Zambia Union Conference
Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division
Summary: The author talks about unless stewardship is accepted as a family affair; being a faithful steward will not flourish in individuals or be a way of life among the members of the church.
For a long time stewardship has been confined to the church and individuals. But nothing that is not domesticated at home succeeds. Unless the builders of the home and their children accept stewardship as a family affair, faithfulness in stewardship will remain “pie in the sky.”
Stewardship in the family
Many people grow cold feet when the topic of stewardship is mentioned. This has made it difficult to teach stewardship to members of our church. If an announcement is made in a church with membership well above five hundred that there will be a stewardship study in the afternoon, only between twenty and fifty members will show up. Sometimes I feel that if stewardship was a clothing factory, it would have long folded due to lack of customers. This is further validated by low levels of participation of members in returning of tithe and offerings.
However, there are members found all over the world who continue to be faithful in their stewardship of resources as verified by commitment to returning God’s portion. But the question is where would the church be if all the members of the church remained faithful to their baptismal vows?
Probably the failure in stewardship not only of resources but other areas might be that this very important subject has remained in custody of the church and has not been allowed to change residence. It is talked about, preached about, prayed about in church but not made a family business.
Stewardship of the body (1Corinthians 3:16-17)
People who gather every Sabbath for worship in our churches are first family members before they are a church community. The average number of hours a person is at church might be six hours per week compared to one hundred and sixty two hours spent at home. This then requires that the home where family members spend most of the time be made the center of stewardship education.
Many of those who abuse substances do so within the precincts of the home. Alcohol abuse in most cases takes place in the presence of family members. The ravaging effects of alcohol are seen in ruined families, destroyed marriages and loss of jobs. Babies are born with Fetus Alcohol Syndrome in the family circle. These and many other effects would be reduced if stewardship of body was brought home.
Tobacco in all its forms is taken by family members in the presence of each other. The effects of smoking are well chronicled everywhere and yet in some instances family members wait until the church’s Health Ministry presents a topic on the dangers of smoking. How many family members would still be alive were they helped by those who are their next of kin? The question is what am I doing for my family members to be all round faithful stewards?
Stewardship of talents (Matthew 25:14-30)
Before talents are identified at church, they are first seen in the family circle. If family members cultivate and nurture the talents in their members from childhood, the talents blossom to maturity. But if they are stifled, then the church will miss out on those talents because they will not come to public notice.
Members of the family are therefore themselves stewards of each other. Before the church gives encouraging words to a budding talent in anyone, family members should be foremost in doing so. A talent appreciated by those outside this inner circle while ignored by family members will take long to mature. A family member with a talent that is ignored at home asks the question “if what I have is good, why don’t I hear that from my parents and siblings?” The family can enhance or stifle talent development. This too is a proof that stewardship should be the domain of the home and not left to church.
Stewardship of the time (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Many churches have difficulty encouraging their members to come early for services. Many church boards and business meetings are called off because people are late. Sabbath schools in many of our churches begin with very few people. The pews are fully occupied only at eleven o’clock, the magic hour of Adventists. But where do people learn to be punctual or tardy? Is it not at home? Where do we learn to value time? Is it not at home? Where do children learn that time has no value? Is it not in the home?
Before the church complains of tardiness, it should shift it stewardship agenda, from the church to the family.
Stewardship of resources (Proverbs 3:9)
Resources of all sorts are acquired and used in the family. It is in the family that plans to acquire wealth are hatched and executed. It is in the family where members learn habits of thrift or not. It is in the family where members learn lessons of generosity or stinginess. It is in the family where members learn to be earners and not mere spenders of what others have earned.
If this is how important the family is, then every family should not leave any stone unturned in bringing stewardship in the family. The story of the widow who gave all she was to live on, made that decision at home not at church. The woman who broke the alabaster jar of very costly perfume, made that decision at home. Ananias and Sapphira as Acts 5 indicates made the decision to keep back the farm proceeds at home. The church was just a place where a scheme executed in the family was fulfilled.
Those who fail to return tithe do so in the family not at church. Those who do not give offerings cheerfully as a show of gratitude do so in the family at home and not at church. Those who use tithe to make themselves comfortable do not sit at the table discussing that at church but do so in the comforts of their homes. It should be stated that even those few faithful members who return tithe, do so at home and not at church. The church is just a destination of the family faithfulness.
Stewardship will not succeed at church, stewardship will not flourish in individuals, stewardship will not be a way of life among the members of the church, until it is domiciled in the family and the time to do so is now.