I see many parallels between the ancient, Biblical role of the steward and that of modern-day Financial Advisor, likely because of my own personal experience serving as a Financial Advisor. These roles require that decisions (or recommendations) be made based, not on self-interest of the one hired to manage the wealth, but on the interests of another – the owner. It’s a sacred trust that the owner places in the manager.
Recently, I explained a complex private real estate investment to a new client who, despite her intelligence, wasn’t confident that she clearly understood all of the details. More than merely checking a box for compliance, it’s truly important to me to have engaged, well-educated investors. So I went through a number of the talking points again (how the investment aligned with her goals and values, current yield, risks, fees, liquidity, etc.) and paused to ask for questions.
Sensing that she didn’t know quite what to ask, but also didn’t feel entirely comfortable yet, I informed her that I had recently recommended the same investment for my parents and had invested some of my own money in it as well. She sighed in relief and acknowledged, “That’s exactly what I needed to know.”
After that, the other details were quickly worked out and the transaction was completed. She is now the owner of a new investment, but I also took posession of something new. (No, I’m not talking about a big commission check. Don’t be cynical.) It’s her trust. She released something valueable into my care and trusted me to steward it on her behalf.
I now carry her trust in my heart and mind, and the weight of that responsibility is my constant companion. It reminds me to pay attention to the investments I’ve recommended, and possible changes in my client’s financial situation, knowing that my client will most likely not be paying close attention.
Like our client relationships, trust is also the bedrock of effective, Biblical stewarship. The term, stewardship, means simply the management of resources that don’t belong to the manager. And since the Bible clearly teaches that all wealth ultimately belongs to God himself, we need to manage the assets in our accounts knowing that it’s actually His. Stewardship, then, is a lot like being God’s Financial Advisor, who takes discretion on His behalf, but must manage with his interests in mind.
Yet, our stewardship assignment doesn’t come with any built-in systems that help us stay on track. And God doesn’t exactly call us to check in on how we’re doing or email us to request changes in our strategy. And just like portfolio drift [which occurs as individual securities in your portfolio appreciate or depreciate in value and vear off of their original allocations over time] can, and will, inadvertently occur over time without a watchful eye, we can experience stewardship drift in our role of managing God’s money if we are aren’t paying attention. It’s easy, for example, to inadvertely reduce our giving, increase our lifestlye spending.
Perhaps some of the systems and constructs that help keep Financial Advisors dilligent and trustworthy in their professional lives could be applied to our personal stewardship efforts to help us be more effective for our King. Consider how two of the most common financial advisor activites, Data Gathering and Quarterly Reviews, might translate into better personal stewardship.
All great advisors spend a lot of time asking questions of their clients and listening. They want to know everything they can about their goals, values, experience, family relationships, and even their hopes and anxieties. They don’t stop with a simple data gathering form at the beginning of the relationship, but rather they are perpetual students of their clients who seek to use every meeting, not only to teach, but also to learn. They intentionally look for ways to truly understand their clients, anticipate their needs, and deepen their connection so that they might be of service in a manner than cannot be easily replaced by a software, a personal finance article, or even another competent financial professional.
This same relational attentiveness can help us become much more effective as stewards on behalf of our King. We must spend regular time in the Word, journaling the verses and ideas that jump out at us, and seeking wise counsel from other believers.
We must be listening intently for God’s voice – it’s not enough to only read the Bible from an exclusively academic mindset. The same powerful book that has helped millions find abundant life and freedom has also been misused to inflict a yoke of legalism and even spiritual abuse. We must ask the living Holy Spirit to make it come alive for us and show us how to apply it in our daily lives. We must get to know Him personally so that we can learn his values and goals and steward effectively on his behalf.
Be sure to keep a written record of what you sense He is telling you and teaching you as it’s surprisingly easy to forget the key revelation of even the most profound moments in his Presence.
To prepare for a client review meeting, financial advisors will look over all of their client’s investments and financial planning details closely. The majority of the work in the professional relationship revolves around the meeting itself: preparing for it and then following-up afterwards with any required implementation. It happens because there’s a scheduled meeting for which I must prepare.
As stewards, we will give an account to the Owner regarding how we managed the resources he entrusted to us at the end of our lives, but I don’t have a series of scheduled check-ins along the way…unless I intentionally create them.
Would we be more effective stewards if we set aside 1-2 hours every 3 months to pray, research, talk with God (and our spouses, if married), and seek wise counsel? I think it’s safe to say we would.
The focus of these check-ins might be an self-honest assessment. Click here to access my free template to help guide you through an effective quarterly review as you manage God’s money.
We can ask ourserlves: Did my giving, saving, spending, and investing align with God’s goals and values, since He alone is the rightful Owner? Or did I fall into one of the money heart traps?
- Did I hyper-focus on accumulating assets for myself and provision for my family?
- Did I give out of obligation rather than joy?
- Have I been subconsciously putting my hope in wealth or finding security in it?
- Was I distracted by the worries of this world or blinded by the decietfulness of riches?
- Did I ignore the voice of Holy Spirit in my conscience, valuing my own logic and reason above His still, small voice?
- Did I invest in something that prioritized return over integrity or impact?
Let’s get those reviews scheduled now so we can adjust our course as needed and keep our hearts pure. No temporal use of wealth could ever be as valuable a treasure as hearing the Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servent.”
As stewards, the more that we press in to know God’s heart, understand his heavenly values and ways, and seek his Kingdom, the more that our financial decisions align with and re–present Him to the world around us. Adding to our intimate knowledge of him a recurring, scheduled time to reflect on our performance relative to His goals will greatly improve our results as we co-labor with Him as his trustworthy children.
You may be expecting me to close with one of the many powerful Scriptures on stewardship, but instead I’ll leave you with the first few lines of this poem (with its intentional misuse of grammar), as a reminder that as His child, His image-bearer, and the temple of His Spirit, you have the high honor of carring His heart with you as you choose how you will steward not only your assets, but your hours, your energy, your relationships, and even your very life.
Let’s live lives worthy of our calling.
“i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)”
- e. cummings