Stewardship and God – Ephesians 4:28

It Is Not Only Important HOW You Make Wealth, But Also What You DO With It

Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

Stop Stealing

Solomon, the wisest man to ever walk the Earth (with the exception of Jesus Christ), provided some insight into work:

1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat
for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Solomon understood that there was more to life than merely acquiring wealth.  Security and prosperity come from the Lord, and not from our own endeavors.  When we take on the responsibility for trying to obtain what we believe is needed in order to live, we end up wasting our lives in vain by spending inordinate amounts of time and energy in pursuit of money and possessions that inevitably end up in the hands of others.

God has given us a Commandment to obtain our wealth through His proscribed ways:

You shall not steal

When we steal, we are coveting that which God has not directly nor indirectly provided to us.  It is a violation of His law of conduct between a person and society, as well as that person and God.  When we steal from others, it deprives them of what God has permitted them to obtain through their endeavors, whether legally or illegally.  Secondly, it says that we do not trust God to provide for us in our time of need.  Finally, it indicates that not only are we not content with what God has provided for us, but that we have greed and covetousness in our hearts.

It is better to be poor with integrity than to be rich and a fool.

Work for Wealth

Work expresses itself differently in everyone’s lives.  In this case, Paul indicates that we should all be doing something with our hands to generate wealth.  This is not a call to manual labor per se, but rather a call to use the gifts and talents that God has provided each and every one of us with in order to both do something that is legal (both in terms of man’s law AND God’s law) and that is desired by other people who are willing to trade either money, labor, or goods in exchange.

If you do not know what specific special skills God has provided to you for His glory and your monetary enrichment, seek the Lord in prayer and fasting for the answer.  Then, when God provides the insight, set your mind towards the goal of honoring and glorifying His name in that venue, giving all glory to God who has provided You with both the skill and opportunity.  Placing God first in this will surely honor and glorify His name, regardless the outcome.  And your dedication will be noticed by others who are in the position to promote you and use the abilities that you have been given for greater use and economic enrichment.

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Saving and Spending

There are only four things that you can do with money:

  • Spend it
  • Save it
  • Invest it
  • Give it away

In each of these, there is value.  Paul shows us here that there is value in giving some of it away.  God provides to us, and we should share as God places it upon our hearts with those who are encountering difficulty.  And while wisdom and discernment should be used when giving to others, we should give to others.

Those who live by thievery do so from self-serving motives – whether it is the thought of self-preservation (food, shelter, clothing) or greed and covetousness, it reveals where our hearts are.  Paul encourages those who now obtain their wealth through work to not only think about themselves, but also those who need assistance.

We are told many times in Scripture to help widows and orphans.  In the time when Scripture was written, those were the two most vulnerable segments of humanity within society.  Widows had no protection of a husband, and orphans had no family with which to provide them with basic necessities, guidance, skills, and resources for opportunity.

The opportunity to help those less fortunate than ourselves is a characteristic that God wishes to foster in each and every one of us.  And it is unnatural to one who has been rejected by society with no prospects of earning money to be compassionate towards others as they were starving or otherwise at the mercy of the physical rigors associated with homelessness.

Saving some of the wealth that we have earned is paramount to a measure of security.  And while we do not place our trust in the money that we have, from an emotional standpoint it is much easier to do our work when we don’t have to concern ourselves with the thought that we will be unable to meet our financial obligations as we frugally seek to stay away from debt.

Sharing and Shaping

In order to share with others, we must first have something to share.  This is a secondary benefit of dedicating part of what we have earned (and what has not be confiscated by our government in taxes for their continued efforts).  Good stewardship reveals itself in how we conduct ourselves and our finances.  Setting aside “for a rainy day” is one of them. Setting aside for the betterment of others less fortunate is another.

Additionally, it develops within us the ability to control our desires.  When we say “NO!” to the voice in our heads that tell us that we need something right now, we are better able to say “NO!” when something truly important occurs in our lives that requires us to have self-control.

A good rule of thumb to use when you believe that you absolutely, positively, MUST have something RIGHT NOW is to ask yourself some questions:

  • Will I or someone else be severely impacted in my/their physical well-being if I do not purchase this right now?
  • Is this something that I absolutely need (as opposed to something that I want)?

If you answer yes to either of these questions, you may need to purchase it.  Now ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can I live without this (forever)?
  • Can I live without this for at least a week?
  • Will I be financially indebted or exposed to financial ruination if I choose to purchase this right now?

If the answer to all of these questions are “No’, then you probably need to purchase it right now.

If your heart is still set on purchasing something that you want and do not need, then give your emotions a hiatus.  Place purchasing the item on probation for a period of time, perhaps a month, or if very expensive, six months.  You may find that after a period of time, your desire for what you want to buy may change.  And if it is something that you really desire, you will be in a better place emotionally to get it at the best price possible.  Advertising and sales try to emotionally involve you in your purchasing decisions.  “90% off offer only today!” is very enticing not only from the perspective of getting a bargain but also from the knowledge that you will have it immediately.

The principle here is self-control over our desires.  Each of us should develop this so that we can better react to the triggers that we face when in the world – the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.  When we can get these things under the control of the Holy Spirit, we are in a much better place to be trusted with additional resources by God for His glory.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I able to exert self-control when presented with the opportunity to be immediately gratified?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are to be praised, for You show such great self-control especially given the grievous nature of my sin.  You patiently wait for me to repent, and lavish your grace and mercy upon me.  You provide for my every need, and even some of my desires.  Help me, Father, to learn the self-control that will help me to be more useful in Your kingdom.  Keep my heart from worldly desires, and help me to fix my eyes upon Jesus, to look full in His wonderful gaze.  Remember me in my weakness, for when I am weak, You are strong.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Stewardship from God – 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Wealth is a Trap; The Wise Put Their Trust in God.

17 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 everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Warning of Wealth

To those whom God has seen fit to provide much, much is required.  The provision of great wealth can cause people to being to trust in it rather than in God.  Their wealth is what they turn to when they have problems in life.  And wealth CAN extricate a person from many issues in this world.  Indeed, most people who have wealth trust not in God but in the security that they are well provided for.  Jesus said:

“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Since God owns all of the silver and the gold, as well as the Earth, and everything in it and on it, He is able to provide for our every physical need as well as our spiritual and emotional needs.  The wealthy need to be careful to remember where their wealth truly comes from, lest they forget and attribute themselves as the source.

Sharing is Caring

God has trusted much with the wealthy, but with great privilege comes great responsibility:

But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Since everything belongs to God, we are merely stewards of it.  And the rich have been blessed greatly by God with material wealth.  They must judiciously use it to further the Kingdom of God, rather than to merely spend it on their own pleasures.

You can only do three things with wealth:

  • You can save it (or grow it into greater wealth)
  • You can spend it
  • You can give it away

In this passage, God indicates that part of the responsibility of wealth it to give it away.  The steward entrusted with wealth is required to be seeking God with all their heart to know what God’s will is for His wealth.  Whether it be charities, ministries, the indigent, or whatever God places upon their hearts, they are to be faithful in managing and administering the wealth entrusted to them.

Firm Foundation

When we are obedient to God, we are assured that we are laying up treasure in Heaven rather than treasure here on Earth, where moths and rust destroy.  For where our treasure is, there also is our heart.  Those who have been provided much must seek God for direction in how to manage what they have been provided.  ALL of us must do this, but the ones who have been provided much have a greater burden upon them for their increased responsibilities given to them by God.

Many people have said that they would not mind being given that kind of responsibility.  However, are they able to manage the little God has provided to them?  If not, what would they do with that much more responsibility and wealth?  We are each given what we are able to manage.  If we are faithful with little, we will be faithful with much.  Indeed, we should turn our attention to the giver of the gifts rather than the gifts themselves.  And pray for the rich, for they need much help to be put all things in balance.

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question:  Are we being faithful with what little we have been entrusted with?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are the giver of all good gifts.  Thank You for providing me with what I have.  Give me direction, strength, and ability to manage all that has been provided so that it honors and glorifies You.  Help me to be free from envy when I have little, and to be free from pride when I have much.  You own everything, and I am merely a steward of it.  All that has been provided to me I dedicate to You for Your purposes.  Direct my paths and guide my ways that the outcome would be fruitful.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Stewardship with God – Ephesians 5:15-16

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

The great equalizer of man is time.  Everyone gets exactly 24 hours in a day (unless it is their time to give an accounting of themselves to God), and can manage that time any way they choose.  Like the parable of the bags of gold, God has given us various amounts of material wealth, and gifts as well to use for His purposes and to bring glory to His name.

These can be summarized as follows:

Time

  • Every second of every day, we choose how to apply ourselves.  Some watch TV for hours on end; others play video games;  some invest in their family;  some in their job; others in pursuits that bring them pleasure or to fulfill their obligations; some choose carousing and sleep.  Lastly, there are those that invest in God’s kingdom for God’s purposes during God’s timing.
  • We cannot ever get even a second of time back.  Once it is spent, whether for good purposes or not, it is spent; it becomes one less second that we have left in the life that God has provided to us.  Use your time wisely.

Talent

  • What gifts has God given you?  Are you a word-smith?  An artist?  A teacher?  An athlete?  A scientist?  A pastor?  God has given us all gifts that can be used to further His purposes, or squander on our own lives.  The Holy Spirit has also provided you with Spiritual Gifts.  What a tragedy when someone with a great gift refuses to use it!  Imaging the world today if Marie Curie chose to write limericks?  How about if Albert Einstein chose to play tiddlywinks?  Or, Christopher Columbus decided to make rock gardens?  What if Martin Luther chose to tan leather?  You have talents!  How you choose to use them, or not, is up to you…
  • For most people, working at a job – whether their own business or in the employ of someone else – is a daily need and responsibility.  God has provided you with talents that, when used for Him, will bring differing levels of wealth in compensation for the efforts applied, risks taken, and perceived value by others for your skills.  The Holy Spirit has placed within you special talents in addition to your other talents.  Find the one (or ones?) that give(s) you such great joy that you cannot wait to go to work!  Remember that the Sabbath was made for man – God intended for work to be so satisfying that we might forget to set aside some time to worship our creator!  Don’t believe culture – find what God has placed in you and live a more rewarding life!
  • Even if you are scrubbing toilets, do it with all your might as unto the Lord.  Others will notice your diligence, and will provide you with better opportunities to make them more money (if they are wise).

Treasure

  • Whether you inherited money, make it from working, get it from a charity, or receive it from the government, you have been entrusted with wealth.  Even if you have no money, the fruit of your labor is your treasure.  Be aware of what treasure you have, so that you can honor God with it.
  • Remember that money is merely a medium of exchange – it allows you to freely trade the fruit of your efforts for the efforts of others in goods and services.  Use it wisely.
  • If you don’t have money, barter your goods and services well.
  • Some people want to win the lottery.  Why?!?!  It came from the backs of the poor, the destitute, and math-challenged people looking for a quick fix to their financial woes.  Unless a person has experience in managing great wealth, they are more likely to abuse it, and end up worse once the money is gone than when they were before they received “the blessing”.  Who would want to have to give an accounting to God for what they did with it?

When we bring these three things – Time, Talent, and Treasure – into submission to God, our lives will begin to become more focused and effective.  God rewards faithfulness in stewardship with more responsibility.  And with more responsibility comes greater reward – not just worldly wealth, but treasure in heaven – when it is used for God’s purposes.

So, let’s ask the question:  How effectively am I managing the Time, Talent, and Treasure God has provided to me for His purposes?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, we praise You for You are wonderful.  We thank You that You have seen fit to permit us the opportunity to work, and to use skills to create and flourish.  Father, we are humbled that You provide this knowing that we mess things up.  I pray that You will show me, Father, how I can better use these resources to bring glory to Your name.  Reveal in me the talents You have placed in me that will bring me joy when used in Your service.  Help me to make any adjustments in life to fulfill this calling that You have given me, and fill my heart with joy knowing that doing this pleases You.  Forgive me, Father, for I don’t like change, and uncertainty causes me anxiety.  Remove these things from my heart that I may  die to self, pick up my cross, and follow Jesus with complete abandon.  This I ask in the name of Your Perfect Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Stewardship from God – Psalm 24:1-2

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;

for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.

It seems obvious that since God created the Earth, the Universe, and everything (in the Greek, cosmos), that we would naturally assume that He owns it. EVERYTHING.  Including us.  But God saw fit to remind us that everything IS His.  Since we have free will, we sometimes think that we own ourselves.  But isn’t that at the very heart and nature of sin?  God is owner – everything is His.  He has been gracious to delegate authority over what He owns as stewardship to us.

How often do we catch ourselves saying, “my car”, “my house”, “my job”, “my life”?  Isn’t more appropriate to look at it from this perspective – “The car that God graciously provided to me to use for His purposes”, etc.?  Until we realize that everything is God’s, and we are merely stewards of His property – the universe, the very bodies we have, the thoughts we have, the words we speak, and the actions we take, we will fall into the trap of the world’s thinking, and believe that somehow what is God’s is now ours.  Isn’t that theft?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Holy is Your Name.  May Your reign and rule over all creation be extended from where you are to where we are.  In all things You show that You are Sovereign Lord.  Help us, O Lord, to see Your hand in our lives, that we may remember that we our Yours, not only those that have given our lives to You, but all of creation is Yours for Your pleasure and Your Will as You desire.  I now dedicate all that has been provided to me, through stewardship, by You, to be used for Your purposes as You see fit.  Help me to always seek You constantly that everything that You have provided to me will be used as You instruct to bring Glory and Praise and Honor to You and You alone.  This I pray in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?