Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Stewardship and the Gift of Giving

Stewardship is a word to describe the management of someone else's property. We are all stewards - since everything (including our lives) belongs to God. Good stewards not only preserve other people's property, they add value to it. This was the point of Christ's Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. He commended the steward who multiplied his master's talents (a talent is a measurement of gold which equates to about 25kg).

We steward many things on God's behalf: our minds, our bodies, our family and relationships, our resources, our finances, our abilities and our opportunities. The goal of this stewardship is to glorify God. Therefore, it is incumbant upon us to ask God for His help in how we manage these various God-given blessings. It is my hope and prayer that we a can be the best stewards of God's resources that we can be. I hope this can increasingly happen on a personal level (that we enjoy what God has given, 1Timothy 6:17, share what God has given, 1Timothy 6:18, multiply what God has given and use what God has given for His glory, Revelation 4:11), and as a church.

As a pastor I want to help equip people and make room for them to use their gifts. And this has got me thinking. Gifts. I want people to realise, accept, and use their God given gifts. But even though this is what I want, I don't think I've achieved this very well in our church. Over the years I have tried to encourage those who I have observed having one of the gifts mentioned in Romans 12. Except for one of those gifts. This was reinforced to me last week when I had a regular lunch with a Christian businessman. He said to me that doing business was a gift from God. Unwittingly, he provoked in me thoughts of my own ministerial failure in omitting to encourage all the gifts mentioned in Romans 12. But before I make full confession, I need to preamble some more...

"Stewardship" to many Christians simply means the church asking for a bigger donation. Some preachers have even turned this into a prominent international money spinner. These preachers are called "Prosperity Preachers". They preach "The Prosperity Gospel". I deal with this false Gospel in a little more detail on our Finding Truth Matters site. Needless to say, that the Prosperity Preachers appeal to miraculous-quick-fix-formulas to solve their problems and grant their wishes. And this formula is usually very simple: give to this ministry and you will prosper. Giving to get is not the Biblical motive for giving.

And this brings me to my confession. Of all the motivational gifts mentioned in Romans 12:6-8 (like: teaching, prophecy, leading, encouraging, serving, or mercy) there is one that I have omitted. Of these six motivational gifts, they are easy to identify, celebrate and encourage. But the spiritual gift which I have omitted, giving, has always seemed to be a different type of gift to the others. After all, Jesus said that giving should be done quietly and secretly (Matthew 6:2). This seems to put the ministry of giving in a different category. But upon closer examination I'm not sure that what Jesus said in Matthew 6:2 doesn't apply to each of the spiritual gifts- not just giving. Either way, I have not given due consideration to how I encourage those with the spiritual gift of giving. My recent interactions with Mr Peter Daniels, whom I have long admired, have added to my realisation that I have not been very good at equipping those with this gift. With Mr Daniels' upcoming visit to Tasmania, I am planning to learn how to rectify this personal ministry shortfall. I would especially encourage other pastors to attend the luncheon on Monday 10th November where Mr Daniels will address this issue and show how churches can more wisely fund their missions.

One of the most precious stewarding opportunities we each have is to care for each for other. Our love, our fellowship, our friendship for each other is something we all must give and steward. As we meet on Sundays and through the week in our small groups, I pray that we can all reflect on the wonderful gift of Christian fellowship that God has given us all by connecting us together. Over the coming weeks as we welcome Mr Peter Daniels (who is an expert in stewardship) and Mike Berry, perhaps we can deepen our ability to be better stewards of all that God has given us. And hopefully I can grow in my ability to steward my gifts by learning how to better encourage and equip people with any of the spiritual gifts.

Andrew Corbett

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