As I explained in my previous blog (Back to Basics: What God is Teaching Me about Stewardship), I’ve lead a life piled high with responsibilities that I didn’t necessarily choose and God didn’t ordain. For years, I have felt as though I could barely manage what was on my plate. On top of being a wife and a homeschooling mom of three, I’ve been in church leadership for years, my husband and I were managing an apartment complex, and we have taken on family burdens that weren’t ours to carry. Not only did I feel unqualified for many of these responsibilities, it seemed like I had no one to come alongside me and guide me through them.
During this current season of my life, God has been bringing me back to the basics of what I am responsible for. What I know at this point is that He’s first given me authority over myself, which includes my relationship with Him. After that, He’s given me responsibility for my marriage, my children, and my home. By bringing my family to a new city and removing the extra burdens that I carried, God is showing me how to steward well what He considers of utmost importance.
The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) illustrates the results of stewarding well and stewarding poorly. The master entrusted a certain amount of money to three servants. Two servants invested their talents and doubled their amount. They were praised by their master and given much more to steward. The third servant buried his talent out of fear and returned it to his master with no added value. The servant was scolded by the master and his talent taken and given to a servant who had increased what was given to him.
In this blog, I will be answering the following questions: Why is stewardship important? What has God given us authority over? Lastly, what are the results of stewarding well and stewarding poorly?
Stewardship of Our Bodies
Our bodies are the first gift we ever received. If we steward our bodies well through exercising, eating well, and resting, our quality of life will improve, we will be stronger and more capable of accomplishing physical tasks (such as parenting), and we will live longer to enjoy the generations beyond us.
If we do not steward our bodies well, our health will suffer. The parable of the talents explains that when we bury our gifts, even what we have (our health) will be taken from us. We will be tired and lethargic. We will increase our risk of disease. We will most likely cut our years short. Our quality of life will decrease.
Do you see how the parable of the talents relates? In other words, taking responsibility leads to increased blessing and freedom, while neglect leads to bondage. In terms of health, your own body that was given as a blessing will now become a curse. Yet when we invest into our health, the increase that we experience will enable us to give more out of our abundance.
Stewardship of our Emotions
What happens when we neglect our emotions and fail to take responsibility for how we’re feeling? We actually empower others by blaming them when we feel bad or uncomfortable. For example, if a friend is unable to meet up for coffee, you can either blame her for creating feelings of rejection (“She made me feel bad!”) or you can own up to your feelings and take responsibility for stewarding them.
You can take these difficult emotions to God and, if you feel it’s necessary, you can be honest with your friend about how you feel about the situation. You can let your friend know, “I felt rejected when you couldn’t meet up with me.” Instead of acting defensively toward your friend, you’re giving her truth about what’s going on inside of you and also giving her the opportunity to respond to you. She can then choose to meet up with you anyway, she can maintain her previous engagement while empathizing with your feelings, or she can just move on.
The stewardship of your emotions gives the people around you more freedom to respond in love. Plus, it gives others insight into your heart when you are honest in communicating your feelings. It’s difficult and very vulnerable, but it produces trust and intimacy within relationships.
It’s interesting to see that even our emotions can be taken from us (either through blame or being out of control emotionally) when we ignore what’s going on inside our hearts.
Stewardship of Relationships
Marriage is definitely a relationship we need to steward, but before we go further, I want to note that it undoubtedly takes both within the marriage to make it work. You can put in tons of effort, but if your spouse neglects the marriage, it will fail. This is one of the most difficult aspects of marriage—it takes two people giving continually.
No matter how good or bad our marriage is, we need to continually and regularly invest into it through spending time with our spouses, reaching out in love, going to marriage courses and seeking counseling, opening up and being honest, listening to one another’s needs, etc.
When we cultivate the love in our marriages, we see the fruit of joy, peace in being in one another’s presence, better sex that is less of a duty and more out of overflow, and increased love. What we cultivate into our marriage actually increases and multiplies! Say, isn’t that what the parable is referring to?
Now, I’ve seen it the other way around time and time again where a married couple fails to steward their marriage properly. Perhaps one person has failed to steward his relationship with God and has now become more of a vacuum than someone who can genuinely and freely love. Perhaps life has become busy and things like kids, jobs, and other responsibilities have gotten in the way. Now there is no time or energy left to give to the marriage relationship.
Whatever the reason for marital neglect, the law of stewardship will still affect you. The “talents” God has given you to steward will not increase; they will actually be lost over time. Even if you don’t go through with divorce, the intimacy you may have once shared will be replaced with cheap cohabitation.
Marriage is one of the most important gifts that God has given us. If we steward it well, it will be a healthy source of life to you, your spouse, your kids, and the people in your life.
Setting Our Priorities
There are so many more areas in which the parable of the talents can be applied—our parenting, our jobs, our ministry, our homes, our possessions, our money, our talents, and, of course, our ongoing responsibility to love others. We are even responsible for stewarding the testimony of God in our lives and remembering His good works so that we can share with others the good news. The tricky part in all of this is getting our priorities straight.
When we prioritize our relationship with God, our other responsibilities will come into proper alignment. Our relationship with God is part of stewarding ourselves, so we have to get used to the idea that we are valuable and that God sees us as worthy of being in relationship with Him.
In fact, He went through the greatest of lengths to make this relationship possible through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. God loves and values us that much! We ought to believe Him when He tells us how valuable we are.
I believe this relationship will set our priorities straight because that’s what I began to experience when I prioritized my time with God. He is my Life Source. He is the nutrient-rich soil and ever-flowing water that nourishes my roots. Without Him, I can do nothing. I will bear no fruit and will even lack the capacity to care for myself.
There is a concern among Christians that if we steal away with God, we will neglect other important responsibilities and relationships. On the contrary, it’s through putting God first that your relationships will benefit. If there are a few responsibilities and relationships that seem to fall by the wayside as you begin cultivating your relationship with God and allowing Him to set new priorities, they will most likely be things that God did not desire for your life—burdens not meant for you to carry, relationships that were negative and draining, etc.
In a way, our investment into our relationship with God is like our tithe, our “first fruits” to God. When we tithe our time, energy, and affection to Him first, He is faithful to multiply what we have offered to Him. But if we neglect our first priority, we will constantly be running on empty with never enough time in the day. Remember that one of the fruits of the Spirit is PEACE!
Once you have prioritized your relationship with God, begin to take notice of what God has given you authority over. If you don’t know, ask Him! How terrible it would be to neglect something we don’t realize we have authority over!
I actually went through a season in my life where I had to learn proper boundaries for the purpose of rediscovering the authority that I had in my life. Because of my fear of man, I had basically allowed others to bulldoze me and usurp my authority. To please others, I had allowed them to tell me how to parent and how to run my household. I neglected my own needs and desires so that I could appear selfless and loving to others, while secretly stewing in resentment.
When I began seeking God and getting healing in my life, He taught me about having boundaries and regaining my rightful authority over the responsibilities He had given me. For more on boundaries, I recommend the Boundaries series by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. I also talk about boundaries in God’s Boundaries and Are Boundaries Unloving?
An Abundant Life
If you want to experience abundance, begin applying the parable of the talents to the different areas of your life. In relationships and responsibilities that you want to experience growth and increase, begin sowing into them. Ask God if there’s anything you need to pull away from or give up entirely. See if there are times you need to say “no” in order to say a resounding “yes!” to areas of greater importance.
For example, to begin stewarding your marriage properly, you may need to say no to ministry for a while. People will most likely be upset with your decision and it will be difficult to let go of the part of your reputation that prided itself on being involved in the church and helping others, but this sacrifice will be much more beneficial and enduring in the end.
Pray that God helps you to reorganize any priorities that are out of whack. He is so faithful to answer and give wisdom to all who ask. He has promised us life and life abundant. God desires us to succeed and continue in love and good deeds. And just like in the parable, He desires to multiply what He has given us authority over.
Stewardship is not just a good idea; it’s a spiritual law that will affect you whether you live by it or ignore it. Everything we have is a gift from God. Recognize these gifts. Cherish them and steward them well.