When preachers talk about financial stewardship, their sermons almost inevitably lean toward tithing (i.e., giving money to the church). Being a good financial steward is much more than that, though. Stewardship is a worldview in which material gain is seen as a resource to honor the God-given responsibility of caring for your community and the world. It also can have several personal benefits.
It is easy to cling to the mindset that the money you earn at your job is yours to do with as you please. In some ways, this viewpoint makes sense. Of course, you should be paid a decent wage for the work you give up your time to do. Unfortunately, looking at earnings this way also makes it easy to fall into the traps of entitlement and selfishness if you're not careful. You may even find yourself thinking uncharitable thoughts about others who may not make as much as you do:
- "They are poor because they're lazy."
- "They must not manage money responsibly."
- "They don't deserve the things I deserve."
Alternatively, if you view your time, job and money as resources God has entrusted to you to steward, you are more likely to feel grateful for them rather than entitled to them. Since gratitude and judgment rarely coincide, it can also make you more compassionate to those less fortunate.
It's natural to make sure you have enough money to take care of all your family's needs and most of their wants before you look at the needs of others. Certainly, exhibiting virtues starts at home, and it's good to be generous with your family. If you often seem to run out of money before you are able to donate to your favorite causes, though, an adjustment of your financial philosophy and your budget may be a helpful step toward a broader practice of generosity.
Seeing the money in your bank account as a blessing from God naturally lends itself to looking for other people whom you can, in turn, bless with the abundance you've been given. If you are a member of a faith community, you may have to look no further than a fund your church has already set up to provide assistance to those in dire need. An organization with which you volunteer probably also welcomes financial donations. Find a way to discreetly leave an anonymous monetary gift for someone who is having a difficult time. Opportunities to make a big difference for what may seem like a small amount of money are numerous.
Managing money as a steward rather than owner is also a good way to ensure that you make more equitable choices. After all, if your boss puts you in charge of an expense account, you are likely to be careful that you not only get a good deal but also partner with reputable suppliers. Viewing money as a resource with which you are entrusted can inspire you to want to spend it wisely and ethically.
This doesn't mean you never get to have the joy of splurging. In fact, becoming mindful about how you steward money often feels better than shopping on autopilot. For example, it may be convenient to buy books online from a large corporation that perhaps doesn't treat its employees very well, but it's more fun to spend a Saturday afternoon browsing the local bookstore, supporting a small business owner who makes sure the employees get paid before taking a cut and puts aside books he or she knows your kids will love. Being a good steward reminds you to spend where the money is likely to do the most good.
Contrary to popular belief, stewardship isn't just about giving money to the church. It can change the whole way you view and spend money for the better.