We know that a biblical perspective on our finances is based in the awareness that God is the ultimate owner of everything and has entrusted resources to us to steward, or manage, for Him. Our job, then, is to be faithful stewards.
It’s easy to talk about faithfulness and to assume we are faithful just because we have the desire to be. But what does faithful stewardship look like in terms of our day-to-day lives?
Over the years, I have observed five habits consistently present in those who wisely handle finances.
1. Work diligently.
God blesses hard work. Throughout the Bible, especially in Proverbs, God commends diligence:
He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.—Proverbs 10:4
The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute.—Proverbs 12:24
The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.
The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.
Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.
Diligence is a character trait, not a gift. Although God has gifted some people with sharp business intuition or a natural ability to make wise investments, all of us can develop diligence.
2. Transfer ownership.
Making a conscious choice to acknowledge God as the owner of our material possessions reminds us that He is our generous provider.
When we mentally retain the ownership of our resources, we end up eternally bankrupt—if not financially bankrupt. The sooner we purposefully turn it all over to God and enlist ourselves as His stewards, the better.
3. Steward efficiently.
This is a two-sided discipline that requires both contentment and discernment.
On one hand, we recognize that being caught up in the proverbial competition with the Joneses or having our spending determined by our own insatiable appetites is not worth the price. The old adage “a penny saved is a penny earned” is true, but it can be lived only by those who possess the godly trait of contentment.
First Timothy 6:6–8 teaches, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”
Efficient stewardship requires that we learn to live within our means.
In addition to contentment, we need wise discernment in our budgeting. I’ve known people who were struggling to purchase groceries and pay their electric bill, all the while maintaining a cable television subscription. Sometimes we need to step back and evaluate our financial priorities.
4. Save regularly.
As I began my first job of mowing lawns, my parents insisted that I both tithe and save. With my payment from each job, I set aside 10 percent for the Lord and 10 percent for the bank. I’m thankful for learning early the discipline of saving, and I taught my children a similar principle when they were young.
Some Christians struggle with the idea of saving, because they feel that any unused money in a particular month should be given away. But Proverbs 11:16 says, “A gracious woman retaineth honour: and strong men retain riches.”
It is wise to retain—or to save—as long as you remember that your savings belongs to the Lord just as much as any other possession.
When Terrie and I moved our family to Lancaster, we emptied our savings account to fix up the dilapidated church building. I’m thankful we had previously saved so we had something to give. And I’m thankful we were willing to give it when we knew that was what God wanted. It was a well-spent investment that God has richly rewarded.
Maintain your savings account with an open hand, ready to use that blessing to honor the Lord in whatever way He directs you.
5. Give generously.
Just as diligence and contentment are disciplines, so is giving. Giving is not a matter of can or can’t, but of will or won’t. In other words, we will be faithful to give based on our willingness, not on our prosperity.
This is how the Christians Paul mentioned in 2 Corinthians 8:3 were able to give “beyond their power.” They were so willing, so desirous to have part in God’s work that they chose to give even at the point of extreme sacrifice.
Someone once said, “The more passionate our faith, the more consistent our giving.” Our willingness to give to the Lord is a tangible measure of our love for Him.
God sees far beyond the actual amount of a gift to the heart of the giver. It is our love that He desires—not our money. Second Corinthians 9:7 makes it clear: “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”
In God’s economy, giving to fund God’s work is our opportunity to invest in eternity and to express our love to the Lord.
George Mueller, a German missionary who opened orphanages in England, wrote, “Let us walk as stewards and not act as owners, keeping for ourselves the means with which the Lord has entrusted us. He has not blessed us that we may gratify our own carnal mind, but for the sake of using our money in His service and to His praise.”
In many ways, financial stewardship is baseline to every other area of stewardship. Speaking of finances, Luke 16:10–11 points out, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?”
Our faithfulness to honor God with our finances prepares our hearts to honor God in every other area.
This post is an excerpt adapted from chapter 9 of the book Stewarding Life: One Lifetime, Limited Resources, Eternal Priorities, available through Striving Together Publications.