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It’s never too early to start a legacy: The importance of financial stewardship

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Getty Images/CatLane

You may not have heard of R.G. LeTourneau. A widely successful industrialist of the early and mid-20th century, LeTourneau made his living creating earth-moving equipment that was used to support Allied forces during World War II. He is one of the greatest inventors of our time, with over 300 patents granted. A devout Christian whose life passion and calling were to spread the Gospel and leave a lasting spiritual legacy, LeTourneau gave 90% of his income to God’s Kingdom work. LeTourneau once said, “I shovel out the money, and God shovels it back — but God has a bigger shovel.”

I have been in Christian financial and fundraising ministry for nearly 30 years. If you’ve been in fundraising and donor relations for that long, you have likely been asked, “How can you be comfortable asking for money?” Yes, fundraising involves the transactional aspect of money, but more importantly, it is relational and spiritual before it is transactional. In Christian ministry, and as individual donors ourselves, giving is an act of worship based on the sacred relationship between the giver and God. There is an intersection that too few of us pause at for very long — and that is the intersection of Kingdom stewardship and God’s call upon the resources and gifts he has entrusted to our care. Imagine a seat with a spiritual view that allows you to both see the needs of the world and reflect on all God has given you that can help meet those needs. Let me call this the stewardship seat.

Many will rush into the stewardship seat when they are older and thinking about their legacy or when the weighty stress of final-days reality sets in. My teams and I have helped many of these people with their final-days gift planning. You see, it’s an honor and sacred privilege to assist them with making these important decisions. This is why fundraising is comfortable; as fundraising professionals with Kingdom-minded ministries, we, too, have a seat at the intersection of Kingdom stewardship and God’s call upon the Kingdom steward.

But the stewardship seat is for more than just those who are 55 and over. There is an open seat to people of all ages and of all financial means.

A ‘mite-y’ heart

Many of us are familiar with the story in the Bible about the widow and her mite (Luke 21:1-4). We have a tendency to think we aren’t wealthy, and we don’t seem to have disposable income or other assets on the scale others do. Although the widow gave the equivalent of 1/8 of a cent in today’s currency, here’s what Jesus saw in the heart of the widow: “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.” Being a good steward isn’t just about being generous with your giving. It’s about being generous with your heart.

Generosity can be expressed through our time, talents, spiritual gifts, relationships, advocacy, and prayer. Yes, the widow gave all that she had, and in no one’s eyes was this a big amount, but she gave from her heart. This poor widow’s stewardship was memorialized for generations to come.

The seat of stewardship calls each one of us to sit and consider prayerfully all the resources that God has entrusted to us and how we can put those resources to use for Kingdom purposes. The sooner we recognize that he owns it all, sit in sincerity of heart and ask God to show us how we can be counted among His faithful stewards, the more Kingdom impact we can have during our lifetime (and after).

Here are three questions to ask yourself:

1. What transformational change do I want to see in the world?

For the past 15 years, I have been called to steward the work and resources of Bible translation at Wycliffe Bible Translators and Wycliffe Foundation. I can think of no more compelling thing that I can be doing with my life than what I am doing now. My heart’s desire is for people from every language to understand the Bible and be transformed through a personal, life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ and to see his Kingdom stewards engage in a cause that is close to the heart of God.

But I know that others have different callings and passions. For you, this might be providing help to children in need, the deaf community, those who are homeless, God’s global Church, or younger generations. The earlier you can identify what transformational change you want to see, the sooner your stewardship journey can begin.

2.  What do I want my legacy to be?

Some people are born into a deep family legacy of spiritual heritage, wealth or fame. Most aren’t. I wasn’t. When our adult daughters were young, my wife and I began to consider what it meant to leave a legacy; we learned from my wife’s parents who were devout Christians, and we started building our own legacy. If you don’t have a legacy, start building one now! We began to live and give in such a manner that our daughters, and their family, would have a strong spiritual foundation. Legacy building is so much more than passing on financial resources. Our hearts’ desire is to pass on our faith and values so they, too, can experience the joy of receiving the “well done” as they sit in the stewardship seat. 

The Rev. Billy Graham once said, “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one's children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one's life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.” To build this kind of legacy requires us to live intentionally, spending time in God’s Word and in prayer, and be obedient to what God is asking of us. When we sit in the stewardship seat, we allow ourselves time to ask, “What do I want my legacy to be?”

3.  How do I get started?

Once you understand that “you are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works,” that He owns everything, that you have been bought with a dear price and are his Kingdom steward and discern the transformational change you want to see in the world that is close to the heart of God, you must begin the journey. There’s no need to wait until we are over 55 to believe we can make an eternal impact in this life! Seek out godly counsel to help you begin the journey.

After 30 years of helping people be good stewards, I take great joy in knowing they are glorifying God with their stewardship, building and passing on their legacy, and will one day hear these words: “Well done, good and faithful steward; you have been faithful with what I have entrusted to you, and now you will be entrusted with much more. Enter into the joy of your Lord!” All of us — regardless of age or economic status — stand at the intersection of being God’s stewards and being obedient to His calling. We just need to sit in the stewardship seat long enough to hear where God is calling us to action now.

John Krehely is president/CEO of Wycliffe Foundation and chief financial officer for Wycliffe Bible Translators USA. 

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