One of the key truths about financial health and responsibility is the concept of good stewardship. Stewardship is a word that isn’t often heard outside of churches in today’s word, and all too often the word’s meaning has been redefined to mean “capital fund raising.” Otherwise, the word is most often spoken in the same breath as tithing—a proper use to be sure, but stewardship is so much more.
In reality, stewardship is a foundational concept of life, not only a financial concept. Stewardship applies to all material things that come under our personal control. Stewardship is an old concept that we don’t relate to very well today. Back in the days when our world was mostly ruled by royalty—think medieval times or older—governmental structures were quite different than what we see today. It’s in reading history that you can see stewardship in action.
A monarch’s will could never be carried out without help, so kings and queens appointed lords to impose their will throughout the land. These people—dukes, barons, and the like—were referred to as lords because they were given lordship over a portion of the kingdom’s land and the people who lived there. It was the lord’s duty to carry out the will of the monarch—to be the monarch’s steward of the land and the people. Yes, great privileges were given to these lords, but all that could be stripped away in an instant if those lords were not good stewards.
Throughout history you find stories of lords who were either good stewards or usurpers of the monarch’s authority. A usurper need not be someone who takes up arms to depose their monarch. A usurper can simply be someone who fails to recognize that their authority and material wealth is borrowed and begins to act as if the kingdom is their own.
Isn’t that what too many of us do in our own lives, especially with our finances?
Oh, it’s easy to get this way, I know. Much of our outlook on life concerning material wealth comes from what we’re taught—whether by our parents, our teachers, or our culture. There is a dearth of proper financial training in today’s world, especially related to the concept of being good stewards of what we’ve been given.
This is the paradigm shift in our core beliefs that must take place. We have to come to the place were we understand and believe that everything we have is something we have been given. Who gives it all to us? I believe that it is God who provides all things.
That belief doesn’t line up with what modern culture tells us. The politically polarized climate offers up conflicting beliefs about where material wealth comes from. One side says that its gained through hard work and personal responsibility. The other side would tell you that we need an entity like the government to come in and make it fair for everyone and close the gap between the haves and have-nots.
Neither of those sides take true financial stewardship into account.
Should we work hard and take personal responsibility? Absolutely. The Bible tells us that the diligent prosper (Proverbs 13:4), but it also teaches that the obedient will prosper as well (Deuteronomy 5:33). Part of that obedience is to also care for the poor, the helpless, and widows and orphans. (Here’s a long list of applicable verses.)
Scripture warns us away from debt and encourages us to save, plan for the future, and make wise financial decisions (see Proverbs 13:22, 21:20, 22:7; Luke 14:28). These are the actions of a good steward. A usurper forgets where all good things come from and think they should rule their own kingdom any way they please. But a steward has responsibilities, and if we fail to meet those responsibilities we become tiny tyrants desperately striving to go our own way.
Also published on Medium.
I’m Jeff M. Miller, and I help ordinary people who are stuck in a rut change their behaviors so they can be extraordinary. I’m an entrepreneur who retired from my full-time job in my early 40s to work from home. I’m a financial counselor, life coach, graphic designer, and passionate believer in helping others improve their lives a little more each day.
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