Stewardship is planning to get maximum returns for God’s purposes
YOU may know people who are penny-wise, pound-foolish: people who are generally frugal but when a windfall hits, they go berserk and splurge and flush their money away.
And of course, there are people who are the exact opposite. They are careful with large sums of money, but don’t mind throwing the odd dollar away.
I once had a discussion with a friend about helping out beggars who might actually be conmen out to make a quick buck. My friend’s philosophy is, “I have given the money to him, what he does with it is between him and God.”
But is giving money to a shady character who may be a cheat a good stewardship of money?
Wouldn’t it be better to plan to give to a definite good cause?
I know of another Christian who lives in a multi-level luxurious apartment and is intent on accumulating material wealth. His philosophy is that he has to give his children a great life, otherwise they will look down on Christianity as a poor religion!
Is that what the Bible teaches?
I think one problem is that we don’t accept that the money we have is really God’s. It is ours! We worked hard, we earned it, we inherited it from our relatives, so we will spend it ourselves. Sure, we pay lip-service to some vague, ill-defined concept of stewardship, but don’t tell us how to spend OUR money! The church should be grateful if it receives any money from us! And pastor, don’t you dare preach on money – it’s too sensitive a topic for us! After all, pastor, you don’t know how to earn money yourself.
To these Christians, I can only remind them of Paul’s teaching in the last chapter of his first letter to Timothy:
“As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches but on God who richly furnishes us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, thus laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life which is life indeed. (1 Tim 6:17-19)
Well, whether you are rich or poor, another part of the problem is that Christians have not put much thought into how to use their money for God. We are content to put some money in the offering bag every week, to pledge to the church’s annual budget, to answer the occasional (and increasingly frequent) calls for aid. Unfortunately, we have no goals or long-term plans to use money for God’s Kingdom. That is not quite the same as giving to a host of charities and missionaries, generous though that may be.
MONEY FOR GOD’S KINGDOM
‘Whether you are rich or poor, another part of the problem is that Christians have not put much thought into how to use their money for God. We are content to put some money in the offering bag every week, to pledge to the church’s annual budget, to answer the occasional (and increasingly frequent) calls for aid. Unfortunately, we have no goals or long-term plans to use money for God’s Kingdom. That is not quite the same as giving to a host of charities and missionaries, generous though that may be.’
To me, the parable of the Unjust Steward in Luke 16 is a call to invest money for God’s purposes. I think Jesus is telling us to use money in such a way that when it fails – and it will fail – we are still cared for. We are to use money to make friends.
Perhaps our Lord was discussing the link between money and spirituality in Luke 16. He was commenting on the universal temptation among men – even among His disciples – to love money, and He is showing how to handle money rightly.
We like to say that money is neutral, it is neither good nor bad. Rather, it is the love of money that is the root of all evil. But in Luke 16 Jesus says that money is unrighteous, evil (although modern translations skirt around the Greek word used).
Rather than reject money, we are to take it and use it for kingdom purposes. We are to be absolutely clear about the venomous nature of money. But we are to conquer it and use it for God’s Kingdom.
How to use money without serving money? Let God determine our economic decisions. Pray over how to budget money. Pray for freedom from money’s power. Before giving money away, pray over it, asking God to use it for His good purposes.
And as you pray, seek God’s direction. We put much thought into investing money for ourselves. We should also think carefully about how we, as individual Christians, can spend money to grow the Kingdom. Is there an orphanage that needs support? Is there a project we can invest in? Is there a church or a theological library that needs building?
Rather than sit around and wait for people to ask for a donation, we can decide how we want to invest for God’s Kingdom and look for specific areas to help out. It takes a little more work and effort and time, but I think that’s what stewardship is about.
Stewardship is not giving out money to whoever wants it, neither is it hoarding money. Stewardship is carefully planning to get the maximum returns for God’s purposes.
Pray and Plan. You can start investing for God today.
The Rev Chiang Ming Shun, a member of the Methodist Message Editorial Board, is the Pastor at Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.