Helping Christians Be Good Stewards

Thrivent was founded on the idea of helping Christians integrate their beliefs with their financial decisions, even when that journey has some tension

John Grupe, back row, left, with his family, gathered 270 of the 500 signatures needed to incorporate our fraternal benefit society in 1902. This photo is from Thrivent’s Archival and Heritage Services, which preserves artifacts and provides access to information from Thrivent’s 116-year history. This article (PDF) | Current issue (PDF) | Archive

By Donna Hein

Imagine you come into a little cash you didn’t expect. Maybe it’s a bonus at work. Or perhaps it’s a small inheritance. Your mind begins to whirl with what you can do with the money.

Do you take an extended vacation or support a project at church? Or do you invest it as protection for your family, do that remodeling project you’ve been putting off or make a donation to a favorite nonprofit? The ideas are endless. But you also may feel tension growing inside you as you wrestle with what to do.

As Christians, we believe that everything we have is a gift from God, and we are called to be good stewards of those gifts. The responsibility to be a good steward can create tension in us as we make choices about how to use God’s gifts.

That tension isn’t new – nor is Thrivent’s commitment to guiding members on their Wise With Money Journey and equipping them to live more content, confident and generous lives. Both have been there since the beginning.

A look back

In the early 1900s, the best places to buy affordable life insurance were local lodges, many of which had traditions and rituals contrary to Christian beliefs. In addition, many pastors had the view that purchasing life insurance was equivalent to losing your faith in God to provide.

People struggled with how they could maintain their church membership yet protect their families should the wage earner die prematurely. The tension was real. A key turning point came when pastors and others understood that, unlike commercial or even mutual insurers, congregations could support each other – bear one another’s burdens – through insurance offered within the community. It was providing mutual support where there had once been individual risk. It wasn’t just through giving money to the church but rather with the larger fraternal purpose of serving and helping our neighbor – both in congregation and community.

That’s what Thrivent’s Lutheran founders believed in 1902 when they went out on horseback to garner the 500 signatures needed to incorporate this fraternal benefit society. And it’s been the unwavering belief since.

The journey renewed

Recently, Thrivent updated The Thrivent Way, the expression of the commitment that members make to one another when they join our fraternal benefit society. And the organization has created The Thrivent Promise, a new statement that spells out how employees, financial representatives and others promise to serve members.

The Thrivent Promise
“We promise to guide Christians on their Wise With Money Journey, equipping them to live more content, confident and generous lives.”

“We know that for 116 years, since our founding, this organization has been committed to wise stewardship,” says Thrivent CEO Brad Hewitt. “We’re also committed to serving as trusted guides as our members wrestle with what it means to be stewards and the tension that can result on their own journeys to be wise with money.”

Being wise with money is a lifelong journey that we all are on. There are several guideposts along the way, which naturally cause us to ask questions of ourselves. Two of the guideposts – to know God’s money story and to own your own story – tie together.

What is God’s money story? Put simply: All we have is a gift from God, and we’re called to be wise stewards of these gifts.

Your own story comes from understanding what “enough” means to you personally and how it aligns with God’s money story, Hewitt says. It’s about your beliefs and values, and how you choose to live them.

“If you just know God’s money story and you don’t own your own story, you become ineffective,” he says. “If you just know your story, and it all becomes about you, you aren’t wrestling with God’s money story.”

Addressing this natural tension helps us move forward on the Wise With Money Journey.

“Thrivent’s vision is to be the catalyst for a movement of U.S. Christians who seek to become wise stewards of God’s gifts,” Hewitt says. “Our role – and our promise to our members – is to be a trusted resource and guide for individuals, families, churches and communities on their journeys to attaining a life of contentment, confidence and generosity.

“We’ll know we’re successful when more Christians, their families and communities are thriving.”