What pastors and other church leaders usually mean when they talk about stewardship is giving. But don't assume that's all there is to it. Stewardship is just as much about living as it is about giving. Good stewardship is about being faithful in using all your resources-not only your money and possessions but your time and talent as well. Stewardship is a duty, but it is also an act of worship (see 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 and Philippians 4:18). How can we look at all that God has poured out into our lives and not want to use those things to please him?
Because Christians have experienced so much of God's love and grace, you'd think we would be the most conscientious people around when it comes to managing money. Yet this is not always the case. A couple of years ago, I was part of a discussion about stewardship and how it is practiced by Christians today. Several women in the group made interesting observations.
"Based on what I have seen, I don't believe most Christians are faithful in the little things in regard to finances," Angel commented. "It is often hard to tell the believers from the nonbelievers, based on their giving and money management. Many do not seem willing to help out fellow Christians in need other than to say 'I will pray for you.'"
"I am often disheartened by the display of Christians in regard to sharing and managing our finances," Amiel added. "If there is a food drive or clothing drive, there are many of us who participate, but what food do we contribute? What clothing is given? Often it is the cheapest of store brands, clothing that is far outdated, and toys that have missing pieces or are dirty."
Another woman, whose husband is a minister in one of the largest denominations in the country, observed that most churches pay their ministers so poorly that church members could never live on those salaries themselves. The churches do this with the assumption that the wife will work to supplement the family income. This makes it extremely difficult for pastors who want their wives to stay home with the children. This woman said that she and her husband often see church members "blow fifty dollars on a meal" and not think anything of it, something the church's pastors can never do. Not only do some members spend carelessly, they also make poor choices for their families as they pursue bigger homes and more possessions. This woman said she couldn't help but feel frustrated at times to see Christians show so little concern for how they manage their blessings.
Hebrews 12:1 says, "Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." This verse reminds us of what we have been called to do in handling the resources God bestows. Like other forms of clutter, careless money management complicates life by bringing chaos and confusion to our financial affairs. We can quickly lose sight of what it means to respond to God's goodness with a posture of gratefulness. But being intentional with our money clarifies life by helping us stay focused on doing the best we can with what we've been given.