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Out With the Old . . .

Life transformations bring a new measure of success

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The ultimate goal of the steward is to stand before the Master one day, gaze into His warm, approving eyes, and hear His appreciative words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt. 25:21). But unlike the steward of Matthew 25, who appears to be rewarded for one solitary act of faithfulness, we are intended to live a lifetime of effective stewardship—the kind that is birthed in the heart, emerges from a growing love relationship with God, and permeates all of life. Becoming a faithful steward is the goal; life transformation is the process (Rom. 12:1–2).

The apostle Paul used terms such as creation and new creation to describe life transformation. Linda Belleville quotes several scholars in her comments on Paul’s classic statement, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). She writes: “The word new (kainos) denotes that which is qualitatively better as compared with what has existed until now (Haarbeck, Link, and Brown 1976:670). A better way of looking at things has come. The tense is perfect (gegonen) —a new set of standards and attitudes ‘has come to stay’ (M. J. Harris 1976:353). ”*

To experience the realities of our new creatureliness in Christ, there are at least 12 (and possibly more) major transformations surrounding money and possessions that need to take place in our lives. As you read these transformations, notice the juxtaposition of old and new. Imagine what our churches could accomplish if everyone became a “new” steward!

Transformation 1

From idolatry to an exclusive love for God

Because money is a master and the love of it the root of many evils, the heart cannot be divided between love of money and love of God. God alone is worthy of our exclusive love, because His perfect love addresses our every need. Before Christ, we were idolaters and prone to greed, covetousness and dishonesty. In Christ, the love of God compels us to recognize the needs of others, express generosity and demand honesty within ourselves.

Transformation 2

From fear of economic need to an exclusive trust in God

Our natural fear of economic uncertainties must be supplanted by an edifying trust in a faithful God who will provide. Before Christ, the foundation of our hope was trust in ourselves and our circumstances. In Christ, the foundation of our hope is trust in God and the promises of His Word.

Transformation 3

From attraction to what is not possessed to contentment with what is possessed

Our lust and pride for things we use to impress others must change to reflect Christlike humility and service to others. Before Christ, we were obsessed with appearances, which created chronic discontent. In Christ, contentment liberates us to reach our full potential for God’s glory.

Transformation 4

From undisciplined squandering to a disciplined spending plan

Our natural assumption that we own our possessions must be changed to an accountability of our use of God’s wealth under our management. Before Christ, we wrongly claimed credit, ownership and the right to use our resources wisely or foolishly. In Christ, we recognize God’s ownership of our possessions and desire His will in their use and distribution.

Transformation 5

From the self-destruction of overachievement to having financial margin for God’s purposes

In our fallen world, financial success at any cost is rewarded; that idea must be changed into a desire to have all resources ready for the opportunities God gives. Before Christ, the emotional needs for identity and self-worth drove us to self-destructive consumer behaviors. In Christ, we uncover our true identity and find our greatest fulfillment in a balanced life of servanthood.

Transformation 6

From the creature comforts of luxury to a more simplistic life of moderation

The old nature is easily convinced that bigger, faster, easier and opulent are always preferred over smaller, slower, harder and simpler. Before Christ, discretionary income was consumed on luxury. In Christ, lifestyle decisions are made in the light of the greatest value—eternity!

Transformation 7

From giving sacrilege to giving sacrificially

Our natural inclination to give what costs us nothing must change to a readiness to sacrifice what we want and even need. Before Christ, a “self first” mind-set governed our giving. In Christ, giving becomes a reflection of God’s grace—unconditional and sacrificial.

Transformation 8

From getting rich to wealth creation

Our worldly kingdom-building passions must be redirected to advancing the eternal Kingdom of God. Before Christ, security and pleasure for this present life motivated our quest for money. In Christ, our new disposition is to create and use wealth to bring as many with us as possible into life eternal.

Transformation 9

From consumptive debt to productive debt

Patience and wise investment must replace our natural weakness toward instant self-gratification. Before Christ, a secular culture fed our discontent through easy consumer debt. In Christ, we wisely use only productive debt.**

Transformation 10

From selfish hoarding to responsible saving

Hoarding must change to prudent accumulation for specific goals and unpredictable cash-flow crises. Before Christ, greed or fear drove us to stockpile money or resources, a practice that ultimately deadens generosity. In Christ, we strike the balance between trusting Him for whatever is beyond our control and saving responsibly for expected future needs.

Transformation 11

From retirement as leisure to full participation in Kingdom work

The secular value of retirement as an entitlement to leisure must change to retirement for ministry opportunity and life’s greatest fulfillment. Before Christ, we labored for the reward of leisure to conclude our lives. In Christ, we harness all of our resources to support the coming Kingdom of our Lord and Savior and finish life’s journey with excellence.

Transformation 12

From denial of death to planned legacy

The old nature with its dread of death must change to face death triumphantly and leave a God-inspired distribution plan. Before Christ, we superstitiously avoided thoughts of our certain death. In Christ, we plan the stewardship of our resources for the glory of God before passing into His presence.

As a lead pastor, I never assumed the love of my congregation always burned for God alone. When I was in seminary, I ministered in a liturgical church. Every Sunday morning included a recitation of the first and second great commandments (Matt. 22:37–40). Then I gave a brief teaching on God’s love and our response. At the time, I thought it was nice. Reflecting back, it was a great reminder to keep first things first!

* Linda Belleville, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: 2 Corinthians (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996), p.155.

**Gary Moore, Faithful Finances 101 (Radnor, Pa.: Templeton Foundation Press, 2003), p. 27.

Beyond Silly

My first serious conversation with Scott Early was at a big summer pool party he and his wife hosted at their beautiful home in Manahawkin, New Jersey.

Scott had become a Christ follower at Prince of Peace Alliance Church 10 months earlier. He was ecstatic about his new life in Christ and didn’t want to talk about much else! He had questioned his pastor, Anthony Morici, about tithing, and Pastor Anthony told Scott he should talk to me. “Before we talk about giving,” I told Scott, “would you be interested in discovering what Jesus has to say about your money and possessions?” He responded with an enthusiastic, “Yes!”

For the next five months Scott studied the Scriptures to find out what Jesus said concerning the heart issues of money and possessions. This was the beginning of a number of life transformations.

“When I was growing up, my family lived close to a jewelry store. I remember at the age of 17 looking in the window at a Rolex watch costing several thousand dollars,” Scott recalls. “I believed that the day I could purchase that watch, I would be a successful businessman.” That day finally came, but Scott now considers the high-ticket item a waste of money. “I have cars, a nice home and a good business, but they don’t mean much to me anymore. I once idolized money and measured my success by it. But I’ve grown tired of loving money for silly things since Christ has changed my heart.”

Scott’s new perspective is the direct result of his growing love for Jesus. “I’m really content now! Christ has given me a deep peace and filled my life with joy. My values and my attitudes and habits about money and possessions are moving in different directions.

“What really excites me now is my growing interest in giving to God’s Kingdom and a new compassion to help needy people, which I never had in my heart before Jesus.”

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