Last week I wrote that we live in a dangerous city because we live in a wealthy place and wealth brings with it many lies and seductions that can easily call us away from the priorities of God’s kingdom. How can we follow Jesus well, here, in this place? How can we live generously in an age of consumerism?
This is the second of five posts designed to give us God’s perspective on our lives – especially our money and possessions – so that we can live generously. Today we’ll look at the topic of stewardship. I am convinced that the first step towards living generously for God’s glory is to grasp that God is the owner of everything and we are managers.
I am convinced that the first step towards living generously for God’s glory is to grasp that God is the owner of everything and we are managers.
Consider Job 41:11:
Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.
Seeing God as the owner of all things requires a radical reorientation in our thinking.
Orientation to life in God’s world
If you were going to begin to explain Christianity to a group of people who knew nothing of it, where would you start? We get one answer in Acts 17 where Paul is in Athens, a very religious place with little knowledge of the God of the Bible. In verses 22-31 he introduces them to the basics in these five steps:
- God is the Creator. He made the world and everything in it (v. 24).
- God doesn’t need anything we have (v. 25).
- Everything we have comes from him, including our lives and our possessions (v. 25).
- He is in charge of the world in such a comprehensive way that he even determines who lives where and for how long (v. 26).
- We are all accountable to him (vv. 30-31).
This is an excellent tutorial to life in God’s world. While we believe in private property and can rightly speak about “my shoes” or “your house,” we remember that all of it actually belongs to God, which makes us ultimately not owners, but managers. God has entrusted to us life and breath and clothes and income, all with the intention what we’ll use these things for his glory and our neighbor’s good. That’s the teaching in the first chapter of the Bible where God tells Adam and Eve to rule over the earth. In practice this means we are all God’s representatives, stewards, in his creation and are responsible to him for what we do with what we have.
If we are to embrace a biblical orientation to life in God’s world, a life as managers instead of owners, we will do well to regularly ask ourselves, “Can I affirm God’s full ownership of me and everything entrusted to me?”
“Can I affirm God’s full ownership of me and everything entrusted to me?”
Affirming our role as God’s managers is easier said than done, isn’t it? Various lies circulate constantly that lead us in the opposite direction of stewardship.
Lie #1: I earned this, I made it happen, it is mine. God anticipates this with the warning in Deuteronomy 8:17-18 where he reminds his people that it is God who gives the power to get wealth.
Lie #2: God owes me a healthy and prosperous life. Scripture teaches us that, apart from Christ, what God owes us is judgment. As followers of Christ we have promises of health and prosperity in the life to come. Here and now we can expect to live as Jesus did, experiencing the Father’s presence and provision, while also experiencing trials and tribulation.
Lie #3: If I give some money to God, I can keep the rest for me. The idea here is that if you throw some money in the offering basket, you’re free to check the “Give to God” box and then spend the rest however you’d like. God, however, reminds us that everything is his (Psalm 24:1).
Becoming stewards instead of owners is freeing and generates joy. Being totally in control of all your resources is a lot of pressure! Managing resources for the Owner frees us to joyfully follow his plans and priorities and to trust him for his provision. From God’s Word we learn the importance of working diligently to provide for ourselves and our family, of giving generously to our church, to the poor, to world missions, and to the common good of our neighbors. We learn the wisdom of saving for the future while being delivered from trusting our savings to save us in the future.
In Christ we are given a new life and a new heart and a new set of desires so that living generously becomes not something we grit our teeth and endure, but something we begin to find to be a delight and a joy. Next week we’ll focus on how we can cultivate generosity.
 Adapted from Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle, p. 94.