17 Apr Caretaker Principle
“I own a car and a house. I own mutual funds and stocks, and I have this much money in my savings account. As soon as I said this to myself,
I heard a still small voice from behind say, “The earth is mine and everything in it; the world and all who live in it.” By the time I turned my back, I heard it again. “Remember, I gave you the ability to produce wealth.”
Often, what we say, feel, or believe to be the truth need not be true. Our thoughts and beliefs are a result of our worldview about life. What we hear, learn, read, and feel shapes our beliefs, which then become our worldview, which can be completely wrong. If you were to ask anyone, “What is it that is yours, or, in other words, what is it that you own?” Without wasting a second, anyone would tell you exactly what they own, and that may not seem wrong at all. However, it is fundamentally incorrect, because the truth is that we own nothing on this planet. The Lord says “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1 NIV). This should be our worldview if we believe the Bible is the word of God and he can’t lie or exaggerate.
That settles it; we are not owners. Then who are we? What is our role on this earth if God is the owner? When God created Adam and Eve, he gave them a mandate as his most intelligent creation , made in his very own image and likeness. He said in Genesis 1:28 “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” God gave them instructions to take care of his creation. He made them stewards or caretakers of his property.
Stewardship is both a privilege and a responsibility. God, the creator, chose us and entrusted his creation to our care, that’s a privilege. We bear a great deal of responsibility because the creator himself entrusted us. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14–30 is probably the best analogy of what stewardship or caretaking means. Stewardship encompasses everything that we are entrusted with, including money, which is by far the most sought-after resource on earth to own. Only if we knew the truth about the caretaker principle, we would not pursue it with this vigour because we will have to one day give an account of every single rupee or dollar we possess. Our attitude changes the moment we realize, “It’s not my own, I need to give an account.”
There is a difference in the way an owner uses money compared to how a caretaker uses it. Let’s see.
As owners, we can spend money on anything we want, as much as we want, without thinking twice about whether it is right or wrong. Who cares? It is our money, and we can spend it on anything as long as it serves our purpose and we have money to spend. However, the moment you become a caretaker, the equation changes.
We cannot spend on anything we want, as much as we want, without thinking twice about whether it is right or wrong
because we need to report to the owner what we spent and why we spent it.
If you remember the parable of the talents, the master asks for the accounts. In the parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16:1–8, the master asks for the accounts.
Many in our generation have accumulated a lot of things in their homes and personal lives. Some are also in debt. Sadly, in our generation, we spend borrowed money as if we owned it. No wonder many are deep in debt. The Bible says, “The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get.” Proverbs 21:20 (NLT). Caretakers are wise and grow wealth, but fools who think they own everything spend recklessly.
Those with a caretaker attitude, plan their spending. They have a budget. They plan how much they will spend and how much they will save and give because the master will ask. The caretaker also thinks about what the master wants me to spend this money on. They frequently ask for and commit their spending to prayer to avoid making a mistake.
Saving and investing
How does an owner save, and how does a caretaker save? Have you ever considered this thought? Is there a difference? Are they not pretty much the same? Many save in our time, and there are several saving options. Why do we save? We save for the future expenses and uncertainties of life. Then how does a caretaker save?
The caretaker saves not just for his or her future and the uncertainties of life but also for what the master would want him to do. The caretaker goes beyond just saving but also thinks, “Did I save on the right options?” “Are my savings yielding the best returns?” “Will my master be happy because it is his money and he will ask for an account?”
The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 gives us a lot of insights into what the two faithful servants did. They grew the wealth their master entrusted to them. Speculating on what they could have done, it seems they saved in instruments that gave high interest, or they possibly traded with high profits, or they bought seeds and grew crops that could give high returns, or they took up some entrepreneurial ventures and became very productive. To get high returns, you need to take some calculated risks. No risks, no returns—that is the principle of investing. You need to inquire about investment options that you are unfamiliar with or that are new to you. You need to take initiative and try new things. Remember, we need to tell our master that we significantly increased his wealth. That does not come from safe savings or conventional ways. That’s being lazy. The servant who buried his talents was labelled lazy and wicked. A caretaker is wise and hardworking, always remembering that he is saving or investing his master’s money, not his own, and that his master must be pleased. So, it is not greed but the motive to please the master is what drives saving and investing.
We all know that giving is not optional for a Christian. There are several parables and teachings of the Lord that emphasise giving. The Lord makes it clear in the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:13–21 that selfishness and pleasure-seeking are not acceptable to God.
So can there be different attitudes towards giving? An owner attitude and a caretaker attitude? Absolutely! Remember the Pharisee and the old widow? The Pharisees gave but received no credit from the Lord. They gave out of compulsion and religiosity because they believed tithes belonged to God but the rest belonged to them, but the poor widow gave all she had out of love for the Lord.
Many give, even in our generation, but few give with a caretaker attitude. You can give with a caretaker attitude only if your heart believes God owns his or her money. It is not the size of the giving that matters, it is the heart of the giving that matters. We can give lots of money out of our abundance and still be wrong, but we can give less money and still be right. Remember Cain and Abel? Both gave, but God only accepted Abel’s. The one who believes he or she is a caretaker gives priority to giving, as Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops.” (NIV)
How do we make this paradigm shift from an owner attitude to a caretaker attitude if we are not already there? It begins with our relationship with God himself. If we are close enough to God and spend enough time with him, we experience the Lord Jesus’ stake in our lives. He purchased us with his precious blood by dying on the cross, and so we belong to him. We don’t even own ourselves, let alone all our possessions. When we are committed to him, all that we receive, we believe, is from him and not the result of our efforts and intelligence. We start feeling indebted to the Lord and want to offer ourselves to him, including our possessions.
“For a moment I thought it was mine, Lord,” I said to the Lord. “ This belongs to you. My mutual funds, stocks, house, car, and every other possession I cherish are all yours. Please give me another chance to spend, invest, and give as a caretaker, and I would love to hear from you, “Well done my good and faithful servant”.
Franky has spent nearly 3 decades in the financial services sector. He is a certified executive coach, trains and coaches on personal finances, teaches on family relationships, and also an author. He is married to Shabeena and they are the parents of two teenage daughters.