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Thriving in Tough Times Part 4

April 10th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Living a Stewardship Lifestyle

“You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12:20)

Last week I promised I’d give you a 100% guaranteed way to achieve economic success. I’ve got to warn you in advance this is top secret stuff. Well … not really top secret, but it’s so rarely used it’s just as good as top secret. And the success strategy I’m about to give you comes highly recommended – right from the top. It’s pretty radical stuff, but it’s guaranteed for life. Got a pencil? Ready for it? Here you go:

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” (Luke 12:3 and Matthew 19:2)

“Sell everything you have and give to the poor.” (Luke 18:22)

“Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 2:45)

“From time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he has need.” (Acts 4:34)

Oh …

Not what you were expecting?

I know it’s not what you’re used to hearing from all those great ‘success’ seminars you’ve attended. Those guys usually side-step this particular strategy. But like I said, it comes highly recommended. Jesus gave this success talk a couple of times and he’s the King of kings and the ruler of the universe – can’t get much higher than that. And this strategy seemed to be standard operating procedure for Jesus’ first followers – you know, those folks in Acts who started the church.

And, I know, this particular success strategy has kind of fallen out of style in the last 1,800 years or so; but you’d think with Jesus recommending it and those first believers practicing it, the idea has to have at least a little validity. I wonder why people aren’t so keen to incorporate it into their financial planning anymore?

Maybe it’s because we like to own stuff. Owning stuff is neater than sharing and it gives us a real sense of accomplishment. I can keep score of how good I’m doing by tallying up the stuff I own. I also get a great sense of security from the stuff I own. That’s why I save for retirement – if I get enough stuff saved up now, everything will be hunky dory later. I’ll be able to sit back and relax; just me and my pile of stuff.

I remember a story about a guy who had made it big in agriculture – I mean big. He had so much stuff that his most pressing problem was where to keep it all. This guy actually had to tear down his old warehouses and build bigger warehouses to fit all of his stuff in. After the new warehouses were finished and all the stuff was inside he decided that he could finally relax. Unfortunately, the guy fell over dead the night after he finished filling his last warehouse.

Bummer.

That’s the tricky thing about stuff. You think it’s going to take away your worries about life and then you drop dead anyway. And then what happens to your stuff?

I went shopping at Sam’s Wholesale Club yesterday. That’s like Stuff Disneyworld. If you like stuff, Sam’s is your place. I always gravitate toward the book aisle – funny that. Anyway, I found a book titled, The Boomer Burden: Dealing with your Parents’ Lifetime Accumulation of Stuff. We’ve come a long way – from “sell your possessions and give to the poor” to the burden of “Dealing with your Parents’ Lifetime Accumulation of Stuff.” I guess the moral to this story is, “You can’t take it with you and your kids don’t want it either.”

So, my whacky success advice, “sell your possessions and give to the poor,” might not be so whacky after all, huh? But let’s not get ahead of ourselves; we’ll cover, “sell your possessions and give to the poor,” some day in the advanced success class. This is the beginner success class, so I’ll give you an easy one to get started with: “practice a stewardship lifestyle.” What that means in American is, “treat every asset (all your stuff, all your money, all your talent, all your time, all your etc.) as if someone else owns it and you’ve been hired to manage it and turn a profit.”

There’s a good reason for treating everything you have as if someone else owns it. Someone else owns it. The Bible is a book about stewardship – about taking care of something for Someone else. It’s been that way since the beginning. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15)

The Bible is full of stewardship stories. Here’s one of my favorites.

A rich man was going on a trip so he called his business managers together for instructions while he was gone. He gave his top manager $5,000, his middle manager $2,000 and a lower level manager $1,000. He told them to put the money to work while he was gone. The first two managers went to work right away; the third manager, a bit freaked out over the responsibility he had just been given, buried the money to keep it safe.

The rich man returned from his trip and called his managers together to find out what had become of his money. The first two managers reported that they had doubled their boss’s investment giving him back twice what he had originally given them.

The rich man was tickled over how well his two employees had done; he told them, “Look, the money I gave you guys was just a test to see how you would treat something I entrusted you with. The reason I left town was to make a deal for two new companies. You two have done so well and proven to me that I can trust you. I’d like each of you to run one of the new companies. And keep the money I gave you earlier as a signing bonus. It was never about that anyway.”

When the third manager showed up with just the original $1,000 he had been given, he said, “Look boss, I know you play hardball and you expect to profit from other people’s efforts. I kept your money safe and here it is.”

He was right about the boss playing hardball. “You wicked and lazy manager!” the boss yelled. “You could at least put my money in the bank to draw interest!” The boss called security, had the third manager thrown into the street, and gave his $1,000 to the first manager.

Here’s the point: What you think you own, you don’t. It’s entrusted to you to make a profit. You’re a manager of His assets – a steward. Being a steward and managing stuff is way better than being an owner. Here are few reasons why:

  1. Thinking you own anything anyway is just a delusion. A flood or a fire or an economic downturn could sweep it all away tomorrow. And if you manage to keep your stuff until your die, you’re still dead; your stuff doesn’t travel with you and your kids don’t want it.
  2. If you take ownership you also take responsibility for the outcome – who are you going to turn to after the flood, the fire or the economic downturn? You’re the big Kahuna, the owner, there’s nobody to look after you but you. If you’re a steward, you work for the Boss. He’s volunteered to make sure you get paid no matter what, as long as you’re working for him.
  3. You’re better at being a manager than you are at being an owner. You’ll do better with His assets than you’d do with your own – you were built that way. Besides, He’s going to hold you responsible for how well you’ve managed His assets – something to keep in mind.
  4. God created the universe according to His plan and purpose, being a steward of your little piece of that means that you’re on the same business plan as the rest of the universe. The whole company is pulling for you because you’re part of the same plan. That can be handy.
  5. God keeps his promises and has an awesome bonus plan. As long as you’re working for Him, He’s promised to meet your daily needs; food, drink, clothing, etc. If you turn a profit, He’s promised to add to it and put you in charge of even bigger things.
  6. As His steward you really can take it with you. The plan is bigger than just the stuff we’ve got or haven’t got today. Today we’re stewards managing His property while He’s gone. There’ll come a day when He returns and on that day something pretty incredible happens. We go from stewards to heirs – from servants to sons and daughters. This earth – the one God gave Adam to manage? It becomes our inheritance. Sweet.

*****

This week we’ve covered how not owning anything is the only way you’re ever going to achieve 100% guaranteed success. Next week we’re going to talk about how to go from ownership to stewardship.

Until then, remember the end game:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come you who are blessed of my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.’” (Matthew 25:34)

Tags: money · possessions · success · Thriving in Tough Times

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Mary Sue // Apr 13, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Today’s letter on success certainly helped set my priorities on the right path. Richard, my husband, has been reading your letters to me weekly but I decided to get on your list also. I’m 73 now. When I was in my late 30’s I discovered Melodyland Christian Center and attended their Thursday morning prayer meetings for nearly a year. It’s where I first heard of the Holy Spirit and heard people speaking in other tongues. Your dad was on the staff then. I’m sure he prayed for me during those hard years. I loved his gentle way of ministry.

    Thank you for brightening my day. I’ve been out taking care of the Master’s weeds this morning. I sure want to hear well done when I get home.

    I will be getting a love gift in the mail for your ministry.

    Mary Sue

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