Maybe you’ve recently seen someone holding a cardboard sign about their need at the grocery store, when you were already concerned you might not have enough to feed your own family. Or perhaps your church received a call to buy some groceries and it made you worry those calls could come in faster than your resources in the days ahead. This is not a new problem, even if COVID-19 accentuates it.
In the midst of this global pandemic you may be thinking about how to be a good steward of dwindling resources, but as a Christ-follower your resources are never more bountiful than when they can interrupt hopelessness with the hope of the gospel. Being a steward (manager) of God’s Kingdom resources (time, talents and treasure) has always been an area where wisdom and discernment are required. Consider the time mere weeks after Jesus had ascended to the Father in Acts 3.
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple for the time of prayer at three in the afternoon. A man who was lame from birth was being carried there. He was placed each day at the temple gate called Beautiful, so that he could beg from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the temple, he asked for money. Peter, along with John, looked straight at him and said, “Look at us.” So he turned to them, expecting to get something from them. But Peter said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!” Then, taking him by the right hand he raised him up, and at once his feet and ankles became strong. So he jumped up and started to walk, and he entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized that he was the one who used to sit and beg at the Beautiful Gate of the temple. So they were filled with awe and astonishment at what had happened to him. — Acts 3:1-10 (CSB)
There are some timeless principles for excellent Kingdom stewardship during this time for a person seeking help, a person being asked for help, and for the church:
1. To the one who is seeking help (all for of us at one time or another): All-knowing God gives good gifts to those who ask (Matthew 7:7-12); He gives daily bread, not stones. He gives nourishing fish, not serpents. This is a promise to the one who asks God in faith. You and I can ask Him for what seems best to us and then gratefully accept what seems best to Him. This is often how we learn His will, by receiving His gifts with gratitude and trust. However, if we believe like many—that all faith is good for is a quick buck, physical help, a handout, a quick pick-me-up—we will miss God’s greatest blessings and instead be frustrated, even offended, when our want isn’t met. Imagine if the lame man had his heart set on silver and gold and said no thanks to Peter and John.
A principle for the one in need is this: When God gives you something different, don’t grump … jump. Jump into a posture of faith. Jump into a mindset of flexibility. Grumping about a gift is not a good representation of the heart, but jumping in praise sure is!
2. To the one being asked for help (most of us at one time or another): Don’t fall into the trap where you hear the request and give a response based upon only the physical resources you think you readily have at your disposal. Don’t assume, because the person in need asked for one thing, that something else might be even better. Seek God on their behalf (even on the spot) and look beyond their ask and your inventory. Imagine if Peter had said, “Silver and gold have I none, so have a nice day.” If caught in the wrong mood, we can respond wrongly when asked. We can think we are too busy or think we are not the right person for the opportunity. However, God is sovereign. A better view would be to enjoy the truth that God has caused a beautiful collision resulting in your opportunity to meet a need. Seek Him so that you can respond with excellence!
A principle for the one being asked: When the need shows up in front of you, don’t shrink … think. Think about how God has equipped you for this very assignment. It may not be in accordance with the request, but like Peter and John, go for it. You are not responsible for how the person asking receives what you prayerfully offer.
3. To the church (ministry leaders regularly face these challenges): Focus on what you have (the positive) versus what you don’t have (the negative). The church is a spiritual organism, not a financial organization. You may not meet every request financially. Just don’t mistakenly try to meet a spiritual need with a physical resource. Offer the hope of the gospel in word, action, and attitude. If that includes “silver and gold,” then praise the Lord for providing the budget to do so. I’m reminded of the conversation once had from St. Thomas Aquinas and Pope Innocent IV.
Aquinas went to Rome and met Innocent IV. He looked around in amazement at the mass of plate and treasure. “You see, Thomas, we cannot say as St. Peter of old, ‘Silver and Gold I have none.’ Aquinas replied, “No, and neither can you say as he did to the lame man, as he did, ‘Rise up and walk.’”
A principle for the church: When God gives you a soul to care for, don’t limit the opportunity to a financial transaction. What if, in this time of big needs, the Lord is opening up new doors for new relationships with new souls for your church? Pursue every opportunity with this in mind.
Being a Kingdom Steward in needy times is a vital way the hope of the gospel will penetrate parts of our world where it is least known and believed. Your next opportunity is likely right around the corner!