Adulting… Call me basic or a stereotypical millennial, but I adulting is hard. There are some helpful tidbits for adulthood that nobody tells you in time. Or the grownups told me when I was too young and stupid to listen. Either way, I’m having to learn a lot of things the hard way now. But, if you share my philosophy of learning, some of the best-learned lessons in life come through trials and mistakes. So, here are a few things I’ve been realizing about stewardship lately.
1. Stewardship applies to everything.
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines stewardship as “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.”
For us, as Christians, this definition needs definitions. Who is entrusting things to us? What is being entrusted to us? Thankfully the Bible is really clear on that. God owns everything because He created everything, so everything we have had to come from God and, therefore, be given to us in trust that we will steward it. So, what is being entrusted to us? Everything we have. Who is entrusting it to us? God, the creator and ruler of all things.
We can think of the Christian definition of stewardship this way:
Stewardship is the active acknowledgement of God’s ownership of everything.
Everything means everything — property, money, body, relationships, the environment, community, time, gifts and talents, etc. If God gave it to you, he’s inviting you to take care of it. Fill in the blank: “Knowing God gave me ________, how would He have me use it and care for it?” (That question is a challenge to me, as well!)
2. Stewardship is not glamorous.
Okay, so, stewardship isn’t always toil, but often times it is. A picture of our financial spreadsheets is not going to garner a lot of likes on Instagram. It’s no great fun to spend precious spare time budgeting for home repairs instead of having wine with the girls. Sitting in a counselors office to work on a relationship is not easy. Nobody mends torn clothes or lost buttons anymore; they just buy a new shirt.
For me, an unabashed social media addict, stewardship of money and time are some of the hardest things. I love the convenience of keeping up with relationships and current events, but with that comes a barrage of advertisements. Amazon always seems to know what I’m wishing for! That sweet area rug, or a perfect Halloween costume… fresh home decor, and that contour kit I saw on Instagram — yes, please!
But, it hit me the other day that, not only would gaining all my wishes fail to bring me true satisfaction, it would also show me to be a total fool. Why? Because we need a new roof! Because my car is still damaged from a small wreck last month! Because the kids need winter clothes! I hunger to appear that I have my life together without actually doing the un-glamorous work of actually having my life together. You can’t make this stuff up.
And I live in a culture that supports that lifestyle… the lifestyle of buying shiny new things with a shiny new 0%-down-for-six-months credit card or personal loan, where mortgage lenders and car dealers knowingly approve buyers for loans they cannot afford, and good things don’t have to wait. Everybody else seems to be doing it, and here I am driving a dented 2002 Toyota Corolla and wearing clothes I’ve had for ten years like a big loser. But the Bible doesn’t call delayed gratification a loss. God calls it wise.
“The rich rules over the poor; and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7)
“Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts.” (Proverbs 22:26)
“It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.” (Proverbs 25:27)
3. Stewardship helps us know God better.
As un-glamorous as stewardship can be, it can also be really sweet.
One of God’s graces to us is that it’s hard to be happy and stay happy when we’re not obedient in caring for those things He’s entrusted to us. God doesn’t give us stuff to take care of because He’s trying to make us miserable; He gives us good gifts that are best enjoyed when we care for them. How caring it is for the Father to make stewardship a means of having deeper joy in life!
“Every good gift and every perfect is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17)
In Genesis, at the beginning of the world, God shows his care for mankind’s needs by providing plants and fruit-bearing trees to feed them. He shows care also for man’s capacity for pleasure by making sure the trees and fruits are beautiful to the eyes and delicious to eat. He does these kinds of things for mankind because He loves us.
Care is not just a feeling. It’s also an active display of love.
When we care for the gifts God has given us, we are living in God’s image, as we were created to do. Sin makes it hard to do, but in our journey to have a changed heart toward obedience in stewardship, we get the added bonus of better understanding how the Father cares for us and growing in our relationship with Him.
4. Stewardship has an impact on your life now and in eternity.
Stewardship requires a lot of perseverance because oftentimes the results aren’t immediately apparent. (This is so hard for me and my impatient heart!) But, the results do come!
Dave Ramsey, a well-known financial teacher, always says, “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”
I don’t love the way he says this, but he has a point. Stewardship usually looks like working hard and rejecting the constant barrage of temptations to laziness and gluttony… but if I can stop going to Chick-fil-A every day and just avoid the hypnotizing draw of Target’s dollar section and make a DIY Halloween costume instead of buying the awesome one I saw on Amazon, then one day we might have the money to replace our roof without going into debt!
Okay, so good stewardship has a lot of practical benefits. It also has eternal benefits. Stewardship is a God-given responsibility. It is a way in which we reflect His image and bring Him glory. Therefore, Satan is against it. Sin is against it. The world is against it. Everywhere we look, we’re told that God’s way isn’t joyful.
But, in Christ, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we are able to resist the temptation to doubt the benefits of doing life God’s way. And, when we practice fighting sin and taking our thoughts captive, we grow in righteousness. And, while I’m not sure how much detail the Bible gives on this, I do know that there will be a reward for righteousness in heaven.
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)
“…whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows in the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:7b-9)
5. God gives grace as his children grow in practicing stewardship.
Just because I just wrote all this stuff about stewardship does not mean that I have it all together! It’s probably fair to say that none of us have mastered stewardship, and even when we are trying to be obedient and trying to learn from God’s wisdom, we make mistakes.
Knowing that stewardship is an area of obedience that touches nearly every part of our lives can be both a captivating and overwhelming thought. How can anyone juggle that much? Thankfully, God gives us grace when we make mistakes.
Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)
If we were required to live God’s way without His help and without room for failure, we would be crushed under the burden. The truth is, God does require perfection. But Jesus is our substitute, so, if you trust Him to forgive you of your sins and submit to Him, you are free to live God’s way without fear of punishment when you mess up and have His help to learn and grow beyond what you’re naturally capable of! Thank you, God!
“for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)