The smell of burning food filled my tiny kitchen. “What is that smell?” I asked a friend who was sharing my house for the week. Every young man knows the smell—familiar from an early age. Their first acquaintance comes from burnt toast and camping trips where, after burning everything you tried to cook, you end up eating your baked beans straight from the can.
As we grow and leave the protective nest of parental love, we must fend for ourselves, creating a new society of hunter-gatherers, who rely on microwaves and packets of two-minute noodles.
I opened my archaic oven. (Iím sure it was converted from a woodstove after the invention of electricity.) There a frozen pizza cooked happily. Unfortunately, what we did not know was the bottom was already charcoal black. Since we could not find any sort of tray to place it on, the pizza had been put in as it came out of the box—frozen and firm.
I now know that a tray is useful for more than catching crumbs. After salvaging what we could, it was time to resort to a faithful friend—a packet of noodles.
These are the rites of passage, the final step to adulthood. It is the time when a young man leaves his mother and her cooking to try to fend for himself, before being rescued by his wife. This is the transition I find myself in.
Living away from my parents is not a new experience for me. Two years living in dorms eased me into independent living. But now that I have my first full-time job, rent my first house, and am paying off my first car, I am faced with the realities of life. No more ready-cooked meals from Mom.
Another reality has hit as well—no more money tree! I now earn what I have and spend what I earn. Which brings me to the topic of stewardship.
Growing up attending church, I heard a lot about godly money management. Every time our treasurer was listed in the church bulletin to give the sermon, we knew the topic would be the same: money. He would give an update and report on our congregationís tithes and offerings—and ask for more. It hadnít concerned me much in the past. I had no income, so I paid tithe only if I was given money for a birthday, and my donation to the offering plate was leftover allowance. Giving what I had earned by the sweat of my brow was an irregular occurrence, something I rarely thought about.
Yet as my first paycheck came in, I realized this was it—the time to make a decision on what I would give to God had come. It was time to become a steward of my own life and possessions. So I set out to discover what stewardship means and what I would need to do to become a good steward of my income.
To many people, a “steward” is someone who smiles and serves travelers on an airplane—a flight attendant. In Godís eyes, stewardship is much more.
A steward is someone who manages anotherís property or possessions. This means they are looking after something that is not theirs. This implies two important things. First, ownership is someone elseís and, second, the person who owns the possession places trust in the steward. A steward on an airplane ensures the safety of others and the plane itself. They are trusted with serving both client and company—ensuring that everything runs smoothly.
These concepts can be applied to our stewardship for God. He—the Author and Architect of the universe, the great Creator God—owns everything. Simply put, He made it—so itís His. Our responsibility is to become good stewards for Him in response to the trust Heís put in us. So what does this mean in practical terms?
There are four main areas that we can manage on a personal level.
- our finances—the most talked about area of stewardship.
- our talents—the personality and skills that make us who we are.
- ourselves—over which we have almost complete control.
- our world—the environment we enjoy and utilize to live.
In my quest to find out more about stewardship, I turned to my Bible. I tried to find a definitive steward—an example of outstanding stewardship that lived up to biblical principles. Instead I found a mosaic of stories that demonstrate Godís divine plan for stewardship, highlighting the four characteristics outlined above.
One of my favorite Bible stories from childhood is about a boy who became king at just seven years of age after being hidden in the temple from the evil queen who was trying to kill him. His name was Joash and you can read his story in 2 Kings 12. As he matured, he recognized his own stewardship of Godís kingdom. Joash was saddened by the disrepair of the temple, so he took a huge chest and placed it at the temple entrance to collect the peopleís donations.
The people gave generously, and the temple was restored. This story demonstrates the importance of tithes and offerings in the upkeep of Godís church and the spreading of the gospel. It was used to pay the workers without account because they “acted with complete honesty” (2 Kings 12:15).
Many people today choose not to pay tithe because they donít like the pastor, or they think the church has enough money. However, itís up to God to look after His funds. It is our responsibility to do as He requests and requires—as good stewards for Him. This is not to say that the funds are not sometimes misused; as in the earlier part of the chapter, Joash asked the priests (for 23 years!) to use money gathered from worshipers to fix the temple, during which time it remained a shambles. The people had been giving but the priests had not been good stewards and used the money for things other than what the king had requested. While both the people and the leaders acted as faithful stewards, Godís house was rebuilt. As good stewards, itís our responsibility to do with our money as God has asked of us. How the others use that money is their stewardship responsibility.
Tithing lifts a great burden off our shoulders. In Malachi 3:10, God says, “ ĎBring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this . . . 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.í ” What a wonderful promise!
It will not be easy. We are merely called to be caretakers. Paul urges us in Romans 12, to give ourselves as “living sacrifices,” to give up everything we are to Godís will. He will look after us.
Another area in which weíre able to serve God is through our talents. An example is Joseph, whose story you can read in Genesis 37–50.
The son of a wealthy landowner, Joseph had it all. His life took a turn for the worse, and he ended up sold by his brothers as a slave. After that his life played out like the movie Gladiator: prince becomes slave, slave becomes steward, steward becomes prisoner, prisoner saves kingdom.
Joseph triumphed because he didnít let life get him down. He was the ultimate steward of his abilities—eventually running Pharaohís kingdom. Joseph used his talents to rise above his circumstances. God blesses those who use their talents for good and strive to achieve to the best of their abilities. Itís our responsibility not to squander what God empowers us with.
To get to where I am today, I took the opportunities life presented me. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but somehow God led me to where I now find myself. Use your talents for God, and He will ensure that your life is both blessed and a blessing.
Another area of our lives we should take care of is our bodies.. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” This proves Godís ownership. Our bodies are not our own, we are merely taking care of them. In this way we should be careful with what we do to our bodies, internally and externally.
This thought is continued in the New Testament. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Living healthy lives is therefore an act of worship. God created us with amazing bodies and minds. All He asks is that we do not afflict harm to them. This means staying away from harmful substances that will cause us to lose our faculties or become less than capable to use our bodies to represent Him.
Our responsibility as stewards also extends to the environment around us. It is Godís creation and as such is close to His heart. Weíve been commissioned from the very beginning to take good care of the earth. In Genesis 1:28 God gave us dominion over the earth. All of the plants and resources are given to us to use, but also to take care of.
Good stewardship means that we remember the earth is Godís gift to us. We should aim to recycle, use renewable energy sources, and not exploit or destroy life forms and resources on our planet. After all, Revelation 11:18 reminds us what happens to those who abuse their power over the earth. Before creating a new world, God will destroy those who destroy the earth. This planet is a gift to us. Let us treat it with care.
So what does this mean for my own life? Well, Iím on a “humble wage,” as itís my first year in a paid position. I could do with extra money to save and to support myself for the future. Yet Iíve decided to give a tithe to God; Heíll look after my future. Heís already supported me with a good family who continue to help me, a good job, and a secure life. The extra money isnít important.
The responsibility is on me to spend wisely the money I have. After the bills are paid, I save the rest for a rainy day or use it to travel to see my loved ones. All the gifts God has given us are for our good, but they are still His.
So is God looking after me? Certainly. Am I worried about my future? I donít have to be because I can rest assured that God looks after His own.
All I need to do now is become proficient in the kitchen!