The Bible is full of counterintuitive direction from God. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his only son. Gideon was asked to reduce his army from 32,000 to 300 right before a battle. His ways are not our ways.
As a financial counselor, I sometimes wonder what counsel I would have given to the widow with the two copper coins. I probably would have told her something like this: “Well, now, perhaps you don’t want to give everything away. You need a place to live, food, maybe an emergency fund.” Or the farmer who was building bigger barns to store his stuff. I probably would have told him: “Great job! You’re really planning ahead.” Jesus called him a fool.
The Path to Faithful Stewardship
To be a faithful steward of God’s resources, we can follow counsel from the scriptures and other wise men who have walked with God ahead of us. Some of the fundamental principles are:
- God owns it all. We are stewards. (Ps. 8:5-8)
- Spend less than you earn (Prov. 21:20)
- Avoid debt (Rom. 13:8)
- Build liquidity to prepare for emergencies (Prov 6:6-8)
- Set long-term goals (Prov. 13:16)
- Give generously (Ps. 37:21; Rom. 12:8)
While such wisdom is crucial, wisdom alone is not enough. To experience the abundant life, we need personal revelation from the living God. God’s word and the experience of godly people who’ve gone before us provide wisdom. Revelation is deeply personal to us and is about what God is doing in our lives, showing us, communicating to us, to reveal his will.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that a wise person is one who has the humility to hear and the courage to obey (Matt. 7:24-25). We need to hear from God how to manage the resources he entrusts to us.
A Counterintuitive Revelation
I’ve been influenced over the years by great teaching on stewardship from people like Ron Blue and John Eldredge, but I’ve also learned through experience. Several years back, I attended a retreat in Atlanta called “Journey of Generosity.” At the end of the retreat, the leader asked us to take three actions:
- Be silent for 10 minutes.
- Ask God what your next step is in terms of generosity.
- Obey whatever He tells you to do.
My wife and I had been struggling with the tension between how much to give vs. how much to pay down on our debt. Should we give generously and slowly pay down our debt? Or should we aggressively pay down our debt so we could be financially free and give less or perhaps none for a period of time? Wisdom did not answer the question for us. I wanted desperately to know what to do. In one of my most earnest prayers, I asked God to reveal to me the best course of action.
“Sell the house.” “Sell the house.” This was the voice I heard. “What is going on?” I was asking myself. “Am I making this up myself or is God really speaking to me?” I did not want to sell our home. Then several more times I heard: “Sell the house.” On the one hand, I was really excited. God was speaking to me! On the other hand, now I had a decision to make. Do I obey or not?
I flew back to our home in Alexandria, Virginia, and immediately told my wife Melanie that I had to speak to her in private without the kids. Sensing this was big and seeing that I appeared somewhat pale and a bit shaken, Melanie feared something awful had happened. She was actually relieved when I told her God was telling me to sell the house!
But…we did not want to sell our home. It was the first home we had owned. Our three boys loved playing in the backyard and climbing the trees. We had great neighbors and the house was in a good school district. This didn’t seem to pass the wisdom test. We had received a first-time homebuyer rebate of $9,000, which we would have to refund to the government if we sold the home within three years. We would also incur sizable capital gains taxes if we sold the house because we had not yet lived there for two years. What were we to do?
We decided to pray to God that he would reveal himself to my wife as well. Looking back it seems so foolish how we questioned and rationalized and did not immediately obey the voice of God. My wife heard nothing from God, but simply had a sense that she needed to trust me.
The following Wednesday, she and I were in a Bible study called Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby. The scripture for the session was from John 14:21, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them, he is the one who loves me.” That cut right to my heart.
We deliberated back and forth about what to do. Using reason, we found no evidence for selling the house. However, we were more afraid of making a mistake in disobeying God than making a mistake in mishearing him. So, we decided to put the house up for sale.
There was some interest, but no offers. The two-year capital-gains period went by, and then, six months before the three-year first-time homebuyer rebate was to expire, we received an offer. The price was good, but we were unhappy about having to refund the $9,000. We decided to accept the offer provided the buyer would close after the first-time homebuyer rebate expired. We had no evidence that the buyers would agree to a closing six months out. But they did, and we sold the home.
Afterward, I experienced an incredible peace in my heart. Looking back, I wish I had put the house on the market the day God spoke to me. But I’m learning. Thankfully, God is patient with me.
God’s Ways are Not Our Ways
I am still not certain about the reason for selling the house. As I get older, maybe I can look back and see why. However, I have a few ideas:
- I learned that there is incredible peace in trusting and obeying. I also sensed God’s pleasure in our obeying his commands.
- Some say it was a test of my obedience. Could I become a reliable follower?
- After selling the house, we moved into a townhome community that has been a real blessing to our family. Our children have developed intimate friendships with kids in the neighborhood, and relationships develop by just walking out the door due to the proximity of neighbors. In our single-family home, we had to seek out community; now, we live in it. Maybe one reason for selling the house was to learn this lesson, that relational capital is more valuable than financial capital.
One thing I am certain of: the wisest action we can take is to lean on our Guide, our Captain, our Father to show us the way. Ask him what to do.
“He who belongs to God hears what God says” (John 8:47a).