It’s funny how God works. As part of my book research I had decided I was going to go over to the USA and live as part of a Christian community for a week or so, and document my experiences. I felt this was an important part of my book research, that I discover and experience different ways of living, and people who have lived and are living intentionally in community, outside of the consumer bubble we all live in. I had made plans with a couple I know out there, Tom & Christine Sine, to go and stay with them for a week or so in Seattle. I was delighted, because I had wanted to go to the USA for years and I’d never actually been there – and finally I was going to get to go. It would be the biggest sign to the world that I was serious about this book and it would be an ‘inciting incident’ (thanks Don Miller) which compelled me into taking this seriously.In many ways, it was some of these things. Before it even happened.
Then, I went to book it. Now, I’d thought the cost of this trip would be significant and had planned as such, however, for some reason I kept delaying booking. Almost because I wanted to avoid facing up to the reality of it, and because I wanted to avoid looking at my bank account as well, which this would compel me to do. Booking this would force me to face reality.
So, I took a couple of days off work, and went into town to book it. It was time to stop avoiding this and face up to the reality of what I thought God was calling me to do, so I went to the travel agent to check prices.
Then they told me the prices, and it was twice, nearly three times what I had thought it would be and had budgeted for – and I knew it was only a five day trip too. I checked at another place and the price was similar.
I went away and thought about this. As I did, it took me back to some other areas Jesus had been challenging me on.
Money. I had never been someone who liked looking at bank statements and facing up to the reality and hassle of money. I mean, I liked spending money on possessions I liked, but I never liked to look at the reality on the paper or on the screen at the cash machine. I am sure I’m not the only person like this, indeed, I’m sure I’m not the only Christian like this.
God had been challenging me on how I spent my money, and slowly but surely it began to dawn on me.
This wasn’t about money. This was about stewardship – and the more I thought about it the more I realised how stewardship was a key component in God’s rhythm for our lives.
God’s rhythm includes good stewardship
Now when I say the word stewardship, what’s the first topic that always comes to mind?
Money. Of course it is. Those of us in church know this, the Sunday which comes once a year in our church – a lot more often in other churches (sadly) where they talk about how we are going to ‘steward’ what God has given us, and of course we all know deep down they are talking about money don’t we? Because that’s the currency our world deals with the most, it’s how we often define a product’s value in the world we live in – and I don’t deny that money has something to do with stewardship.
But let’s go a bit deeper here, let’s look beyond the surface. Let’s look at what stewardship really is and what it’s really about, because that’s far more interesting to me, and it’s far more important to getting our rhythm in tune with God’s.
Here’s a definition of the word stewardship that I found:
“The conducting, supervising, or managing of something; – the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care”
This definition doesn’t mention money once. Not once. Nothing to see here about money, sorry folks.
It is talking about responsible management of something that is entrusted to us. It is talking about the responsible management of a gift. That implies that anything we are given to steward is a gift to start with, and that opens up the definition to something way beyond money.
This can be anything that is given to us and that we are responsible for. That could be money, but it could be a person, a group of people, a possession, a talent, a gift, a calling. It could be a marriage, a family. It could be the people that we meet on the street that we knew we had to talk to and had an opportunuity to talk to and didn’t talk to. It could be a job, a position, a status, a place of influence.
It could be literally anything that we are given and that we are responsible for. Even ourselves. We are ultimately responsible for how we live our lives, and the choices we make and there are consequences of that.
It’s even our own bodies. The majority of us, fortunately, are lucky enough to be born with healthy bodies which work pretty well – a minority of us aren’t so lucky, but most of us are. And those in the West are lucky enough to be born into a nation with healthcare which allows us to live relatively long lives.
So in the West, most of us have the opportunity, given the right circumstances, of having a long and healthy life – provided we take care of our physical bodies.
But it’s all stewardship. All of it.
So when God calls us to be good stewards, He is not simply talking about money at all. He’s talking about all the gifts, talents, relationships, opportunities, blessings that we have.
And that is a real challenge to us isn’t it? That can make us feel really uncomfortable, because we live in a culture that aboslves anyone of any responsibility, that wants us to be defined by what we consume rather than what we produce and wants us to ‘outsource’ our responsibilities to other people so that we just consume more and more.
The reality is that we are all stewards of something or someone. We are all given something we are resposible for.
In reality, all of us are stewards of something. In the West we are all rich financially in comparison to those in developing nations, and even if we don’t consider ourselves rich financially – which is another issue altogether – we all have talents, skills, gifts, which we have which we are stewards of, and all of them were given to us for a reason.
Now coming back to my US trip. I knew that although my trip to the US was a good idea, that in reality it wasn’t a good stewardship of my money. I wasn’t being as responsible with it as I should. I knew that I couldn’t justify spending the amount of money on such a short trip – not when I could probably find a community exactly the same in my own country which I could visit for far cheaper and achieve the same result. It would be a better stewardship of my time and money, if I wanted to do the trip and spend that money, to go away for a longer period of time and plan it properly and invest some proper money and time in it, rather than doing it half-heartedly like I was. If I was going to go abroad, I would be being a better steward by going for longer and making the most of the investment of my money, and planning it properly and making the most of my time, and I could properly save up the money for it over time and make sure I wasn’t being reckless. I could also put some of the original money I had saved for the US trip towards a good cause – like building a well in the developing world which would provide clean water for those who currently don’t have it.
Stewardship is about making the most of what you have been given responsibility for and blessed with, its about making sure that nothing is wasted and that we use what we have well.
That’s key to getting life into God’s rhyhtm, because God wants us to be transformed into the people He made us to be.
Life is a journey with God of transformation into the people that He originally designed us to be, and it’s a process. Learning how to steward well, I am discovering, is a key part of that process.
Do you consider yourself financially ‘rich’?
Do you consider your abilities, talents, skills and opportunities as gifts to be stewarded?
Are you stewarding your gifts well?
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