It was Omaha, 2007, my first time to attend a church service in many years, and my friend walked in, glanced at the bulletin, saw the sermon topic was stewardship, and instantly commented, “Oh, this service is about money.”

I didn’t get the connection. I would have interpreted stewardship to be equated more with servitude, neither of which, I confess, I had any real understanding of at the time. But turns out, he was right. I don’t think I paid too much attention to the sermon because it was freezing in the auditorium and because I was otherwise overwhelmed with the change I’d already experienced. Regardless, you can make a blanket statement here: “stewardship” is most often a church-term for “you people aren’t tithing the way you should be, and we’ve noticed because offering count is way down.”

Real stewardship, though, encompasses everything. And it’s not a new lesson. It’s the first lesson. It’s our first responsibility as humans, way back in Genesis 1–to reign over the earth and care for it. That is, to be a good steward of that which God has entrusted to us.

Yes, that includes money. At the very minimum, 10% of everything we bring in should go right back out to God, specifically to our local church. And, as control freak as I am about money, I understand that. It’s Scriptural and it makes sense. What I haven’t truly understood until just the past few weeks is that stewardship involves way more than money.

Specifically, God’s conviction fell on me with regards to stepparenting. I’ll be honest, the role is a little overwhelming. I usually feel like I’ve just arrived at a party in full-swing, and I’m not only the last to arrive but am also trying to plan the party after it’s already started. I won’t go into too much detail on this for various reasons, but I will say God clearly showed me how badly my perspective was off. I was merely trying to get through each day instead of being a good steward of what he’s entrusted to me. I spend a lot of time with my stepson and, as a result, have a million daily opportunities to live out the Gospel and show Christlike love and grace to him. Instead I spent each day writing a book about the Gospel, glorifying God with my writing, but not living it out in my own household. Eek.

Stewardship is about money and parenting. It’s also about our marriage and our job and our talents. It’s about taking care of our bodies, another area where I usually fall short. It’s about caring for everything and anything God has given us.

And that’s the key to it all–it’s everything God has given us. We have to recognize everything we have has been given to us by God. That part’s not easy. I busted my butt for years at degrading jobs to pay for the things I now have, but I have to realize none of that is really a credit to me. My pride would argue, “Where was God when I was working overnight shifts in customer service, getting cussed out and my life threatened while dealing with an excruciating headache so bad I was throwing up?” Or, “Where was God when I was repeatedly sexually harassed to the point of tears while bartending and tons of people saw it but no one offered to help?” It’s very, very easy for me to think, “I’ve earned this marriage and this car and this computer and the dental work and my college degree and my joy and my wisdom and all these things are mine, mine, mine, through blood and sweat and tears.” Which, by the way, would mean I have the freedom to choose how and when and if I take care of anything I own. And in actuality, that’s just not the case.

So I’m still learning. The past few weeks was how to be a better steward as a parent. Before that was how to be a better steward of my body and my health. And almost constantly there’s a lesson or two a week on how to be a better steward of my marriage. Luckily, God is such a good steward of his people that he hasn’t given up on me yet or quit teaching me all about stewardship.

What are some things you’ve learned about being a good steward? Is it hard to overcome the thought that everything you have you earned on your own? How has good stewardship in your own life encouraged others to seek after Christ?