by Ron Bare
In Part 2 of True Stewardship, we talked about our time and what a precious asset this is in our lives. We also discussed the fact that how we spend our time will largely determine our success of being a faithful steward in other areas of our life. As I examine scripture and the purpose of wealth, a few things become clear.
First, there is no defined Biblical lifestyle that lays out exactly what is appropriate and what is not appropriate in regards to how we should live. We are blessed in the United States – and even more so in Southeastern PA – to live in an area of the world that has provided opportunities to not only have religious freedoms, but to also have freedoms to be rewarded for our hard work and risk taking in business. Capitalism is a true benefit to society and has done more to help eliminate poverty in the world than any other avenue – including charity. But that is not our focus of today’s writing…perhaps another time!
We can be faithful stewards whether we have little (such as the widow’s offering) or whether we have abundance (such as King Solomon for much of his life). It comes down to whether we use wealth according to how God directs. Knowing this, let’s examine what the purpose of wealth is from a Biblical stewardship backdrop.
Provision for our family – The Bible teaches that those who do not provide for their families are worse than an unbeliever. Work is encouraged and part of God’s plan for our lives – even in the Garden of Eden. God directed Adam and Eve to care for and work the garden prior to the introduction of sin in the world. Work is the avenue that God created to provide for our families. The Bible also teaches that those who are lazy and do not want to work will not eat and enjoy the benefits of hard work. The tricky part here in America is getting our provision mixed up with our enjoyments and wants….
Enjoyment – In 1 Timothy 6, Paul mentions that all things in earth have been given to us for our enjoyment. I believe that we should enjoy some of what we have been given and we do not need to feel guilty about enjoying wealth. Clearly, the nation of Israel enjoyed the wealth that God provided in victory as they took over the Promised Land….a land flowing with milk and honey. This land sounds like being described as more than just provision but also enjoyment. God promised many times to the nation of Israel that they will prosper financially, if they obediently follow and obey His commands. The item we can’t miss in this teaching, is the purpose God had for the nation of Israel….
To be a blessing – In the above Timothy reference, the context is that our focus should not be on worldly wealth but rather a focus on eternal values. Likewise the nation of Israel was Gods chosen nation to be a testimony to his goodness and Him being the one true God. In I Timothy 6, Paul’s focus is to encourage us to be generous and ready to share. I love the proactive tone of “ready to share”. This is not passive but rather an intentional act as God leads us, which goes back to the primary question we need to be asking daily: “God, what do you want me to do with what you have entrusted to my management?” We should be actively looking to answer this question and be ready to act when prompted, particularly in the pursuit of blessing others and fulfilling our purpose.
A tool to accomplish our purpose – The final thought on the purpose of wealth is to use it as a tool to accomplish the purpose God has given to us on earth. Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life sold over 30 million copies and is the second most translated book in the world only to the Bible. I believe he spoke to our hearts in that we want to know why we are on this earth. If we each have a unique purpose with a primary mission to help God carry out His work on earth, then we should each look to use our unique abilities and gifts to accomplish this purpose. This includes our financial resources – well beyond giving or tithing! It means we should intentionally define our life’s purpose and use everything possible to accomplish this: our abilities, relationships, education, wealth, time, our experiences in life. When we do this, I believe we wake up each day with clarity on our tasks, that we will be content financially, and that we will receive a whole new level of fulfillment in life because we will know we are living a life we were designed to live. It’s time to align our time, talents, and wealth to our God-given purpose.
by Ron Bare
Previously, we began to look at what true Biblical stewardship looks like, and also perhaps what it should not look like. Understanding that God is the creator and owner of all things is certainly step one to true stewardship. However, the implications of this truth should require us to pause and ask the most important question: If God has entrusted me with ______, then what does He want me to do with it?
I left off by saying the only way to answer this question is in striving to better manage our most valuable asset: our time. Each of our allocation of time is precious and is given in an equal amount to every person, therefore we all start each day with the same 24 hours or 1,440 minutes. What we do with this time will absolutely determine if we are faithful stewards.
The older I get the more I realize and hear others recognize how quickly time goes by. Think about it, how often have you talked to your friends or acquaintances about how quickly time goes by? Whether we are talking about raising our family, the summer months, the recent vacation days, and on and on, we all talk about how quickly our time on earth passes. However, for some reason this often does not force us to stop and pause on how we can be more intentional with our time.
Personally, it is easy to say that my relationship with God is the most important part of my life. Yet I wonder if when I review my calendar and evaluate how I spend my 1,440 minutes of each day, is the time allotment reflective of what I say is most important to me? We easily fill our schedules with work, with pleasure, with kids activities, with eating, with working out, with rest and other items – none of which are bad in themselves – while not spending time intentionally asking our Creator about our purpose in life and how He wants us to carry out that purpose each day using everything He has entrusted to use to accomplish His purposes and mission.
How can we possibly know how to use, enjoy, invest, spend, save, and give any financial resources without first seeking the owner’s direction? This takes time and I would argue is absolutely the most important time we can spend. Bob Buford, author of Halftime once said “It seems insane to me that a person would be willing to trade what he has a shortage of—time—in order to gain more of what he already has a surplus of—wealth.” Sadly, we often are pursuing items that may bring temporary happiness in substitute for eternal joy.
Margin is the discipline of creating space. I heard the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, speak a few years ago and he had very limited time to speak to a group of husbands about being a husband and father. In that brief time he recommended four things to do to excel (when someone has a short amount of time and can only list a few things, these things must be important). One of those four items was to create margin in your life.
Create some space to intentionally pursue the most important things. Margin to ask God His plans for His resources and then have the additional margin in your schedule to actually listen!
Create space in your day so as you connect with people you have time to have real conversations rather than needing to move on to the next surface level conversation with your next meeting.
Create space so you can spend real time with those you love. Isn’t the abundant, joyful life an overflow of deep relationships with our Creator and those we love most on earth? Then why do we spend so much time in leisure, resting, activities, working longer, or whatever else we do that takes us away from the most important things in life? It is these most important things in life that are what we desire most at our deepest levels.
How rewarding can it be to steward our time to make an impact in the lives of those we love the most, or use our entrusted wealth to accomplish eternal purposes rather than short term pleasures? I must admit, I am a long way from where I want to be, but my desire is to take the next step towards the abundant life that comes by first being a wise steward of the time God has entrusted to me. Then the answers to the purpose of wealth may become clearer.
Next time we will examine some uses of wealth that may help us be faithful stewards of God’s assets.