5 Principles of Good Stewardship
When you hear the word "stewardship," what do you immediately think of? Many of us think of how we handle our finances. While this is part of what stewardship means, there is far more to it than that. Stewardship involves not only managing our finances, but our gifts and talents, as well. There are several principles of stewardship that Christians can (and should) follow. Here are 5 simple principles:
1. Everything Belongs to God.
James Berkley makes this point clear in his book The Dynamics of Church Finance by writing, "Everything belongs to God. That is the perfect place to start whenever we think of money and how we use it in churches........Everything. Not 10 percent. Everything" (1) This applies not only to money, however. It applies to your gifts and talents. Everything we have is a gift from God. It belongs to Him. Our wallets belong to Him. Our time belongs to Him. Our best efforts belong to Him. The list goes on and on. Berkley is right, this is the perfect place to start in any discussion of stewardship, whether it be financial stewardship or stewardship of talents. Everything belongs to God, and it is our responsibility to use these things in a way that honors Him.
2. God Gets the First and Best.
The first clear indication of this principle in Scripture comes in the story of Cain and Abel. In Genesis, we read:
What was the major difference between the offering presented by Cain and the offering presented by Abel? The answer is that Abel brought the "fat portions"--the best--from the firstborn of his flocks. Abel presented an offering from the firstfruits of his labor, whereas Cain does not appear to have done so. Cain did not fail to give God an offering, but it wasn't the best that he had to offer. In short, Cain kept the best for himself and offered God something inferior to what God deserved. This ultimately led to Cain's jealousy of his brother. Cain's heart was not right, and that is why he gave an inferior offering. God accepted Abel's offering, but did not respond favorably to Cain's. It is important that we examine our hearts and ensure that we have the right attitude as we give God our first and our best.
3. Tithing Does Not Excuse Abuse of the Other Ninety Percent.
For the Christian, financial stewardship does not end with the tithe. We have an obligation to utilize all of our resources in a manner that honors God. This means that we should not be spending money on things that dishonor God, even after we give our tithe. This means we can never use the excuse "I gave my tithe" to spend money on things that are sinful. This should be obvious from my first point above, but unfortunately, I believe that it must be said.
The same principle can also be applied to our gifts and talents, as well. For example, just because an individual goes and sings in church on Sunday and gives his or her best performance does not mean that he or she should go out and sing songs elsewhere that dishonor God during the week. We are expected to give God the first and best that we have to offer AND to honor Him with what He allows us to keep. This principle is at the heart of good stewardship.
4. Obligations Come Before Wants.
This is a good financial principle to follow, regardless of who you are or how much money you have. We should all take care of our obligations before we take care of our wants. As an example, suppose you have an obligation to pay your electric bill, but you want to get a new upgrade for your computer. The electric bill should be paid before you look at computer upgrades. This may seem like an obvious example, but extrapolate this to any other area in which your wants compete with your obligations.
This principle also applies to your talents and gifts. Suppose you want to go fishing, but you are supposed to go into work that day. Which do you choose? You should choose to go into work, even if it means missing a good fishing day. You can also extrapolate this principle to any area where your wants (such as leisure time) conflict with your obligations (such as work).
5. Leaders Must Model Stewardship.
This may not sound good to you if you are a leader who is not modeling stewardship, but you are expected to. The members of your congregation will look up to you to set the example for how to steward your time, talents, and resources. It is up to you to set the example.
This does not mean that a member of the congregation can use a leader's lack of example as an excuse not to be a good steward. That is, if church members do not see leaders being good stewards, this does not let the church members off the hook. Rather, it means that some members of the congregation need to step up and start modeling good stewardship practices. Either way, placing these five principles into practice will help you be a good steward of what God has given you.
(1) Berkley, The Dynamics of Church Finance. p.11.
Recommended Resource: Dynamics of Church Finance by James Berkley