“But, Agent X, wouldn’t you agree that we are to be good stewards of the things God has given us?” (Not an exact quote, but close.)
Yeah, it’s hard to argue with that. Makes it sound like if I promote selling everything one owns and giving it to the poor, then I am against good stewardship of the blessings God has given us.
There’s just one hitch: Jesus told at least one rich guy to sell everything he owned, give it to the poor, have his riches in heaven, and come follow (Mark 10:21). If I promote the same thing Jesus commanded that rich guy to do, then surely selling everything and giving it to the poor is not actually a violation of good stewardship after all! In fact, maybe, just maybe, having your riches in heaven counts as truly good stewardship!
I don’t go to Mark 10:21 for a lesson in stewardship, actually, but I suggest that it is not a violation of stewardship. There is a delicate difference there – think about it.
Here’s the thing: I have recently raised this passage as part of my rebuttal to the When Helping Hurts program. I was rebutted with a question about stewardship. I never raised the issue of stewardship; the defender of When Helping Hurts did that. Personally, I think that was a worthwhile reaction. Because somehow, on the surface of things, giving away wealth to the poor does seem to violate good stewardship. And while I am not prepared to exhaustively analyze stewardship, I can confidently say that based on the commands of Jesus, either giving away wealth to the poor does not violate good stewardship OR stewardship does not matter! (And well, I am inclined to think the former and not the latter.)
In the exchange with the guy about stewardship, I also quoted Luke 6:30. That verse, in part, quotes Jesus saying, “Give to all who ask….” Again, I was confronted with the question of stewardship in defense of the book and program called When Helping Hurts. But as part of that rebuttal, the guy seemed to conflate (or seemed to think I was conflating) Mark 10:21 with Luke 6:30 – as if to say you must always sell everything you own and give it all to the poor every time a poor person asks you for something.
Let me be clear: I SAID NO SUCH THING.
Again, my point was that Jesus himself would have all of us give to all who ask. Jesus did not specify on that occasion that you should give everything you have just for the asking. He did not specify that it should be money either. For all I know, he was making allowance for giving prayer (or better yet a healing touch like Peter and John in Acts 3:6). It could be as little as give a listening ear, a moment of time, but probably carries more weight with some kind of material sacrifice since the over all context suggests giving forgiveness for theft and giving up coats and shirts.
Nevertheless, you are commanded to give to all who ask. Giving is not a violation of good stewardship, or if it is, then stewardship just does not really matter to Jesus! (You decide. I will leave that debate for another time.)
Meanwhile, I have seen with my own eyes in real life (and read about others on the internet) who felt justified after reading When Helping Hurts in not giving to the poor. In fact, in the name of “not hurting” them, some of these “Christian” ministers have actually sent the poor away empty handed so as to be good stewards, guard against humiliating the poor, and teaching the poor a lesson! And this is in direct opposition to St. Mary’s depiction of Jesus’s message and mission as she portrays them in Luke 1:53.
Consider this: Giving, whether everything or something, is not a violation of stewardship at all. No. Giving is a violation of selfishness! And while I will refrain from accusing my fellow discussant of disguising his selfishness as stewardship by asking me his question, I will ask him to consider if that is not in fact the root motive for asking it. I will let him decide for himself. But I raise the whole thing here too so that you can consider it with me.
Perhaps I am in the wrong. If so, show me. I am interested.