Stewardship in the Bible: 7 Verses About Glorifying God
January 29, 2021 |
For Christians, stewardship is about recognizing where our resources come from and what we should do with them. Understanding—and practicing—good stewardship is a crucial part of becoming mature followers of Jesus. It helps us develop a more complete picture of our relationship to God and prioritize our finances, values, and lives around the things that matter most. Fortunately we can find many examples of stewardship in the Bible.
If we look at biblical examples of stewardship and passages that describe our role as disciples and stewards, it becomes clear that we’re encouraged to use and think about God’s resources differently than the rest of the world does. But if we don’t live out biblical stewardship, we wind up wasting opportunities to glorify God and advance his kingdom on Earth.
In this article we’re going to cover things you need to know about biblical stewardship, including:
Let’s start with a definition.
What is biblical stewardship?
Steward is an ancient job title. It describes a person who takes care of or manages something for someone else.
Today there are a wide range of professions, roles, and situations that could be described as stewards or fall under stewardship. You’ve probably heard someone refer to their flight attendant, who is hired by an airline to take care of its passengers, as a stewardess. Financial advisors are stewards of whatever assets you put them in charge of. When you house sit for someone, you’re stewarding their house. If someone asks you to watch their things while they go to the bathroom, that makes you a steward for the next few minutes.
Anytime you’re responsible for something that belongs to someone else, that’s stewardship.
The Bible doesn’t explicitly say, “You are a steward of God’s resources,” but this title has always been the way Christians understand our relationship to God and our possessions because the Bible makes it clear that:
- Everything belongs to God
- He entrusts some things to us
- We have a responsibility to manage them wisely on his behalf
Biblical stewardship challenges us to recognize that God is the true owner of everything and that he expects us to manage his resources in a certain way.
Let’s unpack each of these points.
EVERYTHING BELONGS TO GOD
The Bible makes it abundantly clear that as the creator of everything, God owns everything.
“Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
Everything under heaven belongs to me.” —Job 41:11 (emphasis added)
Even we belong to him:
“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.” —Psalm 24:1
Right now you’re probably surrounded by things that were made with human hands. You might be reading this on a device that you paid for. But for millennia, God’s people have believed that the things we make aren’t really ours. The things we buy aren’t really ours. They’re God’s. They were made with his materials using hands he made, and they were purchased with his resources—which he allows us to have and use.
HE ENTRUSTS SOME THINGS TO US
Since God owns everything, all that we have comes from him. Not just our resources either. Wealth, riches, honor, strength, power, and authority belong to him too.
“Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.” —1 Chronicles 29:12
This is one of the most challenging aspects of biblical stewardship that Christians have to grasp. There are times when we feel we’ve earned something by our own merit or effort, but even then, God is the one who deserves the credit and has true ownership.
GOD CARES HOW YOU USE WHAT HE GIVES YOU
When something doesn’t belong to you, that should lead you to use it more carefully. But stewardship goes beyond simply “borrowing” things from God. He’s not just loaning us money and other resources. He’s entrusting them to us.
While they’re in our possession, we have the choice to use God’s resources however we want. We can invest them all in ourselves and use them on things that only matter to us. But God is trusting us to do much more than that. As stewards, our challenge is to use God’s resources in ways that advance his interests. We need to invest them in kingdom causes and use them to provide for the needs of others.
The Bible is full of passages instructing us to use our resources to care for the poor and those who are in need (1 John 3:17–18, Proverbs 28:27, 1 Timothy 5:8).
Stewardship isn’t about “giving back” to God. It’s about using what he’s given us to accomplish something that matters.
Stewardship in the Bible
You won’t find many verses that specifically mention stewardship (although several passages mention stewards). But numerous passages provide insights into our role and responsibilities as stewards. Here are a few of the key passages that should shape our understanding of biblical stewardship.
THE PARABLE OF THE TALENTS (MATTHEW 25:14–30)
When it comes to stewardship in the Bible, the clearest picture of our relationship to God’s resources and his expectations for how we use them comes from Jesus.
In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus tells a story about a man who entrusts three servants with bags of gold (or talents) and then goes on a trip. When he returns, two of those servants have doubled the money their master gave them, and he rewards them handsomely. But the third servant hid his gold, so the amount neither increased nor decreased.
Even though none of the gold was spent and it was all returned to him, the master is far from pleased:
“You wicked, lazy servant! […] You should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.” —Matthew 25:26–27
Jesus tells this parable in the context of preparing for his return. It’s clear that Jesus is the master, and we are the servants who have been put in charge of his resources while he is gone. It’s not good enough to simply not waste what God gives us. We need to ensure that God gets a good return on his investment.
“FOR WHERE YOUR TREASURE IS, THERE YOUR HEART WILL BE ALSO”
In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us that when we give to the needy and practice righteousness, we can either receive our reward from people or from God (Matthew 6:2–4). But we can’t have it both ways (Matthew 6:1). Later on, he says:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” —Matthew 6:19–21
We can choose to accumulate wealth and glory for ourselves here on earth, where it will not last, or we can use what God gives us to store up treasure in heaven, where it will last forever. Which type of treasure we pursue and invest in will reveal where our hearts are. Are we prioritizing our lives and our resources around the investments God cares about, or are we reaping our rewards now, on earth?
Biblical stewardship encourages us to store up treasure in heaven.
“THERE WAS NOT A NEEDY PERSON AMONG THEM”
The early Christians didn’t simply tithe (as the Old Testament required) or give to the church when they had some extra money each month. They shared everything (Acts 2:44) and even sold homes and property to meet the needs of the poor.
The church understood that everything in their possession really belonged to God. Pooling their resources together created an opportunity to trust God to provide and reveal his extravagant love to others.
Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
Not a single person in the church was in need. Not because only wealthy, self-sufficient people could be part of this community, but because the early Christians used their resources to meet each other’s needs.
We are called to use our resources to meet the needs in our own communities.
“YOU CANNOT SERVE BOTH GOD AND MONEY”
Biblical stewardship calls us to serve God with our resources. Shortly after instructing his followers to store up treasure in heaven instead of on earth, Jesus presents another choice we all face when it comes to how we use our resources:
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” —Matthew 6:24
We can either live our lives and use our resources in a way that serves God or in a way that serves money. Are we focusing on trying to earn, possess, and achieve more, or are we invested in growing God’s kingdom? Is making godly choices the goal that drives your decisions or is accumulating earthly treasure your target?
“STEWARDS OF THE MYSTERIES GOD HAS REVEALED”
The Apostle Paul didn’t consider stewardship to simply be a financial matter. He even considered his understanding to be a resource that he needed to steward appropriately—and encouraged the Corinthians to be stewards of the things that had been entrusted to them.
“This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” —1 Corinthians 4:1–2
“STEWARDS OF GOD’S GRACE”
Similarly, we have a responsibility to steward God’s grace. God has given each of us gifts, and when we use them to serve other people—especially those who cannot repay us or do not “deserve” that service—we’re sharing his grace with others.
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.``
1 Peter 4:10
“FILL THE EARTH AND SUBDUE IT”
When God created humans, he gave us a job: steward his creation.
“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’” —Genesis 1:28
We have a responsibility to use creation wisely and take care of the things God has made.
How to be a good steward
Every Christian should aim to be a faithful steward of the resources, gifts, blessings, and responsibilities God has given them. But what does being a good steward look like? How should that role change the choices we make and the way we treat what we’re given? Do we have to do anything special to become a steward?
IF YOU’RE A HUMAN, YOU’RE A STEWARD
Not everyone believes in God. And not everyone believes they have a responsibility to use what they have in any particular way. But every single person is a steward, whether they’re a Christian or not.
Regardless of whether someone acknowledges it, everything still belongs to God. And we’re all still responsible for taking care of the things he’s entrusted to us, regardless of whether we believe they’re his or know what we’re supposed to do with that responsibility.
Being a good steward starts with recognizing that you already are one.
LEARN WHAT GOD VALUES
Part of our responsibility as stewards is to use what God gives us wisely. We need to apply our resources, skills, gifts, and time in ways that matter to God. So if we want to be good stewards, we need to care about the things that move God. Through the example of Jesus, it should be abundantly clear that God cares about people—particularly the poor, the vulnerable, and the destitute. God also wants to redeem the world through the gospel, and he’s commanded us to play a part in that (Matthew 28:16-20).
James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” If we use what we have to serve and care for people in need, we’re on the right track.
There are countless passages of Scripture showing us what God values, plus a wide range of ways that we can be good stewards by pouring our efforts and our resources into those things.
RETHINK WHAT IT MEANS TO WASTE WHAT YOU HAVE
We often think about “taking care of things” in terms of keeping them nice. But if your tools, vehicles, food, home, entertainment, and other possessions are sitting untouched or only being used to make you comfortable, is that good stewardship?
As you strive to be a good steward, it should cause you to think differently about the things in your possession. Everything belongs to God, and everything he gives us represents new opportunities to serve others and share the love of Christ.
INVEST IN THE THINGS GOD CARES ABOUT
Part of being a good steward is giving money toward causes that are close to God’s heart. This could mean giving to your church, a ministry, or another nonprofit. It could also mean supporting a missionary or simply practicing generosity in your community.
Giving is one aspect of stewardship, but it often becomes the focus because it’s one of the clearest examples of how we use God’s resources wisely, and giving to the church was one of the main ways that early Christians practiced stewardship. The early church recognized that everything they had was really God’s, and they knew they could accomplish far more by pooling their resources together.
Your church has prayerfully decided on a mission that they believe God has called them to fulfill, and they’ve thoughtfully decided on the best way to allocate their resources to accomplish that mission. When you give to your church, you’re using the resources God has entrusted to you to participate in their mission and expand God’s kingdom.
Christians aren’t bound by the practice of tithing (giving ten percent of everything to God) like the Israelites. But if we believe everything is God’s and want to live like the early Christians, we should look at tithing as the bare minimum we should give, not the gold standard of generosity.
That said, just remember: God doesn’t want you to give out of obligation.
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:7
Everyone has to start somewhere, and the amount that you give is less important than the fact that you give something and that you do it because you feel led to do so in your heart.
Use what God has given you
Being a good steward is a tall order. Using the biblical model of stewardship we see in the early church, Christians are called to embrace a radical perspective on our relationship to the things we have and the one who made them. Everything God has given you—physical and spiritual—is an opportunity to love and serve others and glorify God.
Encourage Giving in the Church
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