The Stewardship and Planned Giving & Trust Services Continuum

“Every good thing of earth was placed here by the bountiful hand of God as an expression of His love to man.”[1]

Stewardship is an umbrella theme that runs across the meta-history of the human race. It can be traced back to the time of the origin, represents a major factor behind the great controversy, and will finally be part of the final restoration.

Dominion Planned and Bestowed

Stewardship was given by God as a gift to the human race before there was sin on our planet. In the beginning, God planned to give stewardship to His created beings who were made in His image. Genesis 1:26 tells about this plan of giving dominion to Adam and Eve. Then, after God created the two humans, He blessed them and gave them stewardship, or dominion, of the earth (Genesis 1:28).

God’s original plan was an expression of His love for all creation. Adam and Eve lived as perfect stewards of the earth for some time, exercising dominion. They were God’s representatives on earth. All their needs were provided for, their lives were always happy, and their work enjoyable. They experienced daily communication with their Creator. They clearly understood that God owned everything, and they were the stewards of God’s possessions.

Dominion Lost

Then an evil force entered Adam and Eve’s perfect world and tricked them into believing they should be owners and not merely stewards managing for God. Because they chose to believe this lie, things became very difficult for them. They immediately noticed that they had lost the blessing that God had originally given to them, that until now had clothed them. It took a little longer, but they soon learned that they had lost the dominion that God had given to them and that it had been taken from them by the serpent, Satan.

Lucifer—Satan, the serpent, the devil, or the dragon—now claimed that he represented all creatures on earth. He now claimed dominion, and this planet was now aligned with the rebellion against God. Satan and all the inhabitants now thought themselves owners of the earth.

Stewardship Restored

After the dominion was lost, God immediately promised Adam and Eve that the dominion of the earth would be regained by sending a future seed of the woman to crush the head of the deceiving, usurping serpent. This promised inheritance gave immediate hope to Adam and Eve.

This promise to restore dominion is the connection between stewardship and planned giving. God had a plan for the redemption of humans in place since the very beginning. Jesus had volunteered to be the one to come and become a human to restore the dominion of the earth to the human race. Since this plan had been in place for all time in the past, it could be immediately presented to Adam and Eve when they needed it the most. By faith, Adam and Eve received their power to choose immediately. They could now again choose to be an owner seeking to usurp the blessings of God, or a steward who chooses by faith to manage faithfully the possessions of God. The choice that they had surrendered to Satan by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was now, by faith, restored to them.

As descendants of Adam and Eve, we each have the same choice to be a faithful steward of God’s possessions, or to seek to be an owner in place of God. God states very clearly that He owns everything (Exodus 19:5; Job 41:11; Psalm 24:1; Haggai 2:8). As professed believers in Jesus, we have chosen to be faithful stewards of God.

From the time we are old enough to reason and make decisions, every human chooses to either recognize God as the owner of all things, or not. Those who accept God as the owner of themselves, their family, their friends, and their possessions also take the responsibility to be stewards of all things God entrusts them to manage seriously. God will be first in all things in their life on earth.

Lifelong Stewardship

Choosing to be faithful or not is part of the life of every human. This choice cannot be avoided. Stewardship and Planned Giving & Trust Services (PGTS) are lifelong. (PGTS cannot start in a person’s life until reaching the age of maturity. Prior to the age of maturity, the child’s parents provide the PGTS for the child.) As followers of Christ, part of our commitment is always to put God first. We do this with our time, talent, and treasure, as evidenced by Job’s story. As the Christian is faithful to God, the blessings and possessions God gives the faithful steward to manage increase. The faithful steward puts God first by returning an honest tithe and a regular, proportional offering to God’s storehouse (Malachi 10:8).

In the book Counsels on Stewardship, Ellen White describes a vision where she observed Satan instructing his angels to specifically attack Seventh-day Adventist Christians living in the last days of earth’s history. These temptations in Satan’s instruction revolve around stewardship and faithfulness: “Go, make the possessors of lands and money drunk with the cares of this life. Present the world before them in its most attractive light, that they may lay up their treasure here, and fix their affections upon earthly things.”[2]

Satan will use any way possible to allure the human race not to put God first. He wants his angels to apply their energy and time to this purpose. Satan’s angels are instructed to attack Seventh-day Adventists in the stewardship arena, with a focus on land, money, care, treasure, and affection.

God Always

When does the stewardship responsibility end for humanity? Being a faithful steward is always keeping God in first place in your life—God first and God always. A plan to provide for your family is one of the essential things a faithful steward can do. Apostle Paul writes: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).

God blesses His followers with possessions to provide for their families and support His mission on earth. Satan will do all he can to keep the faithful steward from supporting the mission to reach people for God. Satan stated it this way to his angels: “We must do our utmost to prevent those who labor in God’s cause from obtaining means to use against us. Keep the money in our own ranks. The more means they obtain, the more they will injure our kingdom by taking from us our subjects.”[3]

Having a plan that honors God even after sleeping and waiting for Jesus to come is the way a faithful steward always puts God first. The faithful plan keeps possessions that are God’s working for the purposes of God on earth. The stewardship responsibility ends when the follower of Jesus, through their faithful plan, transfers their managed possessions in a way that keeps them safe for God’s purposes on earth. The faithful stewardship of our possessions is what I call God always.

As human history unfolds, may the love of Jesus motivate all to faithful stewardship, God first and God always, until the restoration of the order that God designed for His entire universe.

Dennis Carlson

[1] Ellen G. White, Counsels on Stewardship (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1940), 15.

[2] White, Counsels on Stewardship, 154.

[3] White, 154.

Dennis R. Carlson

Dennis R. Carlson is the director of Planned Giving & Trust Services at the General Conference.