Recently I’ve been teaching on generosity as a part of our annual stewardship promotion and budget adoption campaign. Through the years I’ve enjoyed teaching on stewardship, and according to my record keeping I could comfortably present on this topic more than I do. I’ve hit all the major passages on stewardship, and a few obscure ones too. But the one thing that I’m convinced of is this: the most important principle in understanding stewardship is that God is the owner of everything. If we can grasp that, much of what follows falls in place.
I believe the Bible teaches that God is owner of all things. Every blessing we have has come from Him. We can’t take credit for anything or claim that we possess anything because we have earned it or deserve it. It’s all God’s and all that we have is from God. God is owner and we are stewards.
Stewards? What does that mean? A steward is a person who manages the owner’s possessions in a way that is consistent with the owner’s wishes. A steward doesn’t manage based on what he or she sees fit, a steward manages in a manner that is consistent with the goals and desires of the owner.
Last Sunday I illustrated this principle by placing 10 apples on the communion table. The 10 apples represented the blessings of God in our lives. If you’re like me, you grew up hearing about stewardship in terms of tithing (the practice of giving God 10% of your household income through the local church). God gives us 10 apples and wants 1 in return. That’s simple math that any elementary student can understand.
The problem with teaching stewardship that way is that it seems to suggest that if we give God His “one” apple, we have 9 remaining that we can use however we choose. That’s simply not how it works. They’re ALL God’s apples. You can give one or none, but they’re all His. Furthermore, people like you and me are accountable to the owner for how we use all 10 of them, not just whether or not we have given one to Him on Sunday.
James 1:17 says that every good and perfect gift we have has come from God. He has entrusted those gifts to us, and we’re accountable to Him for how we use each of them. If we can wrap our minds around that, we’re on the way to good stewardship and free to be generous.