Being a faithful financial steward is core to following Jesus
For from him and to him and through him are all things. To him be glory forever. – Romans 11:36
Christian financial stewardship means our money is be seen as being God’s money. It is from God and, as disciples, we should use it for God’s purposes and glory. We did not receive God’s grace so that we might own more, or take the credit for God’s work. All things are from him and to him. So, we will not be able to live for Jesus without understanding and committing to a life of stewardship – using God’s gifts for God’s glory. This is a core concept that has a primary connection to our thinking about money.
Stewardship means everything belongs to God
From the first verse in the Bible we see the foundation for stewardship, In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) This is all we should need. God created everything that exists and, as creator, owns everything that exists. And he has never relinquished that ownership. So, from the beginning of the Bible until the end, we know that God reigns:
Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heavens of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. – Deuteronomy 10:14
The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein – Psalm 24:1
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. – Romans 11:36
Also see – Gen 14:19, Exodus 19:5; Leviticus 25:23; Deuteronomy 10:14; 1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalm 24:1; 50:10; 95:4-5; 89:11; Isaiah 43:6-7; Haggai 2:8; Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Colossians 1:16-17
Christian financial stewardship begins with a deep understanding that God owns everything, is sovereign over everything, and in Jesus sustains everything all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). But, we have a serious mine problem, don’t we? This house is mine. This car is mine. This 401(k) is mine. These children are mine. We just think like that. We desire to own stuff.
Here’s the key – We can’t be a steward of God’s resources if we want to own God’s resources. That’s covetousness (wanting what belongs to someone else) or idolatry (finding satisfying purpose in something other than God). We know that if something belongs to someone else – in this case, God – we can’t do with it whatever we want. It’s easy to use mine in order to justify selfishness. So, we can’t embrace financial stewardship while thinking mine.
The starting point for a financial steward is to focus on the creator and not his gifts. We need to be consumed by the majesty of God and his awesome kindness to us in the gospel. When compared to who Jesus is for us, being captivated by what belongs to God is indeed a great sin. Every dollar we earn and every asset we count as ours is really God’s. So, real financial stewards will let go of thinking about their assets as belonging to them:
So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:33
Here’s an example of the struggle: I was talking to a Christian man who deeply struggled with financial stewardship. In the end, he concluded that God actually did relinquish ownership because when we own stuff, we tend to take care of it – because we own it. And this illustrates the problem. I can easily think that my ownership is primary, and God’s ownership is secondary. And, by the way, if you’re a Christian, you also belong to God. The gospel is the good news that you were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20) and were redeemed from Satan’s hand (Matt 20:28; Acts 20:28). This way of thinking repulses many. We are bent on thinking about life in an autonomous way – we own and we are in control. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Stewardship recognizes that God gives us all we have
One of the great, presumptuous sins of humanity is the thinking that we create success and influence and wealth. This is completely false and filled with pride. The blessings we have, even if we worked to acquire them, are all from God’s hand. Have you ever wondered why you were born where you were born, or how you come to have the talents you have, or the intellect, or the opportunities, or the health? Everything comes from the hand of God, even if we work hard.
King Nebuchadnezzar’s great pride-filled sin was thinking that all he had was because of him:
…and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” – Daniel 4:30
What arrogance! But we are susceptible to this as well. It’s easy to think I have accomplished great things on my own or that the money in my 401(k) is mine. But, all we have comes from God’s hand, and we cannot take credit for any of it. And Nebuchadnezzar, learning this through God’s discipline, ultimately confessed, “…all those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” (Daniel 4:37)
…for it is [God] who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. – Deuteronomy 8:18
A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. – John 3:27
What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? – 1 Corinthians 4:7
Also see – Genesis 26:12-13; Deuteronomy 8:18; 1 Chronicles 29:12-14; Job 1:21; Psalm 23:1; Daniel 4:25; Hosea 2:8; Matthew 6:33; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 6:38; John 3:27, 6:65; Romans 12:3, 6; 1 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Ephesians 3:16; Philippians 4:19; James 1:17; 1 Peter 4:10, 2 Peter 1:3
All “good” Christians will acknowledge this. But mental assent is not belief. We can find out if we truly believe by looking at how we live because we live out what we believe.
If God owns everything and graciously gives us what we need, we should live lives of faith that believe in and depend on his care. We should believe his promises and instruction and focus on the mission.
All this does not mean we shouldn’t diligently work. We should. But we should all be working for the Kingdom and not for ourselves. We must be faithful in our God-given responsibilities – honest and faithful to our employer, caring for our family, financially supporting missions, etc. – but we are not working so we can have more mine.
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:31-33
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5
Biblically faithful, financial stewardship works to advance God’s purposes and not our own. We trust God to care for us.
Stewardship focuses on God’s glory
Wouldn’t it be helpful if God would just get very specific on this? What exactly should a Christian steward do? Well God has very specific instruction. In a nutshell, he wants us to function in a way that brings him glory. As a steward of all he’s entrusted to us or children, time, our bodies, the gospel, and certainly money. And all should be handled so as to make Jesus look good.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men – Colossians 3:23
Also see – Genesis 2:15; Matthew 5:16, 24:45-51; Luke 16:11; Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, 6:20, 10:31; 2 Corinthians 9:11; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 1:11; Colossians 3:23; 1 Peter 4:10-11; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 4:11
Sometimes we make this overly complicated so that we don’t need to face a simple truth. Our life in Christ is all about God’s glory – not our own. That’s what it means to be a faithful steward – using God’s resources to bring Glory to God. Often we want to point to specific things we’re entrusted with – like money or talents – when we talk about stewardship. And while that’s understandable and important, we must not forget that everything we are and have is part of the stewardship paradigm.
So, how should we handle money? We may not usually think about God’s glory when we save for retirement or buy a house or go on vacation or think about college costs, but we should. Everything we do should serve him. Really! The psalmist even prayed for God’s blessing so that God could be seen:
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. – Psalm 67:1-2
Stewardship is vital for the Christian
It seems that as humans, we either live with idols and find fulfillment in them and are lost, or, through the power of the Spirit we find life in Jesus and fight for holiness. In Matthew 25:14-30 we read the parable of the talents. In this story those who worked faithfully for the master until his return entered into the joy of the master. But the servant who refused to work for the master was thrown into darkness. Now we know from Scripture that we can’t earn our salvation by doing good works, but we also know that those who are saved through faith in Jesus will most certainly live out their new focus.
While money is used in the parable, it is about more than money. Money here is used to illustrate the larger concept – if you’re aligned with King Jesus; if you are saved, you will live in the light. Not perfectly of course. But there will be fruit that can be attributed to your new life in Christ.
Being a faithful Christian financial steward is vitally important. Stewardship is an outworking of your salvation. The rewards of faithful stewardship (bringing God glory through faithfully utilizing his gifts) are fantastic! Eternal life. Now this will raise some eyebrows but here goes. Over time, those who are saved will mature into the likeness of Jesus. While we won’t achieve perfection here, this maturation (sanctification) is a must. If our faith is genuine and the Spirit is ministering to our souls and we actually are united with Christ, we are indeed new and our lives will change:
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. – Hebrews 12:14
And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. – 1 John 3:3
But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” – 2 Timothy 2:19
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:15-16
And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. – 1 John 3:3
Having an ownership mentality creates problems if we are to live for Jesus. Our interests are divided, and our loyalties are split if we have a mine mind. Earthly, ownership thinking is wrong and tempts us with an autonomous, self-centered disposition that defeats our call to serve Jesus with his resources.
Questions about financial stewardship
Q#1 – If we are stewards and not owners, should I “own” a house?
In the economy of this world, we have ownership. But it’s important to function from God’s perspective and not an earthly one. We can “own” a house while knowing that we don’t truly own it. The important thing is that regardless of how the world defines ownership, we truly know that we don’t really own anything. God owns, and gives, and takes away.
Even in the earthly sense, we don’t truly own our homes. We must pay property tax on our homes, right? And it’s not cheap. If you don’t pay the tax, you lose the home. So, home ownership is a term we use to say that we control the value and disposition of the home as long as all the other requirements are satisfied.
Owning a home (we don’t really own it) – if done correctly – can be a very smart thing even though it comes with risks.
Q#2 – What is the connection between financial stewardship and giving?
This is an interesting question because it’s easy to think that we’re giving away money that is ours. Remember, the reality is that God owns everything. So, financial stewardship is not about giving away our money. It’s about faithfully allocating God’s resources in ways that please him. So, God’s priorities should be my priorities. Spreading the gospel, raising godly children, caring for our pastors, caring for your spouse, helping the saints, and the list goes on and on. Remember, Jesus was the example Paul used to urge the Corinthian believers to give more:
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 Corinthians 8:9
Q#3 – Should I be saving for retirement?
Without launching into a full-blown retirement discussion, I would say this; it’s good if we can pay our way when we can’t work anymore. So, yes, I think it’s okay to save for retirement. But, our vision for retirement is really important. A Christian financial steward will think about retirement carefully in order to please God in his/her standard of living and continued ministry.