We are looking at six aspects of transformation as part of the Christian walk with Christ. Our fifth component emanates from the depths of our souls. The process of transformation is a journey of joy because it is a journey with Christ. Here is where the imperatives of freedom, liberation from the bondage of sin, joyous response and an optimistic and hopeful view of the future emerge as the fruit of our transformation. There is no greater freedom available to humankind than the freedom as a faithful steward. For this reason our transformation must result in doxology, or it is not the transformation of the Holy Spirit.
We might say that there is a “legal stewardship” and an “evangelical stewardship.” By “legal stewardship” we mean that dogmatic, transactional command to give ten percent of our excess to buy our peace of mind. It is an acquiescence to our two-kingdom worldview lived out in guilt- inducing stewardship programs and high pressure fundraising techniques. It is a money-focused, manipulation-based approach that says in short, “God has been good to you, so you better do what’s right and give some back or else.” It demands a change of bank balance but not of heart. It uses tax incentives, ‘naming opportunities’ and the alleviation of guilt to conjure up a giving response. In this way stewardship remains solely associated with money. And as such it is tacked on to the work of the church like a necessary evil. Pastors hate to preach on it and congregants hate to hear about it. It is done apologetically and it seldom if ever results in a truly joyful act of giving. In so many ways “legal stewardship” has crippled the church and fostered the myriad of misconceptions about money, tithing and transformation.
“Evangelical stewardship” (from the Greek word evangelion or good news) is the stewardship of grace and generous, joyous response. It is compelled only by God’s gracious and extravagant acts toward us and for us—we are to be generous as Christ is generous. It is the exuberant ‘amen’ to God’s love and mercy to us. In this way, every act of the godly steward is an act of worship. Our whole lives are to be a joyous response to God’s grace, and certainly no less our vocation as godly stewards. Commenting on the Great Collection in II Corinthians, Jouette Bassler concludes that for Paul, “Giving to others thus glorifies God (v. 13) and an act of charity is thereby transformed into an act of worship.”[i] We must hold together the act of worship and the act of stewardship. When we give our lives, all of our lives, back to God, we are worshipping our Creator and following the commands of His Son by the power of the Spirit. Our worship is Trinitarian in nature, and so is our stewardship. We worship the Father, in the name of the Son by the power of the Spirit. Likewise we are empowered by the Spirit to give our entire lives back to God in and through the atoning work of the Son.
If our stewardship is worship, does it not make sense that our work of stewardship is ministry? Does it not follow that Christian fundraisers are involved in ministry as they promote godly stewardship among God’s people? Does it not follow that stewardship should be part of every worship service every Sunday? Would it not be true that raising up godly stewards is a core calling of church and para-church organizations? And should not we be just as concerned about the stewardship faithfulness of our congregants and Christian neighbors and colleagues as their faithfulness in discipleship, personal devotion and Christian service?
When we see stewardship as worship empowered by our ongoing transformation in Christ we take a major step forward in putting the call of the godly steward back where it belongs, at the center of the Christian life. Randy Alcorn states it clearly, “Stewardship isn’t a subcategory of the Christian life. Stewardship is the Christian life.”[ii]
This blog is excerpted from the upcoming book, The Calling to Christian Leadership: Foundations and Practices, Edited by John S. (Jack) Burns, John R. Shoup, and Donald C. Simmons, Jr. Submitted for publication in 2014.