I think most Christians today believe that if you give God a bit of what you have, then you have been a good steward. They equate stewardship with “tithing.”
Naturally, this begs the question of how the Bible defines stewardship. I think we need to go back to the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 to discover what biblical stewardship really is.
In this particular parable, Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is like a man who goes on a journey and trusts his possessions into his servants’ hands. Christ wants His disciples to understand through this story that He, the Master, is about to go on a journey and He’s planning on entrusting them (and ultimately you and me) with Kingdom resources. And when He returns, He will hold us accountable for how we handle what He has put into our trust.
Take a moment to read the passage. What do you think the Master expects of His stewards? How would you define stewardship?
Personally, I believe the parable teaches us six principles that can help us become truly effective stewards of Kingdom resources.
- Stewardship understands that the Master will hold us accountable for how we have managed everything in our trust.
Effective stewardship is not about how well we invest a portion of what we have, but how well we invest everything for the Master. That means you can’t equate stewardship solely with giving, although that is a central part of the concept. Instead, associate good stewardship with how well you use all that God has given to you to advance His kingdom.
- Stewardship has a sense of urgency to it.
Did you notice that the one servant who was given five talents went out at once and put those talents to work? Biblical stewardship has a sense of urgency to it – an urgency about how we invest the resources that God has put into our trust.
The implication, obviously, is that a good steward is pushing things forward by proactively investing what God has given to him or her with the goal of seeing the best possible return for the Kingdom.
- Stewardship is measured by return and impact, not by what is saved.
I think a lot of Christians today define stewardship by how well people, ministries, or churches save money. My friend, that is not good stewardship. You can save a lot of money but fail miserably as God’s steward because you have lost the opportunity for impact. That does not mean we should be foolish and irresponsible in how we spend money. But it does mean that the highest value in stewardship is not what you have saved, but how well you have used what has been entrusted to you for maximum impact.
- Stewardship is defined by risk, not by playing it safe.
Make no mistake about it: risk is a crucial part of stewardship. But the risk is a bit different than you might believe. I don’t think the risk in stewardship lies with the potential for losing the money but instead, it involves investing the resources entrusted to us in what we know is right – even when that investment appears to be a bad financial move and reduces our personal financial position.
- Stewardship operates in the freedom of God’s trust, not the fear of failure.
Friend, God has given you Kingdom resources because He trusts you to handle them. You wouldn’t possess what you have if He did not trust you. In fact, Scripture reminds us over and over that God has given us our wealth (e.g., Deuteronomy 8:18; 1 Chronicles 29:10-13). And He has done so because He trusts us to handle it well.
- Stewardship is blessed by the Master with greater impact.
How you steward what God has entrusted to you will directly impact the effectiveness you have for the Kingdom. You cannot sidestep this issue and ignore it, just hoping it will go away. God is going to hold you accountable some day for what He has put into your trust.
Remember, we are in an all-out war against the forces of darkness and you do not win a war by skimping. You win it by effectively targeting resources for maximum impact. And that, I think, is our challenge for stewardship today.
Read more about practicing biblical stewardship and using resources for maximum Kingdom impact in my book, Secure.
More Insights from Dunham+Company: “Your Brand Should Share Vision Over Function”