“Whole” Life Stewardship

Giving God Glory and Going All In

Everything we have is a gift from God. If you think through the gifts God gives, the most important ones fit nicely into five categories. They can be called the 5 “T”s. God gives us everything we have, and he wants us to put him first when it comes to our time, talents, treasures, temple, and his truth. Ask the average Christian what “stewardship” is, and they will tell you it’s when the church talks about money. That’s only part of it. A steward is another word for “manager.” So, stewardship is managing God’s resources God’s way because of God’s love—not just 10% of our money but managing 100% of everything God gives us. A God-Lived Life stewardship challenge seeks to stress the “whole life” approach to stewardship.

Going all in and giving God glory by managing my talents…

I love how God describes our relationship to him and to one another. The apostle Paul says, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). You are the body of Christ. What’s Paul’s point? First, in the body, there is nothing I want to sacrifice. Do you think you are unimportant to the Jesus’ body? Think again! Every part is useful! Do you think your toenails are unimportant? Well, I once golfed with someone who needed to wear flip-flops because of an accident where he lost his big toenail. He would tell you just how important it is! Second, in the body, you are unique. There is no one with the exact same set of gifts as you. The body needs you! And because you are part of a body, there is no need for jealousy inside of the church. Because your gift is mine and mine is yours—we are part of one body! When a pitcher throws a no hitter, the headline does not read, “Pitcher’s right arm won the game!” No, the whole body gets credit.

Going all in and giving God glory by managing my time…

How much time in an average day would you say you waste? Probably more than we’d like to admit. Prime suspects? TV, devices, internet, Facebook… it’s ironic that so many of the things that are meant to save us time are the very things we waste time on. Not that those aren’t great things. Is watching a 21-minute Netflix episode at night to wind down a bad thing? No. But what if hours of binge watching begins to take priority over time with family or friends? Or worse, God? You see my point!

Jesus says, “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4). Jesus says that the fact that our earthly lives don’t last forever means time is limited. So make the most of every opportunity in the time God has given you on earth. We are using this time to “get ready” and “get other people ready” for the paradise that is waiting for us. Managing our time well is something that gives God glory!

Going all in and giving God glory by managing my temple…

God wants us to be managers of the body or the temple he has given to us. The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. That puts how I treat my body into perspective. How do you treat temples?

He says, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” We were once penniless and alone, destined for the fire of hell and an eternity of suffering. Then someone saw us, took pity on us, and simply put… loved us. Jesus went to the Father in heaven and said, “How much will it take to buy them?” And the Father said, “Only the most priceless offering will do.” So Jesus offered himself on a cross. You were bought at price. That’s almost an understatement. What is the only thing we can think to do? Honor God with the body he has given you—it brings him glory!

Going all in and giving God glory by managing his truth…

God wants us to manage his truth. He has entrusted it to us. 1 Corinthians 4:1 says, “People ought to regard us servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.” Okay, so how do you manage God’s truth? Think about what you have in the Bible. You have a love letter from your Father in heaven signed in the blood of Jesus that tells you all the answers to life’s biggest questions, provides you with counsel for every situation, comforts you in every tragedy, and promises you the riches of heaven because of Jesus’ life and death for you. This is the truth you have been entrusted—what does it mean to manage it? Read it every day. Keep it pure by not trying to explain away plain truth or let other’s attack the truth without a response. Read it every day. Share it with everyone in your life. Read it every day. Let it alone guide your life. Did I mention, read it every day?

Going all in and giving God glory by managing my treasures…

1 Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up.” Let’s break down what this teaches us about how we want to give. “On the first day” – This is what we were just talking about with priority. What would you rather have, contentment or a billion dollars? The right answer is “contentment.” You can’t have contentment unless God is the priority. “Of each week” – We will want to give an offering regularly or whenever we have been blessed. Do you get paid once per month? Then regular can be once per month. As we are blessed, so we give. At my previous congregation, looking at the records from 100 years ago, it looked like every October the church was woefully behind budget, but then come December, budget was always met. Were they not regular in their offerings? They were because they were farmers and farmers get paid when the crops come in! “Each one of you” – Everyone who has received can give—even kids! This is remarkable training both for the child and you. When Grandpa and grandma gives my 4-year-old $5 for her birthday and I ask her how much she wants to give to Jesus, do you know what they say at that age? “All of it.” And then I’m in the awkward position of saying, “Well, you don’t have to give all of it.” But there’s a lesson in that. Why is she willing to give it all? Because she implicitly trusts me to provide for her needs. We should, too! “Set aside…in keeping with your income” – In other words, God wants us to plan our offerings and make them a proportionate amount of what we make. Is $10,000 a generous offering? Yes, if you make $50,000… but not if you make $1 billion. Managing our treasures is one way we say “Thank you, Jesus” and give God glory.

The great church musician, Johann Sebastian Bach, inscribed many of his music manuscripts with the initials “INJ” (In nomine Jesu—In Jesus’ Name) and “SDG” (Soli Deo Gloria—To God Alone be the Glory). Isn’t that a beautiful summary of our lives? This is how we wake up and live each day. We awake with the name of Jesus imprinted on us in our baptisms. And with the name of Jesus on our hearts we live the day to God’s glory alone. We carry out the everyday callings of father, mother, worker, employer, child, Christian for an extraordinary audience. An audience of One. At the end of the day, having washed you clean of every imperfection, he looks at you and says, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). You do this each day until the best day of all when God will say to you personally at the gate of heaven, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). And for all eternity, you will serve him, seeing him face to face.

The apostle Paul says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1). In view of God’s mercy with the cross of Christ before their eyes, I see Christians going all in and giving God glory. I see a mother feeding her child and showing that child how to love a husband. I see a father having a devotion with his son and wife. I see a factory worker making his quota and a high school boy studying hard for a test. I see an elderly man in a nursing home alone in his room with his hands folded and eyes closed in prayer. I see you, dear reader, reading of God’s love and how to serve him right now. There may be no else who sees them giving glory to God with their lives. But that’s okay. They all do it for an audience of One. And he’s smiling. To God alone be the glory!

Prof. David Scharf
Martin Luther College, New Ulm MN

This blog anticipates the May release of A God-Lived Life congregational stewardship challenge.



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