I told my Russian coworker that I was going to India to teach on stewardship. She challenged me to define it for her in three words. I wasn’t able to do it at that time, but I came up with a three-word definition the next time I was working on my material. My definition arose out of my studies on Jesus’ parable of the talents in Matthew 25:13-30. A rich man was going on a trip and he gave three servants money. Without explicitly telling us the servants were supposed to invest the money in some way, we learn that that was what they were supposed to do. When the man returned each servant gave an account of how they had invested their amount of money. The two servants who increased their amounts were commended and rewarded. The servant that simply hid the money was rebuked and punished. My three word definition, therefore, is “Serving God’s Gain.”
I can think of variations of ‘Serving God’s Gain,’ but I stayed with it when I presented my material in India at a Youth with a Mission Business & Entrepreneurship Discipleship Training School. I had never prepared twenty hours of material on stewardship before. I was anxious about what I had prepared wondering if it would help or hinder the eager students and staff. The presentations are completed and several students expressed appreciation for the content at the concluding ceremony. I was relieved that the teaching was over and I was grateful for the kind remarks.
Christian stewardship is based on the premise that everything belongs to God and that we are responsible for using it for God’s glory and gain. I divided my material into five major categories: readiness, investment, compassion, giftedness and the good news of Jesus. The first three categories arose from Jesus’ parables in Matthew 25. The fourth one was supported by the four New Testament passages about spiritual gifts(1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12; Ephesus 4; 1 Peter 4).The fifth category was based on the three Pauline references that he had been entrusted with the good news of Jesus and he was responsible for proclaiming it while he had breath(Galatians 2:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; 1 Timothy 1:11). Each category of stewardship was expanded with other Bible references to show that all of life is to serve God’s gain.
Because of what I had learned in my preparation, I intentionally minimized discussion on money. Yes, it is mentioned in the parable of talents, but not in the way that finances are discussed in many church stewardship campaigns. Did we talk about money? Yes, but money is a subcategory of stewardship and until one grasps the breadth of stewardship, limiting the discussion to money does a great disservice to the scope of stewardship. One of my objectives was to show the breadth so that we don’t compartmentalize it. Christian stewardship is a way of life, a 24/7/365 lifestyle according to my understanding. This is what I wanted to unfold and that I wanted the students and staff to grasp. Based on the feedback at the closing ceremony and in personal conversations throughout the week, I believe God helped me succeed in meeting much of that objective.
I would encourage you to dig into the theme of stewardship for yourself and to help others understand the privilege and responsibility of serving God’s gain in everything they do. And while you’re at it, come up with your own three-word definition of stewardship. When you do, please send it to me.