One of the most disturbing passages in the Bible is found in Luke 16:1-13. In this parable the Lord commends the unjust steward. This is difficult to comprehend unless you understand the point of the parable.
The key is found in verse eight: "So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light" (NKJV). What an amazing statement.
The church has lost the concept of stewardship: using what has been placed in our hands well. We don't plan well and often we don't spend well. The issue of stewardship is doing well with what we have, not what we don't have.
A steward who does not plan for future needs is not doing a good job of planning.
I think we often come to God wanting Him to bail us out of our poor stewardship. We often fail to plan for needs we know must be taken care of. When the need actually arrives we want God to simply take care of the tab and we get mad if He does not.
Most of our grandparents and many of our parents never purchased anything other than a house or car without first having the cash on hand. Since banks were not used as much as they are today and were not trusted by many, the method of saving for these purchases was to use a cookie jar.
Money was placed in the cookie jar until there was enough to purchase a particular item. If multiple items were being saved for, there would be multiple cookie jars. Each payday, money would be set aside for each item, and the balance would be used to pay current bills.
Are We Depending on "Jehovah-Visa"? This was before credit cards were so prevalent. Cash was king and people were not willing to go into debt simply to have things.
In our current society the concept of having the money on hand before buying has been lost. Christians no longer have to wait or trust in the Lord for provision. "Jehovah-Visa" will provide for all our needs. We have lost the discipline of saving and waiting.
It is very easy to get trapped by the charge-it society. We often have needs that must be met, but we have failed to plan for them. We need school clothes, Christmas presents, tires for the car. But because we have not set aside money we are forced to look to "Jehovah-Visa" to get us through.
The cookie jar was a great idea and provided a way to be a good steward. In this modern era the idea of saving and using the cookie jar savings concept seems impractical and out of touch with the Internet generation.
What if a person or a church could create electronic "cookie jars" and use the power of technology to help us be good stewards?
With a personal computer and accounting programs such as Quicken, QuickBooks, Money or others, you can create electronic cookie jars within the family budget. That's exactly what my wife has done for our personal finances.
When I get paid or receive an honorarium, a certain amount is set aside for some future need, such as vacation, clothes, insurance, retirement or college for our kids. Setting aside money in advance seems to make us short currently, but it is allowing us to meet larger needs when they arrive.
A Little Patience goes a long way. A good example is the laptop computer I am typing out this article on. I had an old laptop in need of being replaced. I agreed with my wife that we would set aside money until we had at least six months of lease payments in the bank before ordering.
We set aside $100, then $150, and so on until we had six months of payments in the electronic cookie jar. By the time the new laptop arrived, I had nearly one-third of the payments saved up. Though we did not have all the finances for the purchase, we were leasing and felt that having nearly one-third of the payments in the bank was adequate for a business expense.
Recently we wanted to purchase other things. So we began to save until we had the entire purchase price in the cookie jar. We saved until we were able to pay cash.
At times, you might be saving for multiple projects. The key is to transfer out money from your checkbook balance in the computer to another account you have created.
The money is still at the bank, but you have set it aside. You are holding the funds in the cookie jar until needed. When the timing is right they can be transferred back to your checking balance and expensed.
When I first started this I wondered how it would work because with each payday we would have less money for current expenses. It seemed that we would fall short, but I was tired of falling short in the long run as well.
Something amazing began to happen. Just as God stretches our money when we pay our tithes, He was stretching the remaining money after setting some aside in the cookie jar.
We had less, but we were able to do more. He blessed our obedience when we gave our tithes, and now he was blessing what remained because we were being good stewards.
At the end of the parable of the unjust steward Jesus told His disciples in verse nine: "And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon." It is hard to make friends with something you have none of or something you don't handle well.
Stewardship is not an option just for the few who can work well with money. Stewardship is for us all, and it begins in our personal finances.
Robert Lauzon is a certified public accountant and a pastor in Bridgeport, Connecticut.