“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down,
shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.
For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
It seems that one of the hardest things for church and ministry leaders to do is to motivate people to serve the Lord with their time, talents and treasures. Some people are too busy, some do not feel that they have anything to offer, and yet others are simply not interested in investing their time or resources in the Lord’s work, preferring to “leave it to the professionals.” As one digs deeper into God’s Word there is no doubt that all of us have gifts we can use to further God’s kingdom, that God calls us to serve Him and others, and that we are all part of His purpose and plan. If that’s true, then why do so many Christians fail to honor God with their time and resources? It is important that we first recognize our role as stewards of what God owns and has given to us to manage for Him. Then, as we learn to become a true disciple of Jesus, stewardship naturally flows out of our love and desire for God and His purpose in our lives.
What is Stewardship?
By definition stewardship is resource management. The dictionary says stewardship is “the conducting, supervising, or managing of something, or the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.” In other words, it is managing the resources that you have been given or that belong to someone else. The Bible says in James 1:17 that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” God not only created everything (Genesis 1:1) but everything we have comes from God! In simple terms it means that we manage what God owns for His benefit! This is a crucial point that we as Christians must understand if we are to manage the resources we have been given appropriately and effectively. These resources include our time, our talents and our money. And for church leaders this includes these same resources that God gives His church.
Jesus taught six principles about stewardship in several parables. In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus teaches that 1) we will have to account for what we did with what God gave us, and 2) that whoever is faithful with what he has, more will be given to him. In the Parable of the Wise Manager (Luke 12:35-48), Jesus says 3) we should be watchful and ready in case the owner comes and asks us to give him an account of his resources and 4) that “whoever is entrusted with much, much will be expected.” And in the Parable of the Shrewd Manager (Luke 16:1-13), He tells us 5) that “Whoever can be trusted with little can be trusted with much” and 6) that we “cannot serve both God and money.” These 6 principles show us that we must manage what God has given us well and to do it for God’s glory and not our own benefit. God will also hold us accountable for what we did with what He gave to us. This applies to us personally as well as to the Church.
Stewardship is not a matter of “if” or “when”, but “how.” It is also not subject to our circumstances but is rather an attitude of the heart. As disciples, we are called to give to God (Matthew 22:21) and to give cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7). God also calls us to give sacrificially (Matthew 19:21) and generously (Romans 12:8). Since God first gives to us we should also want to give back to Him as well as to others. We must recognize that God is the true motivator for our giving and understand that He created us for a purpose. We are all gifted by God and called to use ours gifts to serve and build up the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7). This means that we are to give of our time, talents and treasures in ministry to others. It’s not just money that is His, it’s EVERYTHING we have! And how much we give will be a measure of our love for Him and what He has done for us.
Stewardship Flows Out of Discipleship
So why are there Christians who give so little time or resources to the work of the Lord? Within each of us there is conflict between our human nature and our spiritual nature. In Galatians 5:17 Paul writes, “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” Our sinful nature tells us to keep everything we have for our own needs, to take care of ourselves first. We need to deny the sinful nature that is within us which produces greed and selfishness. Instead, we need to take on the spiritual nature that the Holy Spirit gives us that will produce service and sacrifice. We do that through the process of discipleship where we strive to be more like Christ.
In order to do that we need to read and study God’s Word so that we can learn His ways. Then, as we become obedient to His commands and submit to His will, we begin to live Holy lives and develop a heart like His. When we do that, we draw closer to God and begin to see things the way God does. And when His Holy Spirit is active in our hearts and lives, we will be convicted to give, serve and love like Him so that stewardship naturally takes place. As our faith grows, we will not need to be told to give, serve and love, we will be compelled by His Holy Spirit to do so with everything we have!
Stewardship is a response to God, not a prerequisite for faith. It flows from a heart responding to the grace that God has given to each of us. Stewardship does not produce faith. It is faith that produces stewardship.
Consequently, if the Church wants to see more stewardship then its leaders must focus on discipleship. When Christians are discipled and develop a heart like God’s, they will respond to meet the church’s needs because they will already be compelled by the Holy Spirit to do so.
(From Chapter 4 in our Discipleship for Church Leaders™ Training Manual, © 2015)