Stewardship.com is a work in progress. For now it redirects to this “Making of” website: a simple blog giving me space to journal, develop ideas, and share them with a handful of people. I value your feedback (especially if it’s critical in the best sense of the word) so please reach out if you have ideas or comments.
The first goal of Stewardship.com is to present the basic principles that guide everything the Bible says about money, wealth, and possessions. I hope that this website will be the most comprehensive free resource on this topic. These principles were discovered by studying every passage on money, wealth, and possessions with the aim of sorting them into a small, memorable set of basic principles. I came up with 7 principles (yes, cliche) that provide the simplest way to organize the huge wealth of information while not leaving anything out.
Everything flows from Principle 1: Jesus is King. Principles 2-7 are organized into three groups covering the topics of Work, Giving, and Investing. Some of the choices might seem questionable: for example, Principle 2 covers both work and rest, which could arguably be split in two. You could also argue principles 4 and 5 both encourage giving, why not combine them into one principle? While there could be other ways to do it, I believe my choices here are justified, read on to see why.
Principle 1: Jesus is king
Jesus is a king, but one who is not of this world. When we follow the king who is not of this world our needs in this world and the next will be provided for. No one can have two masters, we cannot serve both God and Money. The love of money is the root of all evil, yet money itself is not evil. Money is similar to that line about humility: “it’s not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” It’s not about having less money (necessarily), it’s about thinking less about money, and more about Jesus. As we do that he will take care of our needs.
Principle 2: Work hard, but not all the time
We need to work hard to provide for ourselves, our families, and those in need. Paul worked hard to provide for his own material needs even while preaching. “The one who does not work, does not eat.” No matter our job we can do it “as if for the Lord, not for man.” And yet, to sustain hard work over a lifetime we must balance it with times of rest and refreshment. Otherwise we are no better than Israelite slaves building pagan temples in Egypt.
Principle 3: Your mission is not my mission
Jesus called some to leave everything and follow him. Others he told to return to their home and tell people what they’d seen. The Bible has a number of examples of righteous people with power and wealth (David, Daniel, Joseph, early Christians who supported others) as well as righteous who were poor and mistreated (Jeremiah, Paul, Jesus himself). Others, like Job, went back and forth between wealth and poverty while remaining faithful to God. A corollary of this principle is that whatever your mission is, God will provide what you need to carry it out. For some that will mean owning a business and having some form of wealth, for others it will mean relying on others’ generosity. Each has its place.
Principle 4: Give consistently
Much of the Old and New Testament emphasizes consistent giving. The Israelites were instructed to give the firstfruits of their produce. Part of this went to support the Levites and Priests so they could focus on ministering to the spiritual needs of the people. The New Testament affirms that principle if not the exact amount that should be given. Those who have extra are also asked to share with those in need. The exhortation to give is one of the most frequent in the entire Bible.
Principle 5: Once in awhile, give extravagantly
Some of Jesus’s greatest praise was reserved for people who gave extravagantly, for example, the woman with the jar of expensive perfume and the widow who gave “all she had to live on.” Jesus himself followed up a life of consistent giving with the extravagant gift of his life. As in principle 2, this looks different for every person. We’ll look at examples of extravagant giving including the Tabernacle, the Temple, and early Christians who sold fields or houses to share with others in need.
Principle 6: Don’t hoard
While some have the calling, and the honor, of giving away everything they own, what if that’s not you? What should we do with the money we don’t give? The Bible is clear that hoarding is not the way to go. Think of the parable of the guy who built bigger barns to “have many years of ease.” That very night his life was taken from him and others got what he had stored up. But if worldly “investing” looks suspiciously like hoarding, how can we manage our extra in a way that pleases God? How do we distinguish excessive hoarding from reasonable preparation for times of need in the future?
Principle 7: God’s crash-proof economy
A number of Old Testament laws describe the economic and financial system God wanted Israel to follow. I believe those laws were chosen in order to prevent the two biggest dangers modern financial systems face: (i) asset booms and crashes and (ii) systemic and absurdly high inequality between rich and poor. We will look at the causes of these dangers and show how the Mosaic Law acts to prevent them. No nation is likely to implement laws like this before Jesus comes back (Israel itself never actually followed them either). But by looking into these economic principles we will gain some practical knowledge plus a greater appreciation for God’s wisdom.
How I got here
For several years I’ve wanted to publish something on money geared towards a Christian audience. I thought at first it would mostly be financial advice from a biblical perspective. In 2019 I did a fairly deep dive into keyword research, trying out many terms such as “god and money”, “bible and money”, “christian finance” and many others. The only one which passed all the tests for a keyword strong enough to attract lots of interest, and potentially build a business around, was “stewardship”.
Historically, this term was used more often and had a broader meaning. Today its primary connotation could be summarized by “the use of money and other financial resources in the way God wants you to.” This is roughly its colloquial meaning in a Christian context, and based on preliminary research I think that is what most Americans who search for or ask questions online about this word mean by it.
At that point, I had already been watching the website Stewardship.com for several years. Under a previous owner (who I believe is a well-known Christian financial author and speaker), Stewardship.com had some good articles, but I always felt it could be so much more. After visiting the website I would often browse other domain names, hoping to find something almost as good for the website I wanted to build. Every time I ended that search feeling dissatisfied. None of the other options even came close. I never imagined I’d one day have the opportunity to purchase Stewardship.com itself.
In 2022 I checked again and saw that Stewardship.com was up for sale. Realizing this might be my only opportunity, I did a deep dive into domain name valuation and within a month I bought the domain. But in the intervening years my vision for this project on money and the Bible had changed significantly. In 2019 I read a secular book that began to slowly reshape my goals and vision. Killing Sacred Cows that taught personal finance from a very fundamental, first-principles method. Although I could never have articulated them so clearly, I was already using many of those principles in my own business and personal finances. The approach resonated with my science background in which the goal is to build results from first principles as much as possible. I also noticed that a few principles in that book came directly from the Bible. This planted a seed in me to go directly to the Bible and find the main principles it teaches about money.
Second, I began to feel a little bored with my current career path, which at its core involved buying cheap things to sell them at much higher prices later. I had been pretty successful at this, which in my mind qualified me to write something on the topic of finances for a Christian audience. Helping Christians make better financial decisions certainly has value, and I have friends who are rightly passionate about it. But I began to realize it wasn’t for me. I saw that what I meant by “better” financial decisions was the exact same thing the world meant. That is, decisions that would lead to wealthier Christians, but not necessarily more Christ-like Christians.
With this realization my plans for a book and website on this topic became much more focused. I would try to lay aside the financial knowledge I had accumulated. Instead, I’d go directly to the Bible and try to find whether there were underlying principles that motivated everything it said about money. I began reading through the New Testament and keeping notes on every passage which mentioned money, wealth, or material possessions. After finishing Matthew, I cross-referenced the stories common between Matthew, Mark, and Luke (which share quite a bit of material). I then noted all the unique money references in Mark and Luke, finding every passage that was not already mentioned in Matthew, and summarizing it in my own words. Based on these synoptic gospels I concluded that money is one of Jesus’s favorite topics.
Not of this world
But next came the gospel according to John. I was surprised to find that it says almost nothing about money. I kept reading but added very little to my notebook. What I did add was kind of a stretch, nothing like the direct references to money and wealth in the other gospels. The reading went pretty fast, I probably finished John in one day. I was feeling pretty good about the fast progress, and looking forward to moving on to Acts which I knew had a lot more direct teaching on money. But then something surprising happened. As the crowd shouted “Crucify him!” and the chief priests “We have no king but Caesar!” I realized the gospel of John is all about money.
All those “it’s a stretch” implicit references to money in John were suddenly unified. They went from being a stretch to being the foundation — the most important principle — of the Bible’s teaching on money, wealth, and possessions. John’s gospel is more structured and processed than the synoptics. It reads less like a collection of Jesus’s sayings, and more like a unified manifesto of Jesus’s mission. It makes the point over and over that Jesus is a king, but one who is “not of this world.” His disciples have a home, and an inheritance, but those are not of this world either. Instead, Jesus is contrasted with the kings of this world. The Pharisees, priests, and others have accepted the kings of this world — Caesar, money, Satan — as their kings instead of God. It echoes 1 Samuel, when the Israelites cried out for a king, and God informed Samuel that they had rejected him (God himself) as their king.
In John, Jesus uses the word, “world,” over and over. Think of the traditional enemies of the church: the world, the flesh, and the devil. These three are all interconnected and work together in any temptation. But just as lust or gluttony originates in the flesh, I believe the temptation towards wealth primarily comes from the world. So when Jesus uses the term “world” over and over again in John, it’s not a stretch to assume that term encompasses money, as well as the power and prestige prized by the world.
I believe this understanding of Jesus’s mission as being a king “not of this world” provides the foundation for understanding everything the Bible has to say about money, wealth, and possessions, in both the Old and New Testaments. That’s why I’m thinking of it as Principle 1, from which the other six principles flow.
That’s it for the vision and background story. Lord willing I will be able to flesh it out and launch Stewardship.com sometime in 2023. We’ll see.