Our church is about to start a series on stewardship that uses Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University.” While most of the response has been very positive, as expected, some negative comments are beginning to come in. Comments like:
“Why does the church always talk about money?”
“This is just another way for the church to get my money!”
Actually my church doesn’t talk about money very much. But the Bible does talk about it a lot. For some reason God thinks that how we look at money is very important.
I think the second comment comes from warranted public skepticism toward churches that mismanage their finances. While it hurts to think that some people in our church question our motives, what concerns me more are the two words at the end of that comment: “my money.”
That phrase reveals one of the greatest myths that people choose to believe: the myth of ownership. The truth of the matter is that, in all of God’s Creation, I own nothing. Nothing, nada, zip. We did nothing to bring any of the things we think we “own” into existence. We have no legal right in the cosmos to owning anything. So if anyone thinks that anything they have (possessions, money, real estate, relationships, ministries) is theirs, they are severely mistaken and are in for a very rude awakening one Day.
But the greatest tragedy about the myth of ownership is that “whatever we own ends up owning us.” This is a ploy of darkness; it is an insidious trap. That was also the sad realization of the Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18:18-23). He could not follow Jesus because his possessions “owned” him. “Ownership” puts us in a prison where we forever serve to protect “what is ours” and causes our hearts to shrivel into becoming a black hole of self-centeredness.
The good news is that when we realize that we own nothing, we are truly free from being “owned” by things, people, and anything else. But this is only possible through the power of Christ and as we hand over the ownership of everything – including and especially our very lives – to Him (who also happens to be the rightful Owner of all things).
That’s where faithful stewardship comes in. Faithful stewardship is realizing that everything we have and are is a gift from God. He has given us the privilege and honor to “use His stuff” (which is everything, including our very lives). He has specific ways He wants us to use His stuff that He lays out in the Scriptures. And so He expects to be faithful in our stewardship of “His stuff.”
The amazing thing about faithful stewardship is that when we live out the gifts that God gives us (our lives, our money, our gifts, our abilities, our relationships) the way He directs, we receive blessing upon blessing. Things “strangely” begin to increase: resources, fruitfulness, loving relationships, opportunities, and most importantly – our hearts.
Stewardship is not a spiritual discipline; it is a reality. Because “ownership” is a myth, the operating reality is “stewardship.” We are all stewards of what God has given us – regardless if one is a Christian, atheist, or Buddhist. The question is not whether we are practicing stewardship, but whether we are practicing faithful stewardship.
Most people in the world (including many of us in the church) are rather unfaithful stewards. Think about it. If everyone in Christ lived as faithful stewards of God’s resources, the world would look a whole lot differently – things like poverty, pollution, social injustice, and hatred would be eradicated. Instead, the world is less impacted by Christ-followers. We have the potential to change the world radically, but we don’t. And I think that my less-than-faithful stewardship might have something to do with it.
So as a fellow “unfaithful steward” who desires to grow in faith and faithfulness, I encourage us to jettison the idea that we “own” anything. There is no “mine,” except Jesus. And because all we have is Jesus, we have everything. I encourage us to take some baby steps in faithful stewardship. We need to loosen ourselves from material attachments (Do we really need that Starbucks today? Do I really need that gadget?) And we can start giving generously: both to God’s work as part of our trust in His provision, as well as to those in need as part of being an extension of God’s love. As Dave Ramsey so aptly puts it, “Let’s live like no one else (in faithful stewardship), so we can give like no one else.”