What Seventh-day Adventists Believe about Stewardship (and What Does It Mean?)
Seventh-day Adventists firmly believe that love for God and fellow humans is the overriding principle of their faith. And to express that love in an overarching way would be through how they manage the things God has entrusted to them.
This is often referred to as “stewardship,” and it is so essential to Adventist thought that one of the denomination’s core beliefs covers this topic.
We’ll look into:
1. The meaning and purpose of stewardship
2. Stewardship as a relational principle toward God as our Creator
3. Stewardship in Eden
4. What kinds of things we are stewards over
5. Tithes and offering as a form of stewardship
6. Why stewardship is important today
Let’s start by looking at the official statement of the Seventh Day Adventist Church below:
We acknowledge God’s ownership by faithful service to Him and our fellow human beings, and by returning tithe and giving offerings for the proclamation of His gospel and the support and growth of His church.
Stewardship is a privilege given to us by God for nurture in love and the victory over selfishness and covetousness. Stewards rejoice in the blessings that come to others as a result of their faithfulness.”
Love and Giving in Love: The Foundation of Stewardship
When Jesus was here on the earth, someone asked Him about the most important commandment. He responded:
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27, NKJV).
Love for God and love for others—these should be the foundational motivation of all that Christians do.
After all, we love God because of what He has done for us in Jesus (1 John 4:19).
And as we respond to God’s love for us, we are motivated to see how much—not how little—we can do for Him.
When we understand what we have been given in Christ, we want to respond by serving Him with all we have. We want to serve Him with our talents, time, money, effort—all of which are gifts from Him to begin with.
Because He demonstrated the highest possible act of love for us when Jesus died on the Cross, to give us all a chance at redemption and reconciliation.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16, 17, NKJV).
“He Himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world” (1 John 2:2, NLT).
When someone gives you a heartfelt gift, it’s natural to treat that item with the utmost care. Not just because of the value of the gift, but because of who gave it to you and why.
That’s why we demonstrate our love for God and for others by how we manage the things He has entrusted us with in our lives.
This type of careful, attentive management is known as “stewardship.”
What is the Meaning and Purpose of Stewardship?
The meaning of “stewardship” is implied by the word itself.
A steward is someone who takes care of something for someone else. They are not the owners but the caretakers, or overseers, of what they have been entrusted with by the true owner.
According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, one of the definitions of a steward is:
“A person employed to manage another’s property, especially a large house or estate.
A person whose responsibility it is to take care of something.”
Being appointed as a steward is an honorable position that involves much responsibility. You wouldn’t give that job to someone you didn’t trust.
God wants us to take the same level of responsibility with our lives. It’s essential to our growth and maturity, and it’s a key part of our relationship with God. He leads us and guides us, while also giving us the privilege of being in charge of ourselves and the things in our lives.
How does our stewardship relate to God?
In the case of biblical stewardship, the true owner of everything is the Lord, the Creator.
“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm. 24:1, NKJV).
“For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine. . .For the world is Mine, and all its fullness” (Psalm 50:1-12, NKJV).
It is foundational to understand that anything we possess is ultimately a gift from God. After all, we didn’t create ourselves.
Whatever talents we’ve been born with have come from the Holy Spirit.
We didn’t create the earth, the ground, the minerals in the earth, the air, the plants, the trees, anything.
However we earn our living, be it with our hands, our backs, our brains—or the things we can buy with the money we earn—it all comes ultimately from God.
That’s why the Bible says that He is the one in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28, NKJV).
And whatever intellectual or physical talents we may have, these too are from God.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17, NKJV).
When God brought the Israelites into the promised land, He promised them that He would bless them abundantly with wealth. They would go on to own large herds of cattle, grow their families, and have bountiful harvests.
But then He warned them against ever cherishing the thought that, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me” (Deuteronomy 8:18, NKJV).
Instead, they were supposed to always “Remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:19, NKJV).
This is a principle we should never forget, especially those who have been blessed with material wealth.
Stewardship in Eden: First Principles
The idea of stewardship can be seen even within the first week of creation.
For starters, we see God as the Creator of the earth and all that is in it in (Genesis 1-2).
Humans are part of the creation. They’re unique in that they alone were made in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:27, NKJV).
But even with this, they were still created beings and fully dependent upon God for their existence.
But being made in God’s image gave them a special status and responsibility in regard to the rest of the creation. Two verses in the creation story give insight into this responsibility.
First, in the same verse that talked about creating humans, the Lord also expressed what their role would be.
“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth’” (Genesis 1: 26; see also Genesis 1:28, NKJV).
How fascinating that the first thing God says regarding humans is their responsibility toward the rest of His creation! They were to have “dominion,” to rule, to be responsible for the world in which He had put them.
Second, God specifically put Adam and Eve in a garden home called the Garden of Eden.
“Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Genesis 2:15, see also Genesis 2:8, NKJV).
The Hebrew verb to “keep” comes from a root that can also mean to guard, to look out for, to protect. So here we can see a sense of responsibility given to them for the creation in which they existed.
Of course, all this happened before the entrance of sin into the world.
But still, the principle remains. In fact, it’s perhaps even more important to remember now, after the damage of sin.
As the Psalmist said, “You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet” (Psalm 8:6, NKJV).
As stewards, we care for and about the creation, not just because it is our home, but because we love God. Our God who has entrusted this world to us.
How do we exercise stewardship? What are we stewards over in today’s life?
We can get into specifics, but the answer is vast. Anything and everything in our lives that we have any sort of control or responsibility over, those are the things we are asked to be “stewards” of.
Some examples might be:
The environment, or how we treat the world around us with the choices available to us.
Do we do our part in keeping our surrounding area in order? Do we make an effort to think of the bigger picture? Do we utilize the tools or opportunities available to us that can help the earth as a whole?
From what we saw in Eden, part of human stewardship included taking care of the planet (Genesis 2:15, see also Genesis 2:8).
So right from the start, humans were to be stewards of the earth. And this is something Adventists take seriously.
In 1995, the Seventh-day Adventist Church voted on this statement that said:
“The ecological crisis is rooted in humankind’s greed and refusal to practice good and faithful stewardship within the divine boundaries of creation . . . . Seventh-day Adventists advocate a simple, wholesome lifestyle, where people do not step on the treadmill of unbridled consumerism, goods-getting, and production of waste.
We call for respect of creation, restraint in the use of the world’s resources, reevaluation of one’s needs, and reaffirmation of the dignity of created life.”
Taking care of our earthly home is a central component of faithful stewardship.
Our health and bodies, which are also gifts from God—first by creation, and then by redemption.
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20, NKJV).
Hence, Seventh-day Adventists are very keen on teaching its members about health and health principles.
The church has long advocated a healthy lifestyle. The teachings are based on the idea that our lives and our bodies are gifts from God for which we are responsible to Him for how we treat them.
Our talents, skills and abilities
And in many cases, we may have special spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit for use in spreading the gospel and taking care of humanity.
If we’re naturally gifted in an area, it can be an honor to God to develop that skill and use it for good. The Bible even warns against doing nothing to nurture the gifts that are given to us (Matthew 25:14-30).
Our families, as well as our friends and our community
Do we treat those we encounter each day with love and respect, remembering that they are also beloved children of God? Do we willingly and cheerfully fulfill the roles we occupy?
Do we take care of the things we own? Are we thankful for the things we have, rather than focusing on what we don’t?
You won’t find any places in the Bible that condone hoarding away what we have, or becoming overly focused on accumulating wealth. Part of being a good steward of our possessions is knowing that we may also need to share with those around us who have need—especially if God is the true owner to begin with.
Other people and their possessions
Do we make sure our actions don’t negatively affect other people or the things they are stewards of? Do we treat others as beloved children of God, even if we don’t know them? Do we treat things we don’t own with the same care as if we did?
Do we make the most of the opportunities we’re given? Do we treat each day as if it is a gift?
Science teaches that time is intricately woven into the fabric of space itself, all of which are God’s creation. And since life is a gift, time is too.
Over and over in the Bible we are admonished to be thoughtful and careful of what we do with the little time allotted to us (Psalm 90:12; Ecclesiastes 9:10; Ephesians 5:16; Romans 3:11).
Any other thing that we have been given by God
Anything that comes into our care, whether permanently or temporarily, is a chance to demonstrate Godly stewardship.
Tithes and Offerings as a form of Stewardship
Working on the biblical principle that God is the true owner of everything, and the giver of everything we have, Adventists believe the practice of returning tithes and paying offerings is a significant part of stewardship.
The word tithe simply means a “tenth.”
And we first encounter it in the Bible when Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek, “a priest of the Most High God” ( Genesis 14:20; Hebrews 7:1,6, NKJV).
This is important because it shows that the idea of paying a tenth of what we have earned existed before the rise of the nation of Israel. And remember that the Israelites had a very elaborate system of tithes and offerings.
In fact, Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, also returned a tithe to God. He said to God, “of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You” (Genesis 28:22, NKJV).
Here, the idea of tithing is powerfully expressed: Whatever Jacob got in terms of the wealth he amassed came only from God.
Again, this is an example of tithing long before the nation of Israel came into being. It predated the Jewish nation.
During the time of the Israelite nation, tithes and offerings were a central part of their worship. It was their acknowledgment of God as their Creator, the one who gave them “the ability to produce wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:19, NKJV).
In most cases, the tithe was given as a payment to the priests, the Levites, who were not given land as in inheritance like the other tribes (Leviticus 18:23; Deuteronomy 12:12).
The Seventh-day Adventist Church also follows this practice of using tithe money exclusively for the ministry.
The New Testament is also filled with stewardship principles and examples (Act 2:44,45; Acts 11:29; 2 Corinthians 9: 6,7, 11-13; 1 Timothy 5:8).
Jesus Himself told numerous parables with a theme of stewardship (Matthew 25:14-30; Matthew 25: 31-46; Luke 19:12-27).
As the Adventist leader Charles Bradford wrote:
“The church in the apostle’s day presented a dynamic demonstration of Christian stewardship. The members of the community understood what it meant to be stewards, individually and as a corporate body. They modeled well the principle of Christian Stewardship by their attitude and practice.”1
Why Do Seventh Day Adventist Believe that Stewardship is Important?
1. The Bible teaches it: All through the Bible, God has taught us about stewardship.
From the creation of humanity in Genesis 1, all the way to Jesus’ parables in the New Testament (Matthew 25: 31-46; Luke 19:12-27), believers have been taught that they have a responsibility to take care of the world around them.
2. Because of humanity’s fallen nature, our natural tendency is toward greed and selfishness.
Acknowledging that God owns everything can help protect us from ourselves, and from the greed and selfishness inherent in all of us.
3. Helping those less fortunate than us is a theme throughout the Bible as a way to bless others
(Leviticus 19:9–10, 15; Proverbs 14:21; 29:7; Matthew 25:40; 1 John 3: 17, 18).
Here, faithful stewardship can make such a difference. Especially with free will offering—donations of any amount given out of gratitude to God.
As Adventist scholar Angel Rodriguez wrote:
“We could say that what motivates Christians to give offerings is their love for God, a selfless love whose focus of attention is God and fellow human beings. Giving should not be an attempt to obtain or gain God’s sympathy, love, or recognition. It is only through the sacrificial offering of Christ that we are accepted by God. Our giving is preceded by God’s saving grace and should always be a response of gratitude.”2
We all have been given gifts by God, and we should be using them as an expression of our love to God and for others.
But perhaps the best summary of the principles behind stewardship as understood by Adventists could be found in these words of Jesus: “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8, NKJV).
 Charles Bradford, Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, Review and Herald,  p. 659.
Angel Rodriguez, Stewardship Roots: Toward a Theology of Stewardship, Tithe and Offerings, Department of Church Ministries Publications, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists—STW 1050,  p.76.
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