The word steward, which means “manager,” is mentioned several times in the Bible. Sometimes the actual term is used, and sometimes it’s discussed in principle.
Adventists define a good Christian steward as someone who understands God is the creator and owner of everything. However, God empowers us as managers of the blessings He gives us. He has entrusted us with time and opportunities, abilities and possessions, and the blessings of the earth and its resources.
But what does it mean to “manage” our blessings? What about the things in life that aren’t exactly blessings? How does the Bible advise us in proper stewardship?
We’ll dig into Scripture to learn more about:
- How humanity was made stewards from the beginning
- How stewardship builds character and maturity
- What stewardship looks like today
- What’s behind the emphasis on money and tithing
- Gratitude—the key to being a good steward
Belief 21: Stewardship
We are God’s stewards, entrusted by Him with time and opportunities, abilities and possessions, and the blessings of the earth and its resources. We are responsible to Him for their proper use. We acknowledge God’s ownership by faithful service to Him and our fellow human beings, and by returning tithe and giving offerings for the proclamation of His gospel and the support and growth of His church. Stewardship is a privilege given to us by God for nurture in love and the victory over selfishness and covetousness. Stewards rejoice in the blessings that come to others as a result of their faithfulness. (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:15; 1 Chron. 29:14; Haggai 1:3-11; Mal. 3:8-12; Matt. 23:23; Rom. 15:26, 27; 1 Cor. 9:9-14; 2 Cor. 8:1-15; 9:7.)
Humanity as Stewards From the Beginning
Just before creating the first human beings, God planned for them to be stewards of the world He just made.
“Then God said, “Let Us make mankind in Our image, according to Our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the livestock and over all the earth, and over every crawling thing that crawls on the earth” (Genesis 1:26, NASB).
That’s no small delegation—what an honor! God created humanity in His image, which included “ruling over” most of what He created for them!
We learn a bit more about this responsibility in Genesis 2:15, which refers to Adam and Eve being placed in the Garden of Eden to manage it.
We can reinforce our understanding of this delegation when we compare different Bible translations, describing their gardening responsibility as to “work it and watch over it” (CSB), to “cultivate it” (NASB), or to “tend it and keep it” (NKJV).
So even in a perfect world, God blessed Adam and Eve with important stewardship responsibilities. He gave our first parents the job of caring for His creation.
God loves us, so He has blessed us with time, talent, money, property, and life. As Christians, we love God and cherish the gifts He has given us. We recognize Him as the source of every good thing (James 1:17).
Because of that, it only makes sense to act responsibly, seeking out the proper use of His blessings.We should lovingly care for His creation out of love for God Himself.
Stewardship Builds Essential Character Traits
God was intentional about giving humanity “dominion” over the earth. Stewardship is one of the ways God helps us mature and develop our characters.
The process of exercising authority, while still recognizing you are not the owner or what you manage, helps give us victory over selfishness and covetousness.
Let’s take a look at four essential character traits of a good steward: Faithfulness, trustworthiness, loyalty and accountability.
A good steward is faithful
“Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2, NKJV).
In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) the Master (God) gives three servants (us) “talents.” The first servant is given three talents, the second servant is given two, and the third servant is given one.
The first two servants invest what they are given and are able to double the Master’s money. But the last servant decides to bury his talent.
When the Master returns, He rewards the first two servants.
“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (v. 23)
When the Master finds the last servant did not use what he was given, there are consequences.
The meaning of this parable extends beyond the use of money. God has given each one of us a wide variety of gifts. He expects us to use what He has given in the ways it is meant to be used! And a big part of that is to use our gifts in service to Him—for His purpose and glory.
The third servant was not criticized because he fell short of doubling his investment. The Master was disappointed in him because he wasted an opportunity.
He didn’t do anything at all—when He could have used what he was given to grow the Master’s wealth (in the parable’s context, the kingdom of God).
A good steward is trustworthy
Luke 16:1–13 tells the story of a shrewd steward. In this parable Jesus introduces a servant who got caught wasting the Master’s money. He was spending it on himself! This servant was obviously untrustworthy and had to be fired from his job.
Jesus told His listeners,
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much. And whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? (Luke 16:10-12)”
God has entrusted each of us with certain talents, wealth, time, positions or opportunities. He gives us these things and more so we have chances to be generous, kind, and loving (Galatians 5:22-23). You were not given your blessings in order to enrich yourself, but to serve others (Hebrews 13:6).
A good steward is loyal
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24, NASB).
Note that God isn’t saying money or wealth is evil. But serving it as the priority of your life is where the danger lies.
No one can serve God and something else at the same time. It is impossible to have two top priorities! You will eventually have to choose—or lose your mind trying to serve them both. Why not choose to serve a God who promises to supply all our needs (Phillipians 4:19)?
God wants us to be faithful, trustworthy, loyal subjects of the kingdom of Christ. He wants Christians to be a true representation of the goodness, joy, mercy, love and courtesy of the kingdom of God. As loyal stewards, we use God’s gifts for His purposes and to His glory.
How is loyalty demonstrated? It starts with trusting God and choosing His way over other ways. It requires a level of strength and self-control when things aren’t easy. We must put our trust in God and His plans even when we can’t see how He will work things through.
God has called you to make a commitment to His plans—to His kingdom. Even though this means putting Him and His ways above your own, we can trust that His plans are for our best interest. His plans are “for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, CSB).
The good news is that the faith and love required to make this level of commitment are given to us by God Himself. All you have to do is seek a relationship with Him, and He promises that everything else you need will be “provided to you” (Matthew 6:33, NASB).
A good steward is accountable
“For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48, NKJV).
“I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds” (Jeremiah 17:10, ESV).
God has individually blessed us with resources. We cannot shift our stewardship responsibility to others. He has made us individual stewards, and we are accountable to Him.
The story of the widow’s mites is a short account in the Bible of Jesus making an observation that exemplifies stewardship regardless of how much someone possesses (Mark 12:41–44).
Jesus watched as people brought their offerings to the temple treasury. He saw the rich make a show of dropping off large amounts of money, hoping others would notice. Then a widow drops her two small coins in. Jesus tells His disciples that she gave more than the others because she “gave out of her poverty” (CSB).
She gave humility, faithfulness, loyalty, trustworthiness, and accountability. Her coins were clearly not worth more than the bags of money the others gave. But the spirit in which she gave them was worth more. Her obedience and willingness to rely on God added value to her gift.
The widow could have made excuses for not giving in her circumstances. She could have reasoned that the rich people gave plenty, and their money would cover the loss of her small contribution. But she knew she had a spiritual duty of stewardship, not a monetary duty. Even her two coins demonstrated accountability.Both rich and poor decide their own destiny by the way they live and the way they give. The widow chose God’s way over her own. She chose to instead “store up…treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20, ESV).
What does “stewardship” mean in our daily lives?
To the Christian, stewardship means we treat everything as it is God’s (and in reality, it is. Everything anyone has ultimately came from God).
What we have is not ours, and we are caring for what we have while He is “away.”
“Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your own hand” (1 Chronicles 29:14, CSB).
The servants in the parables mentioned earlier were accountable to the Master. If everything belongs to God, then we are accountable to Him for the care of our time, money, spiritual gifts, physical and mental health, relationships, possessions, etc.
Stewardship is about more than money or rules. It’s a principle. And we have to be careful not to misdirect the emphasis.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin.
But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former” (Matthew 23:23).
It’s not about what we manage or how much we have. The principle of stewardship should cover our whole lives.
We acknowledge God’s generosity and ownership by faithful service to Him and our fellow human beings.
In 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 we find a community of believers supporting each other. Though this group of people was poor, they gave as much as they were able, “and even beyond their ability…for the privilege of sharing in this ministry” to the Lord’s people (CSB).
This group found themselves in need. Paul was urging the Corinthians to return the favor they were once shown.
“It is not that there should be relief for others and hardship for you, but it is a question of equality. At the present time your surplus is available for their need, so that their abundance may in turn meet your need, in order that there may be equality” (vs. 13, 14, CSB).
Paul understood that if every believer was a faithful steward, all needs would be met.
Why is the emphasis in stewardship so often money-related?
Money is involved in so much of life, so of course it will be a big part of stewardship. We no longer settle debts with bushels of wheat. We no longer make bargains in terms of livestock or barter for goods. We work for money, and we use it to buy what we need—or want.
When God said, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse…” it was because a storehouse was needed for the tithes of crops (Malachi 3:10). Your local church’s “storehouse” is likely a bank account.
The topic of money is often associated with being cold, dirty, and impersonal. Money is often linked to greed. But it is “the love of money” that “is the root of all evil,” not the money itself (1 Timothy 6:10).
Money is what makes many church ministries possible. By returning tithe and giving offerings you are assisting in God’s work. You are helping the spread of His gospel and the support and growth of His church.
Tithes and Offerings
Tithe is not the same as offering. Tithes are the first ten percent of our income. Tithe actually means “tenth.” The Bible also tells us we should return God’s tithe to Him first, before we do anything else with our money (Proverbs 3:9).
Offering is anything you choose to give beyond your tithe. God’s people have practiced tithing since Genesis (see Genesis 14:18-20 and 28:22). But Moses reintroduces Israel to tithing as law in Leviticus 27:30-34.
God’s tithing law serves many purposes:
- Tithe was designed to support the priesthood. Today, that means pastors. “Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple…? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:13-14)
- Tithe supports the maintenance of the temple, or church grounds (Haggai 1:3-11).
- Tithing supports ministry (Deuteronomy 14:28–29).
- Tithing is a form of worship. It shows God we trust Him (not money) to provide for us (Malachi 3:8-12).
- God promises to bless us for giving. Offerings are a way we thank God for our blessings. (Deuteronomy 15:10; Proverbs 11:25; Proverbs 3:9-10).
- Tithing, as part of stewardship, builds character.
Good stewardship is based in gratitude
As God’s steward, we rejoice in the blessings that come as a result of His love for us. God’s love through us compels us to live graciously and give generously.
Adventists believe everything is God’s and He allows us the privilege of managing what is given to us.
Adventists also believe stewardship is a gift God gave us from the Garden of Eden. It is an exercise of faith and character building as well as a way to bless others.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. – Luke 6:38