A Voice in the
"Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful." (1Co4:2)
"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so also you do: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up from whatever he is prospered, that there be no collections when I come." (1Co16:1-2)
"When you vow a vow unto Jehovah your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for Jehovah your God will seek to require it of you, and it would be sin in you. But if you abstain from vowing, it shall not be sin in you. That which has gone forth from your lips you shall keep and do; that which you have voluntarily vowed unto Jehovah your God, what you have promised with your mouth." (Deu23:21-23)
"But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things are from You, and out of Your own hand we have given to You." (1Ch29:14)
"...I have been entrusted with a STEWARDSHIP." (1Co9:17b)
"I now rejoice in my sufferings on your behalf, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, on behalf of His body, which is the church, of which I was made a minister according to the STEWARDSHIP from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the Word of God," (Col1:24-25)
A few months ago someone asked where (at the website) they could find teaching on "stewardship". So I did a little browsing around; and certainly the matters about giving financial support to the Lord's work have been addressed, along with the matter of supporting God's ministers. People have asked, and Q/A's have addressed the "tithe"; ditto regarding church "fund-raisers", and other such things.
And if you were to ask most ministers, these things would pretty much be the substance of their answers. When the Rev. Pastor Wolf is into the big fund-raising campaign to build that new impressive building as a legacy for 'his' ministry, he badgers 'his' flock into making "faith pledge promises", citing "stewardship" as the means to induce "guilt" into his parishoners if they don't give. Stewardship is often connected to "sacrificial" giving. Interpretation: the woman has just been widowed with three young children to raise, with no means of income; so the pastor suggests to her that she sell the farm... not as might be expected, for the purpose to "visit widows and orphans in their distress" (Jac1:27); but rather, so that she might give that money to 'his' church. After all, did not Jesus praise the widow who put her "two mites" in the offering box? (Mk12:42)
Often the concept of the "vow" is used, to induce the "faith promise". They are coerced into promising "X-much", even though they don't have that much to give, with the promise that "God will bless" and provide through miraculous means. And if things are not turning out right, then the guilt is further induced, that there is a "lack-of-FAITH". And Rev. Wolf brow-beats 'his' sheep, telling them that they don't really love the Lord, quoting this passage above, that if we make promises to God (like you did!), then you BETTER KEEP IT! ...otherwise God will be mad at you and judge you!
But... What is stewardship?
A "steward" is "one who manages another's property, finances or other affairs" That is the #1 definition in the dictionary, the simple one, and the one that applies here. Often the 'simple' definition is the most profound; but just as equally misunderstood and distorted.
Notice that there is property and money, and "other" things involved. Is the steward the 'owner' of these things? Is he the master or boss? No. He "manages" things. What does it mean to "manage"? To direct or control the use of...something; to control resources and expenditures. Again; is a manager the top boss? No. The top boss assigns the manager to a certain sphere, whether finances, production, personnel, etc. But the top boss is the 'owner' of the company. And those whom the manager directs are fellow-servants/employees of that top boss. Quite often managers arise to their positions from amongst the masses of the "grunts" who do the labor; and they are elevated to those positions because the boss sees in them a level of 'trust'. Like our opening passage... that they are "faithful". The boss can count on them to guide and direct the rest of the people in the directions to the productivity that the boss wants from his company.
This sort of stewardship is not unlike what a 'pastor' is to a congregation. The people are the Lord's; and the pastor guides, directs and trains them.
At the individual level there is also "management" (stewardship). If it is an electronics plant (something I'm familiar with), individual assemblers manage the use of their tools and work station. A "faithful" worker does not sneak tools home in their lunch box, they faithfully clean and tin their soldering iron tips to make them last longer, they don't use their trimming dykes as a prying instrument for something totally unrelated, etc. They do not own that solder station; it belongs to the boss. But they use it and properly maintain it as though its price was coming out of their own pockets. But it does NOT 'belong' to them. As we quoted above from David's prayer, "...out of YOUR OWN HAND" because "..all things are from You.."
Thus, regarding pledge promises, Paul also admonishes about giving: "For if something is presented eagerly, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have." (2Co8:12) If stewardship is considered from the aspect of "giving", as most view it, we obviously cannot give what God has not given to us in the first place. In the wilderness the people gave materials, gold and jewels for building the tabernacle from out of what they already possessed. (Ex35)
But stewardship is SO MUCH MORE than -mere- "money" concerns. And here we get into the area that becomes more 'personal'...between the person and the Lord, directly. When it involves money and Rev. Wolf's coersion of others to make a pledge, the certain "X" amount can be written down, and when the person either makes good, or fails, everybody else can see, and everybody can "judge another's servant" (Rom14:4), based on how successfully they lived up to the collective coersion and associated guilt-trips.
But if a child of God is faithfully letting his/her light shine before the world, and is witnessing in places where the Rev's wolf pack can't keep an eye on them, to report back; their faithfulness TO THE LORD is not as evident to Rev. Wolf. If God's stewardship to that Believer was "witnessing", and they didn't give -money- to the building fund, they are viewed by the wolf-pack as not-living up to the collective expectations, which -they- give the label of "un-faithfulness". But in actuality, their faithfulness to the Lord is 100%...because "witnessing" was the stewardship God gave that person...not money.
The Master gives -different- "talents" to each of His stewards, as He distributes each "gift" through the the Holy Spirit. (1Co12) He gives "five talents" to one, two to another, and one to yet another. (Mt25:14-30) He does not expect every steward to "gain another five talents". (vs20) When the next one comes, having gained "two" talents in faithfulness to his own individual abilities, he also receives the commendation: "Well done, good and faithful servant" (vs23)
What each of these servants did with their talents was "stewardship". They were not scrounging up from their own abilities and wealth; but the talents were the Master's "goods" that He "delivered...to them". (vs14) They were to take what the Master had given, and told to "do business till I come" (Lk19:13) But they were each given their stewardship "each according to his own ability". (Mt25:15) Each was -NOT- the same as his neighbor.
Let us consider some practical examples of stewardship...
God has given man different kinds of stewardship. In one of the generic covenants, God gives mankind "dominion" over the earth. (Gen1:26) That's dominion over the "works of [God's] hands"...including all the animals. (Ps8:6-8)
Thus, a person who owns land, in faithful stewardship is going to care for the land; he is not going to pollute it with toxins. He may plant trees to shield against wind erosion; or cultivate in terraces to deal with water erosion. A farmer may have cattle, but he is not going to abuse them. The person may have the "deed" documents with his name on them, but in fact, "the cattle on a thousand hills" belongs to God. (Ps50:10)
A person may own a car, house, furnishings. In good stewardship, they are going to take care of that which God has entrusted to them.
People sometimes say: If only I could win the Lotto, I could -give- so much to the Lord's work. Well, in reality, all the money in the world already belongs to God, and He is the one who gives the ability to "acquire wealth". (De8:18) What is one doing with that which they already have? What is their 'stewardship' of that money? Are they squandering it on UN-necessities? If they see that item after which they lust, displayed in the shop window, do they "just -HAVE- to have it"? What in their lives is now lacking as a result of their splurge?
Let's go back to Rev. Wolf's church building program again. Supposing the person was successfully coerced into giving money to that program, that their budget -really- CANNOT 'afford', because in doing so, the widow's children are now starving, and going cold for lack of warm clothing...what sort of 'stewardship' is that? Those children are also God's stewarship as a "gift from the Lord". (Ps127:3-5) Instead of Rev. Wolf coercing the widow to give towards his posh new building, if -HE- was engaging in proper stewardship of the church, the 'religion' of his church should be giving to help out the widow!! "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." (Jac1:27) That word "visit" is with the intent: showing up at the door ('visiting') with bags of groceries, winter coats for the kids, and maybe an envelope of cash to help pay the utilities.
-THAT-, my friends, is Godly "stewardship". The Most Right-Reverend Monseigneur Pastor Dr. Wolf has his theology backwards. But that's what wolves do: They do not care for the sheep, but are in business "to steal, and to kill, and to destroy" (Jn10:10, Ac20:29)
Jesus' disciples were sooo used to giving to the needy, that when Judas was excused from that Last Supper, one of the speculations of the others as to 'what' he was leaving to do, was to "give something to the poor". (Jn13:29) As Paul visits the 'church fathers', they remind him to "remember the poor". (Ga2:10) Yes, a "welfare" system is a necessity. God said that there would always be the poor. That was one of the purposes of the O.T. "tithe", to be stewards of God's wealth upon them, to also support the needy. (De15:11,26:12) The purpose of the "tithe" is not to help Rev. Wolf become rich and famous, but to help the poor and needy.
Yes, this discussion has circled around back, talking about "money". It seems that everything is valued in money.
What about "time"? How is our time managed? Is it all about the job and career? Playing with the toys that the career has paid for? Spending time with the co-workers to help advance one's career, to gain more toys to play with? Where does the spouse fit? The children? Uh...God? Perhaps you can't give money, but there are things you can 'do' in the fellowship. Yes, this, too, is "stewardship".
What about our thoughts? "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy; think on these things." (Php4:8) Or do we spend our waking moments dreaming, wishing to be with one of the Victoria's Secret models? Or lusting after a Britney Spears 'orgy' concert? Or...you-fill-in-the-blank? This, too, is "stewardship".
We had never before addressed "stewardship" (as a word) because in reality, by definition, it encompasses -everything- about how we live. And we have already spent years talking about all that. Only...we haven't happened to have given it this particular label: "Stewardship" Even our very lives, each breath we take, each mouthful of food we chew, every drink we gulp, every step we take, everything our hands do...comes from God. As such, it is a stewardship.
"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? (We are 'stewards', even, of these bodies!) For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are Godís." (1Co6:19-20)
"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and Father through Him... And whatever you do, do it from the soul, as to the Lord and not to men..." (Col3:17,23)
That... is Faithful Stewardship.