Christian Life Habits: Stewardship – Bethel Church and Ministries

Christian Life Habits: Stewardship

 

Continuing our January 2021 series on healthy Christian life habits (previous posts here), this week we’ll continue working through the most essential subjects that play a significant role in a thriving Christian life. To that end, today I want to consider one big idea in a way that is not often considered, and then challenge us to think about the big idea’s application in a few, personal ways.

What is the big idea? Stewardship.

What are the areas of application? Time, money, and mission.

Stewardship is a really misunderstood subject. In the ethos of church history, it is most often associated with money, “stewardship campaigns,” building projects, and related ideas. And that’s not wrong, but it is incomplete. Stewardship is careful management, oversight, and making the most of a given project, entity, and goal. It is also self-sacrificing, as opposed to self-serving, and maximizes the time available, trying to improve upon the intended goal, if possible. Theologian and professor, Dr. Don Whitney goes so far as to note that stewardship is best reflected in a disciplined use of time and resources in godly living.[1] With a definition like that, it makes sense that churches would use this word in an effort to bolster and encourage the church on a given project.

And while the above is all correct, there’s one additional layer that I would consider encouraging us to add: our heart/intent behind our stewardship. Many people can manage a project with excellence. Others can squeeze dollars from pennies. Still others have the most disciplined use of time, maximizing every second of every minute of every hour, for the purpose of accomplishing whatever goals are in front of them. But the best form of stewardship is rooted in what is happening in the heart and intent of the person(s) trying to accomplish a goal.

While there is a larger context behind intent and conscience, the general principle of 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV) stands as we consider stewardship: So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

This past Sunday, we unpacked in great detail, how the primary identity of a follower of Christ is, as Romans 8:17 outlines, co-heir with Christ, literally making Christians sons and daughters of God. As such, the mindset of the Christian should be that in all things, we are doing them to the glory of God, as he saved us from an eternity in painful separation from him.[2] The easiest way for a child of God and co-heir of Christ to consider all they do, is through the lens of the Greatest Commandment. Consider Mark 12:28-31 to that end:

“And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, ‘Which commandment is the most important of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’”

Ultimately, our goals should be to consider Jesus and “other(s)” (whatever or whoever those others may be) as we seek to steward the things set before us.

Good stewardship then, should be understood this way:

Making the most of every moment, relationship, aspiration, project, opportunity, or goal presented to or cultivated by us, in an effort to accomplish it to the best of our ability, for the glory of God and the good of others.

With that definition as a foundation to stand on, what immediately springs to mind for me is that this necessitates getting out of our own stories. Too often, our lives get caught up in what we are doing: our families, our goals, our aspirations, and the like. And while stewardship is certainly applied to self, I think it is implicit that stewardship also has a significant number of outward pointing arrows. As such, I would commend a few areas of application regarding stewardship to you. But allow me to note this: statements harden the heart; questions prick the conscience. The below is not designed to shame and condemn; these questions are designed to provide an objective evaluation of your current Christian life habits and provide introspection that I hope will motivate you toward enhancement.

Time

1 John 2:17 reminds us that this world and its desires are passing away. Meaning, our time on earth is short. Romans 14:12 further informs us that we are accountable to God for how we used our time. Good stewardship would call us to consider how we do this. What follow then, are application questions for you and your family to evaluate the stewardship of your time.

  • What are the specific hindrances in your life to good stewardship of time?
  • Make a list of the areas in which you believe you are a good steward. How many of those things are related to you personally, and how many of them are related to others? How many have a Jesus-focused outcome?
  • If you knew that today, the day you read this, would be your last day on earth, would you look back on how you used your time and think yourself a good steward? Do you think of your family as good stewards? If not, what are the specific changes you need to start making today in an effort to prevent regret tomorrow?

Money

Money is a tricky subject to discuss, especially in Christian circles. And yet it is unwise to sidestep this essential area of stewardship. If all Christians are called to accomplish every task and every relationship in front of them for the glory of God, then how one manages their money and for what purposes they use their money should be on the forefront of one’s mind. Furthermore, most people spend a great deal of their daily time acquiring money and using money for the purposes of continued existence. It is no small stretch to say many would define themselves based on how much money they have or do not have.

Yet, if we are identifying primarily as a co-air of Christ, the lingering thought related to money should not be on how much we have, but on what we do with it. What follows then, are application questions for you and your family to evaluate the stewardship of your money.

  • Do you believe the things you work for or own are primarily yours or primarily God’s?
  • When you give monetarily, in any way, would your attitude be categorized as grateful for the opportunity, thankful you have the means, or cheerful?
  • Do you think other people consider you a generous person? If not, what is the specific reason?
  • Do you consistently, financially contribute to the forward movement of the gospel (tithing, local and global missions, etc.)? If not, for what reason? What does this reflect in a heart of stewardship in your life?

Mission

Dr. Whitney, who I referenced above, notes the following: “When God calls [a Christian] to himself, he calls no one to idleness.”[3] Furthermore, given that stewardship is intimately related to loving God and loving others, and God’s primary task for the Christian in this life is to make disciples of other people,[4] being on mission for Jesus should be among our highest stewardship-considerations. As such, Christians need to take an objective step back and assess how it is that we are on mission for the Lord, as a part of being a good steward. What follows then, are application questions for you and your family to evaluate your effectiveness to that end.

  • Unprompted and of your own volition, when was the last time you would characterize yourself as having been on mission for the cause of the gospel?
  • In your heart of hearts, when you have been in the midst of gospel mission, do you “serve the Lord with gladness,” (Psalm 100:2) or is it more of a bother/inconvenience?
  • Consider the stewardship of your time. If you were to look at your calendar between now and the end of March, how much time have you intentionally scheduled for the purpose of being on mission for Christ? What does that amount say about your priorities?

In closing, as I stated above, those questions were not desired to incite guilt or shame. Instead, they were designed to assist you in considering the current state of your Christian life habits and provide you with specifics that come from your mind, that then create Holy Spirit inspired, self-driven opportunities to enhance your stewardship across a spectrum of areas.

I look forward to personally joining you in the stewardship effort of growing in these areas!


[1]  Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 131.

[2]  2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 14:10.

[3]  Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 117.

[4]  Matthew 28:19-20.