Year’s end happens to be an exceptionally good time to reflect. It’s a reminder to us of the passing of time, as the old year fades and a new one is birthed.

For many, the approaching New Year provides a sense of urgency, a testimony that we now have one less year left, in a mortal story whose beginning we know, but whose end on earth is uncertain.

For most, the seriousness of life rapidly dissipates in the early days of January, replaced by the familiar rhythms of the mundane. 

Those who possess the imputed righteousness of God, the calling of God, and the mind of Christ, should apply impassioned vision and purposeful intentionally to every moment of life. They should live as stewards. 

The Inescapable Reality of Stewardship

What is a steward? One definition of the verb steward states, to “manage or look after (another’s property).” The Christian steward, then, is one who owns nothing, but has been given many things to manage.

These things were given to him by the Omnipotent Creator of the Universe, who loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for our sins. All God asks in return is that we faithfully manage those things entrusted to our care.

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Corinthians 6:19-20).

Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:11-27 describe the familiar story known as “The Parable of the Talents,” or “The Parable of the Pounds.” Though primarily applying to stewardship of money, this story reinforces an underlying reality: God doesn’t just call us to steward finances, He calls us to steward all of life.

Colossians 3:17 calls to all Christians, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”

I Corinthians 4:1-2 says, “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” 

There’s not a spiritual and a non-spiritual box. All of life, from work, to finances, to time, to family, to evangelism, is a spiritual stewardship. The question is not, “Does God care about this specific life area or not?” The question is, “Am I being a good or bad steward in this area that God has given me?” 

The Essential Habit of Stewardship 

Before launching into the New Year, I challenge you to take a spiritual inventory of your stewardship, present, past, and future.

1. Be faithful in the present

If the Bible calls you a steward, you must first ask, What areas of stewardship has God given me? Below are a few examples.

  • Relationship with God
  • Family
  • Church
  • Work
  • Evangelism 
  • Finances
  • Time
  • Fitness
  • Education
  • Influence
  • Talents and abilities 

God cares about every area of life, even those that seem insignificant. Luke 16:10 states, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” 

2. Evaluate the past

After determining your God-given areas of stewardship, ask yourself a second question, This past year, how did I steward everything God that God gave me?

Romans 14:12 reminds us, “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” Far better to practice giving account today, than to wait till eternity. 

3. Look towards the future

After serious reflection, ask yourself, How can I better steward next year?

There are things you wish you could do over, but you can’t. The only thing you can do is to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

James 4:13-17 speaks to the biblical attitude towards planning, 

Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

Is James condemning planning? Far from it.

In reality, we must plan in order to be good stewards. The faithful servants in Matthew 25 were those who looked ahead as they invested what their Master had entrusted to them.

However, we must not boast (Proverbs 27:1). We must flee the worldly philosophy of self-centered planning, aptly summarized in these words from Peter Drucker, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”

We should craft non-presumptuous goals, contingent upon the Lord’s will, and subject to God’s modification. We must humbly plan, recognizing that life is a vapor, yet in this vapor we are called to faithfully obey our Master in everything. We must ask ourselves, How would I live if I knew next year would be my last?

The Why Behind Stewardship

At its core, Christian stewardship is motivated by humble, joyful, gratitude to the God who redeemed us and desires to use us for His kingdom.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 says, 

Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.

You will never find lasting fulfillment in chasing selfish ambitions and building earthly kingdoms, destined to crumble in the sands of time. No, you will only discover true meaning as you surrender your life to the Master Builder, Architect, and Planner. May He be the reason for everything you do, not simply for the coming year, but for the rest of your life.

QUESTION: How should the Christian approach review, planning, and goal setting differently than the unbeliever?

Categories: Time

6 Comments

Ann · December 18, 2018 at 2:04 pm

I think for those who are guided by their faith, the motivation behind their decisions is as important as the decisions themselves. Doing the right thing is important, choosing to do the right thing for the right reason even more so. The key driver of motivation is vital in planning, preparing and setting goals; there is a wealth of difference between planning to attend church every week because it will look good (to a boss/selection committee/potential electorate) and making that plan because you want to deepen your faith and strengthen your relationship with God.

I wish you and your family a happy, peaceful and blessed Christmas.

    Joshua Bontrager · December 18, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    Ann,

    Certainly!

    The why behind what we do is just as important as the how. Much of life boils down to whether we’re seeking the praise of men or the praise of God. Your example of church attendance speaks to the importance of doing “all to the glory of God.” Do we seek to exalt ourselves or God?

    Merry Christmas to you as well!

Clara · December 18, 2018 at 5:06 pm

Christians have an eternal vision and purpose, unlike the unbeliever who lives for themselves within their own lifetime. Christians also have that vision and purpose outside of themselves, whereas the unbeliever has no real reason to look beyond themselves with pure motives.

My brother read something to me last night that has stuck with me today. “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

Gina · December 18, 2018 at 5:54 pm

What really stood out to me as I read your post was the question, “How would I live if I knew next year would be my last? ” It caused me in an instant to attempt to answer that and to evaluate my current actions. I think I need to do a better job really loving those around me individually and unconditionally. It can be easy to become goal focused and push through to accomplish things that are not as important and simply walking in love! Thanks for sharing the wisdom and insight God has blessed you wirh–now that is being a good steward.

Zachary · December 23, 2018 at 11:16 pm

I think the different method of planning from the perspective of those who know of God and seek Him, as opposed to those who don’t can be summed up in Prov. 16:3. (Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.)
If men want to do both others, and themselves good, then they will place God’s will and God’s glory at the front lines of their vision, so as to be led by good motives. And the more sincerely that they do this than more assuredly will God direct their plans.

    Joshua Bontrager · December 25, 2018 at 6:16 pm

    Zachary,

    Very true! God’s will and glory must be our first priority.

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