The Joy of Stewardship

After taking a look at the financial state of Americans, we were moved to reflect on the biblical passage that was literally the foundation of the Stewardship Foundation—the story of the good and faithful servant in Matthew’s Parable of the Talents.

money-card-business-credit-card-50987The average American gross income is currently $71,258. That seems like good news until we realize that the average American household with a mortgage and other loans is $132,539 in debt, including an average $16,061 on credit cards.

According to IRS data for 2015, only 30% of Americans claim a charitable contribution deduction on their taxes. We might assume that some who didn’t itemize their deductions also gave, simply because Americans are generous to those less fortunate.

It’s good to remind our younger generation that they should carefully choose how they give. For example, only donations to qualified charitable organizations are deductible. If you’re not sure, we can verify this for you, or you can search for a charity on a site like Charity Navigator.

While handouts to the homeless or contributions to GoFundMe are worthy acts of charity, these are considered “personal gifts” and are not deductible. You may remember the 2015 news story about Casey Charf. While being treated in the hospital for a car accident, Casey’s doctors found she had a rare, seemingly incurable cancer requiring immediate treatment. The $50,000 she and her sister raised on GoFundMe triggered a $19,000 bill from the IRS.

When you give, keep receipts, even for cash. The same applies for payroll deductions should your employer run a charitable giving campaign. Remember too that if you receive something in exchange for your donation, whether a basket of goodies at a silent auction or a t-shirt, you have to deduct the fair market value of the incentive gift.

One of the most important charitable avenues often overlooked is giving appreciated assets. Donating property that has appreciated in value, like stock, can be highly beneficial. Call us if you want to explore how to receive a double benefit from donations of appreciated assets.

Do either our giving patterns or our own money problems, real or perceived, prevent us from remembering whose resources we’re managing? Are not our time, talents, skills, and health all tools to help us share with others, do good for others, and use them to glorify God? We exist to help others find the joy in stewardship in practical, financially beneficial ways, but also because it’s our credo and commitment to God.

The Story of Our Name

The Stewardship Foundation was founded on the Judeo-Christian principle of stewardship. The idea for the foundation grew from our firm belief that certain highly-principled Christians, Jews, and yes, others, with money to invest or property to use for charitable means wanted a like-minded investment firm they could trust for advice and counsel. The outcome of their investments and charitable giving had to be in accordance with God’s natural law of morality and based on Jesus’ teachings.

003-parable-talentsMost of us consider stewardship as a theological belief that humans are responsible for the world, and should take care of it. There’s much talk of caring for creation—the animals and the environment—and many charitable opportunities for these things. In Genesis 2:15 it is written, “The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.” So we are driven to “serve the garden in which we have been placed” and we apply this to our ways of life, teach it to our children, and practice it in our politics.

A broader concept of stewardship is illustrated in Jesus’ parable of the “talents,” and it’s this lesson on which the Stewardship Foundation’s name was sourced. The verses are often considered to be read by replacing the word “talents” with “abilities,” but we don’t. There is a good lesson; we believe that the message of the Gospel about the use of money earned is clear.

Matthew 25:14-30…

“It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more. His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy. Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’

Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

A talent in Biblical times was a monetary unit worth about 20 years’ worth of wages for a person’s labor. He spoke this parable after talking about His second coming and that no one knows the day or the hour so we must use our “talents” to the best of our abilities as if Jesus was returning today. Let us all use our money not for ourselves so much, but for the glory of God. This means, using it to help others financially to accomplish His will, not just for ourselves.

The Meaning of Stewardship

The dictionary defines stewardship as ‘responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving’. This indeed is what we do for our clients who invest with us and for the nonprofits who use our stewardship skills to assist their major donors.

parable of the talentsWhile stewardship is an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources, the concepts of stewardship can be applied to the environment and nature, economics, health, property, information, theology, etc. At the Stewardship Foundation, we extend this to the protection of human life, religious freedom, and the sanctify of marriage.

There is also a biblical definition that work is the stewardship of all the creation that God has given us. “Remember then the LORD, your God, for he is the one who gives you the power to get wealth…” —Deuteronomy 8:18. When we manage the possessions (money, valuables, investments) of another, we know that one day we will be called to give an account of how we have managed those things.

We often refer to the Parable of the Talents. Because God has called us to be stewards, we are not allowed to rule over what others entrust to us as we see fit, but to exercise our knowledge and resources under the watchful eye of our Creator, managing all these things in accordance with the principles He has put forth. “For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” —Matthew 25:29

We believe that when we are good stewards of God’s abundance, we are being faithful. At The Stewardship Foundation, we believe that when we are being good stewards with our donors’ money, we imitate the good servants—increasing our donor’s wealth for the good of all.

Please share this article with family, friends and colleagues whom you believe need our stewardship, and if we can help you with your investments, or if we can help the major donors of your nonprofit, please call us at (614) 800-7985.