The stewardship principle is not commonly included in a Christian's view of Christianity. That should be no surprise. How could people who do not understand the biblical concept of servants hold an accurate concept of stewardship? If Christians commonly fail to understand the concept of stewardship, how can the importance of the stewardship principle be recognized?
The stewardship principle reveals the Christian's common failure to grasp the basic, biblical concept of Christianity. While we affirm we understand the deep meaning of Christianity, our ignorance betrays us. Ignorance of Christianity's basic nature is revealed in our attitudes and behavior. Stated simply, if many Christians understood Christianity, their feelings and behavior would change.
This is the commonly believed, widely accepted concept of Christianity among too many Christians: God will give Christians eternal life when we successfully do one of the following. (1) "We are 'good enough' for God to love. God loves only people who are 'good enough' to receive His love. So we must dedicate our lives to 'being good.'" (2) "We do more 'good things' than 'evil things.' If our good things offset the evil things we do, God will save us." (3) "We successfully hide from God the 'evil things' we do. We do [did] too much evil to offset our evil with our good deeds. Our only realistic solution is to hide our evil from God." (4) "We successfully deceive God. We actually live two lives. We live by the principles of evil when we are not with Christians. We live by the principles of godliness when we are with Christians. When we successfully deceive other Christians, we also deceive God."
Incredibly, many professing to be Christians live by one (or a combination) of those views. They actually believe they can be good enough to be loved. Or, they think they can do more good than evil. Or, they think they can hide evil from God. Or, they think they can deceive God. Obviously, Christians who come to these conclusions fail to understand forgiveness, mercy, atonement, or grace. They do not understand the purpose of Jesus' death.
Note a basic, critical truth: in each of these approaches, the foundation problem exists because of attitudes and perspectives. The solution: change attitudes and perspectives. For attitudes and perspectives to change, hearts must change. Only a godly servant's heart produces the attitudes and perspectives of a godly steward.
Consider a contrast:
Review the scriptures that present the following characters. Contrast their attitudes and perspectives. Examine attitudes and perspectives by looking at their view of "life's big picture."
The rich fool (Luke 12:15-21): How did this man view "the big picture of human existence"? First, note God was not in his picture. Second, note he was the most important person in his picture. Third, note nothing but physical life is part of his picture.
The rich, young ruler (Mark 10:17-22): How did this man view "the big picture of human existence"? First, note God was in his picture if God was represented by rules and regulations. Second, note the young man was the central figure in his picture. Third, note life involved a separation of physical and spiritual realities. When combined, the physical was of greater significance and priority.
The prodigal son's older brother (Luke 15:25-32): How did this man view "the big picture of human existence"? First, note God was not in his picture. Second, note he was the central figure in his picture [he was to be considered before his brother and in spite of his father]. Third, note life was centered in the physical and in consideration for him.
The repentant prodigal son (Luke 15:11-24): How did this man view "the big picture of human existence"? First, note God was in the center of his picture (verses 18,21--"I have sinned against heaven and in your sight.") Second, note he was not the central figure in that picture. He asked to be a servant. He did not regard himself worthy of being a son. Third, note he acknowledged and accepted responsibility for his evil against heaven and in the sight of his father before he hoped for physical acceptance as a servant [under the control of his older brother].
The first Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 2:37-47): How did these people view "the big picture of human existence"? First, note God's revelation of Himself by making Jesus Lord and Christ was the whole picture. Human existence was about God's promises in Christ. Second, note they were in the picture only if they related to God through Christ. To them, this was a wonderful, joyful discovery. Third, note they expressed love and devotion to God by (1) understanding more about Jesus, (2) praising God, (3) fellowshipping each other, and (4) sacrificially, generously caring for needy people.
Attitude and perspective are essential in stewardship.
In Romans 1-11, Paul explained to Christians in Rome (1) God's intent to save all people (Jews and people who were not Jews) through Jesus Christ; (2) God's ability to save all people in Jesus Christ through His grace; (3) God's salvation by grace through Christ did not require anyone's exclusion. Christians in Rome had a huge attitude and perspective problem.
Beginning in Romans 12, Paul made clear how proper attitudes and perspectives would change relationships and behavior. Consider Romans 12:11-21. (1) Love would be genuine and unselfish. (2) Commitment to each other would be real. (3) Assisting others would be fundamental to a Christian's personal identity. (4) Christians would be a blessing, not a threat, to their enemies. (5) Christians would sincerely empathize with others. (6) Christians would establish real relationships with others. (7) Christians would refuse to treat others as they were treated. (8) Christians would be concerned about correct behavior in the sight of the evil and the godly. (9) Christians would regard vengeance as God's exclusive prerogative. (10) Christians would accept and live by this truth: the only human option for overcoming evil is doing good.
Again, note the obvious. Each of these behaviors depends on attitudes and perspectives. They occur only when a heart changes. They cannot occur in the life of a self-centered person, a hypocritical person, a person who lives by a double standard, or a person controlled by anger. These are the actions, attitudes, and perspectives of a steward. They are not the actions, attitudes, and perspectives of someone who is self-centered, or hypocritical, or deceitful, or angry.
This lifestyle cannot be faked. It is not the product of forced behavior. It is heart behavior that reflects an existence based on Jesus Christ. It does not reflect a mere religion.
Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 4, Lesson 5
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