression. Both of these numbers are sad and do not reflect the Biblical instruction from Malachi 3:10 “bring the full tithe into the storehouse.” However, isn’t it human nature during times of great stress to either grow closer to God or further away? Clearly, God wants us to grow closer but not all of us do. God has already given us victory in times of adversity. His promise to Moses was passed on to Joshua. Similarly, His promises as detailed in scripture are still as relevant today as they were in the beginning of time. “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5).
So, what does this have to do with stewardship? First, we must understand what is a steward and what is an owner. Owners have rights, but stewards have responsibility. We are stewards with all of our belongings, even our money and children. James 1:17 beautifully expounds upon this idea. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). So, it is clear we are stewards for God, and all that we have and see belongs to Him. “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s… And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord. (Leviticus 27: 30, 32)
A steward lives for the day he will return the Master’s goods to Him. A good example is The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. The third servant was given one talent (bag of gold) and the other two were given more. The other two wisely invested their master’s money and returned the original money to the master along with the interest which greatly pleased the master. The third servant greatly displeased the master because he had hidden the money in a hole and only had the original amount to return to the master.
Is there a lesson for us from the third servant? Perhaps we should see that our view of God will determine the choices we make. Do we see Christ as “a hard man” with unfair expectations of us? (Matthew 25: 24) If so, it will lead us to live in fear. It is important to note that the money that was given to the servants was not their own. Also, the interest they earned with the capital was not theirs to keep. The servants were only stewards of the master’s investment, and it is the quality of their stewardship that the master sought to measure.
Isn’t it interesting that the ancient word for the weight of gold was “talent.” Today, we consider a talent to be our skills and abilities. We all have unique talents. We should maximize the use of our talents (money, skills, time, witness, etc.) not for our own selfish purposes, but to honor God. The Parable of the Talents is not about salvation or works righteousness, but about how we use our work to fulfill our earthly callings. The unfaithful steward in this parable didn’t waste the master’s money but rather he wasted an opportunity. As a result, he was judged wicked and lazy. We are responsible for what we do for God with what we have been given, and one day we will all be looking for the narrow gate and pass on the right side with the sheep.
Todd Shupe is the President of DrToddShupe.com and is a well recognized expert on wood-based housing and wood science. Shupe worked as a professor and lab director at LSU for 18 years and Quality Manager for Eco Environmental (Louisville, KY) for 2 years. He is active in several ministries including his Christian blog ToddShupe.com. Todd is the Secretary of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men, Database Coordinator for Gulf South Men, and volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, Iron Sharpens Iron, Open Air Ministries, HOPE Ministries food pantry. Todd is currently preparing to be a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men.