The Oxford online dictionary describes a birthright as “a particular right of possession or privilege one has from birth, especially as an eldest child.” Bible commentaries generally concur that a father’s eldest son in those days was recognized as the natural owner of a birthright. They note, too, that birthright carried with it not only an especially powerful blessing, but double the wealth at the father’s death since the eldest also took over the responsibility for the family. We can see in Genesis 25 that Esau knew that he was the owner of the birthright in his family, but he treated its substance so lightly as to joke about it and even give it away for some stew.
For Christians, though, we have New Testament guidelines that identify Christ as the firstborn of the Church (Colossians 1:18, Hebrews 12:23) and all believers his adopted siblings or children, whichever analogy you choose, as having a share in the inheritance from God. Furthermore, from biblical references too numerous to list, we can deduct that each believer is equal before the cross of Christ’s saving sacrifice.
As you travel the world of missions, however, you may find that believers with the most money appear to be “more equal” than others. It seems that, generally speaking, whoever holds the purse strings, tends to control the ultimate direction of a ministry. This has often had the unintentional result of taking the visionary power of the Great Commission out of the hands of those whom the Lord has identified as the local vision keepers of a ministry. The power of money and the position of leadership, even apart from the money and leadership themselves, needs to be stewarded as Christ has taught us.
Financial stewardship means this: The wealthy can give skills, precious time and funding and the poor can give skills, precious time and funding. Practicing stewardship means that we enable (and allow) local leaders to follow the vision the Holy Spirit has set before them, not just the vision of the funds that have been set before them. Otherwise, it might well be that the prosperous donors who expect the poor neither to give nor to lead are inadvertently stealing the birthright of dignity from the very people they generously wish to serve. As elder brothers and sisters, let’s eagerly accept the responsibility of stewarding our power and our position enabling others to experience Christian nobility.
Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. ~ James 2:5-6 (ESV)
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