So you must be very careful how you live (walk), not
thoughtlessly but thoughtfully, and continue to make the most of every
opportunity you have, for the times are evil.
Ephesians 5:16-16, Williams
Dr. R. G. Lee wrote of the dying message of Dr. Samuel Palmer Brooks, president of Baylor University, to the senior class of 1931: “I stand on the border of mortal life, but I face eternal life. I look backward to the year of the past to see all pettiness, all triviality, shrink into nothing and disappear. Adverse criticism has no meaning now, only the worthwhile things, the constructive things that have been built for the good of mankind and the glory of God count now......Remember, my students, not to regard lightly nor to ridicule the sacred things, those worthwhile things. Hold them dear, cherish them....The compensation of blessings and sweetness at the last will glorify every hour of work and every heartache from hardship.”
In his letter to the Christians in Ephesus, Paul also stressed that every believer should be conscious of his daily lifestyle and its influence upon others. “How we walk,” is of extreme importance! The conduct of a believer is indeed a living testimony of his/her new life in Christ. In regards to this, we must be very careful. Our daily walk must be disciplined. It should always reflect our sincere love for Christ and His kingdom.
I do not remember the speaker, but a few years ago the following illustration was shared during a preaching conference in Nashville. It left a lasting impression upon my life.
A young man, much like the young ruler who requested of Jesus
information on eternal life, asked his pastor to explain in a nutshell
the ultimate of true Christian living. The pastor’s answer was brief but
profound. He said, “Christian living is rightly managing one’s earthly
estate. The motive should be love - love for God, love for others, and
proper love of self.”
The management of one’s personal estate is definitely challenging and best understood as stewardship. The Bible teaches that every person is possessor of an estate. Whether conscious of the fact or not, each person is in charge of a share of the world’s good things. Our stewardship assignment began in creation (Genesis 1:26-28) and was reaffirmed in Christ: “You are not your own....you have been brought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:1920, NASB).
The purpose of this message is to set forth some simple biblical truths relative to stewardship. Every Christian should be aware of the elementary principles of biblical stewardship and some of the fundamental reasons for stewardship. Thus, the probing question.....“ Are you managing your estate or is your estate managing you?”
Elementary Principles of Stewardship
As we consider stewardship, pledging, and doing God’s work in this world, let us get our priorities straight. Most important is the maintenance, expansion, witnessing, missions, growth, and education of the Lord’s church and the Lord’s work in this world. It is worthy of every commitment and sacrifice we can conceivably make. Not only for our sake, but for the sake of generations to come.
And I say: God does believe in you and me. Matthew 25:15 says, “And to every man according to his several abilities....God gave these gifts. There is not a person listening to me today to whom God has not given something for which he is going to be held accountable and responsible. Therefore, stewardship is binding upon every one of us, regardless of what we have, what we have received, or what we think we have. The principles of stewardship and accountability are binding upon us because God believes in us enough to say, “I have entrusted you with something.” It may be little, it may be much - but He has entrusted you.
Then the question is not, “Will I be a steward?”, but “What kind of steward (manager) will I be?” Birth introduces one to stewardship. Salvation raises the level of this stewardship to a new plane. It’s focus is now upon Christ, our Savior. He lives in us. As one commits more and more of himself to the Lord, he soon becomes more knowledgeable of his role as a steward. He can now begin to bear fruits for the Lord’s kingdom through the giving of time, talents, and resources.
The great preacher and teacher Dr. R. G. Lee of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis said, “Our ambassadorial assignment from God is to yield ourselves and our all in complete surrender to Jesus Christ.” It is through surrender that we discover our true identity. It is through surrender that we understand our real purpose in life. It is through surrender that we become disciples of Christ. Yes, when we surrender ourselves in service, Christ becomes the focus of our lives. As Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
The basic principle of stewardship outlined by Paul to the Christians in Ephesus reminds them of their responsibility to live like Christ. He stated we should always be aware of our life, its purpose, and the way we are living before others. We must be careful not to waste the opportunities entrusted to us.
Someone has written, “I am a part of every man I meet. If I hurt him, I hurt myself. If I praise him, I praise myself. Mankind is the creation of God, and although each of us is separate, we are all the same - God’s creation.” We must manage our own personal estate.
Proper Giving Involves Godly Motivation
Giving for Christian causes should not be done in an unchristian manner; it is not to be forced. If we give from improper motivation, a need may be met, yet we will deny ourselves the blessings found in giving.
Giving is not to be prompted by psychological manipulation, but rather by intelligent and deliberate consideration of the needs of others, of our resources, and our relationship to God. Bringing together needs to be met and the need for Christians to give enables us to enter into the fellowship of giving with Christ (Matthew 25:31-40). Such giving does not produce a spasmodic spirit of emotional response, but properly sustains the Christian lifestyle of giving.
Giving is to be motivated by agape love. Without this motivation, it is a meaningless act and does not enhance the worth and witness of a Christian (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
My parents sacrificed for me repeatedly. I often questioned why they did it. They always said they found joy in giving to me; more joy than in receiving. I did not understand then, but as a father I now know that in giving to those I love, I find my greatest joy. I look for ways to love my children. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). It is in giving that we express love as God intended. In expressing Christlike love, we find reasons for living as a good steward and news ways for giving.
In his April 1999 newsletter, Dr. O. S. Hawkins, president of our Southern Baptist Convention Annuity Board, wrote that “money consumes many of us in our current culture.” As preachers, we are keenly aware of the emphasis being placed upon the accumulation of wealth. We are reminded of this each time we preach. He further stated that our churches are full of bankers, financial planners, stock brokers, insurance brokers, money managers, venture capitalists, certified public accountants, lawyers, and all kinds of people who are constantly giving financial advice. Everyone seems to be rushing down the financial road seeking and searching for fulfillment, security, and happiness.
In pursuit of this goal we may be overlooking the best advice of all. The Bible is an excellent source for instruction in managing one’s financial estate. For example, you can receive the free counsel of a man who has been recognized the world over as one of the richest, most successful, and wisest men ever to have lived. This particular man “wrote the book” on international commerce. His name? Solomon. Let me urge you to heed his carefully phrased counsel in money management. “Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the first fruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10)
Successful management of one’s material resources and possessions finds its proper origin in godly living. When we live for Christ, we discover the true joy in giving. God taught us to give. He gave His best. He gave us His only begotten Son.
Let us remember the challenging words of Dr. R. G. Lee, “The God of all grace poured out wrath upon the sinless Christ. Forsaken was He that our sins might be forgiven and forgotten. He received the wages of sin which He never earned that we might have eternal life which we never deserved.” We are truly indebted to our Lord! We now have a good motive and reason to live for Jesus and to be good stewards.
Proper Living Produces A Special Relationship
What happens when a Christian takes seriously his relationship with Christ? What happens when one realizes that he will be held accountable for the way he manages his “personal estate?” Proper living can relate us to God in a unique way. We become more Christlike!
In legal terms an estate involves land and property. But the word “estate” may also refer to a condition of being or, in aggregate, all possessions of life; even life itself. If this is true, then Christian stewardship involves responsibility and accountability. Managing one’s estate, which is true stewardship, can best be understood by how we give of ourselves.
Dr. R. G. Lee expressed it eloquently when he stressed man’s relationship to God, “Only God could create life and only God can sustain life. As it required the power of God to bring all things into existence, so it requires the power of God to hold it together.” God’s love continues to sustain life. This “agape” love is expressed even more beautifully when man responds through giving. The Bible teaches that God loves cheerful givers.
Giving provides a way for Christian to exercise and to enjoy a disposition of character consistent with the nature of Christ. Augustine said, “If you grieve when you give bread, you lose both the bread and the merit.” The more we are like someone, the more we want to celebrate and share with him. As our outlook and disposition toward life become more like Christ, we have more in common with Him, and we are more open to receive God’s expressions of love.
One of my key responsibilities at Union University is helping individual donors achieve their goals of giving to Christian higher education. I am a true believer in our Christian college and its educational mission. Donors talk about many different areas of charitable giving opportunities, but if they want to share in what I consider the best of all opportunities they will talk about endowed scholarships at Union University. Private colleges need financial aid to realize their mission of molding the lives of tomorrow’s leaders. The person with whom I have the most in common is the person with whom I can share equally in this vision! Giving to this cause is investing in the lives of those who will faithfully serve our Lord tomorrow.
Proper giving enables Christians to experience many joys. Those who do not experience this joy of giving may be reaping the results of not being willing to give. Those who choose to give more are enabled by God to experience more joy through their giving. (2 Corinthians 9:8).
God does not control us. We choose whether we are going to be God’s and if we are going to grow in His likeness. God gains glory and satisfaction in proving that His love is both productive and relevant in our lives.
The life of man is more than breathing in and out, more than flesh and blood, more than movement and more than financial success. Jesus said, “Life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment” (Luke 12:23). Life is a state of being, but being with divine intention. Life is activity, but activity with a worthy purpose.
A glorious meaning for this earthly existence unfolds in the true meaning of Christian stewardship. Christian stewardship embraces the total management of one’s life one day at a time. The willing steward learns that God will provide the help required. So, let us be careful how we live each day and make the most of every opportunity provided by our Lord! This is the message. God believes in you and me. What a joy it will be to hear our Lord say, “Well done, my servant, you have been faithful in a few things; I am going to make you master over many things!”
Written by Paul S. Veazey
Director of Denominational Support and Planned Giving and
Acting Vice President for Church Services
- Lee, R. G. , Choice Pickings, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand
Rapids, MI. 1961, p. 62.
- Lee, R. G. , Great is the Lord, Christ for the
World Publishers, Orlando, FL, p. 125
- Lee, R. G. , From Death Unto Life, CBS Church of
the Air, September 25, 1949.
- Ibid, p. 122.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul S. Veazey has been Director of Denominational Support and Planned Giving
at Union University since 1983. Prior to that time he served as a pastor in
Kentucky and Tennessee. He holds the master of divinity degree from the Southern
Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. He has also done post graduate
studies at Southern. He and his wife Peggy have four children, Melissa, Greg,
Roger, and Wendy.