Divine Ownership, Earthly Loans, and the Duty of Gratitude

by Rosario Picardo

Outside the church, the Christianese term for finances and general giving is known as “stewardship.” In the New Testament, the word “steward” is rooted in the Greek word οἰκονόμον (pronounced “oikonomon”), which connects best to the English word, manager. All we have is essentially given to us by God on loan, temporarily.

Everything Belongs to God

The basic premise for stewardship is this: God is the owner; we are the managers. David states in Psalm 24:1-2, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.” Knowing that everything belongs to God changes how we view people, possessions, and money. One of the prerequisites my wife had before we got married was to go through a Crown Financial Ministries Study. In one of the sections, each participant had to file a “quit-claim deed,” turning over all possessions and ownership to God. I will never forget that freeing moment 15 years ago, symbolically filling out the deed to God and relinquishing control over my home, car, possessions, and money. Just because everything belongs to God does not distract us from our responsibility as stewards. We are in partnership with God.

Everything Is on Loan to Us

God gives us all good gifts in both the physical and spiritual sense, and is a lender working with God’s managers – us! In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus illustrates the concept of stewardship. In Jesus’ time, a talent was a large unit of money. In this parable, the master gives different talents to each of three servants, according to their abilities. The two servants who invested their talents were praised, and the one who hid his talent had it taken away and given to one of the others. The parable, to some, does not seem fair, which is not uncommon for Jesus’ teaching.  Everything is on loan to us, not to hoard, hide, or enjoy for ourselves. All we have is meant to be used for God’s service and people.

In Jesus’ time a talent was a large unit of money, but in our vernacular, talent is a unique ability. In our modern day understanding, this parable could have a double meaning. Stewardship involves managing more than money. It is managing all God has given to us – our time, unique abilities (talents), and treasure.

Everything Given by God Requires Gratitude

The “why” behind giving back to God with our time, talents, and treasure is showing gratitude and saying, “Thank you.” The Apostle Paul reminds the Church of Corinth of that very thing in 2 Corinthians 9:11 – “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us, your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”

I am a parent of three little girls ages 3, 5, and 6. My wife, Callie, and I are discipling these three fierce little leaders in the area of giving back to God. They love coming to worship at Mosaic Church, where I have the privilege of serving as one of the pastors. They have come to understand that we attend worship to thank God. They offer up prayers of thanksgiving for one another and at mealtime. Every Saturday evening, the girls get a small allowance for their chores; we are talking $1 (I know I am cheap!). We have taught them that they must set aside money to give back to God and show gratitude. They now look forward to the practice so much that they have to remind Mom and Dad about breaking their dollar into change.

Stewardship and managing God’s resources are a regular part of discipleship. It is not segmented or simply an add-on. After all, one of Jesus’ most talked about topics was money. Though many leaders joke that a Jesus-follower’s last conversion is the “checkbook” conversion, that does not always need to be the case. The topic of money, resources, and serving can be intimidating for leaders, especially if it is only talked about one month out of the year. However, if we look at this more as what we want for God’s people instead of what we want from them, it will urge us to be more deliberate in having critical conversations.