Without thinking too much about how you should respond, what reaction does this elicit from you? Your initial reaction to this story recorded in Money, Wealth and Possessions by Randy Alcorn, tells you something about your perspective on what you (think you) own. You have likely heard that God is the owner and you are a steward, but I have serious doubts about whether we as Christians get it. My take on it is that we tend to separate our money and our faith because looking out for our own interests, when it comes to money-concerns, just seems like the prudent thing to do. As one writer stated however, the implication of God owning it all is that He has rights associated with what He has entrusted us to manage, and we only have responsibilities. To put it another way, ‘how often do you ask God how He wants His money spent?’
A steward has been defined as “someone entrusted with another’s wealth or property and charged with the responsibility of managing it in the owner’s best interest.” My sense is that we pay lip service to the idea that God owns it all and then proceed to handle our possessions and money much like unbelievers. During a conversation with a believer a while back, we discussed our respective Saturdays and I mentioned that I had cut the grass at the house where I live. He looked surprised, and knowing that I rent, asked why I would cut the grass. I said, ‘it’s about being a good steward.’ His facial reaction told me that he didn’t get it. As stewards the point of view we ought to have is that we don’t have any more ownership of a house because we have the title thereto. In a real estate obsessed city like Vancouver, with its serious housing affordability issues, this is a truth we should not pass over too quickly.
The reality is that money related matters impact our lives to a significant degree and we all know it. I am willing to go out on a limb and say that many of the decisions that you make and continue to make are consciously or unconsciously shaped by money related concerns. To paraphrase John MacArthur, our attitude towards money and our use of the possessions God has entrusted us with act as a barometer or index of our spiritual condition. Having reflected on this thought for a while I think he is right. How much you give depends in large part on themes; such as how much you trust your Father to provide, and how much you understand (and remember!) of the grace you have received. When you buy that new car, using the money earmarked for that missions trip, your heart is revealed. When you consider leaving your current city strictly based on economic considerations, without even praying about the decision, you demonstrate what is important to you. When you accept that promotion with the corresponding pay raise knowing in your heart that this new role will cause your family to suffer, you reveal your priorities.
Late last year I received some unexpected money from a second job I was working. My wife and I determined the amount we would give from this money, but for some reason I struggled to pull the trigger on this giving. I hesitated for a couple of weeks before giving the amount so determined. In retrospect I came to recognize that I lost focus for this couple of weeks. During that period my mind was dominated not with the Word but by thoughts of how I had to look out for myself. What I was trying to do with my money (hold on to it!) acted as a barometer of where I was spiritually for that period of time.
Money related matters are embedded into our lives. What this means is that getting right in this area, whether one has little or much, may well require some or all of the following: frank and potentially unpleasant discussions with family members, bold action that some might call foolish, changes to one’s lifestyle, a shift in expectations, and self-honesty. As we take such action, money related matters are sure to test who, or what, we love.
If you read the gospels, Jesus said a lot about money and related themes. Part of this is that He knows how inter-connected such matters are to our faith. The day Zacchaeus responded to Jesus’ call to come down from the tree and eat with Jesus, as recorded in Luke 19, Zacchaeus stated the following; “half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of of anything, I restore it fourfold.”
Randy Alcorn states that in reply to Zacchaeus Jesus did not merely say, “good idea.” Rather, Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house.”
Salvation had come. Zacchaeus’ generous spirit combined with his commitment to make things right evidenced a changed heart and his new found salvation. Jesus said this because He knows something that I don’t think we fully appreciate. Namely, that one of the tell-tale signs as to whether we understand the gospel is what we do with our money. He knows that money connected issues test who or what we love and serve to act as a barometer of where we are spiritually. Cognizant of this, may we as 21st century believers in Vancouver put our money where we say our hearts are.
The genesis for this blog began a number of years ago. For a while I had this sense that I needed to start the journey to becoming a better steward of money and gain a better perspective in terms of the resources I am called to manage. I knew though that I was going to be convicted, and so avoided teachings and resources related to stewardship. Knowing that God’s heart is to do me good in the end, notwithstanding the likely unpleasantness of His process’, ultimately enabled me to overcome my initial self-centred reservations.
Whatever your personal balance sheet, whether money-matters stress you out or not, there is likely scope to grow in faithfulness as a steward. With that in mind, the time has come for Westside to (shortly) start a financial stewardship ministry. The plan is to offer a course on financial stewardship that starts the conversation about what it means to a good steward in Vancouver today. Details to follow!
Brett Theunissen attends Westside's North Shore Campus where he and his wife Lennette serve as Community Group leaders.