God has been teaching me about stewardship lately, and I want to share some encouragement.
There are four categories of things that God has called us to steward.
1. The first category is our abilities, gifts, and talents. Most of us are familiar with the parable of the talents that Jesus told in Matthew 25. Even though a talent was what they called a unit of money back then, we know that this parable refers to what we call gifts and talents today—the abilities that God gives us. Jesus’s parable taught us that we are responsible to God for how we use what we’ve been given. We cannot bury our talents. God has given them to us for a reason. Woe to the servant of the Lord who does not use his talents for the kingdom of God! However, we do not truly know our loving Heavenly Father if we are using our talents for the kingdom out of fear. There is great satisfaction, fulfillment, joy, and blessing to be using what He has given us to return blessings to Him and His kingdom!
3. The third thing that we are stewards of is time. There might be a lot of variety in the gifts, talents, and callings that different people are given, but all of us are given exactly 24 hours in a day to steward. That does not mean that our stewardship responsibilities are the same, though! Our gifts and abilities, the country we were born in, and many other factors affect how much we can do with the time we are given. We should never make the mistake of thinking that God compares our use of time against others. He desires that we combine the time that He’s given us with the gifts and talents and abilities that He’s given us to steward the calling that He’s placed on our lives!
4. Finally, we are stewards of the money and assets that we control. I’m including assets, because the things that we own can be used for His kingdom (or not!) just like money. We can use our home and our car and our belongings for His glory, or we can use them selfishly.
2. The second category encompasses our calling(s) and the tasks that He has created us to accomplish. Often, the talents that He has given us are needed for the calling that He’s placed on our lives, but sometimes they are separate! Sometimes God calls us to do something that we are not skilled in, so that His grace may be proven as sufficient, or to humble us, or to teach us something. He very likely has other reasons as well, but we all know that we sometimes find ourselves faced by tasks that we are not good at, but we know that we have to do them anyway. Our faithfulness in the difficult things and the little things that we face every day is how God leads us to our calling. It is part of our calling, for God tells us (through Paul) in Colossians 3:23 to do everything as if God is asking us to do it, rather than men. We do it all for Him! We should never feel like we are waiting to discover our calling, for our calling always starts today in the tasks that are in front of us. As we are faithful, God leads us to the future things that He has prepared for us. This is how we steward the callings that He has placed on our lives.
But here’s what I’m finding most eye-opening. Much of society today places a monetary value on those first three categories.
1. We think of someone with gifts and talents that are uncommon and which can command large sums of money as being “amazing” and we tend to discredit gifts and talents that are more common, even if the world clearly needs lots of people with those gifts! We also tend to overlook the value of gifts which have no monetary value, such as the gift of compassion. No one pays high salaries to someone with the gift of encouragement, even though it is priceless! Consequently, those with this gift often are not aware of just how precious the gift they’ve been given to steward really is.
2. Callings are also often valued according to the dollar amount assigned to them. Remember that I’m not referring here to a calling such as a pastor, prophet, or evangelist. I’m referring to the tasks that God created each one of us to do and the things that we do day by day, whether that’s a job, being a stay-at-home parent, ministry, volunteering, school, or something else. These are all things that many of us are called by God to do, but our society tends to value those things more if they earn money. People often don’t honor the stay-at-home mom or dad the same way they honor a business owner or CEO.
3. Our society definitely places a monetary value on time. Most of us are paid by the hour, and money dominates capitalist societies so much that time spent not earning money is often devalued—even when the thing we are doing is extremely valuable in other ways! Sure, we all like time off, away from the job, but think about someone in their 20s who isn’t earning any money (someone you don’t know well), and then test yourself to see if that automatically affects your opinion of how they spend their time. Are you tempted to judge them for it, even though you don’t know them well and don’t know what their life’s situation really is? I am! Do you see how the monetary value of time often affects how we value whatever we or someone else does with their time? Another example is that we often don’t consider time spent encouraging other people (which isn’t paid) as being as valuable as time spent earning money, even though it is much more valuable in many ways.
What is the result? Even though money is a very small portion of what God has given us to steward, it tends to dominate thoughts and conversations regarding what we “should” be doing with our lives. Too many of our own decisions are based on how much money it’ll make, and too many of our judgments about other people are affected by how much money they make doing whatever it is that they do.
Even worse, many of us don’t really understand what it means to be a steward of the money God’s given us. I certainly didn’t understand this until recently, and God is still teaching me. I considered that my tithe was God’s and the rest of it was my responsibility. I thought I got to (or had to) decide what to do with the 90%. Not so! It’s all God’s because I am God’s! He wants me to seek Him for direction on every dollar. He wants to tell me which dollars He gave me as a gift to spend as I choose, which dollars He gave to supply one of my needs, and which dollars He gave me to supply someone else’s needs.
So if we set aside the monetary value of everything, what do we have? We then realize that God has given each of us four types of things to steward, and three of them are priceless.
1. Our abilities, talents, and gifts are priceless, for they are given by God for eternal purposes. How much money the world gives for doing them is irrelevant.
2. Our calling is eternal, and its value in God’s kingdom is priceless, for no one else can fulfill the calling He’s given us! How much money it does (or doesn’t) earn has no bearing on its eternal value.
3. Our time is priceless, for only God knows the days allotted to us. Every one is written in His book according to Psalm 139:16, and our calling is threaded through every single page, equipped by His grace and often colored by the gifts and talents He’s given us.
4. The money that He’s given us to steward is not priceless—though our obedience in how we steward it is, for that is part of our calling! But now we see that whatever amount of money we earn each month is nothing more (or less) than the money He’s asking us to steward.
My prayer is that we would all learn to value the stewardship of our gifts, calling, and time even more than we value the money we earn. If you’re someone who hasn’t been asked to steward a lot of money, remember that this has zero effect upon His promise to provide for you, if you are His child. Ask Him to teach you to be a faithful steward of the money you’ve been given. But devote even more attention to the stewardship of the gifts and time He’s given you and the calling He’s placed on your life, for those are priceless! And if you are someone who has been given larger amounts of money to steward, ask God to show you His perspective, for that money is only the very smallest part of what He’s asking You to steward.
No matter what you’ve been given, ask your Heavenly Father to teach you how to be faithful in it all, regardless of the amounts. This is what pleases Him, and this is how we flourish where God has planted us.
You are blessed, you are called, and you have a priceless, eternal purpose in His kingdom!