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?
Sadly, we have typically increased our standard of living so significantly, there is not much left to increase our standard of giving.
In my last blog post I asked the question: What are you getting in exchange for money? How we spend our money is usually determined by the value we receive in exchange for our money. Let’s face it, if we do not feel we are getting good value, then we decide not to spend money in this way.
When it comes to giving money away, we need someone to help us gain the right perspective. As an example, when we make a donation to charity, do we consider it giving money away or investing it? In Phil 4:10-20 the Apostle Paul expressed his appreciation to the Philippians for their financial support by telling them they were the only church who gave during this time. Paul was not simply thanking them, but helping them gain an important perspective about the benefits of giving. Here are a few reasons we usually give:
- There is an expressed need
- We are moved (with compassion) to give
- Maybe we have been taught to give 10% of our income
- Our income is higher, so we could use the tax break
The new perspective Paul brings contains another benefit of giving that we often overlook: “the profit that is increasing to your account.” Paul actually downplayed the benefit of the gift to himself (or his ministry), in order to emphasize what these people were receiving in exchange for the gifts (money) they gave. It is difficult for us to even comprehend an eternal account, or that we can make deposits into it with our giving, but that is actually what Paul was excited about. He was really saying, “When you give what is temporal, you multiply what is eternal.” The true value received was an increase in their kingdom account, which incidentally, yields dividends in this life as well.
In the next verse, Paul notes that he received the gift, but also that it was “well pleasing to God.” So the gift that was given to Paul’s ministry was actually credited to the kingdom account of these people; treasure was being “stored up” in their account in heaven. It was a gift on earth, but an investment in a heavenly account.
Typically, having an account is essential to receive services at any financial institution today. It is interesting to note that the verse that most Christians quote about God supplying our needs, follows this reference to “the profit that is increasing to your account.” It seems the promise of supply (from heaven) is connected with having an account (by giving on earth). The promise of God meeting our needs “according to His riches” is connected to the account that Paul referenced, namely, the one that is accumulating there through giving here on earth. Our giving actually “opens” an eternal account. However, if you think about what Phil. 4:19 says, the supply we receive for our needs is not actually from our deposits (or gifts given to charitable work) but “according to His riches.” This is a little much to comphrend … we make deposits into our kingdom account by giving and the promise of our needs being met is not even withdrawal from that account, but comes “out of His wealth.” So when we give, we can truly have confidence in two important things:
- Our kingdom account is receiving deposits that will profit (eternal rewards)
- Our needs are promised to be met while we are on earth
I think that is a great return on investment!
I can remember learning about the bartering system where a fisherman might exchange some fish for vegetables, where both could receive what they needed from the other. This is, of course, the beginnings of money being used as a means of exchange for goods. What are you getting in exchange for money? The answer will be different for all of us since we all have different priorities and values.
Suppose you were given $10,000 to do with as you please. How would you use these funds? What drives your decision? It is important to realize that regardless of your choice, it is not wrong, it simply shows your priority.
The reasons may vary depending on your present circumstance in life. If your choice was to spend it, it could mean that you feel that pleasure is important at this time in your life. Maybe you have just had a major illness and a family vacation would be meaningful. Or maybe you would choose to pay down debt. It may be that what you owe is a burden and the relief from this stress would be more important than just spending it. How do you measure the return? In some cases, it can seem simple: if the rate of interest is 9% on your loan, then paying it off would mean a 9% return. What can be more difficult to calculate is the stress-relief gained by this reduction in debt.
When you think about getting the best return, maybe investing it is the best idea. If you save in Retirement Savings Plan, it could mean a tax refund, determined by your tax bracket, plus whatever it earns. In addition to these things, it can also offer a sense of security that you are preparing for your future.
There is another option … Did you think about giving it away? I know what you are likely thinking … “There is no return if I give it away, so why would I consider that as an option?” Consider this: When the people sent gifts to the Apostle Paul, he declared that his interest was not actually in the gift that he had received, but rather to “seek the profit that is increasing to your account.” The “profit” referenced here was because the people gave and the account was not what you might think. It was an eternal account, directly the result of the gift generously given to him here on earth. When you give what is temporal, you multiply what is eternal. So not only will you receive a tax savings for making a donation to a registered charity, but you receive a rate of return that is literally out of this world.
Let’s face it, we all want to make the most of our money and make good financial decisions. The return on investment will obviously vary depending on your choice and priority you set. Interestingly, the return on investment may have less to do with an interest rate and more to do with the choices we make.
So take a minute and tell me what you would do with the $10,000. Would you spend it, pay down debt, invest it or give it away? Why did you make that choice?
My great friend, Brad recently posted this comment regarding a youth event I had organized: “25 YEARS AGO…probably the first youth camp at which I taught in the mornings. I was 21. The investment in me back then set me on course for where I am today. Thanks Lorne.” Wow, reading this makes me realize that you should never underestimate the impact you can have on a person’s life, at times without even realizing it.
The impact of holding a Christian Music Festival in Newfoundland was far reaching and maybe only eternity will reveal its true significance.
At that time, I felt like I was living two separate lives; one where I was starting my career in the financial services industry, the other referenced above, was more ministry focused. My goal was always to do my best to fulfill “the call” and purpose in life. Believe me, I thought much about “the call” to be a pastor, and many who have heard me speak have said, “You missed your calling” (because I am not a pastor now). Consider this: a calling is more about who we are to become rather than a particular job we do. Allow me to explain: I always considered 2 Timothy 4:2, “preach the word, be ready in season and out” as “my call.” Naturally, that meant becoming a pastor/preacher. However, it is important to consider the phrases that follow: endure hardship and fulfill your ministry. So during those years, I, in fact, endured difficult challenges and actually fulfilled my ministry by proclaiming biblical principles when in my office or a client’s home without even realizing it many times. My job title (financial planner) did not limit my ability to fulfill my call but actually created different opportunities that I otherwise would not have had.
Ken Boa writes, “Here’s one of the biggest paradoxes of the Christian faith … being is more important than doing and must precede it.” So the doing, (of our work in life) must flow out of our being (character). Don’t compartmentalize your life by separating who you are from what you do. When I viewed my life like this, I was most miserable.
It is always interesting to walk with someone on their journey in life. If you fast-forward to the present, I have now been able to merge my background as a financial advisor and ministry into my role as the National Director (Canada) for Kingdom Advisors. It is very exciting to find financial professionals who sense a call to the work they do everyday with their clients.
We are all on a journey toward significance. I could never have realized at the time that investing in Brad’s life would yield such dividends. He has since been instrumental in the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands, so the investment is worthwhile. It is important to realize that no matter what career you may be in, that sense of calling is key because it will help you seek out opportunities to invest in others and fulfill your ministry.
When I see a pen like this I can’t help but think about the unforgettable trip to the Newfoundland ferry with my youth group in the early 1990’s. I was a youth Pastor at the time and responsible for the youth in the 4 car convoy on the road that night en route to a youth conference in Nova Scotia. Until that night I had no idea how impactful the uniqueness of a Bic pen could be.
The lead car drove over a large chunk of ice that had fallen from a tractor trailer and the car was lifted with the impact. This resulted in a break in the fuel line, and gasoline started to pour from the severed line at an alarming rate. The fear of running out of gas was immediate as the gauge quickly moved toward empty. With little time to spare before the scheduled ferry crossing, sure enough, the car ran out of gas, but fortunately we were very near a service station.
The empty tank was no longer an issue because gas was now available at the station, but at that hour there was no mechanic to repair the leaking gas line. After analyzing the situation, the gas attendant took a Bic pen, removed the refill, and fastened this between the break in the gas line, allowing the gas to flow through, temporarily stopping the leak. Wow! This was definitely thinking outside the box. We made it to the ferry on time and made the permanent repair the next day after the overnight ferry crossing.
It is logical to assume that the purpose of the pen is to write, to have ink flow through it on to a document. We have all used a pen in this manner, maybe to sign a legal document or to write a letter.
There were several pens on the countertop that night; one was used for me to sign making payment for the gas and the temporary fix. Up to that point, the Bic pen was the same as any other that was in the service station, but on that night, this pen served a purpose that not one of us could have actually imagined. Ink is what flowed from the pen up to that point, but on that night gas flowed through it. The pen served the role of gas line temporarily, a completely unique function for a pen.
I realized something about purpose that night: What flows through you really defines you and determines your destiny. We are all made unique with a specific part to play in the lives of others. How important is it for you to fulfill what you were meant to do in this life? What is flowing through you that helps to bring you meaning?
Proverbs 19:21 speaks about purpose this way: You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.
The heart is most important when considering desires in life, what one may wish to become, or acquire. Have you ever had your heart set on something and there was almost no way to focus on anything else? Until of course time passes and your heart moves to the next craving. There is always something or someone vying for your heart; the list is almost endless: friends, the latest technological device, cars, even God is interested in your heart.
A person can be so “set in their ways” and difficult to change. This is usually spoken in a negative context because a person is unwilling to change. However, setting your heart is one of the most important things you can do because it creates a determination to overcome obstacles.
Here is a very quick example from my own experience: I have determined to pedal my bicycle 3500 kilometres this year (about the distance the Tour de France riders do in 3 weeks). Without setting my heart on that goal, there are times I would simply choose not to ride, like when it is windy, raining or cold. The reality is that once I set my heart, I commit to ride despite the conditions.
The fact is our hearts need to be directed because there are so many things to distract us. Whether the goal is financial, spiritual or health related, setting the heart creates a discipline that is necessary. What will we use as our compass to help us set our hearts properly? Biblical wisdom has been the best guide in my life. Consider just a few pieces of this wisdom:
-“If you direct your heart right (Job 11:13) … then you would rest securely” (v. 18). Our hearts can be directed.
-“Direct your hearts – He will deliver you” (1 Sam. 7:3). Obviously our hearts can shift, so we must intentionally direct or re-focus.
-“He did evil because he did not set his heart to seek God” (2 Chron. 12:4). Behaviour is usually negatively impacted when the heart is not set.
-If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them (Psalm 62:10). A financial increase can result in a shift in trust.
–Set your heart on things above, not on earthly things (Col 3:1). Here we see the importance of keeping an eternal perspective in this temporary life.
Think about setting your heart like calibrating an instrument. Why is calibration important? The accuracy of all measuring devices degrade over time. This happens because of normal use (wear & tear); sounds much like our lives doesn’t it? For an instrument to provide an accurate reading, calibration is necessary. If the goal is to be effective in life regular calibration of the heart is a necessity. Take time daily to direct your heart!
There is always something or someone vying for our hearts; the list seems endless: spouse, friends, the latest technological device, cars, even God. Think about the relationship with things (what money can buy) and how it can affect relationships with others (spouse particularly). The reality is that couples often avoid talking about money which can lead to a strained relationship. Why?
The issue of money is truly a heart matter that impacts other areas of your life. In my role as a financial advisor, I have come to realize the need of speaking to the heart of clients rather than just talking about rates of returns. The heart discussion involves talking about what motivates financial decisions. Many advisors are satisfied that a financial decision is made and avoid the deeper questions. Asking a question like, “Are husband and wife on the same page with the decision?” is necessary because it directly impacts the relationship.
The challenge is this: “The heart is a twisted thing, not to be searched out by man: who is able to have knowledge of it?” (Jer. 17:9 BBE). How can our hearts be known? David prayed: “Search me, O God, and know my heart” (Psalm. 139:23). He continues, “see if there be any wicked way in me” meaning any hurtful way or habit. Relate this to finances; it is very easy to create bad habits in spending because the heart is attracted to so many things. The term “wicked way” can also be translated idol. Mankind can easily establish an idol without even recognizing it, which is the reason for David’s prayer. His prayer was “see if there be?” Clearly he was uncertain about his own heart. How can we know our own hearts then, especially as it relates to money? Who is qualified to help?
“The word of God is alive and powerful … It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Heb. 4:12 NLT). This is the reason it is important for financial professionals and counsellors to incorporate biblical wisdom into their advice; because it reveals what is in the heart.
“A plan in the heart of a man is like deep waters …” (Prov. 20:5a NASB). The innermost thoughts and desires can be difficult to explore. This verse goes on to say “… but those with understanding can draw it out” (v. 5b NCV). In other words, we need to be people who do not lean on our own understanding, who will help search for what may be hidden in hearts, and what motivates our decisions. The entrance of biblical truth is the light that exposes innermost thoughts and desires.
Are you an advisor with understanding that can help clients accomplish their financial goals? Are you willing to help search out the deep waters? Have you become a person of understanding in your work and personal relationships? Are others seeking you out because they desire to have deeper conversations?
MANDY BUJOLD, IN RED, WAS COMPETING IN HER FIRST OLYMPICS AND WAS HOSPITALIZED THE NIGH BEFORE HER QUARTER-FINAL BOUT. (CHRISTIAN PETERSEN/AFP-GETTY IMAGES)
As I have had occasion to tune into some of the olympic coverage, I was struck by a story that many may have missed or overlooked. Boxer Mandy Bujold had a disappointing finish to the Rio Olympics after she lost her bout on points. On CBC’s coverage, Clara Hughes helped by adding some perspective to this story. Mandy had been sick and went straight from having an IV in her arm, as she lay in a hospital bed, to the venue for her event.
Clara Hughes said, “bringing all you have is what matters.”
‘I don’t do anything unless I do it 100 per cent,’ Bujold says.
So many athletes have the experience of participating in the olympics yet, fail to collect a medal, so Clara’s quote to bring your best is very significant. Clara cited her experience of cycling and finishing second last (in her first Olympics) but said that this experience “changed her.” Clara later earned medals in summer & winter Olympics so she knows the importance of bringing your best.
The reality is bringing all you have may vary depending on situations faced each day, some of which are beyond your control. Some may say winning is all that matters, but isn’t what you bring to the game just as or even more important? It is great to finish on the podium, but living your life everyday knowing you have given a 100% effort is truly rewarding. Isn’t being faithful and bringing all you have what matters most? Can you say the same for your everyday work has Bujold said?
“I don’t do anything unless I do it 100%”