Congratulations: You’re Going to Be a Millionaire!
The mystique of the million dollar number is big enough to inspire lottery purchases and TV quiz show titles. Turn on the TV any day of the week and you can find shows from Deal or No Deal to Survivor to 1 vs. 100 offering a million dollars. TV watchers today are captivated by the uniqueness of the millionaire status and the prestige that comes with it for these shows offer a hope that any regular person could become a millionaire.
Have you ever thought about becoming a millionaire? Whether you have or not, the likelihood is that if you are a graduate of higher education, you will personally make well over a million dollars in your lifetime (assuming you make an average salary until retirement age).
So then Mr./Ms. Millionaire, how are you going to spend your million? Or better yet, what difference should a million dollars make to our sense of stewardship in the kingdom of God?
Let us consider for a moment what stewardship of our resources for the kingdom of God really means. For many of us, stewardship has been defined by our act of giving. This is revealed by the typical questions we ask when it comes to stewardship: “How much do I give?” Or “How should I give my money away?”
These questions suggest that the popular opinion about stewardship is that we are the givers. In thinking this, we forget that all the giving has already been done by God (down to the oxygen we inhale). The reality is God is the giver, not us. We have been designed by God to be stewards, not givers, of what he has provided. Too many of us rich, wasteful, selfish American Christians use a 10 percent ceiling to cap our generosity. This is not true stewardship. Stewardship is about how we allocate and respond to all of the resources—that means everything—put into our trust rather than how we distribute whatever amount we have decided to allot to the offering baskets. We are responsible for all: the full million. This has huge implications for how we respond to our personal resources.
We begin to ask “How did God intend me to use every penny he has given me?” While it is a subtle shift in thinking, it opens the door wider for us to see God at work through our resources. It takes the focus off of us and returns it to the true giver: God.
In the quest to become godly millionaires, there are many obstacles that can get in the way. Three of the most common are frugality, immediacy, and intentionality.
The Challenge of Frugality
A common response to the great responsibility of being God’s stewards is to be frugal. Being frugal is not a bad thing. Good money managers are frugal. Those of us who are frugal are not often “caught” without resources in emergencies. We usually are good about saving our money. We know where nearly every penny has gone.
However, often in our frugality we do not practice generosity. We can wince at any giving that does not provide a tax benefit. Or because those who are frugal have every penny accounted for, special needs or requests that do not fit in our budget can be overlooked and ignored.
The antidote for frugality is generosity. It starts with a closer look at the generosity of God to us—the people who rebelled against him, reviled his name, and chased after other lovers, but to whom love and grace were given in return. God did not hold back his resources with us. Who are we to hold God’s resources from his purposes?
If you fall into the category of being frugal with your money, it’s good to take a step back and examine your motivation for being frugal. It is good to remember Paul’s encouragement in 1 Timothy 6:18 to “be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” Are you frugal to pinch pennies so you can afford to buy a new TV in a few months? Does your frugality come from a need to have enough money stashed away to provide security? Does being frugal come from the desire to allow for more money to be given away? Are you frugal for your own sake or for the sake of God’s purposes and others?
The Challenge of Immediacy
On the other end of the spectrum is the idea of living for the moment or spending without constraints. In some ways you could call this the prodigal mentality: the prodigal son was entrusted with a large sum of money, and spent it recklessly on wasteful immediate desires.
Even as Christ followers, we so often join our world’s culture of spending on the here-and-now without even thinking. How much of the riches of our time, energy, mental activity do we waste on TV? How much do we waste surfing the net, on “just hanging out,” or on the latest style or because it is on sale and such a good deal? University students are graduating with high debts for student loans, certainly often justified, but they are also graduating with a large consumer debt. If we are not in debt or struggling with money issues, we might feel that “we can afford it.” This is the wrong assessment. The real question is whether the kingdom of God can afford it.
The antidote for immediacy is thoughtful, biblically based action. We need to focus our minds not just on the work of saving, but on the additional work of earning in order to retain more money for the specific use of God’s work on this earth rather than our own desires. Not everyone must shop at the thrift store, or never buy a designer latte, or never eat out, but taking an inventory of what we spend our money and resources on will take us further down the road of good stewardship. Just because we have the money/resources “now” doesn’t mean God intends us to use it now.
The Challenge of Intentionality
No matter where you fall in the spectrum between frugality and reckless spending, lack of intentionality can become the biggest road block in becoming kingdom stewards. This is something Jesus even noted in describing the cost of becoming a disciple (Luke 14:28-31). In the passage, Jesus references a builder and soldier who took careful inventory and planned out how they were to finish their appointed tasks. In a similar way, we need to be intentional about taking inventory and planning out how we are going to be stewards of the great gifts God has given.
Being strategic is the antidote for a lack of intentionality! Since we are not accidental Christians, we want to live strategically, with our minds, hearts, and wills pursing the wisdom of accumulation and allocation of God’s riches, which he placed under our management. Author Kelly Kullberg perhaps said it best in her book Finding God Beyond Harvard: “truly wealthy people don’t accumulate so much as they scatter wealth, they invest in the needs of people and in the portfolio of the growing kingdom. They seed that which lasts forever.”
All of us need to give time and thought to how we live, and spend wisely the resources our generous God has risked putting under our management. This is a highly intentional thing to do. Our Lord says, “Give careful thought to your ways” (Haggai 1:5, 6). God’s great goodness to us is a model for us who are made in his image. He planned us and our redemption from before the foundation of the world. We are not accidents. Our managing of resources for Christ’s kingdom should not be either.
Decide today to be intentional. Begin to pray for open eyes to the needs God may be asking you to meet. Take an hour to list everything God has given you from money, to your car, to a home/apartment and begin to ask God how he would want you to use those resources to bless others.
We are millionaire stewards for God’s kingdom. We need to take the initiative now to begin our life as God’s faithful stewards.