"Managing Money God's Way" part 3
Steward Little (Or Much)
by Greg Hanson

This is week three of our “Managing Money God’s Way” message series.  Throughout this series, we’re talking about some biblically-based financial principles for how you should manage, use, spend, save and invest the money God has blessed you with. It doesn’t matter if you have a lot of money or a little money—whether you’re single or married—young or not-so-young—If you are a Christ-follower, then whatever you have comes from God and must be used in God honouring ways.

We started this series off by talking about the touchy subject of tithing. Tithing is the practice of taking the first ten percent of everything you earn and giving it to God. You give it through the Church, but you give it to God. And you give it as an expression of love, trust, and worship.

Now, I’ve had people tell me—in fact I had someone tell me this week—that tithing was an Old Testament principle that doesn’t apply today. They say that when Jesus came, a lot of the Old Testament rituals and practices and requirements drew to a close, including tithing. And that’s a nice thought, except it’s wrong. The people who would tell you this are just repeating what they heard someone else say. They obviously haven’t looked into it to see if it’s true. Because if they had, they would know that Jesus Himself endorsed tithing. Take a look…

Matthew 23:23 (NLT)
“You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.”

So Jesus is saying that there are important—in that passage (in the surrounding verses) He’s talking about showing justice, mercy, and faith—but then He also says, “but don’t forget to tithe.”

But even if you were to buy into that idea that tithing was just for the Old Testament, the pattern you see in the New Testament is sacrificial giving. And sacrificial giving usually goes well beyond ten percent.

Some other people will tell you that tithing is legalistic… that Jesus came to do away with all the legalistic rituals of religion. But I would say it’s no more legalistic than the law, “Do not murder.” Should we do away with that because it sounds legalistic?

No, it’s not about legalism. It’s a spiritual practice that teaches us about generosity. It’s God’s way of involving us in what He’s doing in this world. It’s His way of helping us escape the grip of materialism.

But perhaps more than anything else, we talked about how tithing is about spiritual growth.

“Some people cannot grow spiritually until they decide to give generously.”
~ Herb Miller

The first week of this series, I brought along a heart shaped balloon to illustrate how giving to God helps you grow spiritually. If you were here, you’ll remember how pathetic the balloon was. All the helium had escaped and the balloon had shriveled. So let’s try that again…

[VISUAL –Heart-shaped balloon with ribbon attached to a stack of Monopoly money]

I’ve got a heart shaped balloon here, and attached to the other end of the ribbon is a stack of cash. Monopoly money, of course. If you’re going to transport this from here to there, how are you going to do it? Are you going to grab onto the heart like this and crag the money across the floor to get to your destination? No, of course not. You’re going to carry the money and let the heart follow along behind.

That’s the way it is in life. Your heart follows your money. The way Jesus put it…

Matthew 6:21 (NIV)
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

But notice that your money determines where your heart it, not the other way around. If you’re going to grow spiritually and become all that you want to be and all that God intends for you to be, then you’re going to prioritize God in every area of life, including in your finances.

Which can be difficult. Our money is perhaps the hardest thing for us to let go of and learn to trust God with. And because of that, it is often the one thing that holds us back from experiencing tremendous growth and joy and satisfaction in life and as a Christ-follower. But once you learn to trust God and take Him at His Word that He will care for you, and once you begin to practice this spiritual habit of tithing, you will be set free to grow and grow and grow.

“The giver is the principle beneficiary of the gift.”
~ Ashley Hale

That’s what we talked about the first week. The second week—last week—we talked about two principles that the Bible gives us for how to handle our wealth, regardless of how much wealth we have.

The first thing we talked about was living a simple life instead of an indulgent life. Instead of seeking after more and more money and more and more stuff as the key to finding happiness, the Bible talks about learning to be content with less. It talks about living within our means. It talks about how the value of our lives is not measured by the balance of our bank account.

And so, to battle against greed and materialism and coveting and an unhealthy emphasis on money, we talked about the importance of simplicity… cutting away some of the excesses… living within your means… giving yourself a little wiggle room in case emergencies come up.

And the other thing we talked about last week was learning to be generous. While tithing is about being generous toward God, we need to be generous toward others, too. Because the problem for many people is not that they have too much stuff but that they have no compassion. They are never moved to help someone else in need.

Now, being generous doesn’t mean you have to give everything away. It can mean that for some people, but probably not for most. What it really means is being sensitive to the needs around us and to the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives. When He prompts you to give, then give. And give generously.

And that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do without. But it may mean that you put off some purchases. It does mean that you make some sacrifices.

If you use your wealth only for your own pleasures with no concern for others, then you are living selfishly and not generously. But if you learn to live generously, then you can enjoy the rest more fully.

Okay, so that catches you up to speed. That’s what we’ve talked about here over the past two weeks. Today, we’re going to move on and talk about what it means to be a steward.

So let’s start right there. What is a steward? What do you think of when you hear that word?

For many people, when they hear the word steward they immediately think about someone who works on an airplane or on a cruise ship. Or maybe someone who works in a hotel. And really, that’s not a bad association for you to make with that word. Because a steward is someone who cares for and manages property that belongs to someone else.

On an airplane, for example, the steward or stewardess (now often called a flight attendant) doesn’t own the food. But they’ve been entrusted with the responsibility to take care of the food and prepare and distribute it appropriately.

In a hotel, the steward cares for the hotel property. They don’t own it, but they manage it in whatever way the hotel owner wants then to manage it. Here’s a dictionary definition of a steward…

Steward – “Somebody who manages the property, finances, or household of another.”
[from MicroSoft Word’s dictionary]

So how does that apply to the life of a believer? If you are a Christ-follower, why should this whole idea of being a steward matter to you? It should matter because—as a Christ-follower—everything you are and everything you have belongs to God. Actually, that’s true whether you are a Christ-follower or not. But as a Christ-follower, you have recognized that fact and you have pledged to live your life in a way that honours Him. That means that you are going to use your wealth, whatever form it may take and however much it may be, in God-honouring God-pleasing ways.

“…We are not called to be mere economic actors, but stewards. Everything we are, everything we do, and everything we own truly belongs to God and is to be at the disposal of Kingdom purposes. This world is not our home and our treasure is not found here. We are to do all, invest all, own all, purchase all to the glory of God.”
~ Albert Mohler

Okay, so coming at it from that perspective let’s talk about what it means to be a faithful steward.

A Faithful Steward…

1.    Uses property at the will of the owner.

If someone hires you to manage their property, they should be free to call you at any moment and tell you what to do with that property. If they want you to sell it, give it to someone else, make some improvements on it, repair it… whatever. You’re just managing it; it belongs to them, and so they have the say.

Deuteronomy 8:17-18 (CEV)
When you become successful, don't say, “I'm rich, and I've earned it all myself.” Instead, remember that the LORD your God gives you the strength to make a living.

So everything you have in life comes from God. You may have worked for it, but your very ability to work for it comes from Him. And when you choose to become a Christian, part of that is deciding that you’re going to learn what it means to live for Him and honour Him and do His will in every area of life. And that includes your money. It means that everything you have comes from Him and really belongs to Him. And so you’re going to use it at His direction and His discretion. Jesus pointed this out when He said…

Luke 14:33 (NLT)
“So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.”

So what does this mean? It means that if someone’s in need, God can prompt you and say, “You know, I want you to help them out.” He can say, “See that ministry there? I want you to support it.” He’s entrusted your money to you and He wants you to use it to live off of and to support your family and to enjoy it. But He also wants it to be available to be used in other ways as He sees fit.

“Each of us makes one of two choices in life. We either become emotionally attached to our money, or we become emotionally attached to the God who gives us our money. Although we often hope to do both, in our hearts we know that cannot happen.”
~ Herb Miller

2.    Wisely invests what has been entrusted to him or her.

There’s an interesting story that Jesus told that’s found in Matthew 25. It’s the story of a rich man who had three servants. Let’s take a look at it... it’s not in PowerPoint, so just listen…

Matthew 25:14-30 (NLT)
“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.
“The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.
“After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’
“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
“The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’
“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
“Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’
“But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’
“Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

What’s Jesus saying with that story? He’s saying that what we do with what we’re given now will reap rewards in eternity. Now, you can’t earn your salvation. Nothing you could ever do could do that. You only receive salvation and eternal life as an unearned gift from God. But what you do now with what you’ve been given will have lasting results.

So what does this mean for you and for me as stewards of what God has entrusted to us? It means we’re going to be wise in how we use our money. It means we’re going to save for retirement. It means that instead of wasting money, we’re going to use it responsibly and earn interest on it. It means we’re going to take whatever God has given us—five bags of silver, two bags, or one bag—and we’re not going to squander it.

Now, I don’t think of myself as being extremely wealthy. At least, not by North American standards. But every month I invest in a pension fund. And so does Shera. In fact, it comes right out of her pay so she never even sees it. So in our old age, we’ll be able to still live comfortably and still participate in what God is doing in this world.

3.    Does not needlessly waste the owner’s wealth.

When someone else gives you some money to hold onto for them, or if you’re going to the store and they give you some money to pick something up for them, how do you handle that money? Aren’t you more careful with their money than you are even with your own?

You want to be a good steward of what they’ve entrusted to you, and so you don’t want to waste it or lose it. You want to use it for what it was intended.

Well, it’s the same way when it comes to your stewardship of what God has entrusted to you. If you are really going to manage money as if it truly belongs to God—and it does—then you’re going to be careful with it. You’re going to be responsible. You’re not going to want to waste it or lose it.

And this right here is why I have a problem with gambling and slot machines and playing the lottery and going to casinos or racinos. Yes, every once in a while someone wins big. And those are the ones that make the news. But the ones who don’t make the news are the millions of people every year who waste their money on buying lottery tickets or putting coins in slot machines who never see any return from it. Or even worse, see a minimal return that doesn’t even come close to what they’ve put into it but it’s enough to keep them hooked and encourages them to put in more.

So if you play the lottery, can I make a suggesting? Just sending your donation directly to the government. Because that’s essentially what you’re doing anyway. The lottery only exists because most people lose money on it.

Proverbs 28:20 (The Message)
Committed and persistent work pays off; get-rich-quick schemes are ripoffs.

Oh, and here’s something else… do not invest your money in a way that depends on a multitude of variables coming together. You know, “if this happens and this happens and this happens, then this investment will really pay off.” If you need a lot of things to come together, don’t count on it happening.

Also don’t waste your money on quick fixes or on buying everything you see on infomercials. Use some restraint.

We talked last week about living simply. Way too many people spend way to much money to buy stuff they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t like. That’s wasteful. And if you’re going to be a faithful steward of what’s been entrusted to you, you’re not going to waste or squander it.

4.    Does not steal from the owner.

Again, this is about giving to God and honouring Him with our finances. And it comes right out of the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi chapter 3…

Malachi 3:8 (NLT)
“Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me!
“But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’
“You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.”

So God is basically saying, “What you have really belongs to me. And I’ve asked you to give some of it back to me. So when you refuse, what you are really doing is stealing from Me. You’re embezzling from what rightly belongs to Me.”

Okay, now let me talk with you about something that’s coming up next week. Next Sunday is our Consecration Sunday. This is all about learning to honour God with our finances in such a way that it will spur on our own spiritual growth…


Copyright © 2011 Greg Hanson