I recently purchased a little book for Stan accurately titled A Little Book on the Christian Life. Edited and translated by Aaron Clay Denlinger and Burk Parsons, this book is filled with nuggets of wisdom from John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (1539).  Though it really is a “little book,” it is both extraordinarily insightful and practically helpful. His comments on stewardship were especially thought provoking and even motivating.

Calvin develops Peter’s admonition in I Peter 4:10, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

Calvin comments, “Scripture warns us that whatever we have freely received from the Lord is given to us on the condition that it be used for the common good of the church.” He goes on to say, “We are merely stewards of whatever gifts God has given to us in order to help our neighbors. We must give an account of our stewardship, and right stewardship is that which is fueled by the rule of love.”

Early in a new calendar year seems a perfect time to reflect on these truths and consider some practical application. After doing so for ourselves, how can we instill the concept of stewardship in our children in an authentic way? How can we illustrate using gifts we have freely received from the Lord to help our neighbors? These gifts may be tangible or intangible.

As we have been blessed in many ways, so have our thirteen grandchildren (ages 6-19). Like all of us, they will be faced with the opportunity to pursue a life of seeking to entertain themselves with pleasures or be engaged in using their gifts to serve their neighbors and the church. One path will lead them on a never-ending quest which will only bring unfulfilled pursuits. The latter will bring true happiness and fulfillment. When we look five or ten years down the road, or even to the end of 2022, what do we hope to see in their lives?

In considering ways to illustrate the blessings of stewardship, we came up with an idea. We recently gave each grandchild a monetary gift. Typically, when we give them birthday money, there are no conditions or demands on them for how to spend it. This time, the gift was given with the “condition” John Calvin suggests–to be used to bless others. They were stewards of the money and were to determine how to use their gift for the common good.

To encourage the children to give an account of their stewardship, we asked each one to share reflections on the experience with the family. We could hardly wait to see how this little stewardship experiment enriched their lives. When our family gathered on Christmas Day, the children shared how they blessed others. The gifts went to a variety of organizations from Compassion International to a local mission to Project31, a support group for women with breast cancer and breast cancer survivors. We could tell they were also blessed by this experience.

Consider how you can implement a similar project with your children and grandchildren. As for Stan and me, we plan to save up! Gladly so, because we hope this will be a regular event for our grandchildren.

“We are merely stewards of whatever gifts God has given to us in order to help our neighbors.” –John Calvin

Resource: A Little Book on the Christian Life, from the works of John Calvin, edited by Aaron Clay Denlinger and Burk Parsons.