I’ve gotten to know many teens in my ministry wanderings. As a youth director, a church minister, and Bible Camp leader, I find teens and adults alike, whether rural or urban, east or west, young or old, all wonder about the same things. We all struggle to figure out exactly who God has made us to be and how we fit. What are our gifts? And how are we supposed to use them?
Frequently we define “stewardship” in financial terms, as in our tithing and giving to the church. And certainly, the way we respond to God’s grace by financially returning the dollars he has given us is part of stewardship. Yet, stewardship is MORE than money. Stewardship in its full sense is about being a caretaker, a steward, representing God with everything.
Even Adam and Eve in the garden were commissioned to care for the creation and cultivate culture. They were told to take care of the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, and all the other animals that roamed the earth, as well as to be fruitful. Loving, tending, cultivating, designing, building, growing, and using all God had made in order to glorify him was our job. Even before sin entered the story, we were stewards of God's gifts.
Stewardship is glorifying God with all that he has given us, caring for it, cultivating it, and using it to reflect his glory back to him
So using that which God has entrusted to you to love him and others as yourself does include finances and watching over creation, but it's even more. It also means using your mind and hands and voice to create good things, helping others flourish, and pointing everyone back to God. Many spiritual struggles I’ve seen simply come down to understanding who God is making and molding you to be. It’s searching through your joys, passions, and what people affirm your gifts to be, and then doing something with it!
What good is your gift if you don’t actually share it? Would you leave a Christmas present wrapped and under the tree? If God has blessed you with a talent, then you are encouraged and called to cultivate it and give it away, because a gift is wasted if you just keep it dormant. A unused talent is not much different from not having a talent. God has blessed you with a voice like Pavarotti? Then open up that throat, take that deep breath in and sing for all to hear! Can you play a mean fiddle, tickle the ivories, or whistle like it’s nobody’s business? Choose to use those gifts and honor God in the process! Maybe you can’t hit a musical note to save your life but you can draw, or build, or bake, or dance!? Whatever you are passionate about, whatever you are good at, whatever brings glory to God and joy to others--you do it. That is stewardship in its absolute basic understanding.
Some people feel there simply isn’t a gift within them to give, and yet I see those same people able to talk to random people on the street. I’ve seen those same kids use the power of prayer for other people. I’ve seen and heard of people who have such an amazing and generous heart that it makes my own look like the Grinch’s (just before Cindy Lou Who increased it 3 sizes that day)! Maybe you need to be encouraged, maybe you need to be challenged. You have a talent and gifts from God that you are called to steward! Your gifts may not look exactly like your neighbors. God has gifted you uniquely for your role in this world.
We read in 1 Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in various forms.” Note, not only the word “stewards,” but also that "each of you" have received a gift. We have differing gifts, but each of us have them, and all of us should use them. There is no need to compare our gifts to another's, only to use the ones we have.
My son is a phenomenal musician, much better than his old man. I need to take joy in that gift of grace and talent from God and encourage him. I can help him cultivate that gift so that he can share it. Being envious of other people’s gifts, or stating that we have no gift of our own, is to minimize God's gifts to us. As God’s child, as a created being of God, we have each been given a gift from God to be used to his glory. We must use it, cultivate it, and share it with others. In essence: we must be stewards of God’s gift.
So, you have a gift from God, a beautiful gift, unlike anyone else’s. It may not seem grandiose or eye-catching, or a gift that brings in the masses as they stand in awe, but your gift is equally precious and needed in the kingdom. See the beauty of the gift and start being a steward of it. Work it, practice it, and most importantly, use it.
If you are still unsure what your gift is, take a gifts assessment--you can find some online. Or, simply reflect on the things that brought you joy, the things that you've been good at--and do them to glorify God! Try new things and see what happens. There are so many opportunities in this world--places that need love and compassion and music and dance and baked goods and organization and joy. And God told us to go there and do them. Use your gifts and be a steward of God’s grace!