We tend to only value and care for what belongs to us or what we can benefit from. This is the furthest thing from Christian stewardship. For it only considers God’s blessings in terms of what they do for us. But throughout the Bible we see that God’s grace and generosity is meant to be shared with others. Furthermore, faithful stewardship means prioritising God’s values. It is allowing God to determine what really matters, so that we can live accordingly and treat one another appropriately.
We must Let God Order Our Priorities and Values
The Maasai of Kenya have always been excellent cattle herders. According to tradition, they believe their god, Enkai, entrusted all cattle to them for safe keeping when the earth and sky split at the beginning of time. A Maasai’s entire life revolves around his herds—they provide everything for survival. He moves with them, seeking good grazing ground to feed them, protecting them with his life against the wild animals, and keeping them adequately supplied with water and fresh pasture. He is totally committed to their well-being.
Christians are called to be faithful stewards of the good gifts that God has given us.
On the negative side, some Maasai seem to place the value of cattle above that of their women. One has to pay a higher penalty for killing a neighbour’s cow than for murdering a woman. What we value as stewards is important. As Christians, we are called to be faithful stewards of the good gifts that God has given us.
Stewardship Recognises God’s Total Ownership
Sometimes, the Lord blesses us with property and resources, and then we begin to value those above our brothers and sisters who have been created in God’s image. This has caused much conflict, even wars. It is easy to want to possess things and to gain wealth, whatever the cost. So we often fail to realise that God owns everything: children, talents, time, money—all our resources. We are simply managers or administrators acting on his behalf.
We are simply managers acting on God’s behalf.
Jesus made this point about stewardship in his parable of the good servants (Matthew 25:14-30). The master gave his servants “bags of silver” to invest wisely while he was away on a long journey. Each servant was entrusted with a different amount. When the master returned, the servant who did not faithfully invest the silver he had been given was declared unfaithful. That servant’s bag of silver was taken and given to the one who had received five bags. The amount entrusted was not as important as that each servant had obeyed the master and put what he had been given to good use.
All three servants were entrusted money “in proportion to their abilities”. God gives us what we are able to handle within our situation—and we will be accountable for what we do with it. “To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away” (Matthew 25:29).
Christians Ought to Readily Bless Others
Some people are angry with God for not giving them what they think they deserve, so they refuse to invest those gifts in service. Others complain that God requires more of them than their capabilities allow. What we do with the resources and talents that God has given takes courage, boldness, and creativity. This applies to our skills and abilities, our material wealth, and our other resources. Due to the stigma of corruption associated with business, some people object to Christians starting a business, pursuing a better paying job, or having an investment plan. But this is not godly stewardship.
God does not give wealth or success for our own personal gain.
However, God does not give wealth or success just for our own personal gain. God has freely given to us everything we have primarily for the purpose of serving and blessing others, not only for our own enjoyment and benefit (1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Peter 4:10-11). This is Christian stewardship. Thus Paul commends a lifestyle of generosity in 2 Corinthians 9:7-8. This text helps us understand how to be good stewards in giving.
We must give:
- joyfully and willingly as God has given in this way to you
- even from poverty
- more than might be expected
- faithfully, keeping your promises
- to those in need so you can receive from them when you have need
God will bless those who give generously, and in giving we glorify God.
God Rewards Generosity
Wealth is not necessarily a sign of God’s blessing. But God does multiply the generous giver’s resources. Sometimes the rich who are stingy with their resources seem to get richer while the poor who frequently give generously appear to get poorer. Paul, however, reminds us that for those who give cheerfully, God has promised to provide all that they need to continue doing good (2 Corinthians 9:8). God always gives back to us when we give to him, but he does not necessarily give back in kind. We may give money. He may give back children. We may give him our time. He may give back good health.
God always rewards generosity. But he does not necessarily give back in kind.
Finally, communal stewardship involves our use of land, care for rivers, forests, and animals that we posses as a community. Christian communities in Africa ought to make full use of community resources and make the most of their potential so that all will have enough to eat. By working in communities, people are able to come together to take full advantage of economic, social, and practical realities. For example, the whole community needs a well, and only the whole community can afford a well. The same could be said of a hospital or library. We must be good stewards of all that has been entrusted to us.