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How can I be a good steward? And how much is “enough” to give God?


How can I be a good steward? And how much is “enough” to give God?

Steve Answers:

How can you be a good steward? Use all you have for God. How much is “enough” to give God? Everything. These are the “Cliffs Notes” answers to your questions.  Here are answers with a few more explanations.

The first step toward being a good steward is to recognize that you are a steward, rather than thinking that what you have is yours. It’s easy to imagine that the money you earn is yours after you return tithe. Wrong. It all belongs to God—everything does. From the moment of Creation (Genesis 1:1), everything has belonged to God.

God told Job: “No one has ever given me anything that I must pay back, because everything under the sky belongs to me” (Job 41:11, NCV).* So God has placed us in the position of stewards to care for what He created. Some take this “dominion” thing too far and consider themselves kings instead of stewards.

Here’s how David put it: “I look at your heavens, which you made with your fingers. I see the moon and stars, which you created. But why are people important to you? Why do you take care of human beings? You made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You put them in charge of everything you made. You put all things under their control; all the sheep, the cattle, and the wild animals, the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea, and everything that lives under water. Lord, our Lord, your name is the most wonderful name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:3-9, NCV).

Being a good steward means that you never forget who the owner is.

How else can you be a good steward? Jesus told a story about good and evil—a.k.a. wicked and lazy—stewards. Here’s how the story begins: “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them” (Matthew 25:14).

Please note that this illustration is about the kingdom of heaven (see also the context of Matthew chapters 24 and 25). Don’t confuse this with the new heavens and new earth God will create after the second coming of Christ. This parable is about how to live right now in Christ’s kingdom as you wait for His second coming. Please also note that we are the servants who are given God’s goods. Is that plain enough?

Not every servant is given the same talents. Although we may covet certain talents—for example, I wish I could sing without hurting others—the issue isn’t which talents you have or which ones you don’t have. This is what the people of the world emphasize. Instead, what matters to God is what you do with what He has given to you. This involves some risk!

The servant who safely buried his talent is the evil one in this parable. It makes me think twice about saying, “No, I can’t do that. I’m not good enough. Get somebody else who is more talented than I am. I’m safely keeping my talent buried.”

The ones who took what was given them and “worked it” are the stewards who are considered good. In fact, they were rewarded with two things: they were made rulers over many things, and they were given joy!

In the second part of your question, you asked how much is “enough”? (By the way, the Chris Tomlin song,“Enough,” might provide some insight for you.) First of all, you’ll never be able to pay God back, either for creating you or for saving you. It makes “enough” a somewhat miserly word.

As a child, it seemed to me that if I returned tithe (10 percent) to God of whatever I had, that was enough, and I would have to make do with the remaining 90 percent instead of having the full 100 percent that I had earned (I didn’t grasp the stewardship concept at that point in my life). If I gave additional money as “offering,” I figured I’d done more than enough. I don’t see it this way any longer.

Consider these three examples from people who came in contact with Jesus. Then let’s ask how much was “enough” for each of them

1. The rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-25)—Jesus told this rich, young guy to sell all that he had, give it to the poor, and he would have treasure in heaven. Then Jesus asked this guy to follow Him. The guy declined because he was “very rich” (see verse 23).

2. Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10)—We don’t know the full conversation, but Zacchaeus offered to give half of his goods to the poor and to pay back four times what he’d cheated away from others. It doesn’t say anything about him leaving his tax-collecting job to follow Jesus, but Jesus claimed that salvation had come to this lost Jew.

3. The demoniac (Luke 8:26-39)—After Jesus cast the demons out of him, the cleansed demoniac begged to follow Jesus wherever he went. But Jesus told him, “No,” and sent him back to the community where he had the reputation of being demon-possessed.

How much was “enough” for each of these three men to give Jesus? Did you notice that it was different for each one? For example, Jesus asked the rich, young ruler to follow Him, but Jesus refused the cleansed demoniac’s request to follow Him!

How much is enough to give God? It’s not the same for each person. But what is the same is that it’s more than what you can do on your own! Instead of reaching a limit, it’s a call to a lifestyle of doing everything for God. This can be frustrating for those who keep careful records and don’t want to be in debt. But how can you know when you’ve given God “enough”?

Let me suggest a different perspective. Instead of paying God off, why not continue as His steward? This way, since everything belongs to Him, He can decide how much is enough!

God made us in His image and placed us as stewards on the earth He created. We’re not potted plants who just sit here and grow if somebody waters us and places us near sunlight. We can move, we can think, we can choose, we can act. So go for it! Take the talents God has given you and develop them. When will it be enough? According to the story of the talents, it all goes back to the owner. Then you are given more talents in addition to joy!

Does this mean you can’t buy clothes—designer clothes? Does it mean you can’t buy more than one closet-full of clothes? The principle is that everything belongs to God, and you are the steward. So how you take care of clothing yourself (and how you take care of you) matter to God. You belong to God, and so does everything else you own. So treat all of it accordingly.

Don’t be surprised if God nudges you to give some of your clothes to others! He cares about them, too. As God’s steward, you’ll care about them as well. This really takes the stress out of doing “enough” and also feeling poor in this world.

Since everything belongs to God, use everything God has given you to do what you believe Jesus would do with it. This includes your money, talents, time, social life, sports, friends, sleep, family, studies, job, college, career, etc.

It you want to take it to the next level, try to give more to God than you can afford. Instead of “enough,” try giving too much! People call it “trying to out-give God.” If you go for this, I predict that there will be times when you won’t have enough for yourself, but God will miraculously provide for you. And there will be times when you have so much that you won’t know what to do with it all. Would that be enough?

*Scriptures credited to NCV are quoted from The Holy Bible, New Century Version, copyright © 1987, 1988, 1991 by Word Publishing, Dallas, Texas 75039. Used by permission.

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