Stewardship Defined

Do we even understand what the word stewardship means? After all, it can have such a vast meaning. The dictionary defines a steward as “a person who looks after someone on a ship, aircraft or train.” It is also defined as an official who supervises a public event, or one who manages or looks after another’s property.

The final definition seems to be the most accurate. Think about it for a moment – what exactly does this mean for each of us? For many, the immediate thought is that we need to be better stewards over the earth. In other words, we must care for the environment.

Let’s make it even more personal than that. Think about what we have all been given daily to manage.

What We Are Given in Equal Measure – Time

We all have the same amount of time, 24 hours in every day. How well are we managing our use of time? If we are completely honest, we must admit that we are at times less productive than we could be because we have not invested our time as well as we would like.

What We Are Given in an Unequal Measure – Talent

I am amazed when I see the different interests and gifts in so many people. For some, the ability seems to be natural and God-given and can often be improved when developed further, like the gift of music, singing or dance. Sadly, rather than develop their talents, some people bury them, believing it’s really nothing special or unique.

What is Buried – Treasure

If you combine what we are given in equal measure (time) and use it to invest in what we have in unequal measure (talent), we will discover what is often buried (treasure or what we are meant to do).  There is a quote that comes to mind about finding something you love to do and then you will never work a day in your life. The key is to “find something you love to do,” then your work won’t feel as much like work, but instead, it becomes your passion.

The Heart of a Steward

If the definition of a steward is managing another’s property, then the heart of a steward must be to know who the owner is and what that owner desires. For followers of Christ, God is the owner and life is about managing what we are entrusted with. Think about your life: aren’t you most fulfilled when you give your time to someone else? Isn’t your greatest pleasure felt when your talent is used for the benefit of another, when others are moved as a result of how you used your gifts?

If all we do is use our time and talent for ourselves, we are really missing what it means to be a steward. Time can be wasted, spent or invested. The same can be said for talent and treasure.  If you invest it well, the owner is pleased and we are paid or rewarded for our use of each of these.

Our Mistake …

…is thinking that what we possess is ours to do with as we please. If you ask most Christians, “Does God own everything,” most will quickly agree, yet living this out proves to be more of a challenge.

The time we have been given needs to be managed well and the talent should be developed and utilized. When we use our time and talent to invest in others, we will discover true treasure. To invest in others, it also means you actually have to take some time for yourself. Your personal growth and development results in a greater ability to serve. Remember, we are managers, not owners, so things like time, talent and treasure are to be used for the interest of the owner (which benefits others). We make a mistake when we simply spend money, time or use our gifts without considering what the owner desires.

How well are you using the time each day? Do you feel your talent is under-utilized and is there a place that you could use your talent more? When you receive your paycheque, do you view it as your own to do with it as you please, or do you consult the owner before you make spending decisions? 

If Money Talks, What’s it Saying?

If Money Talks, What’s it Saying?

If you have money it can be used to get the things you desire and it seems the more money you have, the more you spend. I have often quoted this:

You make a living by what you get, you make a life by what you give.

Winston Churchill

So what are you most focused on: Making a living or making a life?

Deep within most Christians, there is a desire to please God, but we typically do not relate pleasing God with money? My initial thought about pleasing God is considering my behaviour, just doing what is good and saying what uplifts others. I desire to please God in every area of my life and especially with my use of money.

In a recent blog, I referenced the key to pleasing God being faith and the Bible makes this so plain: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Some might look at this and ask: What does that have to do with how I use money? A great question. Hebrews 11 is often referred to as the faith chapter, which reviews many of the faith heroes and how they invested their lives. They looked to something better, something invisible (requiring faith to see it), something eternal.

The first example given is Abel, who made an offering to God, which was acceptable because it involved faith on his part (see Hebrews 11:4). The point being that he gave first without knowing if there would be a second-born or a third-born. Compare this to his brother Cain; his offering was in the course of time and was rejected. The difference: Abel’s offering involved faith and Cain’s lacked faith and was rejected by God. It seems that Cain only gave when he saw the supply of his crops, or when he could afford to give (in the course of time). I am challenged when I think about this because it causes me to question my own financial priorities. Do I give in the course of time, when I have enough, or is giving a top priority?

One point that is easily overlooked is that Abel “still speaks through his faith.” In other words, his offering in faith is talking to us if we will listen. What, then, is being said? Could it possibly have anything to do with our use of money today?

Think about how you can use money:

  1. To Live – Probably the greatest priority and where the majority of a person’s or couple’s money goes is toward lifestyle. Often when a raise or bonus comes, an increase in lifestyle is the result!
  2. To Give – in my experience, I have found that giving is probably the last on the list of priorities, especially when a person is starting out, with so many other financial commitments.
  3. Owe (debt) – using debt to purchase a home or car is often a priority, which creates an obligation to repay. In a sense, debt is really an extension of lifestyle (when we don’t have enough money we borrow to get the things we desire). Maintaining a good credit score is important so on-time repayment becomes a definite priority.
  4. Owe (taxes) – Most have taxes withheld from their pay, so in that sense the government makes taxes the top priority.
  5. Grow – Saving money can be a challenge and people often consider a mortgage (debt) a forced savings plan, but saving little by little is one of the secrets to wealth.

Is it possible that Abel is “still speaking” about our priorities in this life and that in order please God, faith must be a priority in all our dealings, especially in our financial dealings? It is imperative that we set priorities around how we use money.

Here’s a question to consider: Are these priorities around money sequential or simultaneous? It would be nice to see them in a neat order of 1-5 and always keep the proper order, but the truth is these uses of money pull us in different directions daily, often shifting these priorities. We want to give more and save more but the amount we have to pay in tax and debt or just our chosen lifestyle hinders us from reaching these goals.

Please take a few moments to consider your financial priorities. Does your faith and pleasing God fit into your spending decisions? Could your financial priorities use some adjustments?

Can I Please God In How I Use Money?

The Bible has much to say about so many important things in life but it says more about money and possessions than it does about heaven or hell or faith and prayer. John Piper said, Jesus spoke more about money than he did about sex, heaven, and hell. Money is a big deal to Jesus.

Why is the issue of money so important? Maybe because it is the greatest competitor to God … Jesus said there is no middle ground, “You cannot serve God and money.” It’s one or the other.

The fact is none of us set out with a goal to serve money and most would likely prefer to serve God rather than money. We want money to answer our needs and grant our desires and oddly enough, God is interested in doing the same for us. The choice becomes whether we will look to God as our supply or to our finances. The lines are so easily blurred because as we earn money, we begin to see it as our source.

How, then, can we please God with money? Hebrews 11:6 states very clearly: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” To be honest, I have never really connected this verse with how I use money, but we need faith in every aspect of life in order to please God. If you jump back to verse 4, it reads, “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did.” This verse explains Abel to be “a righteous man, because God approved his gifts.”

The story of Cain and Abel is challenging because they both made an offering to God from the labour of their hands. Cain worked the ground and produced crops while Abel became a shepherd. Cain presented some of the land’s produce and Abel presented some of his flock. Some have said the animal sacrifice was more pleasing because it foreshadowed the Temple sacrificial system as well as Christ’s sacrifice to take away sin. This explanation hardly seems fair though, because they both offered to God from their produce.

Hebrews 11:4 provides the answer: it seems Abel’s offering was “by faith” and Cain’s offering lacked faith and was, therefore, not pleasing to God. If you read the story in Genesis 4, this is actually confirmed. It says of Cain (v.3a), “In the course of time Cain presented …” but regarding Abel it says he presented “some of the firstborn (v. 4). One offering did not require faith because it was offered once there was a sufficient supply. For Cain, there were many crops when he offered; no faith was required because he waited until there was plenty before he offered to God. For Abel, the priority was completely different. He offered to God first, which required faith that more would follow the firstborn. He was trusting God for his provision by offering the first to God. This pleases God.

This is a powerful lesson in financial priorities. What is our top financial priority? Do we give only when we have plenty and can afford to give? The big question is this: Does our giving include faith or does our giving lack faith because we are confident we have enough?

Let’s face it, most of us are not necessarily living by faith because it seems to make more sense to “walk by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). What a journey it is to live and give by faith. It means having sufficient confidence in God that we can set giving as a priority above the other things we can use money for.

How do we acquire faith? Here are the steps:

1. Faith (in regards to money) comes by hearing (biblical principles of finance).

2. Hearing creates thoughts and an understanding in our minds

3. As we mediate on biblical principles, it begins to shape what we believe.

4. Believing leads to a deeper knowing or a conviction (a confident trust).

5. Only then are we able to live by faith, acting and doing based on the convictions that have now been forged within us.

Think about these five biblical financial principles:

1. Spend less than you earn

2. Avoid the use of debt

3. Build liquidity

4. Set long term goals

5. Give Generously

Please watch this video about a kind hearted lady who was saving for a car that she needed. When asked how she was doing with her savings fund, she said she had given it all away. She gave $5000 to a widow that she felt needed the money more than she needed a car. What an amazing story and example of living by faith.

Have You Discovered Your Why?

Have You Discovered Your Why?

Last week was one of those special weeks where I was privileged to interact with some amazing influencers in the Christian financial services industry. More than ninety financial professionals from 7 of the 10 provinces in Canada came together in Toronto for the Kingdom Advisors Canada Conference.

BradThe majority of these advisors have figured out why they do what they do and surprisingly, it’s not just for the career, the money or the position. It’s because they feel called and that calling is usually defined by some life experience. After the conference, I was intrigued to read an article about one of our speakers, Brad Smith.

Photo taken from an article published by Wealth Professional Canada, written by Leo Almazora.

The article describes how Brad always saw protecting his clients’ wealth as his primary role. I believe this to be true for most financial advisors but that all changed for Brad after an incident with one of his very first clients.

“Henry was a factory worker, and he had done everything right,” he said. “He’d put his kids through school; by the time he retired, he was financially set to achieve everything we’d planned for. He couldn’t wait to leave the factory behind.”

No one could have imagined what would happen next: not long after his retirement, the man who’d done everything right tried to take his life. After finding out what happened from Henry’s wife, Smith visited him at the hospital and asked what drove him to it.

“Henry said ‘Nobody needs me. Nobody at work needs me, my kids don’t need me,’” he recalled. “’I went to my doctor because I was losing sleep, and he just gave me pills. I took them home, asked myself what it all meant, and downed all of them.’”

Genuinely concerned, Smith and a few of Henry’s loved ones brainstormed to help him find a purpose; he was passionate about hockey, so he decided to coach minor-league hockey teams and ultimately got out of his funk.

The whole affair marked a turning point for Smith. “I realized that if I succeed only in taking care of my client’s money — making sure it’s used well and ensuring a good return on investment — I have failed as an advisor,” he said. “I didn’t want another Henry.”

It seems this is when Brad began to find out his “why” and purpose in his profession as a financial advisor. The typical thinking is that dealing with a financial advisor is about rates of return on an investment portfolio or taking care of a client’s money. No doubt it does include those things, but discovering that his career path was about something far more important had a significant impact on his business and client relationships.

Over time, Smith found a similar pattern with other clients; many who were financially prepared for retirement were actually unprepared in emotional or psychological ways. That prompted them to develop a seven-step program to help clients lead lives of success and significance, a major part of which is to give generously to the benefit of others.

The seven step process  that Brad walks his clients through is the “journey to meaningful  significance.” Every year the Kingdom Advisors conference recognizes someone whose life demonstrates Christian character, unparalleled professional competency, along with the integration of biblical wisdom into their advice and counsel.  Brad journeys with his clients toward a life of significance and in this process has discovered his own life of significance. At the KA Conference in September 2018, Brad became the recipient of the Advisor with Purpose award because he has truly become an advisor with purpose.

I Lost My Watch

I Lost My Watch

In April 2015, I transitioned from 24 years as a financial planner and became the National Director for Kingdom Advisors where I now connect with Christian financial professionals across Canada. At that time, I was given a Hugo Boss watch from a fund company which meant a lot to me because it was a symbol of an important time of transition in my life.

Fast forward to August 2017 – my wife and I flew back to our home province for a few weeks. We were blessed to have friends who offered us their car to use while we were there. Let me interject a little about my friends, Keith and Alma: we have spent sufficient time together to be completely comfortable with them and they really understand that “The Lord owns it all.” To illustrate our relationship, I sent this text to them when we were about to fly back home: “So thankful for the use of the BMW the Lord blessed you with. Note: I avoided saying ‘your vehicle’ because I know you understand that what you have is the Lord’s. You are such a blessing!!”

After we arrived home from our trip, I searched through every piece of luggage and pockets of my jacket but could not find my watch. We called back to my in-laws, where I thought I had likely left it; they searched the room where we stayed. No watch. We called Alma and asked her to look in the car, but the result was the same – no watch found. We called the airport thinking I may have left my watch in the tray when I went through security.  Again, my watch was not found.

Where was my watch? It was lost and I learned today (May 22, 2018) that it actually had been in Alma’s car for all these months, completely hidden under the front seat.  The car had been cleaned several times since August without discovering the watch. In April, when the car was driven over a bumpy road, Alma’s sun glasses fell on the floor underneath the seat and when she reached for them, she pulled out the watch!

The problem was she had completely forgotten that I had even borrowed their car and her immediate action was to send  messages to those she knew who had recently used her car.  The response every time was “I didn’t lose a watch.” When the watch was found, the battery was dead so they thought that it may have been there for a long time, maybe even before they purchased the vehicle.  Could it belong to the original owner?

Here’s the amazing part of this story: Alma’s husband, Keith didn’t even know I had lost my watch on my visit. He took the watch, replaced the battery and began wearing it on occasion. For me, any hope of finding the watch was long gone, even when they texted and said they were coming for a visit. They arrived at our house and we enjoyed catching up in conversation over a delicious meal. I had no thought about the watch until I saw it on Keith’s arm. I felt a little awkward at first and did not want to interrupt the flow of conversation. How could I ask about the watch or where and when he had found it? Maybe I should just ask, “Where did you get such a nice watch?” Our conversation continued and out of nowhere, Keith lifted his arm to look at the watch and then said, “I have to change the subject: Lorne this watch is yours!”

Seriously! We were all shocked at the quick change in conversation and I realized how the Lord cares about the little details that concern us, especially regarding something that was lost. Keith said, “I just felt the Lord say, ‘This is Lorne’s watch.’” I realized that the Lord was using this circumstance to give Keith more confidence to follow the Lord when prompted. It confirmed to him that he could trust the still small voice of the Lord.

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Many times Keith doesn’t even wear a watch. He could have easily worn a different watch when he visited, or no watch at all. Was it just coincidence that he chose to wear the Boss watch for his visit to my house?

Here is what I realized from this whole thing: the Lord is interested in using every day situations to help us be more sensitive to His promptings.
What is most amazing about this story? It’s not as much about my lost watch being found as it is about a man being sensitive to know when the Lord is speaking to him and having a willingness to act on it. Do you have the confidence to follow the inner promptings from the Lord?

Giving: The Sad Reality

Giving: The Sad Reality

It seems quite natural to ask a young child what they are getting for Christmas and it is obviously quite natural for kids to be excited about opening gifts on Christmas morning. Yet we all know that Christmas is more about giving than it is about getting.

A quick look into the origin of Santa Claus will reveal a heart of giving. It begins in the third century with Nicholas. His wealthy parents raised him to be a devout Christian, but died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young.

Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

Here is the statement that stands out to me: “Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy …” Let’s face it, this is the time of year we think much about giving, but our emphasis tends to be towards those who are closest to us (family and friends), not necessarily those in need.

By asking “what are you getting for Christmas,” I wonder if we are putting the emphasis in the wrong place. Obviously, in order for some to receive, someone has to give, so maybe we ought to change the question to: “What are you giving for Christmas?”

However, the focus of one of the articles in the Toronto Sun this week, presents a not so bright picture in Canada, especially when it comes to giving. I couldn’t help taking a screen shot of the online article:

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It’s interesting how this article is about being “Scrooge-like” when it comes to charity while there are ads surrounding the headline to entice us to spend our money on costly things. Without some sort of ad blocker, we are constantly bombarded with these ads which actually helps “program” us to want more. Let’s face it, whether younger or older, we are programmed “to get” but not programmed “to give.”

I was disappointed as I read the article as it described how little we are actually giving in Canada. It quotes a new Fraser Institute study stating that Canadians have reached a new ten-year low when it comes to donating to charities.

Here are some of the surprising takeaways from the most recent trackable year, 2015:

*One in five Canadian tax-filers claimed charitable donations on their tax return — compared to almost one in four Americans

*The total amount donated by Canadians — just 0.56% of income — is the lowest amount in a decade and down from a 10-year peak of 0.78 % in 2006.

*The average dollar amount, in local currencies, claimed in Canada was $1,699 – compared to $6,058 in the U.S.

Why are we giving less than 1% of our income to charity?

1. Maybe we think we are more generous than we are. We buy someone a coffee or a meal, we give a few dollars when we are asked at the ckeckout and add it to our bill, or we drop $5 or $10 in the Salvation Army Kettle during the Christmas season … and we feel good when we walk away.

2. Many of the comments after that article said the government takes too much in taxes, so it limits a person’s ability to give.

3. Maybe we support a cause with our time and we feel that’s sufficient. In some cases, by just liking or sharing something online, we have a sense that we are giving enough.

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4. Maybe we simply don’t see the value in giving. When we give a gift to children or grandchildren, we have the satisification of seeing the joy of the gift being received. When we give to a charity, we often don’t get to see that same impact. Even beyond that, we tend to completely miss the eternal impact and therefore, fail to see our giving as an investment.

In todays society, it is natural to be self-centred so we must determine to give. Otherwise, we will give less and only when we see a need. So just as you set a savings goal for a purchase, education or retirement and set aside funds for that goal, maybe it’s worth establishing a giving goal. If you are working with a financial planner, this ought to be part of your overall strategy and a topic of discussion in your annual review.

Take a look at your overall income. Have you ever calculated where it’s all going? It’s pretty sad to see that just 20% of Canadians are giving and the overall average of the gift is only 0.56% of income (obviously because 80% are not reporting a charitable receipt). On the other hand,  65% of Canadians are saving 4.6% of income. These stats reveal that we are less interested in giving to others and more focused on saving for our future needs or wants.

Obviously we must use wisdom and save, but we ought to make giving more of a priority in life. Let’s re-program ourselves: Instead of “what are you getting for Christmas” let’s ask: “What are you giving for Christmas?”

What percentage of your income will you save next year? What percentage of your income will you give or invest in the lives of others?

Merry Christmas!

 

The Impact of a Gift

The Impact of a Gift

In 2012, my wife and I visited our youngest daughter in Calgary. We attended Centre Street Church (where she is now on staff) and then browsed the book store where I found a Stewardship Bible. I decided to purchase this item because I had just completed training for financial professionals and the notes contained in this Bible supported the course so well. When I went to the cashier, she said, “That is yours.”

I said, “Yes, I am here to pay for it.”

“No,” she responded. “A lady donated this to us with the instructions that whoever was interested in it, please give it to them.” This is the first and only time I ever went into a book store and walked out with a book in hand that was given to me.

This was one of those moments where there was a sense that something divine was at work. It was like the Lord was sending me a message that it was important for me to more fully understand the message of stewardship. I do not know who donated that Bible to the bookstore, and that person, therefore, cannot know the significance this kind gesture had on my life. It was one of those “little things” that led me to change my 24-year career as a financial advisor to actually becoming a director of a national ministry working with financial professionals.

With our limited perspective, it is nearly impossible to fully comprehend the impact we can have on others with the gifts we can give. Maybe that is exactly the reason for this statement in 1 Cor. 4:2: “Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful.”

We have all been “put in charge of things” to manage in this life and it is a good idea to consider the potential impact we could have with those things. Consider your time. Can you impact others with how you use time? In 2012, I read the book, “Money, Possessions & Eternity” which helped change my perspective on money. This means the investment of time by the author to write this book was impactful on my life. Until I met the author, Randy Alcorn in 2017, he could not have known that impact. In the same way, our use of time can influence people beyond what we typically realize.

Ken Boa speaks of stewardship this way:

In every stewardship relationship there are two parties involved: the master who hands out the resources and will one day ask for an accounting; and the steward who is entrusted with the resources and must eventually answer for how they were invested. God is the master; he distributes gifts at his discretion. We are stewards, accountable to him for all that we do with all that we have.

December is a time of giving for most, but we should see it more as an opportunity to invest in the lives of others. I have wondered if that Stewardship Bible just sat on a shelf and the thought was, “This Bible would be of better use if it was given to or invested in someone else.”

The reality is: “to whom much is given, much is required.” We must understand we have a responsibility to be faithful with all that has been entrusted to us.  The steward is not actually accountable for the results, but called to be faithful with the resources. It is easy to look for the results rather than focus on our stewardship responsibilities. When we focus on the results and they are not clearly evident, we can easily ask “Why should I continue?” The fact is we are not always aware of the results, nor are we responsible for the results. That is why our calling is to be faithful.

Faithfulness with our resources is vitally important because of the future accounting. This is exactly why we ought to expand our thinking to view our giving as an investment in others.  Investors look for opportunities to get a good return on that investment, which is actually the perspective of a steward.

If you think about all you have received in this life, how are you managing it? It is important to have a focus beyond yourself.

today-is-a-gift

We all have an ability to give something:

  1. Maybe it’s time, which we all have in equal measure
  2. Or opportunity to use your talent, which is unique to you
  3. Or perhaps it is giving from your treasure, which varies by each person.

When considering all that we have and all that we do, it is important to see opportunities, not only to give but also to invest in others. When we give of our time or talent or make a financial donation, do we see it as giving or investing?  Is it just semantics? When making donations most millennials want to feel like they’re making an investment, which is really a steward’s perspective on giving.

During this Christmas season:

How can you use time to impact others? Are there opportunities for your unique gifting to bring joy? Can you make an investment financially through your resources that can have reverberations beyond what you can imagine?

May you experience the Joy of giving this Christmas season!