What My Wife Taught Me About Stewardship

Last week, the Kelley family moved. It was a short move, only across town, but it was a move nonetheless. And while I’m excited about the new adventure and new home we have in front of us, I was reminded just how terrible moving is. I’m not talking about the nostalgic kind of terrible where you sob through empty rooms (although there was some of that), I’m talking about the terrible that is moving itself.

I’m pretty sure that when Dante wrote “Paradise Lost”, the section called “Inferno” actually contained several references to moving in the first draft, but his publisher made him take them out before publication (check me on that; I don’t have a firm citation to go with it.)

Boxes and tape and trash cans and all the little odd shaped things that won’t fit anywhere directly and back pain and sweat and changing mail… bleh. But in the midst of all this rigamoro, the lovely Jana Kelley taught me something, not by her words but with her action. She chose to do something (and by extension, I chose along with her) that was a bit frustrating to me at the time.

She cleaned the house. Top to bottom.

And I ain’t talking about the house we’re moving into. I’m talking about the one we’re leaving. The one we no longer own. The one that’s going to another family and the one we will most likely never walk through again. Just as the last box was packed and the last piece of furniture was out, I found myself on my hands and knees cleaning baseboards.

At that moment, by God’s grace, something struck me that my wife seems to have known all the time: This simple act is a firm demonstration of what real stewardship is all about. Here are three aspects of stewardship I learned last week on my hands and knees:

1. Stewardship is holistic.

Typically we think about stewardship in terms of money. We should do that; when Jesus wanted to talk about the one idol that will compete for the affections in the hearts of the children of God, He chose money (Matthew 6:19-24). Money might be the tip of the spear in terms of stewardship, it’s not the whole thing. To really live as stewards, we recognize that everything – money, time, experiences, talents, and our homes – come into play. To Jana, cleaning the house is what you do when you have this holistic view. To that end, it’s the reason why she would have people in and out of our house every day if not for her curmudgeonly husband. It’s because God has given us this thing, and it’s our job to make sure we use it (or leave it) in the best way possible.

2. Stewardship is active.

When you have that holistic view of stewardship, it changes the way you look at most everything around you. You start to realize that like Abram in Genesis 12, you have not been blessed in order to get fat on the blessings. You have been blessed so that you might be a blessing to others. But to do that, you have to take an active stance. You approach everyday with a different default; you assume that God is going to put opportunities in front of you to be a blessing to others with what you’ve been entrusted with. If that is your assumption, then you are actively looking for opportunities to see it come to pass. In this particular case, this was an opportunity for our family to bless another family that God has brought, if only briefly, into our lives.

3. Stewardship is sacrificial.

David said in 1 Samuel 24:24: “I will not offer to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” Paul commended the believers in Macedonia for giving not out of their abundance, but even in their poverty (2 Corinthians 8). Stewardship of resources involves cost. You have to say no to something in order to say yes to something else. Sometimes it costs time; sometimes it’s energy; sometimes it’s influence; and sometimes it’s money. But the cost is there.

So, as I was there on my hands and knees in a vacant house, I found myself changing from being a disgruntled husband to a joyful worker. It surprised me then, and it made me want to have that kind of stance more often. At the end of the day, I know that there are a lot of floors to be cleaned. And many of them need to be cleaned by me.


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