A tiny girl in an oversized backpack walked out of a two-story house, hand in hand with a man who was presumably walking her to school. I glanced at the building from which they emerged and saw a historical property plaque on the front steps. Moments later, I passed a woman walking her dog while looking at her phone. I had been contemplating stewardship as I went on a walk around the neighborhood this day. These scenes that captured my attention fit into the larger question of just what a steward is and what responsibilities that stewardship requires.
Looking up stewardship in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, I saw this definition: “the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.”
When I considered the small girl on her way to school, it donned on me that parenting, at its core, is really a stewardship role. After all, don’t we want to provide our children with careful and responsible management? Little people, who often grow to be challenging teens, are eventually released from our care into their own walk of adulthood.
As for the historical property I saw, the City has allowed this family to either rent or own this home, with the understanding that they will be good stewards. It is valued and registered as a historical landmark in our city; and therefore, there are certain modifications that cannot be made, conditions that must be met, etc. The residents have been entrusted with the care of a property that has value beyond its real estate appraisal.
The distracted woman walking her dog was trying to care for it while getting some exercise and contacting other people. Was she being a good steward? Perhaps. It is also possible that by trying to do too many things at once, she was not making as much impact with her care of her dog, herself, and other people as she could have if she had been devoted to a single task.
When we examine financial stewardship, this conversation inevitably takes a turn toward the spiritual. After all, if you don’t have a belief that the money you possess has been entrusted to you, financial decisions become merely transactions with either positive or negative gains. The bottom line is just that.
My intention here is not to write a Bible study on financial stewardship. Many of those studies exist and are easily found online and in print format. What I do wish to examine is the question of what it means to invest, as a steward, into faith-based organizations. For some additional background on this issue, please see Part One of this series here.
After the publication of my last article, a pastor posted this question: “Are we talking about business investments or kingdom investments?” My answer is a non-sarcastic “Yes!” Hasn’t God given us the business of investing His resources that He’s called us to steward?
One of my daily prayers is that God will help me to be a good steward of my time, words, and actions. I realize how much of what I’m given is wasted on the trivial. The waste is even worse when I invest, conscientiously or not, into conversation or activity that is detrimental to my spiritual or physical health.
It’s not easy to draw a dividing line between business and Kingdom investment. If you work or volunteer for a faith-based organization, your investment of time impacts the organization’s business and potentially, its spiritual “bottom line.” If the desired outcome for this organization is sharing the Gospel message with prisoners, any work interacting with the incarcerated could have a direct, measurable output. Perhaps you don’t go into the prisons but help with sending out newsletters and other mailings that encourage financial contributions to the organization. Your donated time impacts that ministry’s fiscal health.
If you give money to a faith-based organization, you undoubtedly impact its business and spiritual bottom line. By providing funds, you help pay for salaries or materials. You equip the organization, in part, to fulfill its mission.
It is therefore prudent to consider the history, stability, and impact of any organization that you choose to help. How can you be a good steward of the resources you have been given if you are unable to assess the “stewardship quotient” for organizations that receive your gifts?
In Part Three of this series, I will put some thought into how we might measure the outcome for faith-based nonprofits. Whether the ratio is something like $1 million spent to one life changed, or 30 years of biblical counseling to 20,000 lives impacted, there will likely be some sort of metric by which we might examine the health of an organization.
Until then, I encourage us all to give thought and prayer to seeking the best way we can invest ourselves in the world around us.