Stewards vs Owners

Written by: Amy Hemseri-Sabala
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Before I became a believer at age 28, I would occasionally attend church with family or friends, and I always seemed to hear a sermon about money. Friends would sheepishly apologize or try to explain that the church wasn’t what I assumed, but my mind was made up: I believed that the purpose of church was for the pastors to find a way to separate us from our money. I was jaded, distrustful and absolutely certain that these pastors had no right to “my” money in the name of God. When I became a Christian, I realized that God does not need our money. We give because it changes us from the inside out and I also came to understand that the money in our bank accounts is not really ours.

As an American, I was raised to be self-sufficient. Generally, I and others are tempted to believe that our money is ours, our talents are ours, our family is ours, our health is ours and so on.  It reminds me of many two-year-olds, screaming “MINE!” over a toy.  Like the two-year-old, the tighter we hold something, the more we believe it belongs to us!

The Bible does not teach ownership, rather it teaches stewardship. In Genesis 1:26-28, God makes humanity to rule over (which means being responsible for) the fish, birds, livestock and wild animals. In Genesis 2:15, God puts humans in the Garden of Eden to work in it and take care of it. The Creator God who made the Heavens and the Earth, created humanity to have stewardship over the earth, not to own it. “The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). A steward is someone who manages someone else’s property. The Bible teaches us that our wealth, talent and time is not ours, but rather a gift from God.

If we look at ourselves as stewards, rather than owners, then we begin to understand that all that we have is not actually ours. Several years ago, I was saving to purchase a wrought-iron bed. It was something that I had dreamed of since I was a little girl and it was well worth the wait. One day as I was listening to the radio, the station was partnering with a non-profit to build homes in Haiti. During this particular hour, there was a sponsor willing to match all donations. A $1,000 donation would build a $2,000 house for a family without a home. All of a sudden that wrought-iron bed that I had been dreaming about didn’t seem so important.  Now, 10 years later, I love my inexpensive bed because it reminds me that there is a Haitian family who is sleeping in a house of their own. Generosity is a muscle that grows as we exercise it – with deliberate intentions, we can be more attuned to where God is working and join in with the resources that God has graciously entrusted to us.

In The Blessed Life, Robert Morris recounts a story from his early days when he was a traveling evangelist.  All of his income came from the offerings he received from preaching. He and his wife were generous givers and trusted God to provide for them, and their needs were always met. After one preaching engagement, the local pastor informed Robert that this was the largest offering that his little church had ever given to a guest preacher. When Robert looked at the check amount, it was equal to one month’s budget! Just a short while later, Robert discerned God speak to his heart, urging him give the whole check to a missionary who had spoken earlier in the evening. Initially reluctant, Robert obediently gave the check to the missionary.  During dinner that evening, a parishioner gave Robert 10 times the amount that Robert had just given away to the missionary. Later in the book, Robert confesses that if he thought of his income as belonging to him, then he would never be able to be generous as the Holy Spirit prompts him. Rather, it’s because he realizes that he is a steward of God’s finances that he can trust God to provide for him while using the resources that God has given him to bless others.

I continue to be challenged by what my pastor refers to as “unrestrained generosity”. If all that I have really doesn’t belong to me, then I have these resources is to accomplish the will of God. It’s certainly a step of faith to believe that God will provide for us, so we can just let go of the resources we steward and be generous. Author Randy Alcorn says, “One day, money will be useless.  While it’s still useful, God’s money managers with foresight will use it for eternal good.”

My sincere desire is that I continue to be aware of how to best utilize the assets God has entrusted into my care. What are the places in our lives that we can relinquish control and take our rightful places as stewards and not owners?


Check out an earlier post by Amy here