The sixth recommended spiritual disciple of the DOC is stewardship, which is defined as “response to God’s gracious gifts by responsible use of these gifts in support of worthy ministries and by loyal support of the DOC.”  A dictionary I consulted defined a steward as “one who manages another’s affairs, property, etc.”  That means that stewardship would be the act of managing another’s affairs, property, etc.”  Thus a basic understanding of stewardship can be gained simply by going to a dictionary.  Of course for the Christian, stewardship consists of managing the “affairs, property, etc.” with which God has gifted us on his behalf. 
 
            Most Christians, when asked about Christian stewardship, will mention money, and/or possessions.  And that would be correct.  Everything ultimately belongs to God, and we are stewards of some part of it.  The Old Testament teaches the tithe, the practice of giving a tenth of all income or property as an offering to God.  Although most Christians do not meet that Old Testament standard of a tithe, the New Testament actually calls for a higher standard.  Jesus affirmed the moral aspects of the Old Testament law, which include tithing.  But the New Testament calls us to give according to the “plenty,” or abundance, with which we are blessed (2 Cor. 8:13-14).  It calls us to give generously, willingly, with forethought, and cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:5-7).  The New Testament also calls us to give proportionately (Luke 12:48b) and sacrificially (Luke 14:33).  Thus tithing is a minimum standard of Christian stewardship. 
 
            But to restrict the concept of stewardship to the administration of God’s money and property is too narrow a view of the subject.  Our giving is only a small part of our stewardship responsibility.  The larger stewardship for which we are responsible involves every area of our lives.  Since that is true, the inner life of the believer is especially important.  Jesus said, “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles.  For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt. 15:18-19).  This means simply that the way we are on the outside is directly related to the way we are on the inside.  In other words, to be the kind of Christian Christ wants us to be, we must be completely given over to Christ’s indwelling Holy Spirit. 
 
            One unfortunate development among some Christians in the Church is a failure to see this larger stewardship.  They restrict their view of stewardship to financial giving.  And thus they believe that if they tithe, they have fulfilled their stewardship responsibilities.  Therefore they not only feel free to do whatever they wish with the other 90% of their income, but they feel no obligation to commit their full time and energy to Christian service.  This is quite dangerous according to the teaching of Jesus. 
 
            In Luke 14:26-33 Jesus made clear the radical nature of what I earlier called “the larger stewardship.”  Our devotion to him is to be so complete that we must not be devoted to anything or anyone else, not even our families, or our own lives, except in a secondary way.  Jesus intentionally used exaggerated language to drive home the point: “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple” (v. 26).  “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (v. 27).  And at the end of the paragraph he declares, “none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions” (v. 33). 
 
            There are at least two aspects of this larger stewardship here that Jesus clearly did not want us to miss.  First is the one I mentioned above.  The larger stewardship involves every area of life.  In the case of our relationships, they all must be pursued and honored within our overarching prior commitment to him.  Indeed that is so true Jesus declared that our earthly relationships must be like hatred when compared to our relationship with him (v. 26).  In the case of our activities, they are to be done in a context of taking up our cross and following him (v. 27).  And in the case of our money and possessions, they all belong to him.  And that leads to the second aspect of the larger stewardship.
 
            The second aspect is that it demands a higher standard.  One traditional use of the term “standard” is as a flag.  I suspect you are familiar with the traditional idea of armies using standards, flags, to give their troops direction and a rallying point in battle.  This was especially true in the nineteenth century.  The American Civil War would be a prime example. 
 
            I once read a story about a standard bearer who during a battle got a little too far ahead of his company.  The company commander yelled at him, “Bring the standard back to the company.”  The brave soldier, who was more brave than wise, out of zeal to advance yelled back, “Bring the company up to the standard.” 
 
            From a military point of view, the soldier was wrong.  But from a Christian life point of view, he had the right idea.  Jesus is our standard bearer.  He is out ahead of us.  And the Church constantly drifts back from the standard, subconsciously, if not consciously.  We typically want to bring the standard back to where we are in our spiritual development.  One person sets the standard at holding membership in a church and attending services every Christmas and Easter.  He or she takes comfort in the fact that others don’t even belong to a church.  Another person sets the standard at fairly regular church attendance and takes comfort in the fact that there are others who don’t, and so on.  You get the idea.  We want to set the standard at the level of commitment that we have attained.  But Jesus wants us to move to the standard to where he sets it; and as we have just seen, he sets it at total commitment of self and possessions. 

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