Photo by Rebecca
When I hear the word stewardship, I think of finances and accountability. Oh, but it is so much more.
I recently returned home after a month away and the pool (which is normally my responsibility) was green and full of leaves. It took me two weeks to get the water nice and clear again.
Keeping a pool clean is stewardship. Eating enough to fill your stomach and not overeating is stewardship. Planning groceries so that nothing rots in the fridge is stewardship. Showering to get clean is stewardship. Doing some physical activity is stewardship.
It is doing what you do in such a way that says “Thank you God for ______ (water, food, the ability to walk, provision of funds, etc.) and because I am thankful and grateful, I will not overdo it, nor under do it, but will make sure that I give my best.”
Stewardship is giving your best with what you have. It’s not sitting around and waiting for more and better. It goes hand-in-hand with planning and organising. When God created the universe, He didn’t do everything in one day or take three months. He didn’t switch off the sun because He wasn’t up to creating for a few weeks. He didn’t make too many animals for the land to handle or create too much water for the earth to carry. No, He made it perfect. Mathematically accurate. He is the true steward. It is not like He just started creating and went with the flow, He had to think and plan ahead. He had to make the earth, sky, water and sun before He made the animals.
I work in Financial Development and see two sides of stewardship. On one side is the donor. He/she works long hours and understands that their role/calling is to give to the Kingdom and look after their money so that they can give where the need is. On the other side is the receiver. This can be either a ministry or a person. Connecting the two is an administrator. A lot of responsibility lies on the administrator to allocate and spend the money correctly as per agreement with the donor. Many times, people don’t understand why they can’t use funds that was given to ministry A for ministry B or why funds aren’t coming in. Can it really be just because the chain of stewardship is broken?
If a donor/potential donor is called to give to the Kingdom but does not use his/her money responsibly, somewhere there is a ministry or missionary that is waiting to be sent out or struggling to keep their head above water because of a lack of funds. Or a donor is a responsible steward of his/her funds and gives as God shows him/her but then the ministry/missionary is a bad steward of the funds. The donor soon becomes frustrated because they have worked and planned well to be able to give to the Kingdom but the result is poor and they feel like their effort to financially support missions is wasted. And a donor is lost.
Joseph is a great biblical example of a good steward. Here are five principles he lived by (taken from my Study Bible):
• Faithful in the least
• Faithful in the much
• Faithful in administrating wealth
• Just in the small and large issues
• Faithful in what belongs to others
Being faithful in the least, is being faithful in the smallest of responsibilities. I went to the dentist the other day and like most of my dental visits, the dentist said I should floss more. I’ve heard that many times and I always have good intentions to keep flossing but then somehow, I always stop. It’s such a small thing to floss my teeth every day, but having teeth is a blessing and looking after them is my responsibility.
It’s an answer to prayer when a big donation comes through and that means that somewhere, someone, is faithful in the much. The donor is using his/her given talent to earn an income, run a successful business and faithfully give part of it to the Kingdom.
I know that with every big donation comes a different reporting template. Reporting can be anything from an impact story to a photo to a detailed nine pages on how the gift was spent. A big part of my work is to make sure ministries report on the gifts they receive. I am responsible for administering the wealth of others. I have to make sure the reports get turned in on time. At the same time, I receive financial support. These individuals expect that I report back to them on what I’m doing, what I’ve done, what I learnt and what challenges me. As I’m just with reporting on big donations, I have to be just on reporting on the smaller, personal donations I receive.
I was an au pair for two years before joining OM. Those kids were the most valuable things for the parents and they entrusted me with them. Since they weren’t my kids, I could easily have given them minimum attention, bland food or let them watch television all day. This is where I had to decide to be faithful in what belongs to others. I had to teach the kids, protect them and be with them as if they were my own.
Stewardship is not just being responsible for funds; it is the hours we put into our work, spend with our family and spend with the Lord. It is cleaning the house, keeping my shoes clean and making my bed. It is in not wasting food, watering plants and switching off lights.
Stewardship is understanding that what I have now is not mine, it is for God, and from God, to glorify God. Things move in the Kingdom, funds move from a donor to a ministry to a community school to a teacher to a vendor at the market to a businessman to a church to a missionary. Nothing stands still in the Kingdom; it moves. Things are temporary but wherever I am and whatever I do, I should do it knowing that it is from God; that I’m taking care of what He has given me and that I will do it with a faithful and grateful attitude.