Mrs. Bosveld is a wife and mother in Hope Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
What is a steward? In times past, a steward was one who was in charge of the running of a household. He was responsible for the earthly possessions entrusted to him by his master. In short, a steward was someone who watched over the property of another as if it were his own.
In the world today, it is rare for someone to speak of having a steward. It is even more uncommon to hear a worldly person refer to himself as a steward. The ungodly look at all they possess and consider it to be their own. Whether they have great wealth or only just enough with which to get by, they view their property and possessions as theirs by right.
Unlike the ungodly, the children of God are familiar with the idea of stewardship. From an early age we are taught that all we have in this life is a gift from God. Our homes, schools, businesses, wealth, and even our families are not our own; they are entrusted to us by God. We are stewards of all that God has given to us! And, like the stewards of old, we must watch over these things, knowing that we are accountable to our heavenly Father for our use of them.
A vital aspect of stewardship is the training of our children. Our children must be taught to be fellow stewards of Christ. There are two chief means by which we instruct our children in this practice: the principles found in God’s Word, and our godly example. Many passages in the Bible speak of the importance of being faithful stewards. Proverbs 3, however, clearly illustrates the truth that it is the parents’ responsibility to teach their children to be stewards of Christ. In Proverbs 3:7-10, we read of a father’s admonition to his son to honor the Lord with his substance or his earthly possessions.
Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones. Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the first-fruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.
Without doubt, we, like this Old Testament father, must instruct our children that it is their calling to use all that they have wisely and to God’s glory.
Instructing our children to be faithful stewards is a difficult task for several reasons. First of all, because we are sinful creatures, our example of stewardship is imperfect at best. How often don’t we urge our children to use their time wisely, and yet are guilty of wasting our own time in pursuit of selfish interests? It is a struggle to use our possessions, money, time, and abilities to the honor of God. Our inclination is to satisfy our own interests and desires rather than to seek those things that are God glorifying. For example, it is far easier to pick up one of Jan Karon’s books than to sit down with Herman Hoeksema’sBehold He Cometh. Or to spend that unexpected bonus on “something for the house,” rather than giving a bit extra to the school drive. Seeking to be a steward of Christ is hard work. It requires great effort as well as subjection of our will to that which glorifies God.
Besides having our own sinful nature to contend with, we live in a society that is obsessed with materialism and selfish pleasures. The idea that life is short and must be enjoyed to the fullest is all around us—from radio/TV ads for vacation hotspots, to junk-mail flyers promoting retirement savings plans. The unregenerate man has a natural desire to save and to store up earthly riches. His intent, however, is not to use these things in the service of God, but rather to gain more and more possessions for his own enjoyment. A direct parallel can be made here between the ungodly men of our time and the rich fool Jesus speaks of in the New Testament parable. In Luke 12, we read of a man so wealthy that he had to build bigger and bigger barns in which to store his accumulated riches.
And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shalt be required of thee: then who shall these things be, which thou has provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God,
Obviously, the storing up of earthly riches for our own pleasure will bring God’s wrath, rather than His blessing, upon us.
Finally, our children, like us, have a sinful nature and are inclined to view what they have as their own. Often one of the first words a small child will speak after he has mastered “Momma” is the word “MINE!” As he grows older, this desire for ownership will manifest itself in other ways, from possession of a favorite Lego toy to that of owning his own car. As covenant parents, we are required to teach our children that all that they have, from their toys to their savings account, is from the Lord. And, as stewards of Christ, they must honor Him with all that they have been given.
There are several areas of life that we can focus on in the instruction of our children: money, possessions, time, ability, and opportunity.
Money and Possessions
The idea that our children work and earn a wage is not a new concept. Dating as far back as the Old Testament, children and young adults worked for the good of the family. Whether this involved working in the home or in a paying position, the primary reason for working was the support and welfare of the family and the church. It seems that in more recent years, the goals have changed. Most of our children do work outside of the home, but often the money that they earn is considered their own, to do with as they choose.
Our teenagers can so easily spend money on their own pleasures and entertainment. What teenage girl doesn’t like to spend time wandering through the mall or having lunch at Applebee’s with friends? And teenage boys are no less eager to spend their money, whether it is on clothes, sports equipment, or their own vehicle.
Certainly, there is nothing wrong with a young person who has worked hard, wisely spending some of what he has earned on himself. However, a child that is learning to be a steward of Christ will willingly agree to give some of what he has earned to the church, as well as to his parents. Our responsibility, then, is to remind him that what he gives is not what he has left, but rather, the first fruits of all that he has.
One way in which our children can contribute to the good of the family is by giving some of the money they earn to pay a portion of their tuition. Obviously, each family must decide for itself how large or small that portion will be, based on the needs of the family. But it is reasonable to assume that a teenager who is working part-time during the school year and full-time in the summer can pay at least half of his high-school tuition.
In addition to paying a portion of their tuition, our sons and daughters should be encouraged to give freely to the Benevolent Fund and to the freewill offerings. Although tithing is no longer required, our young people should be willing to give generously, remembering that the Lord loves a cheerful giver.
As parents, we should also encourage our children to give money to the school drives. Most of our schools have deficit drives at least once a year. Our children who are employed full-time and are no longer in school should easily be able to meet the requested amount. By doing so, they greatly ease the burden for many of our families in the church, and they give evidence of Christian stewardship.
Having taught our children to spend their money carefully, we should also teach them the wisdom of saving a portion of their earnings for the future. Young adults who have set aside money while they were young have a great advantage when it comes time to marry, purchase a home, and eventually raise a family. In connection with this, we can help our sons and daughters to invest a part of their savings. This investment may take the more traditional form of an IRA, or it might be the purchase of land or perhaps a rental property that will increase in value over time. Of course, there are other possible options, but the goal must always be preparation for a life of service in the kingdom.
Along with the use of his money, the child of God must also seek to use his time for the things of God’s kingdom. From little ones still at home to school-age children and those nearing adulthood, our children have a fair amount of “free” time. By free time, I refer to time that is unaccounted for, time not spent either in school or at work. All would agree that having time to relax and enjoy hobbies or personal interests is beneficial for the child of God. However, a balance must be sought between relaxation and proper use of our time.
An important dimension of the kingdom of God is the home and family. From a very young age, our children are able to help in the home with simple household tasks. As they mature, and their capabilities increase, so too should their responsibilities. Parents must see to it that their sons and daughters help as much as possible around the house. Unfortunately, because we are so very busy and often impatient to have things done quickly, we find it easier to do the job ourselves, rather than to show our children how to do it. When we do not require our children to help at home, we often create in them an ungrateful and selfish attitude, rather than instill in them a desire to deny themselves and cheerfully serve others.
There is great benefit for our daughters in learning how to organize and run a home: baking, laundry, cleaning, fixing meals, and caring for younger siblings are all important skills for a young girl to know. Our sons, future husbands and providers, must also be prepared for a life of responsibility and work. Besides mastering household tasks, our sons can help to maintain the home by doing such things as shoveling snow, mowing the grass, or keeping the eaves troughs free from leaves and debris. By having our children help in these ways, we help them learn the valuable lesson that being part of a family carries with it responsibilities as well as rewards.
Children who spend time with one another and with their parents will reap the rewards now and in later years. We need to develop this desire for fellowship in our children from an early age so that when they become teenagers they are less likely to resist it. This can be done in many ways. A few examples are: spending time playing with our other children, whether it be a game of Apples to Apples or time spent shooting hoops on the driveway; involving our children in hobbies that we can participate in; taking trips together as a family; and even working side by side either in the kitchen baking cookies or out in the garage on the family vehicle. All of these things serve to develop a sense of fellowship with one another and are a good and proper use of our time.
It is important to teach our children to use their time properly in the home. We must also see to it that they put their time to good use while in school. Most of our covenant young people are given a wonderful opportunity for stewardship when they attend our Protestant Reformed schools. Here, they are prepared for their life’s calling. It is our job as parents to make certain that our children use this time prudently by working diligently and always doing their best in their studies.
Abilities and Opportunities
In connection with the idea of being stewards of their abilities while in school, there are many young men and women to whom God has given specific gifts in subjects such as math, science, or foreign languages. We should encourage these children not to hide their talents but to use them in the service of others. One way to do so would be by offering to help or tutor a fellow classmate who struggles in these areas.
Besides the opportunity to use their abilities in school, our children have other occasions to make good use of their talents. There are many of our young people who have musical gifts: some are able to sing beautifully, others play the piano or musical instruments, and a few are even proficient at writing music. What wonderful opportunities exist in the home, school, and church for such ability!
God has given to others the gift of leadership. Some of our children are natural leaders from the time they are small. With guidance and training, this ability to lead can be used profitably in God’s kingdom. Whether in our homes, on the playground, or on the baseball field, our children need to be courageous and ready to stand for that which is right and honorable.
Some of our sons and daughters are given the gift of compassion and sensitivity towards those who have special needs. Here in the Grand Rapids area there is a group of young adults who have taken a particular interest in those in our churches with physical and mental challenges. These young men and women are an excellent example of stewards of Christ. They give of their time and gifts in the service of those who are most in need of friendship and of a sense of belonging to the body of Christ.
Obviously, these are only a few examples of the multitude of abilities that God has graciously given to His people. The point that must be made is this: we must not squander these gifts, as did the unfaithful servant in the Lord’s parable, who buried his talent in the ground. Instead, we must use the opportunities presented to us to the fullest. Then, and only then, will we receive the blessing, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Training our children to be stewards of Christ—what a difficult and overwhelming task! How can we as weak and sinful parents hope to achieve such a lofty goal? We are hindered by our own failings and shortcomings, the influence and pressure of the materialistic age in which we live, and by the depraved natures that we and our children share. Clearly, we can only do so by the grace of God. When we call upon Him for assistance, God will give us that which we request. And the evidence of God’s faithfulness will be seen as our children demonstrate the beginnings of Christian stewardship.
In Proverbs 3:9-10, a reward of grace is promised to those who have striven to give of their first-fruits. “Barns filled with plenty” and “presses bursting out with new wine” are earthly pictures of the spiritual blessings that we and our children will receive as we seek to be stewards to the glory of God.