The Ultimate Guide

Stewardship: A Key Ingredient

Charles Spurgeon said, “Many people will always be poor because they never give to the cause of God.”

There’s the type of poverty bank accounts show, and then there’s the type of poverty everyday life reveals—a lack of spiritual fruit, a continuous search for rest, and a feeling of unfulfillment. Biblical stewardship is often overlooked and misunderstood, but it’s a key ingredient to the opposite: a spiritually rich life.

Keep reading to find out what stewardship really is—and how you can start stewarding life today.
Feel free to skip around to the sections that interest you most. Otherwise, read along from the top to learn more about effective stewardship practices.

What is stewardship?

The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary says stewardship is “responsibility to manage all the resources of life for the glory of God, acknowledging God as provider.”

So a good steward does these two simple—but life-changing—things:
  1. Sees everything as God’s
  2. Uses all resources for God’s glory

Here’s a further journey into the definition of biblical stewardship, from Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary:

  • God is owner and provider of all that any of us possess. Since all belongs to him, it is incumbent that all be used for his purposes and glory. . . . Whether financial resources, real property, other valuable items, time, influence, or opportunity, the believer is to seek the mind and will of God for every decision.
  • God not only expects that we return a portion of what he gives us as tithes and offerings, he expects for all that we have to be used in ways which please and honor him. He expects that we, regardless of vocation, will exercise responsible stewardship, on his behalf, of every day that we live.

Stewardship is living for God instead of ourselves.

What are the benefits of stewardship?

You can tell people they should be wise stewards all you want—almost no one would disagree with you. But in all the busyness of modern life, we often forget why stewardship is important and the kingdom difference it makes.

  • Stewardship allows us to live out God’s design.

    Most of us spend months, years, or even decades wondering, “What’s my purpose?” When we practice effective stewardship, we’re already living out part of that purpose.

  • Stewardship blesses others.

    Stewardship unlocks blessings—for ourselves and for others. Acts 20:35 says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” And here’s a powerful tie between stewardship and blessings, from the Faithlife Study Bible: “The Old Testament portrays human stewardship as a primary channel for God’s blessing on the world.”

    Through stewardship, we can bless the world.

  • Stewardship corrects our focus.

    Stewardship also puts our treasure and our hearts right where they belong. Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:19–21).

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3 common myths about stewardship

Myth 1: Stewardship is only about money.

Stewardship is a much bigger responsibility than most Christians realize. It can’t be about money alone because stewardship was instituted long before money was even invented. D. W. Jones explains in Every Good Thing: An Introduction to the Material World and the Common Good for Christians: “As Genesis 1–2 reveals, the earth was not designed to function properly apart from human care. God made the earth to be stewarded by humanity.”

The Christian’s responsibility to be a good steward today can be compared to the responsibility placed upon stewards in the New Testament. The Lexham Theological Wordbook describes the steward as “a household servant who managed the household affairs for the head of the family. . . . Managing the family involved delegation, discipline, encouragement, and, most important, accountability to the head of the household.”

If a steward only took care of finances and let everything else fall by the wayside, he wasn’t doing his job—or serving his employer.

Myth 2: Stewardship is the same as giving.

Giving is undoubtedly a part of being a good steward—but it’s only a part.

It’s understandable why we get confused, though.

Professor Keith Reeves says in the course Wealth and Stewardship in the Bible: A Practical Guide: “In churches today, a divorce between stewardship and economics often occurs. Economics and wealth creation are often left to the world of business, while stewardship is often relegated to the church, where the term denotes tithing or giving to missions.”

Stewardship is also about wise use of what the Lord has given us. For an illustration, turn to the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14–30). In this story, an affluent man leaves for a journey and entrusts his wealth to three of his servants in his absence. Each of the servants was given a different amount of wealth to steward, with two servants investing their wealth and returning to the man double what they had been given upon his return. These men are praised for their effective stewardship practices, while the third man is shamed for his poor money management skills.

The Holman New Testament Commentary on Matthew explains its powerful truth:

  • Every Christian is entrusted with some responsibility for the kingdom. Some will take this seriously and invest their lives wisely, and others will squander this responsibility. The part of the kingdom entrusted to each of us is precious to the Lord. He is hurt by the mishandling of a lifetime of opportunity; but he rejoices over a lifetime well spent. He has placed in our hands what is his own. This is a sobering thought—to be stewards of kingdom resources. . . .
  • The Lord knows us, and he knows the full potential of each person for serving the kingdom. He designed that potential into each of us when he created us. No one is entrusted with more than he can handle, but neither is he entrusted with less than he can handle.
  • The person entrusted with little will be required to do all he can with the little he has been given. All of us are to live up to our full potential, by God’s strength, with his wisdom, for his kingdom. This stewardship is comprehensive. It includes time, talents, spiritual gifts, energies, personality, experiences, attitudes, and material resources.

Myth 3: Stewardship is a thing you do, not a way of life.

Stewardship isn’t a box to be checked or an event to be planned, like paying tithe or donating extra funds to a missionary. It’s a filter for our everyday choices and priorities—for how we spend our time, what we do with our money, and how we use our talents. It changes our perspective and our actions.

As C. S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, “It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”

When done correctly, effective biblical stewardship should affect every aspect of our daily lives.
This principle invalidates all of our 'if onlys,' such as 'If only I made more money, I’d help the poor,' or 'If only I had a million dollars, then I’d give it to my church or missions.' If I’m dishonest or selfish in my use of a few dollars, I would be dishonest or selfish in my use of a million dollars. The issue is not what I would do with a million dollars if I had it but what I am doing with the hundred thousand, ten thousand, or ten dollars I do have.
—Randy Alcorn, Managing God’s Money: A Biblical Guide

What the Bible says about stewardship and giving

In Managing God’s Money: A Biblical Guide, Randy Alcorn points out something startling {emphasis added}:
  • Thousands of verses of Scripture talk directly or indirectly about money and possessions and how God’s people should use them. The sheer enormity of the Bible’s teaching on this subject screams for our attention. Why did Jesus say more about how we are to view and handle money and possessions than about any other topic—including both heaven and hell, and prayer and faith? Because God wants us to recognize the powerful relationship between our true spiritual condition and our attitude and actions concerning money and possessions.

Here are some of the most clear-cut and powerful passages on the subject:

Luke 12:48

Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

1 Peter 4:10–11

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Psalm 24:1

The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.

1 Chronicles 29:14

But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.

1 Timothy 6:10

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Matthew 6:24

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

How to be a good steward: practical steps

Being a steward is all about being faithful with what you have—no matter how much or how little you have. Here are some incredibly practical tips to help you make good stewardship part of your everyday life.

  • Practice gratitude

    Embrace the truth that everything is God’s, and everything we have is a gift from him (James 1:17). Continually thank him for his provision, and look for ways to model gratitude in other areas of life. After all, we often receive from people around us—our coworkers, family and friends, even mail deliverers and people working checkout counters. The more we express gratitude in our everyday, the more gratitude becomes a way of life.

  • Look for opportunities

    Since stewardship is shown by how we spend our time, talents, influence, etc., look for ways to use them for the Lord. For example, if you’re gifted with numbers, can you volunteer for your church’s finance team? If you’re a pro at organization, can you be the driver behind outreach events? If you’re a parent, how can you rear your children to know, love, and serve the Lord?

  • Pray

    Acknowledge the Lord’s provision every day, and ask the Lord to use you. Here are a few relevant prayers to help guide you in personal or corporate prayer. You could echo the heartfelt words of nineteenth-century pastor Peter Ainslie in this prayer (All I Have Belongs to You) collected in 400 Prayers for Preachers:
    • Blessed Father, you are above all in gifts, and out of your giving you have taught me the way to a fuller identification of myself with you. Not only your gift of Jesus and your gift of the Spirit, but every day your gifts are about me like manna in the wilderness. All I have belongs to you, and of my money I am only a trustee. Command its use as shall please you and give me the experience of the giver’s joy. Let me see clearly the sin of covetousness and deepen my hatred of its practice. In the name of your unspeakable Gift be praise and dominion forever. Amen.

    Or use these prayers from John Piper’s sermon “All of Life as Worship” as a starting point for your own:
    • O God, there is nothing that I want more than to approve what is most worthy, and value what is most valuable, and treasure what is most precious and admire what is most beautiful and hate what is most evil and abhor what is most ugly. I reckon myself dead to all that is unspiritual and worldly and deadening to my soul. Renew me, O my God. Awaken spiritual capacities of right assessment. . . .
    • And take me, body and soul, and make me the instrument of your glory in the world. Let the renewal you are working from within show on the outside. This is my spiritual worship. To show the world that you are my all-satisfying treasure.

    Regardless of the specific words you use, the purpose is to submit your will to God’s and acknowledge that you would like to be a good steward of his belongings on Earth. Asking for God’s help in this new step can go a long way.

  • Evaluate

    Note how you spend your time, money, and other resources. When you start paying attention, you may find that your priorities and your actions aren’t lining up. For example, you might fill out a daily calendar or planbook to better visualize where your free time is going, or take a closer look at your bank statements to track your financials.

  • Follow biblical guidelines for giving

    Since giving is an undeniable part of stewardship, a few guidelines from the BIble can help us make sure we’re “doing it right.”

    ESV Study Bible Notes contributors compiled these 5 characteristics of biblical giving. Biblical giving is:

    • Willing and cheerful: "Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly, or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Cor 9:7; cf. 8:2–3)".

    • A regular pattern of life: "On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up’ (1 Cor 16:2)".

    • Proportionate to one’s ability: "Each of you is to put aside something and store it up, as he may prosper’ (1 Cor 16:2)".

    • Generous: "In a severe test of affliction, [the Macedonians’] abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave . . . beyond their means’ (2 Cor 8:2–3; cf. Prov 14:21, 31; 19:17, 2 Cor 9:6, 1 Tim 6:18)".

    • Sacrificial: "The poor widow with “two small copper coins” is commanded by Jesus for putting into the offering “everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:42–44; cf. Acts 4:32–33; 2 Cor 8:3)".

    What does generous, sacrificial giving look like? C. S. Lewis gives an idea in Mere Christianity:

    • I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charities expenditure excludes them.

  • Set goals

    It’s impossible to reach a goal you don’t set. How much time will you spend in ministry, in prayer, and in Scriptures? How much money do you want to give back to God?

    Good intentions are easy to get lost in the everyday shuffle of responsibilities and burdens. Take the first step—set giving goals.

    You can do it on paper, or you can use a giving calculator (like this free one from Faithlife). As you set goals for generous giving, prayerfully consider things like this:

    • What percentage do you want to give?
    • Will that be before or after taxes?
    • How often do you want to give?

    When you set goals like these ahead of time, you’ll be more likely to continuously follow through as stewardship becomes a significant aspect of your living for God. Since the best decisions about giving come from a heart of worship and a conviction connected to the Word, it’s helpful to have easy access to Bible passages about stewardship and other resources (like this page) as you set goals and seek to maintain a biblical perspective.

Tools & technology to encourage stewardship

Flexible church giving methods

The easier it is to give, the fewer barriers keep you from practicing stewardship like you intend.

For example, when you can give from your phone when the pastor mentions a missionary’s need in the service, that won’t get buried at the bottom of a to-do list or lost in the back of your mind over Sunday lunch. When you hear about a need on Tuesday afternoon, the ability to give right then—from the kitchen table or the line at the grocery store—keeps distractions from getting in the way.

Church online giving methods run from very basic (such as the ability to give from a desktop computer) to more advanced functionality, where you can:

  • Set up automatic giving
  • Text to give from a mobile device
  • Easily keep track of all your giving
  • Choose to pay any fees associated with online giving
  • See your church's updates on giving campaigns (like building projects)

And here’s something to think about if your church isn’t yet offering online giving. Not only is online giving easy for you (the giver), it’s easy for your church, too—thanks to features like these:
  • Simpler, faster record-keeping
  • Data security and giving confidentiality
  • Fewer trips to the bank with check scanning
  • Faster processing—and less germy cash
  • Low transaction fees and subscription options to fit your church

Giving goal calculator

Of course you can calculate your giving goals on a regular calculator or on paper like mentioned above. However, an online giving calculator inside your church’s online giving platform does double duty. With just a couple of clicks, you can set your giving goals and see your progress each week, month, and year.

Instantly spot whether you’re on track, determine whether you accidentally missed making a gift, and compare your giving averages.

It’s often said, “Out of sight is out of mind.” An online giving goal calculator helps keep giving in sight—and top of mind.

Automatic giving statements

Giving statements show you contributions at a glance. They’re another way to see where you’re at with giving (and, of course, they’re very helpful at tax time).

Automatic giving statements mean your church will be able to communicate how your generosity is helping to accomplish your church’s mission—without staff needing to spend multiple hours compiling them one or more times per year. It’s one way they can steward their time!

Recurring giving

You could set calendar reminders to give 12+ times a year—or you could just set up recurring giving. Choose the frequency, amount, and fund your gifts will go to (e.g., missions), then you’re set: no worrying about whether you forgot to give.

Recurring giving is flexible, too. You can adjust your amounts and frequency anytime.


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