Teaching Stewardship: Principles and the Gospel

image courtesy of Pink Sherbet Photography via flickr
Continuing from the introductory post about Children and Their Possessions, here are some basic principles that should frame the conversation with your child. At the least, this is a start, since the issue is bigger than just irresponsibility (under-caring) and selfishness (over-caring).

I think the terminology that we need to move towards is stewardship, not "ownership." To be a steward is to take care of something that is not mine. Everything around me is God's, not mine. Psalm 24:1 says, "The earth is the LORD'S, and all it contains; the world, and those who dwell in it."

This idea of stewardship meets both issues that your kids are struggling with -- both the irresponsibility and the selfishness.
  1. Since it's not mine, but God's, I should take care of it. God's ownership should lead to my responsibility.
  2. Since it's not mine, but God's, I should freely share it. God's ownership should lead to my generosity.

Greatest Commandment
Another way to think of this issue is through the lens of Matthew 22:36-40. Jesus tells us to love God and love others. Here's how this passage (called "The Greatest Commandments") meets these issues:
  1. Loving God. Being a good steward is an act of worship. It is acknowledging and acting on the truth that God owns everything.
  2. Loving Others. Being a good steward is an act of brotherly love. It shows that I consider others better than myself (Philippians 2:3).

Of course, we must be careful that we move past their actions and words, and get to their hearts with the gospel. Behavior is not nearly as important as their hearts and attitudes. The sinful behaviors we see are actually good, in a sense! Their actions and words are reveal their hearts, allowing us to see the sin that Jesus wants to deal with. Here are two passages that help us see this:
  1. Luke 6:43-45 teaches that just as fruit reveals what kind of tree you have, that our actions reveal who we truly are on the inside.
  2. Similarly, James 3:9-12 teaches that our speech reveals the condition of who we really are.

What children need help understanding is that they cannot love God and love their possessions at the same time (Luke 16:13). As Tedd Tripp writes in Shepherding a Child's Heart, all children are worshipers. They will either worship God, or they will worship themselves and things in the world. They will worship God the Creator and Provider, or they will worship what He's created and given.

Here's the thing -- we cannot force our kids to be worshipers of God. We have to realize that it is going to be their choice, and I think it's OK to tell them that. We tell our kids, "This is what a follower of Jesus looks like, and if you want to follow and trust in Him, you are going to have to let Him change you from the inside out."  But my child's faith is not completely in my hands (see point #7 in A Response to Comments on "How Do We Know That God Is Real?")

Our main job as parents is to expose their sin, and point them to the sufficiency and love of Jesus.

Check out some practical ideas that go along with these principles.


  1. I am so glad that you've taken the time to discuss good ways to approach the concept of stewardship to children. It's something I've always had a difficult time doing. I've never thought of the possibility that the idea of stewardship deals with both irresponsibility and selfishness, and you've made me think about their connections with each other! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

  2. You're welcome. I'm glad it could help. Thanks for reading and your encouragement!