What is the best gift you have ever received?
When I was 10 years old, I was very excited when my parents bought me a saxophone. Every day I looked forward to playing it. But I soon realized that there are more important gifts: time, relationships, and love, for example. Later still, I learned that it can be even more satisfying to give than to receive, a principle that Jesus Himself taught (Acts 20:35).
Scripture tells us that God made everything and that He owns everything: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Ps. 24:1).* The amazing thing is that He has put us in charge of caring for the world (see Gen. 1:27, 28, and 2:15). God has asked us to be stewards or managers of His property. In Bible times a steward would manage the possessions of his master (e.g., Joseph for Potiphar in Gen. 39). However, God is different from an earthly master in that He shares His possessions with us, for we are part of the family of God (cf. 1 John 3:1).
Many people associate the term “stewardship” with tithe and offerings. But that is only a small part of its meaning. Stewardship is living the biblical life fully.
Jesus calls each follower to love God with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind (Luke 10:27). As we respond to God’s love, we are motivated to see how much, not how little, we can do. When we consider what God has done for us, we want to respond to His love by serving Him with all that we have, including our time, talents, and money.
Applying the Principle of Stewardship
The principle of stewardship interacts with many aspects of our calling and purpose in Christ Jesus. The following are some key areas.
1. Time: God calls us to consider our priorities. This includes our use of time. Life can too easily become a series of distractions. How do we ensure that our lives make a difference, rather than being squandered on the trivial and unimportant?
Believers are motivated to spend time on God’s priorities and opportunities: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Eph. 5:15-17; see also Col. 4:5).
2. Talents, Abilities and Intelligence: Every person has talents, skills, and abilities. All believers have been given at least one spiritual gift (1 Cor. 12:7). As 1 Peter 4:10 explains: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”
God is honored when we use our minds for His purposes (Dan. 1). Intelligence is not something to be squandered. Rather it is a gift that should be developed to its God-given potential in order to serve and glorify God.
3. Money (Including Tithe and Offerings): God provides the means by which we live. In gratitude we return our tithe and offerings to Him. Malachi 3:10 says: “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’”
My wife and I have friends who have recently gone through a very tough time. They struggled with whether to continue to tithe or wait until their finances improved. They deliberated: “Do we trust God to look after us?” Finally, they decided to place their trust in God. God provided for them—sometimes in unexpected ways—but He always came through. Jesus promised in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
The members of the early Christian church cared for those who were needy in their community (Acts 4:32-35). We are also invited to give freely and cheerfully: “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).
4. Our Bodies: Scripture clearly affirms that our bodies are important and that we should take care of them. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Cor. 6:19, 20).
Good stewards will not only want to abstain from harmful substances, but will also strive to keep their bodies in optimal physical condition. If we follow good health habits, the benefits extend beyond just physical health. Because of the close relationship between mind and body, physical health will impact our clarity of thought and ultimately our connection with God.
5. Earth’s Resources: God pronounced that His creation was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). He also placed humanity in a position of environmental stewardship (Gen. 1:28; 2:15). Although sin has tarnished creation and believers look forward to a new heaven and earth (Rev. 21:1), this does not mean that we are to neglect the planet. Just as God loves us and has given us this world to enjoy, we are to love and care for all of God’s creation.
6. Gospel: The gospel commission has been given to each of us. We have been entrusted with the work of making disciples, of baptizing, and of teaching (Matt. 28:18-20). This is a special privilege. The apostle Paul explains that “men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Cor. 4:1, 2). We have been given the privilege of sharing the good news with the world.
All to Jesus
God ultimately owns everything, and yet He shares by providing us with an abundance of gifts. His intent is not that we use these gifts selfishly, but rather that we use them to serve others. Because of all that God has done for us, we respond with wholehearted gratitude and look forward to the day when we will be able to thank Him face-to-face.
* All Scripture quotations are taken from the New International Version.
Philip Rodionoff lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. He is a medical doctor who has a Master’s degree in religion from Andrews University and conducts seminars on evidences for the Christian faith.
This article originally appeared in the Adventist World in the February 2011 issue.