Friday, February 10, 2012

Flowers Fade Friday: Stewardship

Recently, my small group got into an interesting conversation about money. We were comparing a few well-known pastors that we follow and respect and were noting their different views on money. One pastor in particular takes no royalties from any of the books he writes and instead gives all the profits back to his ministry. When he and his wife travel they stay with friends and borrow cars. However, other pastors do keep their profits from their books. They aren't rich by any means, but when they travel they stay in a hotel and rent a car and maybe the wife gets a pedicure in the hotel spa every once in a while...

money money money

This started a friendly debate. Are we called to be like this first pastor and give away almost all we have for the sake of ministry? Or it okay to keep the profits we make {after tithing, of course}? Should we live a life of extreme simplicity or is it okay to indulge in a pedicure every now and then?

This discussion seemed to evoke two responses from our group: either justification {I am generous with what I have and I am taking care of my family. I think if you have a lot you are called to give to the church and be hospitable and then it’s okay to be wealthy…} or guilt {I really do have a lot. Oh no! Maybe I should give something up. What should I give away?}.

However, I realized after this conversation that both of these responses are wrong. Self-justification is not a good motive for how one manages his or her money and guilt is a horrible reason to give it away.

I think the problem with both these responses is that they assume way too much control. The person who justifies why he has what he does {I have a lot, but it’s okay because I am hospitable and I have three kids to take care of so I need the money} or sacrifices out of guilt {I have too much; I have to give something away} is putting himself in the place of God.  Notice all the Is in the statements above…

Neither of these views reflects the truth about our money or possessions. If we have a lot of money, it’s not ours. If we have a little money, it’s not ours.

A proper understanding of money revolves around stewardship. Everything I have is actually God’s; He has given it to me. As Christians, I don’t think we should be so concerned having too much or too little wealth.

*Disclaimer: We are supposed to give. We should tithe regularly to the church and look for other opportunities to give our time and our money beyond tithing. I am not advocating greed by any means. There are also certain times in life when the Holy Spirit may prompt us to sacrifice something and we should obey.

Instead of trying to decide what I should or should not have, I should ponder this…

What has God currently given me {in terms of money, resources, time, talents, etc.}
and what should I be doing with His gifts?

Notice the change of grammar here {sorry for being an English nerd!}. The sentence above doesn’t start with “I,” it starts with God and the “I” has changed into a “me” – into an object. God is the subject/author/owner of everything, and he has given me gifts. The “me” is the object or the recipient of the giving. I really have no control over the gifts God gives me, even if I think I do. I may lie to myself and say that I earned my money at my job, but God gave me that job and He can take it away whenever He wants.

Here is a practical example. Last year Micah and I lived in a small-ish apartment. We were blessed to have a second bedroom for guests, but our apartment was too small to entertain big groups {although one time we tried... oops!}. However, our apartment was really affordable and in a great location. We found our church because it was right in our neighborhood, made new friends that lived near us, and got to recover from the financial stress of our wedding, honeymoon, and moving out of state because our rent was so cheap. We were not rich by any means. Our countertops and floors were hideous. We could not have more than four other people over for dinner. But we were blessed by the Lord in our apartment. We were able to pay off some debt, save up some money, and enjoyed inexpensive utilities, a community pool and a short commute to work.

This year life is different. We live in a huge house. We hosted our first party with 30 people last month and they had so much fun that they asked us to host a Super Bowl party as well. We thought we had a lot of out of town visitors last year in our apartment, but this year it’s tripled at least. We have visitors in our guest room almost every single weekend. We also were able to invite Micah’s sister, Kayla, to live with us in our new home and are blessed by her daily. Sure our bills are much higher than they used to be and we sadly live farther away from our friends and church, but God has called us, for this season at least, to have a big home that is open to everyone. It’s not fun paying the gas bill each month and I am not a fan of our 20 minute drive to church, when it used to take five minutes, but in exchange God has given us different blessings: the ability to host large events, make new friends, bless our visitors and maintain out-of-state friendship, and enjoy a big pool in the backyard that will get a TON of use this summer.

Last year's party included seventeen people, no room to move, and the smoke alarm...

This year's party included plenty of room for thirty people to participate in 
a Richard Simmons'  Sweatin' to the Oldies workout.

He is the giver. I am the receiver. And I hope and pray I am a good a steward whether I am in  a season of little or a season of plenty.


Linking up with Casey and Jami!


Esther said...

jen this is a really insightful post and i appreciate the grammar! it does put it into perspective for me too. giving and tithing has always been a point of heated discussion for us so your words speak to my heart.

krislyn. said...

What has God given me, and how am I using His gifts to honor Him, something I am daily asking myself. A great reminder that in both scenarios, you still have the ability to be blessed and to bless others. Loved the thoughtfulness you put into this post!

Ruthie Hart said...

This is such a great point girl, and I can see it going both ways. Jon and I started tithing last year and we have loved what the Lord has done in our lives which makes us want to give more!

Cait Emma said...

haha these pictures from the party is hilarious! im so glad to get to know you!


Meg {henninglove} said...

what a great post! it is important to remember ultimately who gives the blessing and make sure we properly thank Him! and hm.. royalties from the books, that is a tough answer, I definitely don't agree with keeping it all for yourself. and your super bowl party looks like a great time!

Nicole {Home for Hire} said...

I was just thinking about giving today and your post was such an encouragement! I was thinking about how giving should come out of gratefulness for all that God has given me-not out of guilt, pride, or obligation. I think that keeping the idea that all we have is a gift from Him keeps me in perspective!

Erin said...

great post Jen! :)

Heather said...

great, thought-provoking post!

Annie said...

I love this post, Jen! My philosophy has always been to do what you can with what you have. Naturally, that looks different for everyone. That even looks different for an individual person based on the seasons of our lives. I love how you put this - the grammatical aspect included!

Katie said...

this is such a hard issue for me and something that God is teaching me. Generosity is not a strong quality I have - not that I don't want to give, I just struggle with worrying that we need to save or plan everything out - which I know is not the right way. Luckily my husband is very generous and am learning that everything I have comes from the Lord and I need to give him the first of everything! thanks for the reminder.