Living Stewardship--the gift of treasure
What is Stewardship?
What do you think of when you hear the word “stewardship”? Many, if not most of you, will automatically think of money, donations, tithing—but that’s not what stewardship is. Maybe you think it’s “time, talents and treasures.” But no, that’s not stewardship either.
Stewardship is not sacrificing, nor is it denying oneself. Dictionary.com says that stewardship is “the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving.”
No, that’s still not correct. Stewardship is love.
Stewardship--The Love Connection
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)
When did love begin? Was it in the Garden of Eden, when Adam first saw Eve? Was it when God formed Adam? Was it when God began the creation of the Earth? The answer is that love has always been. We were always a part of the wonderful plan of God. He knew we would sin, but He made us nevertheless because He loved us.
Love is a Gift
In the movie Castaway Tom Hanks gets so lonely that he paints a face on a volleyball and names it Wilson. Having an imaginary relationship for him was better than no relationship at all.
God created us not as isolated beings, but to be in a relationship with others. After creating Adam, God said “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18). Therefore, God gave Adam a gift—Eve. Upon seeing her, Adam sang a song of joy and praise.
Unlike the false gods of other religions, our Heavenly Father not only wants us to have a relationship with each other, but with Him as well. We read that Abraham was called a friend of God (James 2:23). We see that “the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11).
How to Share the Gift of Treasure
Proverbs 3:5-6, 9-10: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. 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.”
It seems that all people talk about these days is the financial crisis faced by our nation and the global economy. These issues are not just a concern on Wall Street. They affect all of our lives. Whether your own your home or rent, have a job or are retired, whether you have outstanding debt or pay off your credit card balance each month—the current economic turmoil will impact all of us. And, here at Faith, we are faced with great challenges in the day-to-day operation of our church and school as well. Our every day ministry needs the support of you, our family, to accomplish the mission you have asked us to do. But…
But, Does God need our money?
Loving God with our Treasures
“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born
under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights
of sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)
When I was a child, the best part of Christmas was the gifts, the anticipation of what was under the tree. But now that I’m older, I’ve become much more excited about GIVING than receiving. I put a great deal of thought and effort into the gifts I select. And I look forward to Christmas morning to watch the reaction of my loved one as he or she opens that special just-for-you gift.
Two thousand years ago our Heavenly Father gave us a gift. Paul tells us in Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the GIFT of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Let’s take a moment to unwrap that gift, to see what God really gave us when he gave us his Son. Jesus purpose, his mission was conceived of even before the beginning of the world. Jesus’ life did not begin in Bethlehem. He always was, is, and forever will be.
“He was chosen before the creation of the world,
but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”
(1 Peter 1:20).
He is the great I AM. Jesus came to this earth for one reason—to redeem YOU.
Jesus did what no other person could do—he was totally blameless and without sin, and so could take our place before the judgment of God the Father. Because Jesus conquered sin and death for us, we are no longer separated from God—we are a part of his family. “We are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:16-17).
So, when we open this GIFT, what should our reaction be?
Have you ever given a gift to someone that was not well-received? The anticipation in their eyes turned to disappointment or even ingratitude as soon as the wrapping paper was torn away? How can we live our lives as though God’s perfect gift is really important to us? In Proverbs 23:26 God says “My son, give me your heart.” God doesn’t need a gift FROM us—His concern is with the “giver”.
In the words of Martin Luther “What does this mean?” It means that we need to change our focus from giving TO the church to giving FROM our hearts.
Your prayer --
Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness
I am your sin.
You became what you were not
And made me to be what I was not
Loving Family with Your Treasures
You may wonder how managing your family’s finances fits into a discussion about Stewardship. Our families are another wonderful gift God has given to us, and thus are deserving of our attention, time, and devotion.
Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
(1 Timothy 5:8)
But what is a family? Today that might be a single person living on his or her own, a family unit with husband and wife, a larger grouping with parents or guardians and child/children, a multi-generational unit with grandparents, a blended family with half- or step-siblings, or a widowed or divorced person.
No matter what type of family you live in, our God wants you to provide for yourself and those in your care, and to be financially responsible—setting aside enough to share with God, family, and self, and to plan for the future as well. So, where do you begin?
Make changes today:
- Create a written budget--You must create a sound budget based on the amount of money that you have coming into the household. Then consider the expenses that must be paid out. After you designate how much must be paid to each expense, you will have a good idea of how much money you will have left over after each pay day.
- Talk with your creditors—If you are having problems paying your bills, pray, and then contact your creditors. Most are willing to work out payment arrangements. Don’t ignore their phone calls and letters.
- “Find the holes in your pockets”-- Determine where you are spending money foolishly. Do you really need to have a latte every day and/or that fast-food meal? Are you giving away money by making only the minimum payment on your credit cards?
Here are some small changes you could make that, over a year’s time, will make a big difference in your finances:
- Clip coupons. Even if it’s just 25 cents—use 4 once a week and you’ll have $52.00 more to spend.
- Buy a crock pot (slow cooker). A good-quality cooker costs less than $20.00 and will “do the cooking for you” while you are away from home.
- Cook on the weekend for meals during the week—this will eliminate the excuse for the fast-food scramble at 6:00 p.m. (“I don’t have time to cook!”)
- Brown-bag your lunch—lunch out 5 days a week really adds up. What about taking a PBJ, or take an apple and yogurt, or what about the leftovers from last nights dinner? Not only is taking your lunch less costly, it’s also healthier.
- Be aware of unit pricing in the grocery store. One 12-ounce package of pasta for $1.50, or a one-pound package of pasta for $1.75—which one is the better buy?
- Get radical! Sell some of those things that you don’t use at a yard sale, on Craig's list, or through Ebay.
Make changes for tomorrow:
- Save for emergencies—just $10 a week can make a difference if you stick with it.
- When your outstanding debt is in control, begin to save for your future. Does your employer offer a 401k? If so, take advantage of it—many employers contribute matching dollars.
Lord of the home, the Son you love
received a mother’s tender care,
a father’s strength like ours above,
a home with warmth and kindness there.
Help us, O Lord, our homes to make
your Holy Spirit’s dwelling place;
our hands and hearts’ devotion take
to be the servants of your grace.
We pray that all who with us dwell
your love and joy and peace may know.
And while our lips your praises tell,
may faithful lives your glory show.
Loving the Church with Your Treasures
“With his own hands he is to bring the offering made to the Lord by fire….” (Leviticus 7:30).
If asked “what is your favorite book of the Bible?” I doubt you would say Leviticus. It’s filled with long, detailed descriptions of laws and rituals taught by Moses to the Israelites as they sojourned in the desert. But in reading it we learn something about the things that were important to the people looking for the first Promised Land. A certain phrase appears again and again--”Bring an offering” (Leviticus 1:2, 2:8, etc.). These chapters detail many of the ways the people were asked to give to the Lord.
Leviticus 7:28 describes the fellowship offering--an expression of thanksgiving or gratitude--to be brought to the tabernacle “with (one’s) own hand.” In other words, it was not something to be delegated to someone else. One who wanted to acknowledge that he had been blessed expressed his thanks by bringing the offering himself to the priest. Through this offering, the Israelites were reminded of a deeply personal element to their expression of faith and generosity. Part of this offering was to go to the priests.
So what does this mean to us today? At the core of the spiritual life of any group of people, there must be some degree of organization and some people appointed to keep it going. Giving to the Lord means giving to this “spiritual overhead”, the money needed to support the work you have asked us to do.
How are your offerings used? Obviously, your donations provide a salary for your Pastor and keep the lights on. What else?
- All worship materials, donation envelopes, organ repairs, choir music, altar candles, and Communion supplies
- Benefits (health insurance, pension, and Workers’ Compensation) for our Pastor
- Salary for office staff, all utilities (phone, water, lights, heat), paper, monthly copier fees, insurance
- Building and Grounds maintenance and repairs
Stewardship--Living a Life of Love
Stewardship is not just another word for giving.
Stewardship is not a source of income for the church.
Stewardship is not an obligation.
Stewardship is your response to the love of God, and stewardship doesn’t start in your life until it starts in your heart.
Consider this. Every structure, no matter what it looks like, begins with the same thing. It is, in fact, the most important piece of the structure--the foundation.
As Christians, our foundation is to be built on God. If you don’t know God, then there is no reason to even consider the question of stewardship. You will naturally think that everything you have is yours, everything you earned is yours and everything you can get will be yours. There is no one else to think about. But, if you have God as the source of your life, as the creator of the ends of the earth, as the lover of your soul, then you have to pause and think about what He wants.
So if we recognize God as the author and creator of life, then we need to understand that we are living in God’s creation. In the book of Genesis it says that God created the heavens and the earth even before He created us. Then he created humanity and gave us dominion over all things. In other words, it was His creation and He asked us to manage it for Him.
“Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wagesto buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”(about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”
So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.” (John 6, selected verses)
God can make what little we have to offer go a long way. Time after time in the Scriptures God takes what is offered and extends its reach far beyond what anyone can imagine.
Perhaps the biggest stumbling block to building a life of Christian stewardship is trusting God. We tend to hold onto things because we worry about tomorrow.
And yet God says, “consider the sparrow… consider the lilies…” He has demonstrated His love for us by giving the ultimate gift, His only begotten son. He showed His love for us while we were yet sinners, strangers and aliens. He said I am going to do this to show you my love.
The truth is that if we know God, then we know He will open doors, He will make a way for
blessings to flow. He will take care of us. Too often we say “I’ll respond tomorrow, I’ll give later, I will volunteer to help when I have more time.”
Tomorrow may never come. We need to trust God today. We need to live life like the widow, who as bad as things looked, knew she could depend on God to take care of her. She was blessed in her giving. She walked away satisfied even though she gave her all. She walked away knowing that God loved her.
I pray that you and I can live that way too. I pray that we will know that God loves us and that he will provide for us, so we can respond and share generously.
When we give our offerings, our talents, our gifts, our love, God turns around and gives it back to us as something beautiful, something for us, and something for the kingdom on earth that He is building.
So shall our song of triumph ever be:
Praise to the crucified for victory.
Lift high the cross;
The love of Christ proclaim
till all the world adore His sacred name.
© 2014 Linda Lum