As I continue to seek God and follow hard after Him (Psalm 63:8), I learn something new almost every day. To be a committed Christ follower is to be a student who sits at the feet of his Teacher and longs for instruction. I believe that I have learned more about God and Godliness in 2013 than in all of my previous years as a Christian combined for one simple reason: I have made it my priority. Rather, He has become my priority and everything else flows out of that.
One of the topics that I have given some attention to in the past several months is the matter of stewardship. I know and have believed for a long time in the idea and practice of tithing and financial generosity. I’ve mentioned before that my wife is a natural born gift-giver and Operation Christmas Child (where she gets to prepare shoe boxes full of goodies for kids all around the world) is one of her absolute favorite things. In her, I have an excellent model of what it means to be generous with both time and finances.
As a couple we currently give between 15 and 20% of our yearly income to the church and to charitable causes. We do it because we believe it is both a responsibility and a privilege that has the promise of many blessings. Everything we receive is given to us by God and we take our responsibility as stewards of His resources seriously.
Beyond giving, however, there is another aspect of stewardship which I confess has been a weakness of mine. Responsible money management was, for many years, an area in which I stumbled. I spent freely in my college years and amassed credit card debt. I was also a procrastinator when it came to the checkbook and would, on occasion, bounce a check because I was not keeping good, accurate records.
All of that changed when I married Vicki. She has an affinity for numbers (she’s a high school math teacher, bless her heart) and is inclined to be a saver where I was inclined to spend. I know one of the reasons that the Lord brought her into my life was to begin to show me how important it was to be responsible with finances. Though the early years of our marriage were lean ones, she was eventually able to eliminate the credit card debt and through a well structured household budget, get us to the place where we were spending less than we were making. At that point we did what anyone else would do, we began to put the extra income into a savings account. This is a practice that we have continued to this day and it is a good, solid financial decision to save a portion of what you bring in.
More than Giving, More than Saving
Lately, however, I have become convinced that there is more to good stewardship than simply being generous in our giving and smart with our budget so that we have some savings. I believe that God wants us and expects us to grow and increase that which He has given us. Consider again the familiar parable of the talents found in the 25th Chapter of the book of Matthew:
14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. (Matthew 25: 14-18 NIV)
If you know the rest of the parable then you know that when the master returned he called his three servants to each give an account of what they did with the resources they had been entrusted with. The two servants who increased their original allotment were praised while the third servant, who did nothing with his allotment, was rebuked and stripped of what he had been originally given.
I admit, until very recently I did not consider that this parable had very much to do with money. I used the NIV version of the text because it specifically says “bags of gold” (in other words, the master gave each servant an allotment of wages) but in the King James version it says “talents”. I always took that word “talent” very literally and applied this parable to the abilities that God had given each one of us. And I still think our Master expects us to use our talents and abilities that he has gifted us with and to grow and develop them for His glory. There’s no doubt that one day we will be called into account for what we did with our abilities during our time here.
But will we not also be called to give an account of what we did with our financial resources as well? If the Lord has so blessed us such that we have a surplus coming in each month then I believe that the parable of the talents makes it clear that God expects us to wisely and prayerfully put that money to use in such a way that it will grow. After paying our bills, tithing and giving of gifts it can become as much of a sin to “hide” our money away, fearful of losing it, as it would be to spend it frivolously and without wisdom. In other words, we need to look at carefully putting our money to work by investing it.
For me, there’s only one small problem; I know next to nothing about investing. I am going to spend the next several months learning all I can about how to do it and praying for wisdom and guidance as I go. I’ll be talking to other Christians who I trust and getting their perspectives on the matter as well. Please pray for me as I seek to honor God with every single resource that he has given me; time, talents and finances.
How do you feel about the matter of finances as it relates to the Kingdom of God? Do we have a responsibility to use and grow what God has given us?