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Last week, we took time to explore what good stewardship looks like on a practical level. We learned that stewardship isn’t about how much money you have, or how much you have saved, or even how much you give away! Good stewardship all comes down to our trust in the LORD. Our trust in the LORD is demonstrated through repentance, focus on Christ, and our confidence that he will provide for us, even in the darkest of days. Ultimately, Good Stewardship is seen in the person and works of Jesus Christ, and as we grow in stewardship, we will become more like Christ, and the better of a steward we will become! But is it possible to be a good steward, but a bad Christian? Could our good stewardship be tainted by our motivations?
In this week’s episode we wanted to take some time to share some warning signs of poor stewardship. If you recognize one or more of these signs in your life, we are NOT calling you a poor steward! Please don’t take it as such. However, these warning signs are just that. They exist to warn you about the path you may be going down, starting to go down, or they may be shining a light on the decisions you might be making. Instead of letting these signs scare or paralyze us, or cause us to procrastinate about any financial decisions that we may need to make soon, we share these with you so you would consider embracing these warning signs and use them as the catalyst to grow in our stewardship responsibility!
We are here to help you, not scare you.
The Prodigal Son
“Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:11–32, NIV84)
Both Sons Were Lost
The prodigal son involved 2 sons. One obeyed. One disobeyed. But as we will see, they were both lost. They were both estranged from the father. One in his obedience, and one in his rebellion, they were both lost.
While the application of this parable is not directly tied to stewardship, there is much to learn about our stewardship responsibility in this passage.
The Dilemma of Stewardship: If you don’t save, this is a sign of bad stewardship because you are not being proactive to protect you and your family from future problems (this one may be obvious and clear to you). But, think about these two ideas: Both saving, and not saving, could both be signs of bad stewardship. Both budgeting, and not budgeting, could be signs of poor stewardship.
That’s right. Somehow, budgeting could be a sign of poor stewardship. How could this be? Let’s walk through this together.
Here are some warning signs of poor stewardship:
Sign #1 – Open Rebellion
- Refuse constraints (pushing the boundaries)
- Entitlement Mentality – “I’m your son, therefore you owe me…”
- Spending purely for personal pleasure and status (many “friends”)
- Spending with no thought of the future
- “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.” (Proverbs 21:20, NIV84)
- Having no reserves
- Pig-sty living… experiencing the negative consequences of poor stewardship.
- Caution: Poor living conditions doesn’t exactly mean poor stewardship. (i.e. born into poverty, poor circumstances).
- It’s not about what you have… It’s about how you handle what you have.
Sign #2 – Manipulative Obedience
You could be a great saver, but a poor steward because you don’t trust Christ. The motivation behind your savings is ‘I gotta do it! I gotta be the one who provides!” There is a clear heart issue here. In this situation, there is no trust in Jesus. There is only trust in ‘self.’
- Legalistic heart (do, do, do)
- Judgmental Attitude – “this son of yours”
- Trying to make it known to your parents that you are better than your siblings! This really exposes the heart!
- Confidence by comparison. “I’m better than so and so”
- Entitlement mentality. – “I do good, therefore you owe me.”
- Pride in moral record. – We are keeping a “moral scoreboard” in our minds and we love to let others know how good we are doing with it!
- Jealousy or harbored anger at God’s grace in others’ lives
Questions for Self Reflection
- What is your driving desire behind what you are doing stewardship wise?
- What is your motivation to save and budget? (Blessings, obedience, faithfulness?)
- Where does your trust lie? (Your portfolio, savvy saving, and generosity?)
- Back to this thought we brought up moments ago…
- What is your driving desire?
- “My life my way!”
- Or, “I am obedient to my father to manipulate him so I can get my way!”
The Good Steward Returns to the Father
“Lord, forgive me, for I am a sinner.”
They recognize where they are, and repent. Whether you find yourself more like the elder or younger brother, if you see that your motivation is for the things God can bring rather than for God himself, we can return to the father. God gladly accepts repentant elder or younger brothers.
How the Father Responds
- Looking – He is always looking down that path we took when we walked or ran away!
- Running – A totally counter-cultural idea. It was not allowed by society of that day for an elder person to run! But he could not contain himself! He was SO excited when he saw that “gate” of his son that he had no other choice but to RUN TOWARD him as fast as he could!
- Rewarding – A celebratory feast!
Both brothers were estranged. If either of them would have returned to the father, they would have experienced the same thing. Yet, only one did!
A Strike against The Prosperity Gospel
It would be good to note that the stewardship understanding in this parable is a strike against the prosperity Gospel. “Budget and save and you’ll be a healthy and wealthy person.” I don’t see that here at all. “Stewardship is a means to God’s blessing.” Clearly that is not here either!
Ultimately, the Prosperity Gospel doesn’t want Christ. It just want His blessings.
- Run to the Father. No matter where you are, repent and run to the father for forgiveness. The good steward returns to the Father even after times of difficulty, hardship, and rebellion.
- Even if your “rebellion” is minor in nature, a “run to the Father” is your only way “home”…
- Stay tuned – Are you worried that you might be on a dangerous path? Or that recent decisions might have ‘messed you up’ financially?
- Don’t fret, there is hope!
- There’s always a next step towards better stewardship. Next week, we will give you a very easy, 3 step plan, to be on the road to better financial stewardship.
- Stewardship Review – In the meantime, we would strongly encourage you to sign up for a free Personal Stewardship Review with a member from our team. We’d be more than happy to help you take your next steps in Biblical Financial Stewardship. Let’s not let procrastination or fear get the best of you. Instead, let’s work together to craft a plan that will help you take your next steps in Biblical Stewardship.
Prodigal God by Timothy Keller
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