What is stewardship?
The Bible calls us “stewards” (trustees), which means that we have been entrusted with God’s gifts; we are expected to be responsible and take good care of God’s gifts. This includes: time, talents, and treasures!
Get Your Priorities Right – Put God First
Having right priorities is about wanting what God wants. The good news is that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and the Good Shepherd provides for the needs of his flock.
“While I may not get the fleeting things I want, I am getting everything God wants for me.” (Ben Lerner)
Check Your Motives – Worship God
“Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Proverbs 3.9–10)
Giving is Worship …
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? 2Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.
It seems to me that a lot of people see giving as a way of supporting the church — like country club dues. My theology of giving (i.e. tithes and offerings, “stewardship”) is that it is not primarily about supporting the church — it’s about worship.
OT Sacrificial System
While some of the OT sacrifices supported the priesthood, the best part was supposed to be burned. Not used, not “spent wisely” — it was an act of worship before God. The essence of worship is surrendering ownership and authority entirely to God over something that means something to you.
Accept Responsibility – Be a Giver
“Success on any major scale requires you to accept responsibility …. In the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have is the ability to take on responsibility.” (Michael Korda)
But we have a problem with responsibility …
An inmate at Butte County Jail in CA explained his absence from jail to sheriff’s deputies this way: “I was playing pole vault and I got too close to the wall and I fell over the wall. When I regained my senses, I ran around to try to find a way back in, but being unfamiliar with the area, got lost. Next thing I knew I was in Chico.”
Rights vs. Responsibility
We don’t like to talk much about responsibility. We’d rather talk about rights. Perhaps this is due to our American upbringing. The “Declaration of Independence” states …
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
We stop there, and we talk about our rights. But Jefferson didn’t stop there; he went on to talk about the responsibility of government and the responsibility of the people.
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
IOW, government is responsible to the people.
Problem with thinking we have rights is that we think the world owes us something. When we carry that into the church, we think God owes us something. I can’t think of anything that God owes us! Forgiveness? Salvation? God doesn’t owe us forgiveness and salvation! They are gifts! And with gifts, come great responsibility!
One day, Jesus was teaching and told a story. Peter asked, “Lord, is this story just for us or for everyone?”
What is our responsibility?
In the UM Baptismal Covenant, we ask …
“As members of this congregation, will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, and your service?”
Recently, Bishop Jane Allan Middleton’s address at her installation …
Vital ministry will be characterized by:
- Welcoming and open churches committed to spreading their message of invitation and this should include making a financial commitment to growing. Adam Hamilton at the Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City – a church that had no members, that did not exist in 1990 and now 14 years later has 10,000 members – committed 10 percent of its annual budget to evangelism for the first 10 years of their ministry. What percentage of your budget goes to evangelism?
- A high bar for membership and leadership, which requires weekly attendance, spiritual growth through Disciple and other scripture study, mission engagement and tithing. Come, worship with us. Be a part of our church, participate. But when you decide to join the church and if you are a leader, these are the requirements.
- Sacrificial commitment individually and corporately to mission, locally and globally. The churches which are truly reaching out in mission are the churches which are alive.