PERSPECTIVE

Transforming Stewardship

In response to a legal question about the greatest commandment, Jesus replied with a relational answer. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all

your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:29, 30).

For Jesus, worship and living religiously was not a matter of law or fulfilling

a legal demand, but an invitation to be in relationship with God. This call to

“love God” fully requires total commitment and is consistent with the

repetition of the word “all” which is used four times in verse 30. In fact, Jesus was quoting from the

same command given to the Israelites as they were preparing to enter into

Canaan, the Promised Land. They were to love God supremely with all their

“heart,” “soul,” “mind” and “strength” (Deut. 6:4,5). Jesus’ emphasis on the

whole person was intentional and fundamental to His teachings as noted in the

Mark 12 passage. At all times, as followers of Christ, we are to respond to Him

with our entire life. This is what God requires of His stewards. Stewardship,

as a human response, is about our willingness to let God take control of our

total person (Matt. 6:33)—“It’s all of me in response to all of God.”



Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”

Mark 12:29, 30

To illustrate this point about “total” living under the rule of Christ,

consider a colorful pizza as a representation of our human life and experience.

Each piece portrays a subsystem and category of our human culture, and while

each piece is distinct, it is also part of the whole. For the sake of the illustration, each piece is labeled

accordingly: worship, leadership (influence), relationships, possessions,

finances and language. When we talk of Christian stewardship, we are in essence

saying that Jesus is Lord of all these different pieces. In other words, stewardship applies to

all of our human life and experience.



Illustration 1:

Stewardship on Two Levels

In addition to the fact that life is made up of different but

interrelated pieces, we also know that as humans we live life on two levels:

the surface and the deep. Jesus recognized these two levels of human life when

he spoke about the “outside” and the “inside” in Matthew 23:27, 28. At the

surface level (outside), for example, this is where we are engaged in specific

behavior as an expression of our values and principles. Our behavior on the

surface level is visible to the public eye and they tell the story of who and

what we are “within.” Our experience at the deep level (inside), on the other

hand, while it is not visible to the naked eye, exists and is real. It’s at

this deep level where we have our core beliefs and basic convictions about life

or worldview. These guiding norms

inform and give expression to what we do at the surface. From the perspective

of Christian stewardship, what takes place at the deep level where human values

are developed and formed is of great importance to us. These guiding norms

determine what we do in Christian living.  



We know, for example, that our values and principles inform, influence and impact our behavior. The things we do on the surface are a natural outcome and manifestation of what we are and what we believe at the deep level.

With this biblical understanding of people as “whole”

entities, and accepting the fact that as humans we live life on two levels, we

need to next explore the relationship between our experience at the deep and

surface levels. We know, for example, that our values and principles inform,

influence and impact our behavior. The things we do on the surface are a

natural outcome and manifestation of what we are and what we believe at the deep

level. This kind of relationship between our values and behavior is similar to

what takes place in the natural world of plants where what happens at the roots

can have an impact on the fruit. The essence and key principle of this

behavioral model and understanding is this: We behave according to our beliefs.

What we do on the surface level is a reflection of what we believe at the deep

level. There is a direct

relationship between our values and our behavior.



Stewardship as Sanctification

How does this illustration of values and behavior help us understand

Christian stewardship? I suggest that Jesus is the core “value” and a spiritual

guiding force in our lives, while stewardship is our personal response to this

value. As a biblical steward we made a deliberate decision to let Jesus come

into our hearts through our worship experience. We sense our need for God and

we yearn to have a relationship with Him. Naturally, by allowing Jesus to come

into our lives, He finds His place in our value system and He starts to

transform us from within. For

Jesus to come in, we must first invite Him in. It is a personal choice and

decision on our part, but once He comes in He starts the work of transforming

us from within. This inward work of God will manifest itself in our outward

behavior. This is the work of spiritual conversion and Christian

transformation.



The Apostle Paul makes a powerful statement about this transforming

experience with Christ in this way: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no

longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by

faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). In

this Bible reference, Paul is highlighting two historical realities in the

earthly ministry of Christ—His death and resurrection. He then makes a present day

application. When Jesus died, he (Paul) died and when Jesus was raised to life,

he also came back to life through Him. More importantly, the life that he

(Paul) lives in the present is not his own but is the life of Christ in

him. So how does this transforming

life in Christ relate to Christian stewardship? I believe it is one and the

same. In the context of Galatians 2:20, stewardship is a parallel experience

with sanctification. With stewardship, I am releasing the control of my entire

life—my worship, leadership, relationships, possessions, finances, and

language—to Jesus. I have made Him

the dominant value in my inner being. With every victory I experience in my life

daily, it is not me winning, but it is Christ doing His work in me. So when I

am being faithful as a steward in the use of my time; when I’m being faithful

to my family; when I am being faithful in my witness for Jesus; when I’m being

faithful in the returning of tithe and the giving of my offerings of gratitude;

this is not me, but Christ living in me. This is transformational stewardship.



Illustration 2:

The Stewardship Advantage

The question is often asked, “How can we as a Church create a culture of

faithfulness and generosity that is sustainable?” We can provide stewardship

education through different training activities, develop new and practical

inter-generational resources, upgrade and strengthen financial systems, visit

and encourage church members in their homes.



We can make all of these important and necessary efforts and put in place good mechanisms but will they be sufficient to give us faithful stewards?

We can make all of these

important and necessary efforts and put in place good mechanisms but will they

be sufficient to give us faithful stewards? The answer is both “yes” and “no”.

Yes, all of these resources and approaches can individually and collectively

make a difference and we must make every effort to include and implement these

in our stewardship strategies. However, at the same time, no amount of

education nor adjustments in a system can change human behavior unless there is

a transformation taking place from within. This is where we need external help

and God can provide this necessity for us through His Holy Spirit.



Illustration

3:

In John 15:5 Jesus makes this offer: “I

am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will

bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” While we as leaders all

have a desire to see our people grow and become faithful stewards, the truth

is, no one can produce faithfulness on their own unless they have Jesus in

their life. This is the stewardship advantage. The key to a sustainable

stewardship experience is making Jesus the center of our value system and

allowing Him to change our behavior from the deep level of our being. Helping

people to have a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus daily ought to

be our goal in stewardship ministries

Erika F. Puni

Director

GC Stewardship Ministries

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