The Responsibilities of a Steward
What does it mean to be a steward of resources that God provides and owns? What are our responsibilities as trustees of God’s possessions? Scripture gives us both abstract and practical direction.
First, stewardship means remembering Who is the source of all that we have. Most of us work hard to acquire a certain amount of wealth, but ultimately all we have comes from God. Moses warned the Israelites: “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18) All the blessings that enable us to work – our health, our education, our abilities, our opportunities – are ultimately gifts from God.
Second, it means wise investment of the resources he provides. Jesus illustrated this in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). The pronoun “it” in verse 14 refers back to the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 25:1). Our wise use of the resources God provides impacts the kingdom of heaven in many ways. Most obvious is the multiplication of resources and making them available for the spread of the Gospel and care for the poor. Other kingdom impacts may be less obvious, but they are no less real.
Third, stewardship means being rich toward God. In the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:16-21), Jesus warns about the folly of hoarding resources and not using them for God’s purposes. Of course, this will look different to different people – God will call some to use resources to support missionaries and specific projects; others to support churches with “above and beyond” giving; still others to give to other kingdom projects and purposes.
Similarly, stewardship means being generous toward others. James challenges us to demonstrate our faith with deeds including taking care of those in need (James 2:14-17). John asks, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” and goes on to encourage us: “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 4:17-18)
Stewardship looks different for different people and churches. God calls some to live modestly in order to give nearly everything away; to others He gives possessions that He calls them to use for his purposes. To some churches he gives large buildings that they use to host conferences, equip believers, and serve the poor. Other churches he leads to invest not in a building but in direct outreach.
As we encourage our congregations in stewardship, the most effective encouragement is not that which directs specific actions but that which shapes the heart and challenges God’s people to make their own responses to His love.