,Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:1-2
This chapter will go into what it means to be a faithful steward. If we are called into God’s Kingdom, we don’t own anything; God owns everything and we are merely caretakers of what He owns. A steward is a caretaker or a manager. Stewardship is something that God started teaching me years back. It’s natural for us to want to be good stewards of what we have been given. This is what drives us to grow; it’s an opportunity to take responsibility. It’s easy for us to think that we’ve won certain titles in our lives, and then our identity becomes that; for example, to be a businessman or cricketer.
When I look back at where we started, we really had nothing. It’s times like those that bring you to a place of complete surrender. Then God starts placing small things in your life and wants you to learn to manage them. Sometimes your greatest gift is a chance to steward and really cherish what you have been given. It could be anything: God could bless you with a car to steward well, or you could be blessed with a child to care for and bring up in the right way. Jesus says in Luke 16:10, ‘He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much…’.
Here we find Jesus is talking about money, but not only that, He is talking about stewardship – He is talking about faithfulness. I believe if you want to do anything as a Christian, it all depends on how faithful you are in the little things. What you have doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to God. When you are faithful in the little things, God is going to give you an increase.
The definition of a steward is ‘one who manages the affairs of another’. ‘A steward is not the owner but is the operator and only exercises the power, resources or responsibilities given to him with the interest and the mindset of the owner at heart in focus.’ Jesus notes that faithful and wise stewards are known by their obedience. When you are a good steward, how you take care of the little will determine whether you are going to be given more.
Around six years after I came to the Lord, we were in a place where we were really struggling financially.
We had some revelation of giving and some revelation of tithing, but we didn’t have a full revelation of stewardship, that we don’t really own anything. So what would happen is that by the middle of the month we would run out of money and we wouldn’t have enough for the rest of the month; it was a big struggle for us. We were going into more and more debt. One day I just started crying out to the Lord, saying, ‘Lord, you need to give us a breakthrough in finances, because I just can’t continue like this.’ That’s the time I had the privilege of learning about stewardship and how it’s not about how much you have or do not have. You can have very little money but still have a love of money. On the other hand, you may have a lot of money and not be in love with money.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 1 Timothy 6:9-10
So as we were going through a period of struggle financially, we were still going to church and worshipping and were Spirit-filled, but our focus was still on money. There will be times when God asks you to do something radical; as I was seeking God, He said that I needed to give away everything I had because I was too attached to it. That was a tough place to be in. I was just crying out; I was completely broken and I thought, ‘I’m not in the best of situations, but if God is telling me to give, I will give, because it all belongs to Him anyway and I am going to test God on this.’
I wasn’t giving because I wanted to receive, but I was just being a child and surrendering everything to God’s hands. I took this decision and truly said, ‘Lord, I love You and I know You can take care of me and my family. I am just going to give my life to you completely, including what I have and all my resources.’ That was in 2001. We didn’t have a lot to give, but whatever we did have, we gave. We even gave away our washing machine and our computer to people we didn’t know at the time. It was a journey, and not one where I could see a change straightaway, but the Lord was doing work in my heart. Soon after that I even lost my job, and I moved countries, but there was complete peace and I felt that I was in God’s perfect place; I felt so secure, and within three months God restored everything. I’m not talking about giving because you want to receive; I’m talking about coming to a place of trusting God, and putting him first as a priority. Sometimes we need to show that nothing else matters to us but our relationship with God. That was the best thing that happened to me. There started the journey for me about stewardship and giving.
Material belongings, like lots of money or cars, aren’t the only things determining how blessed someone is. Things such as having a happy life and a good family, having peace, having the Word of God in your life, having joy – these are real blessings. People think that blessings in the world and blessings in the Christian life are the same, but they are measured differently.
As Christians we should be living from a place of constant giving. We need to think differently from the rest of the world. Every time we receive a breakthrough in finances, it is important to understand that that the money belongs to God, so we continue to give a percentage.
Soon after I lost my job and moved countries to Hong Kong, my salary more than tripled, and so we made a pledge to give away more than twenty-five per cent of my salary, sowing into missions by helping orphanages and pastors in poor countries. I had such a great hunger for the Lord, but my job didn’t allow me to travel and preach, so I used what God had given me, my finances, to sow and reach places where I could not go. So fifteen per cent on top of my tithe went into missions to further the gospel around the world. Within a year, as we were giving twenty-five per cent, God again blessed me, providing a job with an even higher salary, but my heart through all this remained on funding the gospel to reach the unreached and touch the untouched with the love of God. So we had the privilege of taking part in building his kingdom, because the reward is the same for those who send and those who go.
He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore, if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Luke 16:10-13
The first thing Jesus says here is that if you are faithful in the least you will receive much, and the second thing He says is that if you are faithful in another person’s property, you will get your own.
One thing I’ve realised in all my years of working is, again, how to be a good steward of what I have been given in the workplace. I have seen that most employees in a firm just want to make maximum use of the benefits, perks and resources that they have been given. You will find that if you’re not a good, faithful steward in that place, God’s never going to give you your own.
Here Jesus is saying that as you are faithful in taking care of someone else’s property, God is going to give you your own. He cannot give you your own unless you can serve. I have had the privilege for years of working for a company where they would just give me complete freedom. I could travel first class, stay in the best hotels; I could pretty much do what I wanted. But I have always tried to be very careful when handling the company’s money; sometimes I used to be more careful than I was with my own. As a result, not even once has my boss questioned me on my expenditure. I have seen that as I have been faithful in taking care of the company’s money, there has always been an increase. That’s the same thing whether you are working in an organisation or serving in a church. When we started the church, our attitude was that we wouldn’t expect someone to do what we don’t do. We always came with a heart to serve. I believe that’s what being a leader is and what being a steward is. Our identity is not that we are a pastor or a worship leader, a manager or a director. Our identity is who we are in Christ. I am more accountable to Jesus for what has been given to me than I am to anyone else. If my conscience is not right with God, then there’s a problem. It’s not even about what someone else will think about it. If my conscience is not clear that I am doing the right thing before God, then I am not being a good steward.
What I love most about Joseph in the book of Genesis is that even when he was the least, he was still serving God, and that’s how he got promoted. He was not given this designation of being prime minister of the country just because he was Joseph; he started with little, and when he knew about the famine he started preparing and taking care of the land. The pharaoh had to trust him with the least, and as Joseph was faithful in the little, he kept increasing.
In this time, Jesus is calling us to be good stewards. Stewards of time, stewards of money, stewards of talent, stewards of what we have. How we handle what we have in our hand is going to determine how much more we are going to get. If we are given a responsibility, how we handle that responsibility will determine whether more responsibility is going to be given to us.
Years ago I thought everything was based on the gifts or the anointing or the talent. You cannot build any organisation based on gifts, talents or anointing alone; you build based on faithfulness. If you are an employer and you have people working for you, you will know that you would much rather have people who are faithful than people who are talented. If you can’t depend on somebody, then you can’t do anything.
In the passage in Luke above, Jesus is saying that you cannot serve unrighteous mammon and God. Jesus spoke about money more than He spoke about prayer. The reason for this is because it is so easy to fall into the deceitfulness of riches. Just because some give their tithes and offerings, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have a love for money, because you can give on principle but you can still be attached to the resources. That’s a spirit of mammon, and we need to break the spirit of mammon in this day and age. But be aware, breaking the spirit of mammon has nothing to do with whether you have or don’t have money.
When you receive, many times you may not be thankful. In his book The Blessed Life, Robert Morris tells this story about how God had asked him to give away one of his two cars. When the couple he was giving it to came to collect it, the wife was extremely thankful, but the husband looked at Robert’s other car, which was a better car, and only had eyes for that, asking Robert if he was planning on giving that away. Robert said that even if he did, he wouldn’t give it to this man – he was not ready to receive, as he was not thankful for what he was being given in the first place.
Having a grateful heart to give and to receive will determine whether you are a good steward. The principle of giving and receiving is so important.
Then the king said to Araunah, ‘No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.’ So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. 2 Samuel 24:24
,While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease. Genesis 8:22
Here David had sinned and messed up. God had told him not to take a survey, but he did it anyway, and God told him to choose what punishment he wanted. Afterward, the Lord’s prophet told David to build God an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. So David had to buy the threshing floor and the oxen from Araunah, and Araunah told David that he could have it free of cost. I love the heart attitude of David; he replied that he was not going to offer to God anything that cost him nothing. Whenever we give, whether it is our time, money or talents, we don’t want to give to God that which costs us nothing. That is seed faith; you are sowing a seed, because it is costing you something. God honours that seed. That’s why David is called a man after God’s own heart. It’s not always easy to give; it can be very difficult, and to be honest, it should be difficult. If it is easy to give, then it’s not costing you anything. When it costs you something, you are fully surrendering it into God’s hands.
We are all on this journey of the revelation we have of stewardship. For me personally, I started this journey when I first came to the Lord, and I am still learning to this day. Every season God challenges you even more; you can never come to a place and say you know it all. When it comes to giving it’s all relative. At one stage in life, giving a car or a thousand pounds might be a big deal, but later on giving ten thousand pounds might be a big deal, and a hundred thousand pounds later on. It’s not about the amount, but what’s important is your heart. If you have a hundred million, to give a hundred thousand is nothing; it doesn’t cost much. But for someone to give a hundred thousand when they have only two hundred thousand is a lot. In all of this what God looks at is the heart. I have not heard of anyone who has given to God with the right heart and motive and gone broke. God is a debtor to no one.
This doesn’t relate to just money, it’s about everything. It’s about our life and being a good steward of all that we have been given. When we are living out of a heart where we really want to give in order to be a good steward of everything, then God is going to bless us.
Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you. Luke 6:38
There will always be a ‘running over’ in your life. Sometimes it is your time that is valuable, and when you give your time, there will be a running over of joy.
Honour the Lord with your possessions, and with the first fruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine. Proverbs 3:9-10
I believe God wants us to have an overflowing, but it starts with a heart of giving, a heart of generosity. My wife and I have personally given many cars – it’s not to boast, but most times when we gave a car, it wasn’t because we had a lot. We gave because we just wanted to bless. As time goes by, God is going to challenge you to give more. Just because people say you are a giver, it doesn’t mean anything – what matters is that you are a good steward in front of the Lord. Even as a church, we bought a church in India for another congregation before we got our own building. Usually people say, ‘Let’s save up and buy a building or buy a house’, but for us it never worked that way, it’s always been with faith. It has always been with a heart where we move forward trusting God and sowing seeds, knowing that God will multiply that seed.
There’s a time of sowing and there’s a time of reaping. That’s what Genesis 8:22 says: ‘While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.’ It’s so important to understand this principle, because if we don’t understand it we will never move forward. So many times we ask ourselves, ‘Why am I doing what I’m doing?’ It may not make sense, but we are sowing a seed. When we come in early for a prayer meeting and start worshipping, God is looking at us because we are sowing a seed and being a good steward. We are not doing it because we want someone else to see. We are doing it because we know that in doing that we are being good stewards. When we give our tithes and offerings, we do it because we want to be right before God. God says He will bless us in this and it will be running over, but it’s not just about giving. If you look at the verse before this, in Luke 6:36-37, it says it’s to do with everything: ‘Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.’
In life we hear people talking about keeping a grudge against others, hurting them. It’s impossible for a man or woman of God to judge somebody, to stay offended at them, with a heart of unforgiveness, and receive blessing from the Lord. So stewardship is not just about money, but about mercy. How you do things will be done for you as well.
Many people think that being blessed is about having a lot of money, but that is not the case. If I were to take an account of how I have been blessed by God, I would say being satisfied and having joy in life is a parameter of being blessed. Numerous times whilst I’ve been in the prayer room I’ve come to a realisation of how satisfied I am with God. His Word fulfils me and gives me joy, which is a blessing. To be able to have enough money on a daily basis, with a good family, house and car is a blessing. In fact, having good health is a blessing.
What blessing means to the world is different to what blessing means to a Christian. When you give to God, what is your attitude? And no, it’s not just about money, but your heart, when it comes to your time and your talents.
‘You are under a curse – your whole nation – because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,’ says the Lord Almighty. Malachi 3:9-11
God is telling us to test him in this one thing, and it’s important that we test him on this. It’s amazing how God tells us to test Him, and the fact of the matter is that there is not a test that God can ever fail, and He still tells us to test Him. He says He’s going to open the windows of heaven when we test Him on tithes and offerings. You know many times in our lives when we felt like it was all over, and that we were about to drown, that was when we’ve seen God come through miraculously. When you serve God faithfully, and you give your tithes and offerings faithfully, you can never fail because God cannot fail. He will instead open wide the windows of heaven. This is what he does for those that serve him and are faithful.
Then it goes on to say that God will prevent the devourer from devouring your crops, and there will be fruit. I believe that if you are a good steward of the Lord, you will have a fruitful life. There will be fruit in your family, because the bottom line is that you cannot serve God and not have fruit and the blessing of the Lord. There will not be room enough to contain the blessing.
It is God’s plan, as we become good stewards of all that He has given us, that He will release blessings into our families and every area of our lives. It goes on to say that there will not be enough room to receive it. An overflow! If you don’t have enough room to receive, then you’ll have to move house! What I’m trying to say is that God promises the blessing. When we make His kingdom and His house our priority, we are being good stewards.
Let’s look at some of the heart attitudes when it comes to giving.
Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8
When you sow bountifully, you will reap bountifully. You cannot sow sparingly and reap bountifully. That is God’s principle, and because God cannot change, the same goes for His principles. You should not expect a blessing when you give grudgingly. We need to be giving wholeheartedly; giving grudgingly is dangerous and so is giving out of necessity. God doesn’t need your money, and the church doesn’t need your money.
I don’t write on tithes and offerings because I need your money; that’s not who we are. I heard a story about how there was a church that was struggling, and the pastor of the church heard about a preacher who was good at coercing people to give their money. So the pastor of the church called this preacher and organised a meeting for him to teach. The preacher taught on tithes and offerings and asked the people to give their money, and it all came to near sixty thousand dollars. This preacher then turned around and asked the church to pay all the money back to his ministry.
It is not a game; instead God loves a cheerful giver. We are to give wholeheartedly. Additionally, we are to give with liberality, having a heart of generosity. Generosity is not about the money, but about our heart condition. Nobody can see our heart but God, and being a good steward is about being generous. What I have noticed especially in churches around the United Kingdom is a lack of generosity, and people sowing with a mindset of the law instead of sowing with an understanding of the grace of God, which then releases into our lives more grace.
We are to come to a place of thanksgiving. We need to have an attitude that says God has given us everything and we need to be thankful. What God has given to us, we need to give back to Him. When we give, we should give joyfully. We should not give sorrowfully but with joy. It may hurt when we give – I’m not saying that it’s not going to hurt – but it’s got to be joyful. If you’re giving your money and you’re not filled with joy, then you need to check your heart. I believe that God is raising up a generation of young people that are getting a revelation of becoming good stewards.
I want to finish off with a story that I’ve heard. In February 2016 I was on a flight to Oslo, Norway, and I was reading the book The Blessed Life. As I said earlier, we tried to give twenty-five per cent of our income a month. We gave cars, washing machines. I always thought that I was a giver, but as I read this book the Lord convicted me and told me that my heart to give was not the same as it once was. The reason was that when we had little, we gave away a lot, but as the Lord blessed us with more and more houses and cars, we never gave away with the same faith as we used to before. So the Lord spoke to me and told me to give away a house. I told the Lord, ‘Lord, I can’t do this – if you really want me to, you need to speak to my wife Preethy.’ For me it was an easy way to pass it onto someone else.
After two weeks, Preethy, who was also reading this book, came and told me told me we needed to give away this house. It was a challenging year for us because I had left my job, and we did not have a regular income, but we took a huge step of faith to sell one of our apartments and committed to sow £160,000 to a missionary couple in England. We met with this missionary couple, and they told us that they were happy to have two thousand pounds a month for the next six years. As we were faithful to give, we again saw substantial breakthrough in our lives, more than we could even think or imagine.
My heart for you as you have been reading this book is not to stop at one level but to keep going up. But it’s not just about a great revelation, it’s about acting on it. Acting on a revelation requires sacrifice. I believe God is going to raise up people from all over with a great understanding of what it means to be a good steward, because it is key to the expansion of the kingdom of God.