Many times, we think of stewardship as fundraising to pay off the church building and cover the pastor’s salary. But the stewardship of giving is more than a response to the generosity of God. The foundational principle of stewardship is that God is the owner of all, and we are simply passing on a portion of what He entrusts to us.
We are stewards of talents, gifts, time and treasure given to us by God. A steward oversees the owner’s assets for the owner’s benefit and carries no sense of entitlement to the assets he or she manages. When you go to a hotel, you might give your bags to a steward who takes them to your room, but they are not his bags. You entrust them and their safekeeping to him for a short time.
The analogy holds true for how God entrusts goodwill to us and understanding this affects how we give. The scripture teaches us that when we think like a steward, not an owner, we give abundantly, sacrificially and joyfully.
King David, in his time the most powerful man on Earth, understood the owner-steward relationship. After receiving a tremendous offering, David responded to God: “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? For everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your own hand.” 1 Chronicles 29:14. In this verse, David shows us what it means to think like a steward and not an owner. David understood the truth that everything we have comes from God. Likewise, our prosperity and all that we have is His.
In Second Corinthians 8, Paul tells of the Macedonian Christians and their sacrificial giving to the church during a severe test of affliction: “Their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed into the wealth of their generosity.” How could the Macedonian Christians give so abundantly while in extreme poverty? They didn’t see poverty as an exemption from giving. They simply refused to miss out on the satisfaction of giving abundantly and sacrificially.
Have you ever wondered why the Bible says that “God loves a cheerful giver”? 2 Corinthians 9:7. God loves a joyful giver because such givers are investing in heaven, which reaps eternal dividends. When the tabernacle was being built in the Old Testament, people got so caught up in the joy of their heavenly investments that they had to be “restrained” from giving more. Joyful giving can only come from a heart set on things above, not on earthly things.
The stewardship of giving does not buy happiness, or love, or a tenfold return on our investment. The motive for giving is not the expectation of getting something back. We give only because God has first given to us. We give because everything is God’s to begin with. My prayer is that we will – that we do – properly manage what He has entrusted to us.