By Charles Mills, Christian Communications, Berkeley Springs, West Virginia

Summary: Why did God create a distinction between owner and steward? It’s a lot harder to own something than to simply care for it. Ownership brings added responsibilities--work and stress were never intended to be laid upon the shoulders of human beings.

It’s like the farmer who had a cow that wasn’t giving much milk, the man said in response to my question at a seminar--What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when I say the word, ?Offering?’ I thought to myself What does a farmer and a cow have to do with offering?

Most everyone else there answered Money. But, the stewardship concept was introduced to Adam and Eve before the fall when money didn’t exist! God was owner of all things and man was caretaker of all things.

The farmer decided to find out why milk production was so low, continued the eager participant, so he began looking for ways to remedy the situation.

Adam and Eve bit off more forbidden fruit than they could chew. In the beat of a broken heart, earth’s first caretakers discovered that, to survive, they had to begin owning things. House, land, utensils, flocks, servants, and finally stock portfolios became the rule by which stewardship was measured. Things became blessings; Stewardship became money. Today, those ancient roles seem to be reversed. Man owns and then pays God to protect and nurture the estate.

The farmer began spending time with his cow, bringing it grass to eat and making sure the water flowing into its drinking trough was clean and fresh.

Why did God create a distinction between owner and steward? It’s a lot harder to own something than to simply care for it. Ownership brings added responsibilities--work and stress were never intended to be laid upon the shoulders of human beings. People who have much always want more--Have you seen individuals neglecting the wealth they’ve gathered in a pursuit of obtaining the wealth other people have gathered? Sinful human beings make lousy owners.

The farmer discovered that the more attention he paid to his cow, the more milk it gave. The cow was transforming kindness and care into what the farmer wanted--milk.

It’s time for us to return to the Eden model of stewardship where money and possessions weren’t the elements of exchange between owner and caretaker. Money isn’t stewardship. It’s a sin-created part of stewardship. Instead of begging milk from the cow, we farmers should spend more time with the herd, nurturing each member, making their world as comforting and non-threatening as possible.

Don’t call for an offering. People will simply drop a few coins. Instead, call for a commitment to the rightful Owner of all things. Present a clear picture of the source of all blessings. Then enjoy the benefits that will flow naturally from each thankful heart.

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October–December, 1999

Offering