Patrick G. McLaughlin, President/Founder, The Timothy Group

Summary: We are challenged with the fact that our financial stewardship is evidence of our discipleship.

The Bible’s “Hall of Faith” passage is the 11th chapter of the Book of Hebrews. It reminds all of us that “without faith it is impossible to please God” our Father. Hebrews 1:1 helps us further to understand the depth of what God expects when it defines faith as “the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen . . . the evidence of things we cannot yet see” (Hebrews 11:1 NLT).

We know that “faith” and “being faithful” are very important to God because we find those terms used 349 times in the Old and New Testament. So much so that when I stand before the Lord I want to hear what the faithful steward heard in Matthew 25:21: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” In that passage about the parable of the talents, the master was pleased with his servant and as a result was going to reward him with additional resources and responsibility. Practicing true biblical stewardship of the sort written about in Matthew 24 is no easy task and one that unfortunately is not discussed much in our churches. We can ask people to sing in the choir or teach a Bible class, but when it comes to asking them to be a generous donor/steward with their money, we have all kinds of reasons why that is too personal. That perspective is not certainly supported by scripture however. The Bible is full of stewardship narratives, perspective and principles. The scriptures seem to indicate that it’s okay to speak to our friends and fellow Christians about how they use their money!

We are also challenged with the fact that our financial stewardship is evidence of our discipleship. The heart is the easy conversion for a Christian but the checkbook is the difficult conversion. C.I. Scofield wrote “don’t show me the worn tattered pages of a man’s Bible, show me his check book and I will show wherein his priorities lie.”

Discipleship vs. stewardship

After nearly 30 years in the stewardship arena, I am convinced more now than ever that it is easier to be a New Testament disciple than it is to be a New Testament steward. I have known many disciples over the years who were faithful in serving in the church, had the gift of hospitality, could teach, testify, they were loving, kind and gracious. But when it came to being generous with their checkbook, these individuals just were not willing to allow God to have full reign in that area of their life. They were trying to be a disciple without the characteristics of being a steward.

They were owners, not stewards! They thought it was their money and that God was welcome to speak to them in every area of their life, except one. Isn’t it interesting that of the three big areas that God gives us to express our faith to Him ?our time and our talent and our treasure—there is only one we can hoard: our treasure, proving that many are unfaithful stewards with their money.

Faithful steward job description

A faithful steward is one who takes seriously the opportunity to wisely manage and invest their time, their talent and their treasure in God‘s work here on earth. Stewardship is everything we do after we say we believe. Every decision we make after we become a follower of Christ is one of stewardship. It is the management of our family, our body, our spiritual gifts our relationships, our environment, our investments, our abilities, and yes, our checkbook. In Christ, all things here on earth take on a kingdom perspective. So, we must become faithful stewards in every aspect of our lives in order to truly honor him.

As a steward, I acknowledge that I don’t own anything. I am merely a Kingdom Manager and it is part of my job description to manage according to the will of the owner. It is all God’s stuff and while He could get it back in the end, He would rather it be offered back with our open hands. Ever seen an armored car in a funeral procession? There is no way we take it with us when we graduate to Glory. It is a tough job description but one we Christians all must acknowledge and faithfully fulfill while here on earth.

A biblical perspective

All 66 books of the Old and New Testaments have at least one stewardship principle. So, there is a clear call from the scriptures on each of our lives to become faithful stewards. In Genesis, Adam’s first responsibility in the Garden was to faithfully manage God’s perfect creation. Moses and Aaron ran a stewardship campaign in Exodus 25 for a “mobile worship center.” Do you recall that narrative? There are many other examples throughout the Bible.

One-third of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels revolves around the theme of stewardship. There are more verses in the New Testament on stewardship (1441) than there are on the themes of love (680) and prayer (550) combined. Jesus knew it would be difficult for us to be faithful stewards and so he spent some quality time discussing it, as did Paul, Timothy and every other New Testament writer.

Timothy 6:17-19 shares an incredible perspective on our need to be faithful people in three distinct areas. It reads, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves, as a firm foundation for the coming age, so they may take hold of life that is truly life” (NIV).

Paul commanded Timothy to help those members of his small house church to be faithful stewards in three ways.

1.Command them to do good?be holy and faithful and good because God is all that and more (verse 18a);

2.Be rich in good deeds?implement the great commission and the great commandment?love God and love people and bring them into a personal relationship with Christ (verse 18b); and

3.Be generous and financially willing to share/reallocate the resources God has entrusted to us for ministry (verse 18c).

Paul reminded his readers that this faithful stewardship perspective is completely biblical and is the only way to lay a firm foundation for the coming life which is “truly life”. . . preparation for eternity.

The eternal perspective

God’s plan for reaching out to mankind is that we Christians conduct ourselves as faithful stewards. God wants us to grow in our faith and become obedient stewards. He wants us to be generous and faithful with our time, our talent and, for sure, with our treasure.

I want to stand before my Father in Heaven with His Son looking on and hear them say in unison, “Well done thou good and faithful steward.” Start today by investing in a plan that has an eternal perspective. Commit yourself to grow and mature in your stewardship journey here on earth.

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January–March, 2010

Faithfulness