(Originally posted 8-21-19)
“Abundance isn’t God’s provision for me to live in luxury. It’s his provision for me to help others live. God entrusts me with His money not to build my kingdom on earth, but to build His kingdom in heaven.” Randy Alcorn
“There are 2 questions a steward needs to consider: 1. Who owns it? 2. How much is enough?” Ron Blue
One topic I’ve been meaning to write about for awhile is the subject of stewardship. Stewardship is not always a fun area to discuss because there are many negative connotations it brings up. Admittedly, most pastors don’t love going to the topic of giving and addressing things like tithing or offerings. And I’m not asking for a dime here, trust me! But I know when anyone starts sharing about how money should be managed, lots of opinions arise. Money is a pressure point for many of us. We struggle with how to use it wisely.
I should back up a bit here as well to give more context about this area. In reality, stewardship is way more than just how we use our money. It’s how we use everything that God has given us, finances included. It’s how we use our time. It’s how we operate in and utilize our gifts and talents. It’s how we use the things we’ve been given, even cars, houses, clothing, etc in a way that glorifies God. In all of this, I believe we are to “live generously.” We live in a way that the world takes note. The rest of the world wants and craves stuff. And anything the world gets is for the display and glorification of itself. We are called to flip this thinking on its head.
What follows is more of a bullet-point, rapid-fire type of discussion. The topic of stewardship this week focuses on our money and resources. Next week, we’ll look more at talent and time. In all of it, we are using this discussion to allow God to convict our hearts where we need convicting. Let’s go!
1. Give of your first fruits
Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. Proverbs 3:9,10
The term “first fruits” in the Bible is tied into the harvest and bringing an offering to the Lord’s temple. The Israelites were called to bring the first part of their harvest, the best part, before the Lord. Really, this signified giving up control over what they possessed, realizing it is all the Lord’s and He gives the increase. For us today, I believe first fruits means taking what we earn (our paycheck, income, etc) and right off the top, giving back to the Lord. It means before paying bills, before savings, before any other expenses, we give to God showing that we trust and honor Him. It is a step of faith.
2. Tithing is still for today
A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. Leviticus 27:30
I’ve heard a couple schools of thought in regards to tithing that concern me. One is that a literal tithe (i.e. giving 10% back as an offering) is not mandated post-Old Testament. The other is that a tithe, while still Biblical, doesn’t have to be specifically money; in other words, we can “tithe” from other things. Here’s what I believe the Bible says: tithing is still for today and it is meant to be primarily from our money. If we are going to argue Old Testament vs. New Testament, we see in Acts 2 that the early church gave freely and abundantly to those in need (Acts 2:42-47). Here, 10% is not even mentioned as they gave everything. But I believe 10% is a great benchmark to start with and we can even go up from there. Test the Lord in this and see for yourself: you cannot out-give God!
3. To those much is given, much is required
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Luke 12:48
The concept of living generously really comes back to a heart issue. If your wallet has control over your heart, you will find it hard to ever get to a point of generous living. But if you can see God as able to provide exceedingly and abundantly more than what you can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20), you begin to see that money is no issue for God. He provides what you need, when you need it. When you have that paradigm-shift in your thinking, you believe God for big things. This is not about being selfish or wanting more out of greed. I believe God positions people to give towards Kingdom things as they trust Him with their own finances; being generous and living within their means. Some of the richest people I’ve met within the church are not people who outwardly look rich. They live humbly and give abundantly, knowing their treasure is in heaven. It’s a model I aspire to.
4. It’s all God’s anyway
The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. Psalm 24:1
Have you ever stopped to consider what will be important on your death bed? Will it have been the stuff you bought, the house you lived in, or the cars you owned? Probably none of these things will matter. But what will matter will be the things you cannot put a price tag on. Did people see Jesus in you? Did you have an impact for the Kingdom? Have your family and friends (and beyond) been influenced to follow Christ because they knew you? Having the realization that everything is God’s anyway frees us up to not hold onto life so tightly. He is in control of our finances and knows what we need. He also knows what we don’t need and what we should stop wasting time worrying about. Again, this change in thinking is transformational: it gives us the opportunity to rely on Him and not our money and not our ability to make everything happen. God is in control.
5. How much is enough?
And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry. Luke 12:19
Luke 12:13-21 is called The Parable of the Rich Fool. One key takeaway from the passage is that God is mindful about how we approach savings and money management. In essence, each one of us must ask “How much is enough?” But in that question, we must disconnect our wallets from our hearts and ask God to fill us with His desire and not ours. Being a good steward means finishing well, all the way to the grave and even beyond. Have you determined what retirement looks like? Will you have money to retire? Are you hoping to have donations made after you die that will benefit other ministries or the local church? These questions are personal and deserve time and prayer to process fully. If you are married and have a family, the need is great. How much is enough and even in planning for the future, how can you live with a generous spirit towards others?
I hope the rapid-fire nature of this post doesn’t make things seem too abrupt or short in detail. There is a lot that can be said about managing money and resources in a God-honoring way. I’ve tried to include several Bible verses to support each point as it is fleshed out. But it is worth noting: the Bible has a ton of verses about money and it is the primary resource we should use to get God’s heart on the matter. Greed is a subtle sin and it is one that I find pokes its ugly head on a regular basis. I find that when I’m not plugged into the Lord through His word and prayer, I start to depend more on my money and my ability to support myself. It also makes me look at the world with less generosity and benevolence.
My charge to you this week and next is to do some honest self-evaluation. If you read this blog on a regular basis, I hope you’ve seen a balance of speaking the truth when necessary but speaking it always in love. That is my goal when I talk about stewardship. It’s the same goal I bring to other topics like marriage, parenting, singleness, sharing our faith, etc. It’s all about telling the truth in as loving a way as possible.
As always, I’m so grateful to be on a journey with you, knowing God is leading and guiding from week to week. I would love to hear from you!
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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17
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