Scripture teaches that "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father" (James 1:17), out of the sheer enormity of His love for us, and the delight He takes in lavishing us with good things. These good gifts include our work, as we have seen. And, like every good gift, we want to take care of those gifts we receive, using them as intended, and with a view to honoring the One Who gave them to us. As with our work, our lives are filled with other good and excellent gifts from God, and we are called to be good stewards over them, using them, in some way, to boast about and honor the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Exercising good stewardship over all the gifts God has given us takes time, energy, and care – in other words, work. A work of stewardship is entrusted to us with respect to all the good gifts we receive from the Lord. Like the talents in Jesus' parable, God gives us good and perfect gifts so that we will work hard to use them bringing honor and glory to His Name.
READ: Matthew 25:14-30 (p.983) [The Parable of the Talents] and John 17:4 (p.1070).
DISCUSS: What kind of "return on investment" is God expecting from the gifts He has invested in you?
What is included in this work of stewardship? Historically, stewardship was the responsibility given to household servants to bring food and drinks to a castle dining hall. The term was then expanded to indicate a household employee's responsibility for managing household or domestic affairs. Stewardship later became the responsibility for taking care of passengers' domestic needs on a ship, train and airplane, or managing the service provided to diners in a restaurant. The term continues to be used in these specific ways, but it is also used in a more general way to refer to a responsibility to take care of something owned by someone else.
What is the "something" we are to take care of? The "gifts" given to us by God to take care of for Him include our jobs, as we have said, but also our skills, our talents, our bodies, our families and our material possessions.
DISCUSS: What do the "gifts" look like in your life? Are these gifts of God to use in any way we please? Do these items provide opportunities for "boasting" about the Lord? Explain.
Beyond this, we have a stewardship of wealth – the money we are given. Biblical stewardship requires that we view money differently from the way the secular world views it. Society constantly struggles to acquire as much wealth as possible. Biblical stewardship calls a Christian to give back to the Lord and to help others in need. Do we honor the Lord with our money by giving our offerings to the church, donating to charities, putting aside for the future, and refusing to give into the "needs" paraded before us by advertisers?
READ: Proverbs 11:28 (p.635); Proverbs 22:9 (p.647); Matthew 6:24 (p.960): 1 Timothy 6:10 (p.1177)
DISCUSS: What guidance is God giving us as we "work" our finances?
And with all this there is the stewardship of time – making the most of every moment of time to bring honor and glory to the Lord. Peter Drucker, author and management expert, said that time is totally inelastic – you cannot stretch it; is totally perishable – you can't keep it; and is totally irreplaceable – you can't get it back. Clearly, we need to work at our stewardship of time we have been given, if we hope to glorify Him in the work we've been given to do.
READ: Ephesians 5:15-17 (p.1159) and Psalm 90:12,16,17 (p.589).
DISCUSS: What guidance is God giving us as we "work" the time we have?
It should be apparent that we need to take up the work of stewardship in all areas of our lives as seriously as we do the work we accomplish on our jobs, for in each case the potential for doing good to others and bringing glory to God is real and great.
DISCUSS: What are all the "opportunities" for glorifying God and boasting about Him that you have in any given week (think of everything he has given you).
According to Ephesians 5:15-17, if we don't make the most of these opportunities for bringing glory to God, what will happen to them? What does that make us?
In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), are any of God's gifts to you wrapped in napkins and buried in the ground? Explain.
PERSONAL ASSIGNMENT: Below, list the primary area where you are called to do the work of a good steward over God's gifts. Then using a 1 to 10 scale (where 10 is the highest rating), evaluate the state of your work of stewardship in each area at this time. If, over the next year, you could improve that assessment by 1 point, what would that involve in each of these areas?