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Shift from Ownership to Stewardship

We are living under an illusion. We just assume we are the sole owners of our money and possessions.


Look closer at your money. Did you actually make the coins or print the bills? Who or what determines the value of your money? The money’s value is guaranteed by the United States of America – the government. If you own cryptocurrency – and I’m not recommending it – what guarantees the value of that money? What keeps the money literally safe? Is the money in a bank or a retirement account or your wallet?

 

Look closer at your possessions. Did you actually make them? Did you obtain the raw materials and put them together to make something? Did you make the raw materials?


Steward reviewing monthly personal budget.
Stewardship is a trusted responsibility. Ownership is an illusion.

Our money and possessions are not ours.


Money and possessions are human constructs based on the value our government assigns to a raw material, in most cases gold. The One True Creator God created the gold, and every other raw material we humans value.


Because God created it all, God owns it all. For some reason, God trusts us with it. That is stewardship.


God created human in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it…. Genesis 1:27-28 (NASB)

The reason is that we – both men and women – are created in God’s own image, and God likes to make things grow. God blessed His humans and told them to not only fruitfully multiply throughout the earth, but also to subdue the earth. This “subdue” word in Hebrew (Tanakh) means “to master.” In ancient cultures, the “master” of the house is a servant who is trusted with making the owner’s possessions and money grow. God (the owner) trusts us (the servants) to be good masters growing His possessions and money, as well as His honorable reputation. This is where we get our God-given identity before sin entered the world – faithful, good stewards. It’s in our DNA.


Are we faithful stewards or wicked servants?

Jesus Christ, God’s Son, explains more about expectations for His Father’s stewards in the Parable of the Three Servants (Matthew 25:14-30). In this story, a master (Jesus Christ) who is going away on a trip delegates responsibilities to three servants. One servant is trusted with 5 money bags (called talents, a Roman monetary value worth 6,000 drachmas, their dollars). The second servant is trusted with 2 money bags and a third servant is trusted with 1 money bag. The master instructs the servants to invest the money while he is gone, so that his estate will grow. The master does not specify how much growth he expects, but the servants understand that the master wants some amount of growth. The first servant and the second servant both invest the money by buying and selling goods and services, and they both grow the money double. The third servant hid his money bag in the ground.

 

When the master returned home from his trip, the two faithful stewards shared their success and honored their master. The master honored the faithful stewards and celebrated with them. The third steward admitted to his master that he was afraid to invest. The master was dishonored. He told the third steward that he was wicked and lazy, and asked the servant why he didn’t put the money in the bank at least to get some interest. Then the master takes the money bag away from the bad servant and gives it to the most successful servant. Not only that, the master throws out the bad servant from the celebration!

 

That should give us pause – God trusts us with money and possessions (and literal talents and gifts and abilities). To honor God, we need to not just use money and possessions, we need to take care of them and grow them. At the least we need to put money in the bank to grow enough to keep pace with inflation (increasing cost of living). If we don’t grow, we fall behind.

 

Are we wisely trusting faithful servants?

There is a second lesson hidden in the Parable of the Servants. Learn from the master’s “mistake.” We trust other servants with our money and possessions. It takes wisdom, discernment and oversight to make sure our servants are doubling our wealth, not hiding it in the ground, or worse – stealing it.

 

There are Proverbs about this. Healthy fear and respect of the Lord God is the first step in wisdom and knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). Honor the Lord with your wealth and give the firstfruits of your increase, and He will make sure your barns are bursting with plenty and your wine vats overflow (Proverbs 3:9-10). Whoever walks with the wise will become wise, but the companion of fools will suffer (Proverbs 13:20). A good man – or woman – will leave an inheritance to their children’s children (Proverbs 13:22). A wise woman builds up her household business (Proverbs 14:1).

 

Pray for wisdom and for God to bring wise, expert and experienced servants into your life to help you become a wise steward. You don’t have to get advanced college degrees and certifications. You do need to learn the basics of how to not only keep but to grow what God has entrusted to you. Some expert servants are individuals: investment advisors, financial coaches, credit counselors, accountants, lawyers, wealth managers, realtors, tax specialists. Some experts are larger organizations: banks, credit unions, investment companies, stock brokers, insurance agents, charities, churches. Choose your personal finance team wisely! Be careful how many money bags you trust with them. Regularly manage them and don’t hesitate to fire them when necessary. God wants to bless us with generational wealth that continues on to honor Him. But it usually doesn’t happen by hitting the lottery. It happens by steady growth stewardship. Thankfully, God gave us a specific example of a faithful steward.


Start imitating the faithful steward


Proverbs 31 is often cited as a description of an “ideal godly wife.” Set that perspective aside. Instead, let’s discover what this wise woman does to be a faithful steward of what God has entrusted to her care.


  • She is a tradeswoman, making products from wool and flax to use and sell (31:13)

  • She is trading the wool and flax products for imported food, possibly selling the imports as a merchant in a marketplace booth (31:14)

  • She provides the imported foods for her household and delegates the food preparation to the servants as a benevolent master (31:15)

  • She is a real estate investor who buys a rich plot of soil (31:16)

  • She is a vintner (winemaker) who plants grape vines herself, dresses the vines, and outsources the winemaking process (31:16)

  • She is a profitable merchant, so she prices higher than cost (31:18)

  • She has plenty of lamp oil stored up for emergencies (31:18)

  • She is generously giving to the poor and needy (31:20)

  • She makes sure everyone has the clothes they need, that necessities are provided (31:21)

  • She makes enough high quality bed sheets and clothing for her household and additionally for the community at a profitable merchant (31:22 and 31:24)

  • She wisely teaches others to be good and kind stewards (31:26)

  • She has a healthy fear of the Lord (31:30)


To sum it up, a good steward has a variety of profitable income streams (wool/flax products, imported foodstuffs, wine, bedding, clothing). A good steward provides the necessities, manages the servants, and saves for emergencies. A good steward generously shares both financial wisdom as well as overabundant food and money with others in need. All of this is motivated by the good steward’s faith to the Creator God.

 

Find faithful stewards to learn from and imitate. Wisely delegate to proven stewards. Be a faithful steward who isn’t afraid to respect and honor your Lord and Savior with your finances through growth and generosity. Let’s all get to celebrate and hear “Well done!”

 

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