The word that best describes our part is steward. The Greek word for steward is oikonomos, which can be translated into the English words “manager” or “supervisor.” The position of steward as used in the Bible denotes a person who has full responsibility for all the master’s possessions and household affairs.
As we examine Scripture we see that God, as Master, has given us the authority to be stewards over His possessions. “You made him ruler over the works of your (the Lord) hands; you put everything under his feet” (Psalm 8:6, NIV).
A STEWARD’S RESPONSIBILITY
The extent of a steward’s responsibility is summed up in this verse: “Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2, KJV). Before we can be faithful, we must know what we are required to do. Just as the purchaser of a new computer program goes through the tutorials to learn how to properly operate the program, we need first of all to examine the Creator’s handbook – the Bible – to determine how He wants us to handle His possessions.
Two elements of our responsibility to be faithful are important to understand.
1. Faithful with whatever we are given. The Lord requires us to be faithful regardless of how much or how little He has entrusted to us. The parable of the talents illustrates this. “For it just lime a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves, and entrusted his possessions to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability” (Matthew 25:14-15).
When the master returned, he held each slave accountable for faithfully managing his possessions. The master commended the faithful slave who received the five talents: “Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21).
Interestingly, the slave who had been given two talents received a reward identical to the slave who had been given five talents (see Matthew 25:23). The Lord rewards faithfulness, regardless of the amount over which we are responsible.
We are required to be faithful whether we are given much or little. As someone once said, “It’s not what I would do if one million dollars were my lot; it’s what I am doing with the ten dollars I’ve got!”
2. Faithful in every area. I hope it becomes apparent from this course that God requires us to be faithful stewards in handling 100 percent of our money, not just 10 percent. Unfortunately, many churches have concentrated only on the area of giving. And although this area is crucial, our neglect has resulted in the body of Christ learning to handle the other 90 percent from the world’s perspective.
As a result of not being equipped to handle money biblically, many Christians have wrong attitudes toward possessions. This causes them to make incorrect financial decisions and to suffer the painful consequences. Hosea 4:6 reads, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
REWARDS OF A FAITHFUL STEWARD
As a faithful steward, you will enjoy three benefits.
1. You will experience more intimate fellowship with Christ
Remember what the master said to the slave who had been faithful in discharging his financial responsibilities: “Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21). We have the opportunity to enter into closer, more intimate fellowship with our Lord as we are faithful with the possessions He has entrusted to us.
Someone once told me that the Lord often allows a person to teach a particular subject because that person needs it so desperately! That is certainly true for me. I have never met anyone who had more wrong attitudes toward money or who handled money more unscripturally than did I. When I began to apply these principles, I experienced a dramatic improvement in my fellowship with the Lord. Each of the financial principles included in this study is intended to draw us closer to Christ.
2. Your character will be developed. Throughout Scripture there is a close correlation between the development of a person’s character and how he or she handles money. In fact, God uses money to refine our character.
David McConaugh explained in Money the Acid Test, “Money, most common of temporal things, involves uncommon and eternal consequences. Even though it may be done quite unconsciously, money molds men in the process of getting it, saving it, spending it and giving it. Depending on how you use money, it proves to be a blessing or a curse to its possessor. Either the person becomes master of the money or the money becomes the master of the person. Our Lord takes money, as essential as it is to our common life, and as sordid as it sometimes seems, and makes it a touchstone to test our life and an instrument to mold people into the likeness of Himself.”
You have heard the expression, “Money talks.” And it does. You can tell a lot about a person’s character by examining their bank statement because we spend our money on the things that are most important to us. Consequently, money is regarded in Scripture as an index to a person’s true character.
3. Your financial house will be set in order. As we apply the principles of God’s economy to our finances, we will begin to get out of debt, spend more wisely, start saving for our future goals and give even more to the work of Christ.
PRINCIPLES OF FAITHFULNESS
Three principles of faithfulness that are important to understand.
1. If we waste possessions, the Lord will remove us as stewards. “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and this steward was reported to him as squandering his possessions.And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward’” (Luke 16:2).
There are two applications from this passage for us. First, wasting our possessions becomes public knowledge and creates a poor testimony. “This steward was reported to him as squandering his possessions” (Luke 16:1). Secondly, the Lord will remove us as stewards if we squander what He has given us.
A local businessman earned a fortune and then went on an uncontrolled spending spree. Two years later he informed his office staff that he had little left, and everyone would need to economize. Shortly thereafter, he left for a vacation, during which he ordered his offices, which were already beautifully decorated, to be completely renovated at a cost of several thousand dollars.
I visited his newly decorated offices during his vacation, and the entire staff was laughing over his unbridled spending habits. I left with the distinct impression that the Lord may remove this man from the privilege of stewardship over much. Today he is on the verge of bankruptcy. This principle is applicable today. If you waste the possessions entrusted to you, you will not be given more.
2. Character is developed by faithfulness in little things. “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much” (Luke 16:10).
How do you know if a child is going to take good care of his first car? Observe how he cared for his bicycle. How do you know if a salesperson will do a competent job of serving a large client? Evaluate how he served a small client. If we have the character to be faithful with small things, the Lord knows he can trust us with greater responsibilities.
Hudson Taylor said, “Small things are small things, but faithfulness with a small thing is a big thing.”
3. Faithfulness is important with the possessions of another. Faithfulness with another’s possessions will, in some measure, determine how much God entrust to you. “And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s who will give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:12).
This principle is often overlooked. One of the most faithful men I know borrowed a vehicle from a friend. While driving the vehicle, he was involved in an accident. After explaining the situation to the owner, he took the vehicle to the owner’s mechanic and instructed him, “I want you to completely restore this vehicle. Make it better than it was before the accident, and I will be responsible for the bill.” What an example of the faithful use of another’s possessions!
Are you careless with the possessions entrusted to you? Do you waste electricity? When someone allows you to use something, are you careful to return it in good shape? I am certain some people have not been entrusted with more because they have been unfaithful with the possessions of others.
Moses wrote, “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years… so teach us to number our days that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:10, 12).
Understanding the brevity of life is important. The Lord tells us to nurture this view so we can gain wisdom. It forces us to ask the question, “What am I going to do with the relatively few remaining days of my life on earth?”
Most people don’t address this issue head on, but I want to challenge you to number your days so you can more accurately consider where you are on life’s journey. How many days would you have left if you live to age 70? How many days if you live to age 80? What about 50?
Our culture and the media implore us to focus on the immediate. Advertisers persuade purchasers to gratify themselves today with no thought of tomorrow. However, we need to nurture an eternal perspective.
To better comprehend the reality of eternity, let me share an illustration. If every drop of rain and every flake of snow that have ever fallen along with every grain of sand that has ever existed were each to be counted as a million years, after we’ve been in heaven for that long, eternity will only have just begun!
To understand the brevity of life, picture our momentary time on earth as a mere dot on the timeline of eternity. As tiny as that dot is, it contains the God-given opportunity to impact eternity by how we handle money and invest our time today.
Gaining eternal perspective and eternal values will have a profound effect on your decision making. Moses is a good example. Moses is a good example. “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to endure ill treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26).
Moses faced a choice. As Pharaoh’s adopted son he could enjoy the lavish lifestyle of royalty, or he could choose to become a Hebrew slave. Because he had an eternal perspective, he chose the latter and was used by the Lord in a remarkable way. We face a similar decision. We can either live with a view toward eternity or live focused on this present world.
I once visited a field on which I played when I was twelve years old. I remembered it as a huge field surrounded by towering fences. I was shocked to discover how small it really was. I can also remember wanting something so much I could almost taste it. Yet today it means almost nothing to me!
I think we will experience something similar when we arrive in heaven. Many things that seem so large and important to us now will fade into insignificance in the light of eternity.
THE OMNISCIENT GOD
There is nothing you will ever do or think that the Lord does not know. Your life – past, present and future – is an open book to Him. “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and lay bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13)
Psalm 139:1-3 brings it home in an intensely personal way. “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar … you are familiar with all my ways” (NIV).
The thought of being fully known would be overwhelming if it were not balanced with the knowledge that the Lord also loves us deeply.
ACCOUNTABILITY AND REWARDS
The Lord will hold us accountable for how we use our time, talent and resources, just as the parable of the talents illustrates: “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them” (Matthew 25:19).
2 Corinthians 5:9-10 reads, “Therefore also we have as our ambition … to be pleasing to Him.For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
Each one of us will ultimately stand before the Lord and give an account for how we managed our time, money, talent and resources.
This perspective should motivate us to live and to handle money strictly according to the principles of Scripture. Our life on earth is so brief when compared with eternity; yet how we live on earth will influence how we live throughout eternity.
“Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day (judgment day) will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work … if it remains, he shall receive a reward” (1 Corinthians 3:12-14).