The Stewardship Dilemma
When I was growing up, there was a man in my church who had a large family. He was going to move from house to house and needed help to make it all happen. He dedicated himself to prayer and chose to not tell anyone of his need. He would pray that people would just show up and help with a move without being asked. We could say that this man demonstrated great faith that God would provide for his need. We could say that this man presumed upon God’s grace and took an overly passive approach to this situation. In the end, he was able to get some help to get his family moved but at great cost to those who helped. They had to give up their plans and family time to help another brother who did not think asking for help was “spiritual” enough. These “volunteers” ended up resenting the situation rather than joyfully engaging in serving the need of this family.
In this article, we are going to explore a “thorny dilemma of stewardship.” We should be preparing against negative outcomes while trusting in God to work out all the details. But how much planning and prepping is enough or too much? The answer may be different for each person based on what is motivating and driving their actions. On the flip side, does our trusting God look like “letting go and letting God…?” Are we taking God seriously and using the wisdom and resources he has put at our disposal?
As Christian Stewards, we know the following 2 statements to be true:
- God is sovereign in all things, and will work everything out (Rom. 8:28)
- We are expected to plan and prepare for the future. (Proverbs 27:23-24 – flocks and herds)
These 2 statements and references to Scripture may seem contradictory at first, but are both completely true.
The Good steward is one that understands that they are to work heartily unto the Lord, and rest in His good care and providence to provide for all of your needs. The good steward both works hard and trusts well.
Legalism – “Work really hard”
The dilemma that stewards face is that they are geared towards one of two things. The first being ‘I have to work hard, save, and invest.” It’s all about their efforts, which is a lack of faith in God to provide, and it demonstrates itself as a negative extreme when you lose your security when things don’t work the way you want them to.
Verses about working heartily unto the Lord:
- ”For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10, NIV84)
- Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, (Colossians 3:23, NIV84)
How do we know when we need to plan and prepare vs just trusting in God to Provide?
Let’s start by considering when planning is a good thing and when it can serve to replace our trust in God.
When planning is good
- When the danger of inaction is obvious and we have a way to avoid it.
- A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it. (Proverbs 22:3, NIV84)
- The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it. (Proverbs 27:12, NIV84)
- When it is done in faith that God is the ultimate provider.
- In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. (Proverbs 16:9, NIV84)
- When it is in clear obedience to the word of God
- If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8, NIV84)
When planning is bad
- When we dont believe that God will provide
- When it is based on a confidence of your own ability, skill or knowledge to provide for your needs.
- When it is an effort to earn God’s favor or avoid his wrath
- When it’s an based out of pride
- When you replace God as the provider…and make it yourself!
Fatalism – “Let go, let God”
The second can be “let go and let God.” I have to trust in God to provide. I am not going to work on my budget because I’m just going to live by faith. I’m not going to grow my savings because God will provide for all of my needs both today and tomorrow. I’m going to give most or a lot of my money to missions because God will provide in the future.
The good steward finds a healthy balance between these two extremes. When we focus on one and not the other, we fail to demonstrate faith, obedience, and trust in God.
Verses about resting in God’s care and providence:
- “Don’t worry about what you will wear or what you will eat.” (Matt 6:25)
- “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purposes…” (Rom 8:28)
How do we know if just merely trusting God is the right thing to do?
If you’ve been called to do something, and you don’t have the means/ability/resources to do it, all you have is faith…trusting in God to make it all come together!
How do we know if we need to work hard along with trusting God?
It should NEVER be an either/or, but almost always an “AND” where we are working unto the Lord along with trusting Him for the results/outcome. A problem arises when we know that God has called us to something, and you have the means and ability to make it happen, but out of laziness decide not to work towards this calling.
Wisdom and faith are not antithetical.
If you feel that God is calling you to do something, but is not equipping you to fulfill that calling, is it possible that you have misread God’s calling and/or direction? When this does happen, and it happens to even the most Godly of people, it would be a great time to call in counselors and elders in your church to help give a clearer or new perspective.
There is a way in which working hard can be a demonstration of faith or a lack of faith. There is also a way in which merely ‘trusting God’ could also be a negative thing. The Good Steward follows God with all their heart, and has placed their faith and trust in His revealed will. They will work heartily unto the Lord and trust Him with the results, and if things are not going in the right direction, pulling in a multitude of counselors and prayer warriors should make the difference to continue to press on, or redirect their focus.
Again, The stewardship dilemma can be solved by not making it an “OR” (working hard…OR letting go), but an “AND” where you are working heartily unto the Lord and trusting Him to make it all come together!
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