"The Connectional Lay Council Theme 2016-2017"
"Fortifying Our Faith While Focusing on Our Future through Stewardship"
by Joyce P. Edwards, Ph.D.,
Chair, Education Committee of the Connectional Lay Council
A steward is a person who conducts, supervises, and/or manages something for someone. A good steward is careful and responsible with that which is entrusted to his/her care.From Scripture, we learn that we are God’s stewards. “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’” (Genesis 1:27,28 NRSV)
Since everything belongs to God [The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. (Psalm 24:1)], we as believers in the sovereignty of God have an awesome responsibility. We are stewards of the earth, our lives, and the resources that God has bestowed on us.
Christian stewards, then, have the responsibility for “utilizing and managing all resources God provides for the glory of God and the betterment of His creation [emphasis added]." As good stewards, Christians have the responsibility of managing everything God brings into our lives in a manner that is in accord with the commandments of God, the image of God, and the perfectness of God’s creation. When we consider some of what God has given us as gifts for living, we might consider truth, time, talents, relationships, the earth, material possessions, and money. When we practice Christian stewardship, we take care all of these and more to glorify God and edify humankind. A mnemonic for remembering these seven areas of responsibility can be derived by using the first letter of each of these words: TTREMM (pronounced TRIM).
The first and most inclusive area of Christian stewardship is protecting and caring for God’s truth. First we must study the Word, corporately through Sunday School and Bible Study, and also individually to “search the scriptures.” Secondly, we must accept the Word as a guard ourselves by accepting the world’s standards. Thirdly, we are responsible for sharing the Word. “Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you.” Matthew 28;19-20 MSG
We need to remember how important are the words that come from our mouths. What we say can either edify people and glorify God, or it hinders the spreading of the gospel by discouraging others from believing. Paul also informed Timothy that are very lives are either a testimony for God glory or a curse:
Remind your people … in the name of the Lord not to argue over unimportant things. Such arguments are confusing and useless and even harmful. Work hard so God can say to you, “Well done.” Be a good workman, one who does not need to be ashamed when God examines your work. Know what his Word says and means. Steer clear of foolish discussions that lead people into the sin of anger with each other. Timothy 2:14-16 (TLB)
The translation of verse 16 provided in The Message is quite instructive: “But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.”
The quality of our stewardship is greatly reflected in how we use our time. Time reflects our priorities. If we use our time in ways that edify people and glorify God, we practice Christian stewardship. If we use our time mainly for our own comfort and entertainment, or in pursuits that are evil and vain, then we are poor stewards.“So, then, be careful how you live. Do not be unwise but wise, making the best use of your time because the times are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Ephesians 5:15-17 ESV
Similarly, the use of talents—our abilities and competencies as well as the development of our potential—should be used to glorify God and edify others. In contemporary society, we must be careful not to equate edifying others with making them feel good. Many of the devil’s wiles and pursuits make people feel very good—for a while. Use of our talents to edify people encourages them to live within God’s will—to develop their spiritual and cognitive abilities that enhance the lives of others. Talents are not always flashy: they may be as humble as the spiritual gift of hospitality.Using our talents for frivolity or evil makes us instruments of Satan, but the wise use of our talents alwaysbespeak the love and power of God.
An important area of stewardship is the area of relationships. Rarely are the relationships we have with other people discussed in the context of Christian stewardship. But perhaps we should think of our relationships with our families and our friends in the same way we think of other gifts that God has given us. If we think of our relationships as gifts from God, we might be more careful in nurturing them. Our marriages might be stronger if we think of them as belonging to God, rather than existing for what we can get out of them. In marriage, God has created one out of two. Thus, a marriage is not a human institution; it is God’s creation, and thus certainly we have the responsibility to manage carefully our marriages. We should similarly handle carefully our relationships with our coworkers and superiors, our pastors and our fellow churchmen, and, of course, our relationship with our children. We should listen and seek to understand them. We should be ever so cautious about judging and condemning.
The responsibility of humankind to care for the earth has received notable attention in recent years. Some may believe that powerful people are the only ones under scrutiny for their failure to keep the waters pure, the air free of pollution, the earth’s landscapes and landforms safeguarded, and the animals protected. However, we as individual Christians and congregations have responsibility by thinking globally and acting locally. We as Christians should educate ourselves about our own habits that are harmful to God’s earth. Moreover, we have the duty to join advocacy efforts for the protection of the earth.
The material possessions we have should be handled with care. They are gifts from God that accrue from the wealth we have; and should be chosen with care. They should be used, not abused. Mindless discarding and replacing material possessions reflects a lack of thankfulness and taking God’s blessings for granted. There is a “throw away” mentality in the U.S.A. that is conscientiously avoided by God’s good stewards.
The nexus between faith and the stewardship of money is profound. When we commit in advance to give a specific percentage of our wealth (i.e. our gross income) back to God even if we are uncertain what the income will be, we demonstrate faith in God’s provision. “Returning to God what you think you can live without doesn’t demonstrate faith in His provision; it reveals a self-sufficient heart that doesn’t believe that God is our Provider and Owner.” While there is nothing in the New Testament that stipulates that a tenth of our income is required, the principle of making a prior and consistent commitment to return a proportion of our wealth to God is clearly taught. Also, we learn from the Old Testament that 10% is a reasonable portion of our wealth to return to God. Moreover, we are to be “cheerful” givers, “not reluctantly or under compulsion.” 1 Corinthians 9:7 NIV
Stewardship and Faith
Someone observed that Christian stewardship is actually the practice of Christian faith--Christian belief in action. Priorities rooted in Biblical principles determine how we take care of God’s truth, spend our time, use our talents, regard our relationships, treat the earth, use our material possessions and manage our money. The practice of Christian stewardship increases our faith. As one wise poet said, “Way leads on to way.” The road we travel leads on to a similar road. The practice of faith leads on to fortified faith in God’s way and our propensity to live in God’s will.
Stewardship and the Future
The association betweenour stewardship and our focus on our future is profound. This profundity is stated dramatically when Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.”6:19-20 NRSV Wise stewards store up treasures in heaven. As my father used to say, “We have to work out our soul’s salvation so that we can ‘…take hold of the eternal life.’” Timothy 6:12 NRSV Our stewardship is our work for our future home in eternity.