Perspective

Stewards and children: Why it’s important to know we are both

Because of the present and unexpected global circumstances in which we now find ourselves, we are all simultaneously experiencing a transition. We can’t go back to where we were, and – at the same time – we have no idea what the future holds. 

By Patrick Johnson

This is a tough place to navigate, uncharted waters for all of us. It’s hard for faith leaders too.

Some church leaders have thrived in this environment. Others long to return to the way things were; it would be easier that way. But they’re beginning to realize the only “normal” that exists is the “new normal” that everyone is talking about but no one can define yet.

We are smack in the middle of a season of transition. 

They’re beginning to realize the only “normal” that exists is the “new normal” that everyone is talking about but no one can define yet.

It is normal, and even healthy, to lament true losses in a transition – the loss of the gatherings of God’s people, the programs, the preaching … and the income. But what if, after lamenting, we let God lead us toward truer discipleship through generosity. What if generosity could lead us toward a better “new normal?”

What is whole-life generosity?

Why generosity?

Generosity has a lot to do with how we see ourselves and how we see God. There is both freedom and that comfort we’re seeking in understanding our identity as children of a generous God. Three things are necessary if generosity is going to bring us new freedom through the crisis of a pandemic. One is certain; the other two depend on us:

  • A generous God
  • Generous disciples
  • A Generous church

I call this whole-life generosity.  

Scripture employs many different metaphors and images when speaking about generosity and giving, but traditional financial ministries focus almost exclusively on one – the steward. They emphasize God’s ownership of everything and identity as stewards of his property. This idea is solidly biblical and helpful too.

I wonder, though, if this metaphor is most popular because it fits with the business mindset and good management principles that have come to dominate contemporary much of our ministry culture. If we view the church as a factory, then the metaphor of managers makes perfect sense. 

But the church is not a factory; it’s a family.

Stewardship language is useful. It’s a reminder that everything belongs to God. And it teaches us how important it is that we manage well the things he has entrusted to us. But God isn’t just our manager. He is also our provider and our Father. The language of family that Jesus uses implies a much more intimate relationship than the stewardship parables do. And it calls us to become disciples and enter into a deeper relationship with him.

God isn’t just our manager. He is also our provider and our Father.

God cares for us, provides for us, ensures that we that we have all that we need (Luke 12:22-34; 2 Corinthians 9:8). He is our generous Father in heaven who provides for his children every good thing (James 1:17) and ensures us our daily bread (Matthew 6:11).

Viewing God as provider – and not just owner of all we have – fundamentally shifts how we view ourselves and our relationship to him. Rather than fearful stewards who must give an account for how we’ve managed God’s property, we can see ourselves as grateful recipients of God’s blessings, called to share everything with others. 

We are stewards, absolutely, but we are also sons – and daughters – of God. 

We must avoid the sterile owner-employee relationship the word “stewardship” may lead us to for the more intimate father-child relationship emphasized by Jesus himself (Luke 12:32). God is abundantly gracious, and he desires for us to be in relationship with him, so that we might experience his abundant grace and love.

Viewing God as provider – and not just owner of all we have – fundamentally shifts how we view ourselves and our relationship to him.

Don’t miss the opportunity to think on these things in this time of transition. Perhaps God is leading us all into a new era of true disciple-making, where generosity becomes a natural fruit of fully devoted followers of Jesus. A new era in which disciples of Jesus are confidently trusting in the generous character of God and breaking free from enslavement to our own surplus. A new era in which whole churches become communities of flourishing generosity, full of love for our local and global neighbors. 

Do we really want to go back to the way things were if what lies ahead is better, marked by deeper relationship and new freedom? Seeing ourselves as both stewards of God’s incredible gifts and also his beloved children is seeing ourselves as Jesus saw us. It is ancient and authentic and will bring us closer to the radically generous Rabbi from Nazareth and the generous Father who sent this most precious gift to earth for us.

Want to go deeper in Whole-Life Generosity? Download the e-book Generosity Reset at https://www.generouschurch.com/reset.

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