Beryl Jantzi serves as the director of Stewardship Education for Everence. Everence is a faith based financial services organization which promotes stewardship practices for Mennonite Church USA and other Anabaptist organizations.
You can surf the internet and find a wide range of responses to a biblical view of stewardship. Following are four principles that reflect the values and marks of Anabaptism. Clearly, more could be added but as a chair rests on four legs, so too these theological marks identify what I believe to be core beliefs upon which other commitments are built.
We believe that God is the creator and owner of all that we have.
The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Psalm 24:1
Remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth. Deuteronomy 8:18
In Genesis we read that, God created everything and placed Adam and Eve in the Garden to work it and to take care of it. Humanity was created to work with God in caring for God’s world. This is the fundamental principle of biblical stewardship. God owns everything, we are called to manage what God has placed in our care on God’s behalf.
Stewardship expresses our obedience regarding the managing of everything God has placed under our control, which is all encompassing. Stewardship is the commitment of one’s self and possessions to God’s service, recognizing that we do not have the right of control over our property or ourselves.
We are called to live simply and responsibly in this life.
Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. I Peter 4:10
Owners have rights; stewards have responsibilities. We are called as God’s stewards to responsibly manage that which belongs to God. While God has graciously entrusted us with the care, development and enjoyment of everything he owns, as his stewards, we are responsible to manage his holdings well and according to his desires and purposes.
Many parables Jesus told hold forth this principle in no uncertain terms: The Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21); The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30); The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). To be responsible means to develop a balanced approach in what we share with others, what we save for future needs and what we spend. Being responsible means we teach our children and persons in all stages of life how to manage both their lives as well as their finances in responsible ways (Proverbs 22:6-7).
As members of the body of Christ we are called to model mutual aid and share with those in need.
Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. Acts 2:43-47
Belief must follow through in our practice and daily living. To believe in God, is to act in ways consistent with the heart and nature of God. God cares for all his people and especially cares for those in need. Those who have more than enough are called upon to share with those who do not have enough.
Generosity grows out of a love of God and love of our neighbor. Mutual aid is built on the understanding that I am called upon to joyfully share with others as I am able and to also receive from others in my time of need. This is part of our spiritual care one for another and part of how we worship God in word and deed.
A follower of Jesus is to be willing to serve their neighbor with joy and humility.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24
As Christians, we are called to serve rather than to be served. Biblical stewardship is more concerned with the well-being of the other rather than my own well-being. When we live into this principle we seek to find where God is already at work in the world and lend a hand according to our gifts. As stewards of God we look to use all the opportunities and resources presented to us in this life, to serve the common good and further God’s Kingdom.
Jesus called his followers to seek first the kingdom of God and to live into his call for right living. Everything else that we need to sustain us in this life will come to us based on God’s timing and purposes.