In my last blog post I outlined the greatest pseudo-spiritual fundraising myth… that God will somehow provide without us asking people for money. Sure, He’s able to do that, but as I explained in my post, that’s not the framework for funding ministry He’s established.
Today, let’s tackle pseudo-spiritual myth #2. This myth, prevalent in ministry fundraising, is that stewardship is defined by how much you save or don’t spend.
Like myth #1, this sounds really spiritual, but it’s flawed theology. Let me outline why.
The Bible teaches us that stewardship is measured by the return on investment, not by spending as little as possible. Good stewards are those who effectively invest available resources to get the best possible return.
Jesus gives us insight into this biblical understanding of stewardship in the parable of the “talents” found in Matthew 25:14. This parable is really about what makes for a good steward – one who’s been entrusted to care for the Master’s resources. Let me highlight three key takeaways.
The first thing to note is that the two servants the Master honors and calls “good and faithful” are the ones who put everything to work… and at risk. There was absolutely no guarantee that the servants would get an effective return on the Master’s money. They just “put it to work.”
By contrast, the servant the Master condemns is the one who buries what was entrusted to him. He hid it away and preserved it. You might assume the Master would think this a good thing. But no, the Master is furious and takes what little this servant has and gives it to the one who now has ten bags of gold.
God isn’t honored when we work to preserve what He’s put into our trust. Instead, He is honored – and we are good stewards – when we put the resources He has given us to work in getting the best possible return for Him.
I remember well a lunch I had with a client a number of years ago. They were considering cuts to the ministry, yet sitting on six months of reserves. I challenged them to think more strategically about those reserves… that money wasn’t accomplishing anything for the Kingdom just sitting in the bank.
Now, I didn’t advocate that they exhaust all their reserves – but rather that they reconsider what they really needed. To their credit, the ministry released three months of the reserves and we put that money to work to generate more income – and more impact.
The second thing to note in the parable of the talents is that stewardship always takes the long view. In Matthew 25:19, we’re told, “After a long time the master of those servants returned….” (NIV). The significant return on investment generated by the two servants was the result of a long-term strategy. Not a short-term fix.
That is what typifies good stewardship: Focusing on the long-term results and not looking for an unrealistic short-term return. Like any good investment strategy, a long-term investment in fundraising will reap the benefit of compounding if done correctly.
Finally, it’s important to note that poor stewardship is characterized by fear. The servant who buried the Master’s resources admits in verse 25 that he did so because, “I was afraid.”
Fear represents a lack of faith. Wise stewardship doesn’t eliminate risk, but neither does it operate out of fear. The other two servants put all the Master’s money at risk, showing real wisdom and courage to do their best to invest it well. The condemned servant hid the Master’s money with the goal of eliminating all risk and preserving it until the Master returned. Wrong move.
Let me close with this final thought.
It’s easy to think that the one who worships money is the one who can’t get enough… who’s characterized by greed. But that’s not actually true.
The one who worships money is the one controlled by money. And you can be controlled by money by placing too high a value on it and therefore making the same mistake as the condemned servant… hoarding it rather than effectively investing it.
Commit today to become an excellent steward of God’s resources by investing in gaining the best possible return for the Master.