Planning Ahead for Good Stewardship
by Raymond H. Harris
The New Year always brings the opportunity to plan ahead and the commitment for new resolutions. It’s a wonderful time to renew a fresh, hopeful optimism for the future.
When planning ahead, I like to look at things from an eternal perspective. We all want to be commended for the work we’ve done as stewards, but what will it take to hear the affirming words of Christ, “well done, good and faithful servant”? To be a steward, I believe we need to be prepared, faithful and brave.
The Steward is to be Prepared
The Bible instructs stewards in their preparation for future times. We are to be like the bridesmaids (virgins) preparing lamps awaiting the bridegroom described in Matthew 25:1-13. In this parable, the wise bridesmaids prepared their lamps with extra oil and awaited the bridegroom. The foolish bridesmaids, however, did not bring extra oil. They were unprepared when the appropriate time came and were unable to enter into the wedding banquet.
The steward is to “be dressed, ready for service and keep lamps burning – like men waiting for their master to return… It will be good for those servants, whose master finds them watching when he comes… It will be good for those ready servants because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you don’t expect him” (Luke 12:35-40).
First, we must realize that all of our assets are entrusted to us by God to be deployed at the Master’s discretion. We should look for opportunities to manage and invest talents and assets where directed by the Holy Spirit. Our effectiveness is directly tied to our obedience. How else will we know where to deploy the Master’s assets in the Kingdom if we don’t listen to the Spirit?
To be prepared, we must also be frugal so we have something to share. The greatest advice I received as a young businessman was to stay unencumbered by debt. This is similar to the illustration of carrying a light backpack. I have carried a heavy backpack and it nearly ruined a backpacking trip. Being constantly preoccupied with the discomfort of a heavy pack is similar to the pressures that accompany materialism and debt.
Another part of preparation is to be generous, willing to share with others in need. Paul’s instruction to Timothy was to encourage us to “do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share” (1 Timothy 6:18).
It is impossible to be prepared without working hard. If we work hard, we’ll have abundance according to Proverbs 12:11. “All hard work brings a profit but mere talk leads only to poverty” (Proverbs 14:23). I can recall many mornings watching the sunrise from the east window of my office. It wasn’t because I came in early; it was because I had been there all night.
The Steward is to be Faithful
If we truly believe God owns the world and everything in it (Psalms 50:10-12) and if we believe in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) then we would logically conclude that God works through faithful stewards. Faithful stewards are the conduits of God’s goodness to accomplish His work.
Brokenness is the key ingredient for faithful stewardship because stewardship deals primarily with management in lieu of ownership. Stewards are to be those men and women who listen and obey God. The prideful and arrogant cannot hear the whispers of God. Brokenness is the first step toward total submission to the Lord.
Brokenness can be compared to the taming of a wild horse. In the old days, cowboys captured horses in the wild and brought them into the corral. As significant as the stallion was in the wild, he was not useful until he was broken and willing to submit to rider’s will. Breaking the horse was the first step; bridling followed, allowing the horse to respond easily to the rider’s commands. Although this bridling is not as severe as breaking, it’s a reminder of continual submission. This is very similar to the brokenness in our own spiritual lives as we decide to submit to Christ and yield to His leadership. Without the bridle, even a broken horse is useless to the cowboy.
If we want to become good stewards, we must break free of pride and arrogance so we can submit to God, leading us to a life of faithful obedience. The Lord can then whisper to us directing His resources.
The Steward is to be Brave
Bravery requires us to do the right thing and stand firm while trusting in the Lord.
We must know what is right and have the fortitude to do it, letting the results fall as they may. Doing what is right is not always popular. At times it may be considered politically incorrect. It may also come with real cost of being ostracized or persecuted. In order to be brave, we must trust in the Lord. Proverbs says “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he’ll make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Trusting in the Lord is part of our stewardship journey, knowing that without faith, it’s impossible to please God.
When planning for the New Year, so that we may become faithful stewards,
We should be prepared by being hardworking, generous and frugal;
We should be faithful by being obedient;
We should be brave by doing what is right while trusting in the Lord.
Raymond H. Harris has served on numerous boards, including Crown Financial Ministries, University of Oklahoma School of Architecture, OMF International, and Student Mobilization Ministries. Raymond has travelled extensively around the world to help out with community development and transformation efforts among the poor.