Christian stewardship involves all aspects of the well-rounded life. It forms the central principles out of which all behavior should be rooted.
There are three sides of stewardship:
1. Our body. In the secular world most people regard their bodies as their own property. They believe they have total say over what happens to it. This applies not only to vast numbers of women who claim that they should be free to decide whether or not they will have an abortion but also to all who feel they have the right to harm their bodies by the use of illegal substances or by eating large quantities of junk food or by having sexual relationships with as many partners as they choose.
In stark contrast, 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 says clearly, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”1
The immediate context indicates that the apostle Paul was, in particular, referring to the abuse of our body through sexual immorality. Unfortunately, this is as relevant today in many parts of the world as it was in ancient Corinth, a city known for its perversities.
But the basic idea is that we should not “sin against our body,” because we are not our own. First, we have been created by God through Jesus Christ. He is our Maker, and we therefore are responsible to Him for all we do. Furthermore, He is our Redeemer, the One who has bought us “at a price.”
Stewardship of our bodies implies taking good care of our health too. It has to do not only with healthful nutrition, but also with adequate rest and exercise. And there can be no question of using substances that are addictive or otherwise harmful.
There is ever the need for balance.
2. Our time. There is a plethora of books and courses on the subject of time management. They have helped millions of people make better use of their time. Many Christians would do well to read some of these books or attend a good seminar. But there are aspects to a Christian use of time that one will learn only by reading the Bible and, in particular, by studying the life of Jesus.
What do we learn from the Gospels about Jesus’ use of His time? What are some of the elements to be noted, apart from His busy schedule of preaching and healing? Here are a few examples:
- “Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people” (Matt. 4:23).
- Now as soon as they had come out of the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon's wife's mother lay sick with a fever, and they told [Jesus] about her at once. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them” (Mark 1:29-31).
- “In the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, [Jesus] went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed” (Mark 1:35).
- “Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest’ ” (Mark 6:31, NIV).
- “[Jesus] came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read” (Luke 4:16).
- “On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding” (John 2:1, NIV).
- “There they made [Jesus] a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him” (John 12:2).
In today’s stressful world, the example of Jesus is as refreshing as it is worth imitating. Jesus worked hard and was fully committed to His mission. But He made sure that He did not miss the blessings of the Sabbath (and He sometimes worked at church too.) The Gospels make it abundantly clear that He had time for His Father, for His friends, for relaxation, and for a good meal. He also took time off, and encouraged His disciples to do the same.
The most startling evidence of Jesus’ stewardship of Himself and His time, though, is not to be found directly in the Bible, but in the studies of those who have attempted to make a chronology of Jesus’ ministry. He took sabbaticals out of that brief, three-and-a-half year time!
A close reading of the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, comparing the commentary on page 198, the map on page 221, and the timeline on p. 231, suggests a “retirement from public ministry” that may have lasted all the way from the Passover to the following autumn, His last celebration of the autumn feasts (and even then, He traveled secretly; see John 7:2-13). This is not to say that He spent the whole time relaxing on a beach. There were still miracles, mostly among Gentiles. People always found out when Jesus was near and always made demands on Him—and He usually (not always, Mark 1:37-39) couldn’t resist fulfilling their requests, especially when they came to Him in faith, as the Syrophoenician woman did.
Since we know that Jesus spent a large part of His time in direct communication with His Father through prayer, we may be assured that His breaks occurred at times when God thought He needed them. This type of time management (or rather, time stewardship) will prove a blessing for all who practice it.
3. Our material possessions. Here are some important facts about the relationship between our faith experience and our material possessions:
Fact number one: Everything begins with God. God owns everything. And He gives us the strength to work and make a living. Those who say, “It is all my own hard work” forget a vital truth, which is that it was God alone who enabled them to earn what they did.
Fact number two: God takes first place in all we have and do, including our use of money. Before you spend any part of your money, make sure you have set aside your tithes and offerings. Then spend the rest responsibly, always aware that stewardship extends to the use of whatever money you have been entrusted with.
Fact number three: God expects His people to return to Him at least 10 percent of their increase. This was the principle in the Old Testament, and it has never been rescinded. In Old Testament times the tithes were received by the priests and used for the support of the sanctuary services. Likewise, today our tithes are received and used for financing the worldwide gospel commission that God has entrusted to His church.Fact number four: The more we give, the more we are blessed. Try it, and you’ll see for yourself the truth of the words that “ ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ ” (Acts 20:35, NIV). Don’t, however, get the idea, often claimed by some, that these blessings are necessarily temporal or financial! If we look at giving tithes and offerings as a get-rich-quick scheme, our problems are far deeper than a stewardship issue.2