God's Principles for Stewardship in Life
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Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, the largest Christian financial ministry in the world, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Money Problems, Marriage Solutions.
I recently spoke with Chuck about his advice for managing our money during difficult financial times.
Why is it important to follow God's principles for stewardship in life, whether during an emergency or not?
I think there are two reasons to follow God's principles, whether we're in a crisis or not. Number one, God's principles are eternal. And when we follow them, we're not only making our lives better for the present, but we're preparing for the future when we will be evaluated before His throne. So, I always want to keep the eternal in mind that no matter what happens here, the most important thing is that we're found faithful when we are standing before the Lord. And then secondly, no man knows the future. The Bible makes it very clear that we have to live by faith day to day and that there are unknowns that will be painful. The world is filled with tribulation, the world is filled with things that can destroy our livelihood, can destroy all of our savings and the things that we have worked hard for. And so, we need to follow God's principles so that we can stand during the storm. I'm reminded in Matthew 7, of the parable of the house built on the rock or the sand, they both got the storm. And so following God's principles doesn't make you immune from the storm. But I do think they make you immune from being destroyed by the storm.
What is your advice concerning continuing to give economically during a stressful time?
I think that we should all continue to give during the crisis and to give sacrificially. Number one, it's because that's what God made us to do. Everything that God made is designed to give. The sun gives, the stars give, the flowers, the plants, and even the dirt gives. We're not living in God's design for our life if we're not giving, if we fail to give. Secondly, those are the things that are eternally impactful. We can lose all of our investments. We can lose all of our money. We can lose our job. We can lose our health. What we cannot lose are those things that God has promised are secure in heaven. And when we give, we are laying up for ourselves, treasures in heaven, the things that God will reward us for our faithfulness in giving. I think thirdly, there's no other source for joy in a crisis than being generous.
There's so much fear. There are so many people who are, I would say, hunkering down and trying to protect themselves. But when you give and you serve, you help God’s cause to advance, you really have joy. Even if you're not the one being able to do the help, you have joy, knowing that help is going out for other people. And it's so important that we don't stop giving because we're afraid. I think that that's when it takes great courage. The Bible is full of wonderful illustrations of people who gave when they normally might've been fearful. The widow with her last two mites gave everything she had. The Macedonians out of their extreme poverty rose up in rich generosity. These are examples that God used, that the scripture records, of people giving out of faith. They were giving out confidence in God to provide. And what we say to the Lord when we give during a crisis is we trust you, we really trust you. We know you're going to take care of us.
What would you say to somebody who has lost their job or had their income reduced? What's the best way for them to give?
There’s been a lot of people impacted by the pandemic, not only their health but also their livelihood. And this is a time when we're really tested. Because the first thing that we want to do in the flesh is to begin to hoard. What comes to my mind is in the book of Acts when the apostles met in Antioch, Agabus came and prophesied that a great famine was going to spread throughout the entire Roman world. These were people who were already persecuted. Some of them had already lost their jobs. Some of them had been stoned or beaten, certainly rejected. They were on the run. Things were very difficult for them. This prophecy from Agabus had to make things worse. A famine means people are going to starve. They could starve. The whole Roman world was going to experience this. And so, they began to pray. And I think what they decided to do at that point was a world-changing pivot because the disciples said, if a famine is coming, we are going to give. We're going to use our resources to send help. And when you look at the history of the church, from that point on, it's the church that steps in. In a crisis, it's the church that gives to send to hospitals, to build medical centers, to send food, to send to the schools, to send the shoes or whatever is necessary. And even though we have a personal crisis, even though we've had a job loss, I think it's important that we continue to give, because when we give, we're saying that we are not afraid of tomorrow.
Certainly, we have to be wise with our finances. We also believe that saving is a principle that God wants us to follow. Giving, I like to say, really is the simplest financial principle that God gives us. Give first and save second. When we're doing that, our house is built upon a rock. It cannot be destroyed because we cannot lose what we've given away. I feel for those who've lost their jobs. However, the unemployment packages are the best in history. Jobs are coming back. People are finding that they're not suffering as much financially right now during job loss because of the packages. Whether they've elected to take the unemployment benefits or their employers have provided something for them, people are not suffering nearly as much as in the past. And so, I would encourage people to continue to give, especially to those places where you are being fed and God's people are being taken care of.
There are many resources on your website. What are some of the first places that you would encourage people to start?
We created crown.org/coronavirus. And on that web page, we did a number of things that were important to people right now. We posted where companies are hiring. There are job listings on our website. We created a free crisis budget for people who may have lost their job and their livelihood has been impacted. There's a way to adjust your budget during these uncertain times that will allow you to navigate the challenges by using the crisis budget form. You also have access to what we call our money dates, where couples can use this time to unite around their financial plans and make long term financial decisions together on a date and the privacy of their own conversation. It's not a small group study, it's a program just for couples. We've also made available access to our online courses. We believe that if you'll invest in learning God's financial principles, that will pay long term dividends, long term, not just during the crisis, but for the rest of your life, even for the rest of eternity.
Thank you for providing resources from a Biblical perspective. How should this shape the way we see our finances?
It should make us see them or the seriousness of them for all eternity. When people tell me what words they want to hear when they die, they want to hear well done good and faithful servant. Well, that's the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. And it has to do with how you manage the resources that God provided for you. So, our eternity and our hope for the future is interlinked with what we do in regard to our stewardship today.
I love that the Bible is clear that it doesn't matter how great or small the dollar amount is, the principle of stewardship still applies. What does God call us to do?
God never calls us to be successful with money. He calls all of us to be faithful with money and faithfulness is a relationship term. And it means that anybody can be faithful, whether you have a lot or a little. That's what's so beautiful about God's principles. It's not a competitive thing. It's actually an issue of being consistent with what God said to do. We consistently obey him and we're faithful to make him first in our heart and the way we manage our resources and he takes care of us. We are faithful to go to work and he's faithful to provide for our needs.
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