Stewardship, we have said, is a privilege more than a duty. Now I am saying that stewardship is sacrifice. Most people think of sacrifice as something done out of a sense of obligation or oughtness. Few think of it as a privilege. When is it a privilege? It is a privilege when we give up the old self-centered existence for the God-centered existence—when we deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Christ (Mark 8:34)—when we put to death our self-absorption (Galatians 5:24). Sacrifice is a privilege when it opens the door to new life, when it takes us out of ourselves as we leave behind the lesser selves created by our sin.
Stewardship is the day by day living out of Christian privilege through the process of self-denial. The self-denial is essential because seeking that which is worthy requires the abandonment of that which is unworthy.
Stewardship is a sacrifice in two ways. First it is sacrifice in the sense of something given up. Second, it is sacrifice in the sense of something given.
The Apostle Paul appeals to the Roman Christians: “In view of God’s mercy… offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1). This presentation of ourselves is a twofold sacrifice. Yes, we become masters of dispossession in contrast to being bent on mastering the art of acquisition. But this “giving up” is an empty exercise if it is not the reflection of the “living sacrifice” of which Paul speaks. The all-important sacrifice is giving ourselves to God. This complete sacrifice triggers a life-offering of reflexive sacrifices as the offering of ourselves to God works itself out in daily offerings.
Our stewardship is the substance of our commitment. It is the sacrificial lifestyle of those who have sacrificed themselves to a God who sacrificed everything. It is the joyful practice of self-denial. The crazy thing about stewardship is that sacrifice is profoundly rewarding.
What is the one enduring treasure? It is the kingdom of God. Those who take this Kingdom seriously look at their own material treasures in an entirely different light. They cease being treasures and become resources. They become expendable for the kingdom.
Philip D. Needham, The War Cry