By C. Conrad Martin, Director of Finance
I was reminded again during my morning devotions, from Deuteronomy 10:14 that everything belongs to God, the heavens, the earth and everything in it. Exodus 9:29, Psalm 24:1, and 1 Corinthians 10:26 reiterate this theme.
So what. What does this mean for us? Matthew 25:14-30, which the NIV subtitles “The Parable of the Bags of Gold,” gives us a brief glimpse of what this could mean. We are all given some part of God’s creation, each according to our abilities, to steward on His behalf. We ultimately must realize that whatever we have been given, must be returned to the one who gave it to us. So what are we doing with it in the meantime?
Luke 12:48b (NIV) also gives us the charge that “…from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” The “much” in this verse isn’t quantified, so can we assume that what we have been given is as much as our abilities can handle? And that if we steward what we have been given wisely, our abilities can grow and more will be given to us to steward?
Mark Vincent in his publication, A Stewardship Manifesto, delves deeply into the study of stewardship, defining a steward as someone entrusted to take care of someone else’s assets. So since everything belongs to God, the ultimate steward is someone who cares for God’s assets, even to the point of treating these assets as if they were one’s very own — although seeing how some people treat the assets they call their own, I might wonder about that.
Vincent goes on to say that stewardship is the act of willingly and responsibly caring for this charge. He also lists four assumptions for being a steward and carrying out good stewardship:
- it requires my service
- it is the highest level of personal fulfillment
- it is done in community (we are not alone in this)
- it is done willingly
What is our motivation for stewardship? Vincent give four possible answers:
- Obligation, done out of some religious mandate, possibly even out of guilt or fear
- Philanthropy, done out of love for mankind, to be a better person or a concern for one’s own well-being
- Prosperity, done out of the belief that by managing God’s resources wisely, one will gain a material blessing
- Worship, rooted in grace as a response to a generous God; it isn’t something you do, but rather it is something you become. Vincent quotes Lynn Miller in saying that stewardship is “organizing life so God can give you away”
So, what is your motivation for stewardship? Are you being a good steward?