How to Find the Balance Between Stewardship and Survival

February 3, 2017

How to Find the Balance Between Stewardship and Survival

Recently, I was given the opportunity to speak at an event on the topic of good stewardship. Because stewardship is one of those words that can carry various meanings to different people, I asked the organizer of the event what good stewardship means to her.

“Balance,” she said. “Good stewardship means having a life of balance.” That description intrigued me because I never looked at stewardship from that perspective. When I think of stewardship, the word “prioritization” comes to mind. But, if you think about it, prioritizing stewardship results in a life of balance.

Okay, let me back up a minute. What exactly is stewardship? You may be very familiar with the word, or you may have just heard it for the first time (seven times, if you’re counting). Regardless, stewardship is a word that we seem to use without fully knowing its meaning.

Understanding Stewardship

While stewardship is commonly associated with the church or the Bible, and the concept of stewardship certainly is a biblical concept, the origin of the word itself is not biblical.

The word stewardship first appeared in the English language in the 15th century as a job description. If you look it up in the dictionary, it’s defined as the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially, the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care. And the word steward is defined as one who actively directs affairs; manager.

So, stewardship is the management of something that isn’t yours but managing it, caring for it, and tending to it, as if it is yours (or maybe better than if it is yours). And a steward is not an owner but a manager.

That being said, even though stewardship is usually associated with money and financial resources, we are stewards of many things. Regardless of your religious beliefs, we are all stewards of this earth, our time, relationships, our influence, talents, skills, and many other things.

That is a lot to be responsible for! And that is why the description of “a life of balance,” seems more and more accurate to me. If we are to manage everything listed above, plus a host of other things, it must be done with balance.

So how do we do that exactly? How do we strike the balance of managing everything placed in our care and managing it well — in light of our everyday reality of paying bills, working, maintaining our households, taking care of our families, and just trying to survive? How does stewardship fit into all of that?

A balance can be achieved if we keep the core principles of stewardship in mind.

Living by the Principles of Stewardship

In researching stewardship, I came across an article that discusses the Principles of Biblical Stewardship. I will highlight a couple of the principles mentioned, plus an additional one that I believe is critical to achieving a balance between stewardship and survival.

Ownership

Now remember a steward is a manager, right? If you’ve ever had to watch someone else’s children, you played the role of manager or steward. While they were in your care, you “managed” them responsibly and carefully, as if they were your own, and then returned them, (happily), to their “owners”.

(Warning: I’m quoting the Bible here. Stick with me, okay?) Psalm 24:1 says The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Technically, we don’t own anything. Everything we “have” belongs to God, and we are just managing it. Looking at your life from that perspective is the first step to achieving a balance.

Contentment

Ah, contentment…a concept that is at times a struggle to grasp, but one that is necessary to finding peace in your life. Contentment will prevent you from comparing yourself to others or trying to keep up with the Joneses. (Because you do know the Joneses are broke, right? And trying to keep with them will make you broke too?)

We live in a time where we can see what everyone else is doing and what everyone else has. We look at our Facebook and Instagram feeds and suddenly feel dissatisfied with our own lives. The moment we get caught up in chasing what other people have is the moment balance goes out the window. But, when you have a spirit of contentment, gratitude replaces the dissatisfaction.

Responsibility

If we’re managers, not owners, then we are responsible for what has been placed in our care. Taking that responsibility seriously and managing what we have with the utmost level of care is our duty as managers.

Going back to the example of caring for someone else’s children, there is an expectation, an assumption, that you will care for the children well. If you do not, then you will need to answer to their parents. Likewise, if we mismanage our finances, time, and other things, we will face the consequences of mismanagement. Prioritizing the responsible care of everything entrusted to us leads to the balance we are seeking.

Practically Speaking

So what does all this mean from a practical and everyday perspective? Well, if you are experiencing imbalance or overwhelm, revisit the principles we covered to see which principle might be out of place.

Do you live your life convinced that everything is yours? Do you hear yourself saying things like “It’s mine. I deserve it.”? Go back to the principle of ownership.

Have you overloaded yourself with financial obligations or other commitments, thinking that filling your life with “stuff” and busyness will bring you happiness? Go back to the principle of contentment.

Are you mismanaging what you have been given, either by managing it poorly or by not using what you’ve been given for your benefit or the benefit of others? Go back to the principle of responsibility.

Good Stewardship Leads to Balance

Choosing to be a good steward is a daily choice. Keeping the three principles in mind, you will need to make decisions on a daily basis that result in the proper management of what you are responsible for.

These principles go hand-in-hand. When you are clear on who owns everything, that naturally leads to a spirit of contentment for what you’ve been given to manage. Contentment leads to a deeper understanding of your role as a steward and the responsibility that comes with it.

And that leads to balance.

What are your thoughts on stewardship? What does it mean to you from an everyday perspective?