Taking Care of Business
By David B. Smith
Okay, I admit it. I went to my trig class this morning and pretty much dressed down the students. Late in the semester, a whole bunch of them apparently took advantage of the common college rule — “throw out the lowest test score” — and since they’d already locked in three A’s, they sloughed off the last chapter exam. The exemption protected their semester score, but I eyed them sternly and told them that at this lofty math level, I really expected a full effort each time out. In biblical terms, they had taken their talent from the master and buried it in the ground out back.
Each of us in the Christian church is described as a steward. We manage a portfolio entrusted to us by a generous Father who desires our good, the church’s good, and the planet’s good. And God expects a full, honest, and enthusiastic effort from us as we find our proper place in the grand team effort.
A contemporary Christian band, “Sixpence None the Richer,” borrowed their name from a line in the C. S. Lewis book, Mere Christianity. Lewis observes whimsically that a little boy can ask Daddy for sixpence so he can get him a birthday present. It’s a lovely moment, and Dad is pleased by the trinket, but from the father’s perspective, “only an idiot would think that he is sixpence to the good on the transaction.” Just so, in several key areas of life, we exert control over assets that are not truly our own.
1 Corinthians 6:20 reminds us that our bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit. You are not your own, Paul says. You were bought at a price. Our bodily strength, our daily exertions, our health, even the impressions we create by a carefully and humbly nurtured appearance are investments God invites us to maximize for His purposes.
Secondly, we each have the talent of time. A seventh of our lives is claimed by our Creator in the form of a weekly Sabbath; even beyond that, our Father has a claim on all the hours and minutes we are privileged to spend. Every beat of our hearts is a divine gift, and the thoughtful Christian will work diligently, play wisely, and husband valuable hours in order to be a blessing to others. In Ephesians 5, Paul encourages us to [make] the most of every opportunity [redeeming the time, KJV], because the days are evil.
President Nixon once enjoyed a round of golf with Billy Graham, who sighed wistfully about a set of clubs he’d once rented in England. Man, he’d never hit such beautiful shots. A few months later, a UPS truck brought that exact set of clubs to Billy’s North Carolina home; Nixon had assigned aides to scout all of Europe and find that perfect collection of sticks. But here is the interesting thing. Both men were avid athletes; they enjoyed a round of golf as a pleasant diversion. But Nixon was leader of the free world, with pressing responsibilities. Graham was doing gospel crusades with a myriad of preaching duties. And they confessed to each other that they had both made conscious decisions to play less golf, simply because the balancing of priorities and the important goals they wanted to achieve in higher causes were realigning the spending of their 168 hours each week.
It’s been observed that Bible-oriented stewardship is an incredible way to shape a sane, healthy, and Christ-centered world view. We’re not put here simply to spend our days and our dollars and our individual share of the planet’s oxygen and oil. Instead, we are stewards, cheerfully guarding and investing our talents and abilities, seeking to maximize the impact of what we are able to do for the Savior who has already done so much for us.
It’s true that the spiritual concept of stewardship quickly brings to mind the image of an offering plate coming along our church pew, or that moment when we fill out a check and ink in the painful financial numbers on a tithe envelope. But the Bible practice of tithing is actually a joyful acknowledgment that, again, we are simply stewards of the resources God blessed us to manage. These paychecks are not our own!
The Bible model is wonderfully simple, reasonable, fair, and deeply instructive. To tithe is to return to God ten percent of the entrusted assets, to be specifically directed into the ministry of God’s church. Those with abundant blessings return funds in that magnitude — but all believers give their proper share. I still remember a fragile saint named Lupe who joined our church through a neighborhood food bank. She scraped by on welfare; her monthly checks barely matched the rent she had to pay for a tiny live-in trailer. But she would faithfully put in the dollars that were her “increase,” the tithe she knew belonged to the Jesus who had redeemed her.
It’s a wonderful exercise in faith — freshly visioning the gospel commission — when we bask in how we have been blessed and then conclude: “Jesus paid it all; all to Him I owe.”
David Smith writes from California. (21 of 28) His web page is Copyright © 2014. Click here for content usage information. Biblebay