Lesson 9 – Stewardship
Where do you draw the line?
One of the most painful confrontations in the New Testament involves a wealthy young man who begs Jesus to tell him how he might enter the kingdom of God. “Follow the Ten Commandments,” answers Christ, listing the familiar laws set forth by God.
“Easy enough,” assures the youth. “I’ve followed those rules all my life.”
Then Christ takes one step beyond and asks the impossible: “Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The young man weighs his options—worldly wealth vs. eternal life—and makes his choice. Wealth wins. The man draws the line when it comes to forfeiting his money. He simply cannot let go of what he views as his personal property. He hasn’t grasped the concept that God is the owner of all things, and that we are responsible to hold in God’s name whatever gifts or possessions come into our care and keeping. Simply put: Nothing is really ours.
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” remarks Jesus to his disciples as they watch the young man walk away.
Choosing a Servant Lifestyle
The Bible constantly reminds us that the earth and everything in it belongs not to us, but to God. The Old Testament explains, “Every beast of the forest is mine … the world and all that is in it is mine” (Psalm 50:10–12, rsv). The New Testament expands the same thought, “Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8, rsv).
Our task on earth—clearly spelled out in scripture—is to act as stewards (agents, custodians, overseers) of God’s world. What’s more, the amount of responsibility that God expects us to assume is directly related to our ability and our wealth. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48, niv).
If we think of ourselves as custodians of God’s world, we also must understand that at some point we will be held responsible for what we have done or haven’t done. Our work will be evaluated. “Each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12, niv).
The modern dilemma, of course, is how do we share our wealth? Good causes abound. The world and its people have so many needs. How much do we give? How do we balance our responsibilities to our families, our communities and God’s world? The Bible offers many guidelines. Among them:
√ A tithe (one tenth) of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord. (Leviticus 27:30, niv)
√ When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets. (Matthew 6:2, niv)
√ Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep. (Matthew 10:8–10, niv)
√ Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7, niv)