Micah Choga, Stewardship Director
Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division
Favorable conditions: the challenge of a steward
Seventh-day Adventists believe in inspiring those around us to experience a life of wholeness and hope for an eternal future with God.
When we talk about the unconditional faithfulness of the steward, we are actually referring to a situation where the steward remains faithful in spite of the situation. It should be noted that this presentation is not in any way promoting irresponsible stewardship nor is it saying that we should allow misuse of church funds. It should be well understood that responsible stewardship involves accountability and proper use of funds given. There is no way we can promote giving and leave out issues of transparency, internal control and accountability. However, this presentation is not meant for those who handle funds but for the givers.
Individual giving and faithfulness
Question: “Why should faithfulness not be determined by favorable conditions?”
In the parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13, Jesus points out that tares and wheat will always coexist in the church. This suggests that when a steward gets to a point where he thinks that all should be well in the church and that no one should be found to misuse church funds, such a steward would have forgotten that the good and the bad are found in the church. The history of the children of Israel testifies to the fact that always among God’s children there are two groups of stewards who coexist. Even among the disciples of Jesus we had Judas Iscariot who always misused church money. It is interesting to note that regardless of the behavior of Judas, Jesus never discouraged people from giving on account of such unfaithfulness on the part of Judas. Just because we are always going to have these two categories of stewards, it is important that the faithful steward not be affected by the behavior of those around them. In other words, the steward who would want the conditions to be right in order to do right may not find the conditions they are looking for.
The second reason why the faithful steward is not supposed to be affected by the behavior of others is that, faithfulness is firstly, an individual responsibility before it becomes a corporate responsibility. God calls upon each one of us to be faithful. We will not appear before the judgment throne of God as a corporate body but as individuals. We are answerable before God for our behavior regardless of whether that behavior was influenced by a fellow church member or a church leader. In the experience of Korah and his friends as recorded in Numbers 16:31-33, God did not spare those they influenced but they perished together. There was no justification among their followers because faithfulness is an individual responsibility. This is why Paul says of stewards: “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2, NIV).
Stewards are called upon to be faithful. Faithfulness ceases to be faithfulness when it becomes conditional. Those whose faithfulness is determined by the behavior of other people will never be faithful. It is just like a sinner who says they will only repent when all others stop sinning. When God calls for faithfulness, He expects each individual to be faithful to Him regardless of the conditions that might be prevailing at that moment.
The invitation to faithfulness is not a partial invitation. It is a life time requirement. Good stewardship calls for faithfulness. Talking about the second coming Jesus raises a challenging question about faithful stewardship recorded in Matthew 24:45-51. The passage makes it clear that faithfulness does not require the presence of the master. Those who are faithful remain faithful even in the absence of the master. On the issue of faithfulness, John the Revelator says that God’s children need to remain faithful to the point of death. “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10, NIV). Those stewards, who will hear the words of welcome from the master, are those who remain faithful in spite of the conditions and the situations. Our faithfulness should not be shaken even by death itself. Ellen White has this to say about such a behavior:
There is no justification for unfaithfulness. God expects stewards to remain faithful to Him.
Faithfulness and accountability
Question: “Why should we remain faithful regardless of the conditions?”
We are first of all accountable to God before we are accountable to men. Faithfulness is God’s requirement not men’s requirement. The behavior and actions of other people do not determine our acceptance before God. God still regards us as faithful even though the gifts we gave were misused by other people.
We all do business with certain shops, certain travel agents, yet if the workers of those people we do business with misuse money, we do not stop doing business with such shops, neither do we complain that our money has been misused. Yet, when it comes to the church, if something small happens we even blow the trumpet and want others to know that the church is misusing our money. We do not complain about the world that takes almost all we have. Yet, we complain about the church where we send the least of our money. This simply shows that we do not complain about the world because our interests are vested in the world and not in the word of God. This also shows that our hearts are more inclined to the world.
May the Lord assist all of us to remain faithful to Him regardless of the prevailing conditions or other people’s behavior.