How many times have I heard pastors say, “I just don’t like to preach on stewardship!” Sometimes it’s an admission: “Well, I preach on stewardship once a year because I feel like I really ought to.”
And yet stewardship—the management of resources or property for a true owner—is a consistent and crucial theme throughout Scripture. The Bible discusses management of resources more than 2,300 times. Author Randy Alcorn notes more than 15% of Jesus’ teaching focused on this topic. That’s more than his teachings on heaven and hell combined! Obviously how God’s people manage his resources is very much on God’s mind. And it stands to reason, it should be on ours as well.
May I recommend teaching on …
>Budgeting and wise saving, Proverbs 13:11
>God’s ownership of what we manage,
Psalm 24:1, Deuteronomy 10:14
>The dangers of greed, 1 Timothy 6:17
>The joy of generosity, Acts 20:35
But why would God care so much about this area of our lives?
In the culture of the Bible and in ours, the majority of our time is spent in making, managing, and spending money. It’s estimated that 75% of our waking hours are occupied in this way. When you consider all the time spent at work, planning, budgeting, shopping, investing, etc., it’s easy to see that three-fourths of our time isn’t far from the mark. And clearly, something that commands such a large portion of our time certainly commands our attention.
Money and possessions have an uncanny ability to exert control of our heart. This truth is at the heart (pun intended) of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:21: the Lord points out that where our treasure (literally a statement of value resides) is also the space our heart occupies. In case this truth is lost on us, he clearly reminds us this is an issue of discipleship and followship in verse 24 as Jesus says one simply cannot serve two masters, both God and money.
For ourselves and those we serve, we must recognize that generosity produces incredible joy. In contrast, a life without generosity produces great pain!
A quick example of the negative can be found in the story of the “rich young ruler” in Luke 18:18-30. In the story, Jesus challenges a wealthy individual to “sell all he has and give it to the poor.” Luke tells us that instead of a positive response, the young man leaves Jesus crestfallen because of his wealth. His “things” simply meant too much to him.
But thankfully, the Bible doesn’t just describe the result of a lack of generosity. The Bible clearly states that we can know great joy when we are generous. Paul counsels Timothy to specifically warn the wealthy against greed and that they should be “generous and willing to share.” In 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Paul notes that when they are generous, they can take hold of “life that is truly life” (NIV and ESV). In other words, life lived completely, to the fullest, is marked by wonderful generosity! The New Living Translation is even more explicit: “that they may experience true life.”
For the reluctant preacher, the key is turning once again to our call to serve the church. And the biblical witness is clear. To be effective disciples, we must live generously, as faithful stewards of all God has given us to manage.
Doug Morrow is executive director of the Baptist Foundation of Illinois.