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May the fourth be with you

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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May 4th is unofficially Star Wars day for many around the world. The tradition began when, following Margaret Thatcher’s election to become Britain’s first female Prime Minister in 1979, her party took out a half page add in the London Evening News saying, “May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations.” Given the global reach of the films and their continued success over the years—the latest trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi was viewed forty-three million times in the first twenty-four hours—fans around the world will unite Thursday in a nerdy celebration of all things Star Wars (I can’t wait).

While it would be easy to write off that unofficial holiday as nothing more than a geeky tradition for kids and adults who never really grew up, it’s worth noting that it accomplishes much more than that. For example, Disney and Lucasfilm, the entities most responsible for stewarding the Star Wars franchise, use the added attention to promote their charitable initiative, Star Wars: Force for Change.

Every year, the charity raises millions of dollars for worthy groups. This year’s recipients are Unicef Kid Power—which encourages kids to be active and donates food packets to malnourished children—and Starlight Children’s Foundation—a group that works with seriously ill kids to provide entertainment, education, and other resources at a time when they are most vulnerable.

It would be easy for Disney and Lucasfilm to bask in the glow of their recent success and use the 40th anniversary of the original film’s release to focus solely on continuing to build the brand and increase their revenue—and to be sure, they are doing a good bit of that. However, they’re also taking time to film goofy promo videos and create unique fan experiences to help raise as much money as possible for these worthy causes.

As Christians, are we using our resources and influence in a similar fashion? One of the most important principles of biblical discipleship is stewardship. From the very beginning, God entrusted his creation to us and asked that we act as responsible stewards of that gift (Genesis 2:15). While it didn’t take long for humanity to make a mess of the situation, that basic part of our purpose remains. God still expects us to be faithful stewards of all that he’s placed in our care (Matthew 25:14–30).

Giving ten percent of what we make to the Lord is a good place to start, but it can’t stop there. Tithing is not just some salvation tax that guarantees God’s continued love for you. That’s the kind of view that many of the Jews during Jesus’ day took, and he was quite clear that the Father had little regard for it (Mark 12:41–44). Rather, what God wants is for us to take an honest assessment of our lives—both in terms of our finances but also our time—and then prayerfully ask what he wants us to do with those precious resources.

In short, stewardship is meant to be a conversation between us and the Father that will look different for every person. There’s no hard and fast rule for how much you have to give, of both your time and your money, to be a good Christian. That sort of transactional association couldn’t be further from the kind of personal relationship that God wants to have with each of us.

Ultimately, God judges our stewardship by our obedience to his individual call on each of our lives. How do you measure up today?