We live amid unprecedented economic prosperity, and with the promise of globalization and the continued expansion of opportunity and exchange, such prosperity is bound to grow.
Yet if we’re to retain and share these blessings, such gifts need to be received and responded to with a heart of service, sacrifice, and obedience to God. “Man is not the owner,” write Lester DeKoster and Gerard Berghoef. “He is the overseer…Each of us is steward over those talents and those pounds allotted us by divine providence.”
I was reminded of this while reading King David’s powerful prayer at the end of 1 Chronicles. David had called on Israel to give generously for the construction of the template, and God’s people responded in turn. David gave his “personal treasures of gold and silver,” and the people “gave freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord.”
The story provides a basic lesson in generosity and obedience, but David’s subsequent prayer demonstrates something deeper about the heart of Christian stewardship, offering a fine portrait of how our overarching attitudes and allegiances ought to be aligned:
Praise be to you, Lord,
the God of our father Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.
Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.
Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name.
But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.
Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. Lord, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.
How easy is it for us to ask God for provision and, upon having our needs met, respond by congratulating ourselves on our own power, knowledge, ability, or effort?
Indeed, when showered with material abundance, there’s a persistent temptation to get comfortable, proud, or apathetic, giving God a brief head nod or “thanks” without taking time to truly contemplate, meditate, and express our gratitude for all he has done. Likewise, upon receiving such blessings, a rightly aligned heart of gratitude and service is crucial for stewarding such resources according to his purposes.
“Who am I,” David asks, “and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?”
In a time with as much economic opportunity and prosperity as this, let us never neglect to respond in such a way. Every good and perfect thing comes from his hand, from here to there and back again.