Introduction To Book Nine – Stewardship
Ron Christian, Compiler
A minister once wrote to a wealthy and influential businessman requesting a subscription to a worthy charity. He promptly received a curt refusal, which closed with these words: 'As far as I can see, this Christian business is just one continuous give, give, give.'
"After a brief interval, the pastor wrote him: 'I wish to thank you for the best definition of the Christian life I have yet heard.'
"Real living is always 'one continuous give, give, give.' That was the secret the first Christians discovered. They gave their money, their witness, even their lives, and were gloriously happy in doing it.
"The secret of happiness is no secret. We have all heard it all our lives. It is unselfishness. But only when we learn to put it into practice do we begin to live. The more freely we give, the more radiantly we live." (Walter Moore; quoted in 'Shoeleather Faith: No. 224)
Everything we have belongs to God alone.
We belong to God because God created us. We belonged to God even before we were born, when we were still a thought in God's Mind. We belonged to God when we were in our mother's womb, being formed and shaped by God. Writes the Psalmist, "You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because you are to be feared; all you do is strange and wonderful I know it with all my heart. When my bones were being formed, carefully put together in my mother's womb, when I was growing there in secret, you knew that I was there – you saw me before I was born. The days allotted to me had all been recorded in your book, before any of them ever began." (Psalms 139:13-16, Today's English Version)
We belong to God because God redeemed us with His Son's blood. God has redeemed us from the bondage of sin. He has accomplished this through the ransom price of Christ's blood. 1 Corinthians 6:19 b says, "You do not belong to yourselves, but to God, he bought you for a price." The price God paid was costly – the blood of Jesus. You belong to God alone, for He has bought you from the slavery of sin.
By right of creation, and by right of redemption, Christ owns you. Everything you have (time, talents, possessions, relationships) and everything you are (personality, influence, living soul) belong to the Lord God.
To claim to possess anything as your inherent right is to deny the ownership of God and is to reject the Lordship of Christ!
God has given you time, gifts, money, and many other things. These are given to you to use for your Master, and to willingly return to your Rightful Owner – the Lord God Almighty.
Yes, the very essence of Christianity is one continuous 'Give! Give! Give!' You are to surrender everything to the Lord of Lords, who is the Creator of life and the Redeemer of Mankind!
I. "GIVE! GIVE! GIVE! YOUR TIME"
Time is God-given. Time is not the property of man to squander or to trifle with. To kill time, is to misuse the gift of God.
Time is very limited and brief. "A man's days resemble grass. He blossoms like a flower in the fields; the wind blows over it, and it is gone, with not a sign that it has ever been there." (Psalms 103:15-16) Because life is so brief, a Christian must be very selective in the choice of his activities.
Time is divided among a multitude of activities in everyday living. Have you ever tried to analyze how much time is spent in different activities during an average person's life? 'The Ladies' Home Journal' has given us such an analysis.
6 years spent in eating
11 years in working (about 100,000 hours)
5½ years in washing and dressing
3 years in education
8 years in amusement
6 years in walking
3 years in reading
3 years in conversation
24 years in sleeping
and just 6 months worshiping God.
Time is subject for accountability at the end of life.
"I have only just a minute
Just sixty seconds in it;
Forced upon me – can't refuse it,
Didn't seek it, didn't choose it,
I must suffer if I lose it,
Give account if I abuse it;
Just a tiny little minute,
But eternity is in it." (Author Unknown)
Time must be given back to its Giver – the Lord God – and the best way to accomplish this goal is to expend time in God's service.
Someone once said, "We should live each day as if it were a life time." Accomplish the same kind of tasks each day that are worthy of being accomplished in a life time. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
"Only one life, T'will soon be past, Only what's done for Christ Will last."
How tragic it is that too many times we as Christians have not made the best use of the present opportunities. The following poem always stirs my heart,
"The days go by, the weeks how fast, And all at once the year is past! And oh, how much we meant to do Before another year was through - That Bible class we meant to teach, The boys and girls we planned to reach. But some of them have slipped away And we never found the time to say A word for Christ; ah! Had we known, How eager then our hearts had grown! And some whose hearts were warm to hear The name of Him we love so dear, Have since grown cold and hard in sin, And now they will not ask Him in, For Satan found them prey indeed Because we failed to sow the seed. God's time is now, this day, this hour, To rescue souls from Satan's power. Our most sincere repentant sigh Will not recall the years gone by, Oh, there are boys and girls today Who wait for you to point the way.
So forget the things that lie behind And press ahead, with yielded mind And heart and hands and feet and eyes, To reach God's goal, to gain His prize.
– Barbara Cornet Ryberg –
II. "GIVE! GIVE! GIVE! YOUR TALENTS
Not only are we to give our time to God, but we are to give our talents to God. Why? Because God gave to us our talents, and we are therefore to return them to the rightful Owner. How can we return our talents to the rightful Owner? By simply using our talents for God and for His Church.
Each person is given talents at birth. The abilities which each possesses vary greatly from person to person, but God is the Giver of them all. God has given some great intellectual abilities. To others, God has given talents which involve the skillful use of the hands.
Each Christian has been given one or more spiritual gifts at the time of conversion. God is the giver of all good gifts. Therefore, none has any reason for boasting. To deflate the proud in Corinth who were boasting over their gifts, Paul asked, "What have you that was not given to you? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" (1 Corinthians 4:7) Every gift is needed in the church. Every person is important! The church is only strong to the degree that individuals are exercising their spiritual gifts for the purpose of edifying each other. God has given spiritual gifts to each believer in the church, as a means of glorifying God and expressing mutual love for one another.
Do you remember Jesus' parable of the talents? (Luke 12) Jesus' parable of the talents teaches us that all had equal opportunities, although each had different numbers of talents. Each was expected to develop according to the individual given capacities. Both the two and five talented stewards received equal praise for their double development. It is not what we have or how much we have that is important, but rather what we do with what we have. Jesus said, "For unto whomsoever much is given of him shall be much required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." (Luke 12:28) This implies that to whom little is given, little will be required. Therefore, the one talented man was not at a disadvantage.
In this parable, Jesus speaks of two different kinds of men. The first type is illustrated by the one-talented steward. He is over-cautious, unenterprising and fearful. This man represents the one who is unwilling or fearful to use his God-given talents. He is undaring, uninvolved, self-protective, selfishly introverted, socially indifferent, and preoccupied with selfish interests.
What is God's judgment on the unenterprising, overly-cautious, self-protective person? Listen to the words of God's pronouncement. "So take the talent away from him and give it to the one with the ten talents." Matthew adds this interpretations to the account: "For to everyone who has, shall be given and he will have more than plenty: but from him who is wanting shall be taken what he has." (Matthew 25:28-30)
The second type of person which Jesus speaks about is the daring, enterprising person who uses his God-given talents to further God's purposes. He is the cooperative, constructive person who effectively functions as a part of the whole. He does not assert his own rights, but forms a small, but significant, link in the chain of love and service. He does not feel self-sufficient or completely indispensable, but is willing to step down, if some other brother can more effectively fill his place. He finds a place of humble service, and serves joyfully.
As Paul exhorted, he does not estimate or think of himself more highly than he ought to think. He doesn't have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance, but rather rates his ability with sober judgment, according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him. (Romans 12:3)
Such an enterprising person does not protect or guard his life, but makes it openly available for others. He is a truly involved servant.
What is God's pronouncement upon the daring, enterprising person who has invested and developed his talents in the service of others? To both the two talented and five talented stewards, the Master answered. "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things, enter into the joy of thy lord."
Every Christian is to be involved in Christ's work. Every Christian is a minister! Each believer is to use his spiritual gifts to develop a personal loving ministry in the church and in the world. Do you as a believer look at yourself as a minister? Have you discovered your spiritual gifts? Have you developed a personal ministry of love within the church and within the world.?
III. "GIVE, GIVE, GIVE YOUR MONEY"
Your time does not belong to you! Your spiritual gifts and talents do not belong to you! Your money does not belong to you!
But I hear one saying just now, "I earned that money by my own sweat, effort, and talent!" Who gave you the opportunities? Every good bestowment comes from God!
All my money belongs to God – all 10-tenths! However, God, the Master allows me, the steward, to use a large portion of that money to supply personal and family needs. He even allows me to spend some of that money on pleasures and personal luxuries.
However, God makes it very clear that I am to present a token of my love to Him in the form of money. The amount of that token is specified – one out of every ten dollars (1/10 of my total income).
God is a giving Creator and therefore I am to be a giving creature. "He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again." The Lord is full of mercy and goodness – to all men. He sends the rain to both the just and the unjust. All temporal and spiritual blessings are from the hand of a good God. What more could He give than to you He hath given? He even gave up His Son to die on the Cross, to take the penalty of your sin. Self-giving love is at the very center of the heart of God.
What should be one's response to such love?
"Were the whole realm of Nature mine, That were a present far too small, Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my life, my soul, my all!
Christianity is one continuous Give! Give! Give! Of your time, talents, and money! Giving of your time and talents is great, but you must also give your money! And your giving must be done because of love! When you give your money to God, you are giving that which symbolizes your time and talent, training, and experience. Money given to God and the church is very significant, and therefore Jesus spoke often on the subject of money and stewardship in His parables. What you do with your money helps determine what you do with your soul!
The Scriptures tell us that 'God loveth a cheerful giver.' Believers are "to do good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous." (1 Timothy 6:18)
The 'closed hand' is many times evidence of a 'hardened heart.' The 'open hand' is evidence of a 'compassionate heart.' Those who give most to the Lord's work usually speak less about personal financial needs. The joyful giver is the joyful liver. One can never out give God.
"He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:7-8)
It is possible to give away and to increase; it is possible to grasp and keep and actually to decrease. One's capacity to receive from God is largely dependent upon one's capacity to give to others. When you generously give to God's work, remember, "God is able to make it up to you by giving you everything you need and more, so that there will not only be enough for your own needs, but plenty left over to give joyfully to others. It is as the Scriptures say: 'The godly man gives generously to the poor. His good deeds will be an honor to him forever.'" (2 Corinthians 9:8-9, Living Bible)
To harden one's heart and close one's hands to the needs of God's people and God's Church, is to bring spiritual poverty and even spiritual destruction. Listen to what God said to His people, Israel, who had become stingy in their giving: "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me..But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it." (Malachi 3:8-10)
Remember, money is to be used for God's glory. That includes caring for family. It also includes caring for God's family – the Church. Money is a wonderful servant, but a terrible tyrant. Money becomes a tyrant when one begins to love it. "For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs." (1 Timothy 6:10) If what you sow is 'love of money,' then what you eventually reap is 'many sorrows.'
In 'Abundant Life', the most popular book of the 29 books which E. Stanley Jones wrote, Jones devoted a few pages to the subject of 'Mastery Over Money'. He notes "Hold in mind that money is a good servant, but a terrible master. If money is your God, then your enfeebled personality is the price you pay for the worship of that God. Put in a stop where your needs end. After that all you make belongs to other people's needs. Keep your needs down to needs, not luxuries disguised as needs. If you have too much, then invest it in persons. It is the only bank that will not break. The bank of human character will pay dividends through eternity. Invest all surpluses in that bank. While you are lifting your economic level to the level of need, give a tithe of what you earn. After you have reached that level, give everything you earn. When the level of your needs has been reached, then all you earn belongs to the needs of others, not as charity, but as right and justice." (Abundant Living; E. Stanley Jones; pgs. 300,301)
In his comments on the rich fool who built bigger barns to store his goods (Luke 12) Ambrose (who was one of the early 'Church Fathers') said, "The bosoms of the poor, the houses of widows, the mouths of children are the barns which last forever."
While it is true that the possession of great wealth is attended with great dangers (snares) to the soul (because of the tendency for wealthy persons to become proud and
self-reliant and self-indulgent and calloused to the 'cries' of the poor), it is also true that wealth 'can' become' a great 'servant' in the hands of the wealthy man who remains strongly committed to Christ and greatly sensitive to the hardships of the oppressed and poverty-stricken people around him.
Wrote Paul (to Timothy) regarding the 'wealthy' Christians: "Tell those who are rich not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which will soon be gone, but their pride and trust should be in the living God who always richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and should give happily to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them. By doing this they will be storing up real treasure for themselves in heaven – it is the only safe investment for eternity! And they will be living a fruitful Christian life down here as well." (1 Timothy 6:17-21)
I know of one 'diligent', 'enterprising', 'industrious', 'hard working' businessman who, through his creative and inventive genius, built a large company (which specialized in the engineering and building of large 'earth-moving' equipment). He became very wealthy, but this committed Christian businessman chose to remain a humble steward whose 'projects' in Christlike compassion became well-known. This 'wealthy Christian' gave away 90% of his money to Christian 'causes', and he founded a Christian University which, to this very time, is well-known for its excellence in training 'engineers'.
In her study of the life and times of John Wesley (and the 'lifestyle of Biblical simplicity' which Wesley taught and practiced), Mary Alice Tenney notes: "The end of all stewardship is the doing good to the SOULS of men. The sharing of material goods will open the way to the joyful sharing of the Good News. Every rich man, Wesley said, would be asked in the end, '…didst thou labor to improve all outward works of mercy, as 'means' of saving souls from death?' A spirit of joy should attend every act of stewardship. Even the expenditure of money upon life-necessities calls for a happy accounting, the steward saying (as Wesley noted), 'Lord, thou seest I am going to expend this sum on that food, apparel, furniture, and thou knowest, I act therein with a single eye, as a steward of thy goods, expending this portion of them thus, in pursuance of the design thou hadst in entrusting me with them… And give me a witness in myself, that for this labour of love I shall have a recompense when thou rewardest every man…' Those who had come into a fortune Wesley advised, 'First, ask God what He would have you to do, feeling that you are standing "on the brink of a precipice." Consider, "Having more means, I will do more good… than I did before." All the additional goods… I am resolved to lay out, with all diligence in additional works of mercy.' Money, according to Wesley is not to be condemned per se. In the present state of the world money is a good because it can be employed in leading the world to Christ." (Blueprint For A Christian World; Mary Alice Tenney: pgs. 221,223)
John Wesley, whose life spanned most of the 18th century, was a remarkable servant of God in so many different ways. Besides the fact that he preached more than 40,000 sermons during his long ministry in England (and other places), John Wesley was a prolific writer, whose many books were read by multitudes of people. Recently it was brought to my attention that John Wesley has been called "The Father of the Religious Paperback" because approximately 5000 items came from his pen – sermons, tracts, and pamphlets of every kind. A Wesleyan scholar (Mary Alice Tenney) noted that John Wesley started a book business "for the sole purpose of giving religions education to his followers. Such was his ingenuity and enterprise that during his later years he made an annual profit of one thousand pounds a year, all of which he gave away. He always closed the year's accounts, as he had advised his followers to do, with no balance remaining, except that needed for continuing the business and properly caring for his dependents." (Blueprint For A Christian World; Mary Alice Tenney; pgs. 225-226)
As a result of the heavy volume of the sales of his many books, John Wesley could easily have become a very wealthy person, but, instead of accumulating wealth, he quickly gave his money away to feed the hungry and to relieve the poor and to educate the children. Wesley often exhorted Christians to seriously heed the warnings of Jesus regarding the terrible perils of riches, and Wesley "practiced what he preached". Notes Mary Alice Tenney, "Wesley's life-long attitude toward money was expressed when he said to his sister Patty Hall,… 'money never stays with me: it would burn me if it did. I throw it 'Out of my hands' as soon as possible, lest it should find a way into my heart.'" (Ibid; pg. 225)
At any one time, Wesley had very little money, and at the end of his long life, John Wesley possessed practically nothing, materially-speaking, for he had given away nearly all his considerable earnings to the poor and the oppressed people around him.
Said John Wesley: "The Possessor of heaven and earth placed you here (on earth), not as a proprietor, but as a steward." You own nothing: it all belongs to God! The Bible states this fact very clearly: "The earth belongs to God! Everything in all the world is his!" (Psalms 24:1, Living Bible) God has place you, as one of His stewards, in charge of His property (the earth), and you must someday give an account to God of your 'stewardship'! Said Jesus, "If you have not shown yourselves trustworthy in what belongs to someone else, who will give you what is your own?" (Luke 16:12, Barclay's translation). William Barclay interprets the above quoted verse, as if Jesus were saying: "Upon earth you are in charge of things which are not really yours. You cannot take them with you when you die. They are only lent to you. You are only a steward over them. They cannot, in the nature of things, be permanently yours. On the other hand in heaven you will get what is really and eternally and essentially yours. And what you get in heaven depends on how you used the things of earth. What you will be given as your very own will depend on how you used the things of which you were only steward." (Daily Study Bible; William Barclay; Luke; pg. 217)
TAKE MY LIFE AND LET IT BE
Take my life and let it be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee; Take my moments and my days - Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands and let them move At the impulse of Thy love; Take my feet and let them be Swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice and let me sing Always, only, for my King; Take my lips and let them be Filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold - Not a mite would I withhold; Take my intellect and use Every power as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will and make it Thine - It shall be no longer mine; Take my heart - it is Thine own, It shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love - my Lord, I pour At Thy feet its treasure store; Take myself - and I will be Ever, only, all for Thee.
Frances Ridley Havergal