Moreover, it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.
1 Corinthians 4:2 NKJV
Stewardship is a word that has fallen out of popular usage. If you hear it, there is probably a collection plate somehow involved. Preachers use it to address the importance of giving to the church or “paying tithes.” The word is often thrown about when the church is in the middle of a fundraising campaign or a building project.
The typical person on the street, if asked, probably could not give a coherent definition. We haven’t heard it used by anyone other than our pastor or our parents. Most of us know that it is a word associated primarily with church or religion. That’s just the way the word is used today.
How Does God Want Us to Think About Money?
One way Christians have thought about stewardship and money is that we should all be impoverished. Jesus urged the rich young ruler, who had a large amount of material wealth, to sell everything he had, to give the money to the poor, and to follow him. Shortly after this encounter, Jesus remarked that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
He also told a parable about a wealthy landowner who saved a comfortable retirement for himself. In the parable, God called this man foolish because he spent his life saving so he could enjoy his retirement, but as soon as he retired, he died bankrupt in the currency of heaven.
Citing these passages and others, monks, priests, and nuns have for centuries forsaken their worldly possessions and have taken a vow of poverty. Even Christian cult leaders rail on YouTube that anyone who has a secular job is serving Mammon instead of serving God. But is this really to what God is calling us?
On the other hand, so-called prosperity preachers condemn the poor for their lack of faith. They imagine that some secret sin is the cause of their poverty. Wealth is portrayed as the blessing God intends to give us, and anyone who lacks is discrediting God and isn’t worthy of being in God’s glitzy kingdom where everyone has a private jet and a mansion adorned with golden fixtures.
The truth is God doesn’t condemn poor people for being poor. Nor does he condemn the wealthy for having money. What he does condemn are they who exploit the poor for their own gain. This includes the ones who promise widows that God will return their “seed faith” gift tenfold if they sacrifice their social security check so the pastor can buy another Lamborghini.
Nor does God want us to make ourselves vulnerable by insisting we clear out our bank accounts each week and give it to someone looking for his next bottle of liquor. We are to trust God to care for us and provide our needs. If we trust in our paycheck, it will let us down, but there’s nothing wrong with having some money set aside for emergencies. The scriptures teach us that it is wise to do so. They also teach that we should work to produce an income so that we will have something to share with those in need. I think it is a misunderstanding to believe that Jesus advocated impoverishing ourselves by giving away everything we owned or failing to prepare for our retirement years.
It’s no wonder with all the confusing advice we get that it is difficult to discern a proper attitude toward our finances. In this book, we seek to dispel the myths and lies believers are told and get to the real skinny truth from God’s lips (and heart) to our spiritual ears.
We live in an age of discontentment. We either subconsciously curse God because he does not satisfy the longings of our stony spirits or we set up false idols of security and status based on the calculus of our bank statement. God’s word teaches us that we are to learn contentment whether we are abased or we abound. If we have adequate food and sufficient clothing and shelter, we should be satisfied. If we have an abundance, we should be ready to give, willing to share.
What it Means to be a Steward
The dictionary defines stewardship as, “the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care <stewardship of natural resources>.”1 If we break down the etymology of the word, we learn that stewardship is close to a word that we use more often — management. Basically, a steward is a manager. A manager usually is someone who works for an owner and takes care of that owner’s resources.
That is the way it works with our relationship with God. Jesus tells us the parable of the talents (see Mt 25:14-30) to illustrate the qualities of a good steward. A man was a master over three stewards to whom he entrusted large amounts of money (talents). To one he gave five talents, and, when he returned, the master received ten talents back because the faithful steward had invested the money and had doubled its value. The same happened with the second steward who was given two talents. He invested the money and returned four talents when the master returned. Both were commended as faithful servants.
The last steward, however, was given one talent. Instead of investing it, he buried it. When the master returned, the steward dug up the talent and gave the man back his money, but did not increase its value. This steward was condemned. He was chastised for his laziness. Bottom line – God takes a very dim view of those of us who are poor stewards with what he has given us to manage. He has provided all of us with a great deal, and he expects us to manage well what he has provided. Some of us have been given much, others have been given less, but we should all be good stewards of what we have. The faithful stewards are both invited to enter in their master’s joy. The lazy steward is cast out into the outer darkness where there are weeping and gnashing of teeth. Most readers understand these to be pictures of heaven and hell.
About this Book
As I indicated above, when you think of stewardship, it is usually connected to your finances. I hope to show in this book and the two that follow in this series that money is only part of what we should steward well. Specifically, we are blessed with a measure of money, time, and health. In this book, we look at financial stewardship. In subsequent books in this series, we will look at time & purpose and our physical bodies that God has entrusted to our care.
Regardless of what else God has given us charge over, financial stewardship is a large part of the equation. Jesus said, “Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon (money), who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Luke 16:11 NKJV).
I intend this book to be a practical guide, not a theoretical treatise. I want to back up everything I say with scripture, but I also will provide hints and suggestions that will help you live the spiritual principles practically. I want to be your coach for real life outside of the Sunday School classroom.
I will show you how to get the most out of your money. I want you to honor God with a balanced view of wealth, work, poverty, and prosperity. I want you to avoid the traps of greed, guilt, and excess. But similarly, I want you to be able to use and manage your material wealth in a way that honors the father and his provision to you.
In chapter 1, we look at a modern-day parable of two young women. One lived beyond her means and suffered the consequences of her extravagant lifestyle choices. The other lived a simple but fulfilling existence and was blessed with a life of accomplishment. In subsequent chapters, we will revisit these women and see how following or not following sound financial principles enhances or precludes their success.
Chapter 2 focuses on the popular but heretical prosperity gospel. We will talk about why this belief system is wrong and why we should avoid its seduction. We will also look at the attitudes about money promoted in scripture, as well as, some of the recent theories espoused by financial researchers.
We get practical in chapter 3 as we look at budgets and spending according to a plan. We offer step-by-step instructions for anyone unfamiliar with budgeting and help you get acclimated to your plan even if you’re not a seasoned pro.
In chapter 4, we talk about the responsibility Christians have to share material wealth with those that are in need and with those who spiritually minister to us. We discuss tithing and dispel some of the fallacies that are taught about the obligations of New Testament Christians to give a tenth of their income to the church. We also discuss, in spite of the lack of compulsion, the necessity of generosity for the believer.
Christians do not get possession of 90% of what God provides.
It all is still his.
Chapter 5 addresses the need for an emergency savings account, which we call your umbrella fund. We’ll tell you why you need an umbrella fund, how much you should have in this fund, and how to determine when you have an actual emergency versus something you just want to spend money on.
In chapter 6, we focus on getting out of debt. We explain what’s wrong with debt and why we shouldn’t carry large credit card balances. We also give you a practical plan for paying off debt and resisting the temptation to go back into debt once you have been set free.
By the time you get to chapter 7, you are ready to start socking away the big bucks and really building a secure future. With no more debt payments draining away your income, you can start saving like crazy and building the kind of nest egg that will allow you to be generous and comfortable.
Chapter 8 deals with the topic of investing. We’ll talk about why investing helps your wealth grow and puts your money to work making far more than you can in a bank savings account.
Chapter 9 explains how you can prepare for a pleasant and prosperous future through patience and perseverance. We’ll discuss why waiting is good and how the various retirement vehicles work.
Finally, we will conclude with some next steps and practical ways to get the most from the information covered in this book.
Routines and Rituals
It will not do you any good to read about getting your finances in order if you fail to act on the knowledge you learn. The difference between those who read this book and break their bondage to debt and become generous benefactors and those who read but remain trapped and feel they have done all they can do when they drop a couple of dollars into the red kettle at Christmas time is whether they apply the lessons to their lives. For this reason, I have created a companion workbook to help you implement the lessons in the book. See the instructions under “Free Gift” following this introduction for details on how to get your own copy.
If you haven’t been a good steward with the money God has given you, it’s not time to despair. I have not lived my life perfectly and have made many “money mistakes.” Because I have made errors, I can speak of the things I have done poorly so you learn from what I have done wrong.
No matter where you are in your financial life journey, go and get your shovel, dig up your talent, and start using it to provide a good return of investment for the one who provided it to you. You are never too old or too young to start being a good steward. Ask for forgiveness for your past, learn the lessons you need, and start over from the point at which you find yourself. You can begin again.
Financial investment and literacy are specialized fields that require a licensed and/or degreed professional to navigate successfully. The advice in this book are the opinions of someone who attempted through a lifelong pursuit to understand a complicated subject. Nothing in this book should be taken as a guaranteed method of success or the professional prescription necessary to manage your financial health.