The concept of stewardship probably gives us the best foundation for understanding our relationship to God and our resources.
In many churches that emphasize tithing, it's easy to walk away believing that as long as you're faithful with your 10%, the 90% is yours. As long as you don't spend it on something evil, it's yours to do with as you please.
What is a Steward?
The Bible often talks about God's ownership. Here's just a couple of examples:
Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.-Job 41:11
For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine.-Psalm 50:10-11
Genesis begins with God giving mankind dominion over the earth, but there's never a moment where he transfers ownership to us. We're simply managers of God's resources.
Throughout the gospels, Jesus uses the relationship between a master and his steward to describe our relationship to God. The steward is entrusted with caring for the master's property. The steward proves his or her faithfulness by using-or in some cases increasing (Matt. 25:124-30)-the master's riches in a way that benefits the master's household.
"One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money."-Luke 16:10-13
Stewardship isn't just one element of the Christian life; it is the Christian life. How we use the time, talents, abilities, resources, and finances God gives us separates good servants from unfaithful ones.
We can't say that the 90% of our resources that we don't give to the church should be ours any more than we can say that the time we spend outside of church is ours to do with as we please. We might spend a couple hours in church on Sunday morning and devote ourselves to some quiet time, but the rest of our life is still the Lord's. We need to be constantly looking for ways that He would have us invest our lives so we don't squander the rest of our time on various amusements.
Whose Debit Card is That?
We begin to have a more healthy view of our relationship to money when we think of ourselves as managers of God's resources. Every time I open my checkbook or swipe my
, I am exercising my authority as God's steward to invest His resources.
Thankfully the Master isn't an angry taskmaster who doesn't realize that I have needs. He isn't angry every time I buy a latte or see a movie. But with the right mindset, the perspective changes from "how much of my money do I have to give You, Lord?" to "how should I best use Your money on behalf of Your kingdom?"
Christians look at the world through a different lens, and they interact with the world through an understanding of God's sovereignty. The driving question for those outside of a relationship with God is, "How will this benefit myself or those I love?" From within the kingdom, the question switches to, "How can this resource be leveraged for the kingdom?"
The Money Snare
There's a danger that sets money apart from the other items we steward. This peril lies in the fact that money isn't entirely neutral. Jesus communicates it well in Matthew:
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."-Matthew 6:24 (NASB)
When He uses the word "mammon" as synonym for riches, He's intentionally personifying money as an alternative god vying for our allegiance. Our posture towards money dictates whether it becomes a tool we use or a deity we worship.
A steward's role is to use money as a tool that builds God's kingdom and takes care of our personal needs, while being mindful of its deceitfulness (Mk. 4:19) and its ability to rule over us.
This is why Martin Luther said that there are three conversions necessary in the life of the believer: "The conversion of the heart, the conversion of the mind, and the conversion of the purse."