The Truth About Biblical Stewardship (Part 2)

Your relationship to money always impacts your relationship with God and others.

Dave Briggs

Stewardship Director, Central Christian Church of Arizona

As discussed previously in The Truth About Biblical Stewardship (Part 1), the true meaning of biblical stewardship is often lost by the fact that modern church language frequently uses stewardship as just another word for giving.

 

How many of us grew up knowing that on “Stewardship Sunday” the message was going to be about increasing our giving to the church?

 

Giving is one responsibility of a steward, but it goes far beyond that.

 

In fact, stewardship has more to do with how one manages what he doesn’t give away because once something is given away, it becomes the responsibility of someone else to steward.

 

The Bible often speaks and in great detail about money and possessions.

 

Over 2,000 verses and nearly half of the parables of Jesus deal directly or indirectly with the topic.

 

If Jesus and the entirety of God’s Word spend that much time addressing money and possession, then we should pay close attention.

 

It was by paying close attention to these teachings that I discovered something significant that doesn’t often get talked about.

 

Read the words of Jesus carefully when He addresses money, wealth, and possessions, and you will conclude the following:

 

  1. Jesus did not spend the majority of His time talking about giving.

 

  1. Jesus did not talk much at all about “wisely managing money” or living a frugal lifestyle.

 

  1. Jesus did not speak about the benefits of staying out of debt or saving for later years.

 

  1. Jesus never once mentioned the need to develop a budget.

 

Don’t get me wrong, these are all very important to lead a financially healthy life, but these were not the things that Jesus focused on.

 

If you look for a common theme in almost every discussion Jesus had about money, he was addressing the impact that a person’s relationship to money had on their relationship to God and others.

In short, Jesus was teaching us that money is more about relationships than it is about finances.

 

Examples of this are everywhere. We can observe both the positive and the negative.

 

We see healthy relationships to money drawing people closer to God and others, and destructive relationships to money doing the opposite.

 

It was a very selfish and self-centered relationship to money that characterized the Rich Fool in Luke 12:14-21.

 

… “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

 

The Rich Fool’s relationship to his wealth kept him from seeing God.

 

His role in his abundance and kept him from using the wealth to make a difference in anyone else’s life but his own.

 

Money is about a relationship.

 

We see the same in Luke 18:18-24 as Jesus interacts with the man often referred to as the Rich Young Ruler.

 

A certain ruler asked (Jesus), “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’” “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!

 

The Rich Young Ruler asked the right person the right question.

 

Jesus knew the relationship the young man had to his wealth was an obstacle to his relationship with Jesus.

It directly impacted his ability to experience the eternal life he desired.

 

When Jesus asked the young man to choose between his relationship with money and his relationship with the Son of God, he chose money.

 

The young ruler walked away sad because he could not have both.

 

Money is about a relationship.

 

Notable examples also exist where a God-centered relationship to money drew people closer to God and others.

 

In Mark 14:3-6 we read about a woman, we know to be Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, displaying a markedly different relationship to money.

 

While (Jesus) was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.

 

It is easy to miss the fact that, in modern terms, Mary had just poured $50,000 worth of precious oil on Jesus!

 

The disciples watched and were horrified at the waste of money that could have been used for ministry.

 

But, Jesus recognized the love and devotion Mary had for Him.

 

He even made a point to rebuke the disciples for not seeing the motivation behind Mary’s act of love because her relationship to Jesus was far more important to her than her relationship to her expensive perfume.

 

Money is about a relationship.

 

For another example, we read Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-35.

 

Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

 

At the end of the parable, Jesus asks the question, “Who was the neighbor to the one who was in need?”

 

The answer was clearly the one who invested his time and money in helping.

 

It is interesting to note how little the Samaritan could have helped if he was unwilling to spend his money and resources.

 

He poured his own oil and wine on the wounded man and then paid to have him stay with the innkeeper for as long as it took for him to recover.

 

The Samaritan invested his wealth in building a relationship with one in need.

 

His relationship to money was not as important as his relationship with the man who had been robbed and beaten.

 

Money is about a relationship.

 

Allow me to issue you a challenge…

 

Go back and study the passages where Jesus deals with money, looking carefully for the theme woven throughout:

 

“Your relationship to money always impacts your relationship with God and others.”

 

A God-centered relationship to money is an overarching characteristic of those who are truly seeking to be good stewards of what God has entrusted.

 

Money is about a relationship.