THE CHRISTIAN STEWARDSHIP OF MONEY
By: Neil Stegall
It is important to examine the values underlying our use of money and to compare them with scriptural principles. Most of us are sensitive to criticisms of our personal financial habits; great offense can result
when someone challenges them. But the Bible plainly admonishes us to examine the faithfulness of our stewardship in a most profound way. The challenge is to reorient our thinking from common sense to kingdom sense, and this fundamental reorientation will change how we receive and use our financial blessings.
Let us consider several important scriptural principles regarding the Christian stewardship of money and material possessions.
1. God has provided financial and material blessings in order to establish His convenant people and plan.
“And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 8:18, NKJV).
In Deuteronomy 8:17, God warned the Israelites not to boast that they had gained wealth through their own power and might. Rather, material blessings came to them from God’s hand to honor their obedience and to establish a righteous people in the world. These blessings established God’s faithfulness.
Jesus reemphasized this principle in the Sermon on the Mount: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, NKJV). God blesses the pursuit of kingdom living. We are not to seek what unbelievers seek. We cannot worship both God and mammon. We are not to invest spiritually in hopes of becoming rich materially. We should understand that God wants to establish His righteous people in this world and to spread the news of the kingdom, and He will act to do so. Thus, we should not have anxious cares for riches or even for basic provision. God bids us to be humble and to trust Him completely.
Stewardship can be defined as the wise and godly use of whatever resources God’s grace has provided us. These resources are to be used temporally to achieve eternal purposes. Christian stewardship does not
mean efficient management to meet selfish needs. We must not be infected by the materialistic, selfish values of this age. Our personal worth and security are not based on what we own and what we consume; our worth and security are based on God’s grace and will alone.
2. Our attitude towards finances can leave us in the dark spiritually.
“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness” (Matthew 6:22-23, NKJV).
What does eyesight have to do with stewardship? These verses are the middle of Jesus’ discourse on riches in Matthew 6. Jesus was making a very understandable point to His Jewish listeners. The person with a
“good” or “bountiful” eye is one who is charitable (Proverbs 22:9). A person with an “evil” eye hastens after riches (Proverbs 28:22). Proverbs 23:6 warns us of the person who has an “evil eye;’ or as the NKJV translates, a “miser.”
Jesus taught that we will be full of light if we are charitable and do not serve riches. However, if we are greedy or miserly, we will be full of darkness. “If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23, NKJV). One has only to compare Zacchaeus with Judas, or Cornelius with Ananias, to see the point. A righteous life is not marked by a grasping attitude towards wealth; it is marked by gracious giving and concern for others.
Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, NKJV). Paul wrote, For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their
greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (I Timothy 6:10, NKJV). We are clearly admonished to handle our finances according to godly values, or we will stray far from a true faith in God and His kingdom.
3. We are to give on a regular basis as we prosper.
In I Corinthians 16:2-3, Paul exhorted the believers at Corinth to make regular, weekly offerings according to how they had prospered. These offerings were not tithes but contributions to relieve the imperiled saints at Jerusalem.
This principle applies today. As God has enabled us to prosper, we should lay aside an offering (beyond regular tithes) that is representative of His blessings to us. Why not honor God with a special gift from a salary increase, overtime pay, increased commissions, or a bonus? And why not offer thanks for the many kinds of nonmaterial blessings we receive as well? If we thoughtfully, prayerfully consider how we prosper, we should be able to make such offerings on a regular basis. There should seldom be a cause for extra collections made under the pressures of deadlines and urgent need, if we give according to how we prosper.
4. Giving should be a personal decision made out of cheerful generosity, not grudging obligation.
“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or out of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (II Corinthians 9:7, NKJV).
This verse emphasizes that giving is a personal responsibility. The decision to give, or how much to give, is something that each of us must settle in our own hearts. Once we make that decision, we should give
according to our intention. We should meet personal pledges or commitments faithfully as the Lord enables us.
Paul also told us how we should carry out that intention. God takes no pleasure in gifts made under compulsion or obligation, or with a grudging attitude. “Cheerful” in the Greek is hilaros, from which
we get the modern English word hilarious. Hilaros means merry or joyful and in this context connotes a promptness or willingness to give. Once we make a sincere, personal decision to give, we should do so willingly and with joy. Special needs or requests should be met with joyful generosity.
5. God approves of sacrificial giving.
Jesus observed that the rich gave from their abundance. But the widow who gave two small coins gave more than all of them, according to Jesus (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4). She gave from poverty, not abundance. She honored and trusted God with all her livelihood, whereas the rich gave large sums and walked away still rich.
There are many common-sense reasons why we feel that we are not expected to act like this little woman. But kingdom sense must prevail over mere common sense. Giving from abundance can be an easy and self-righteous thing to do. God approves of sacrificial giving from the very substance of our lives because of the trust and humility it represents. After all, it is He who sustains us, not ourselves.
6. Tithing is not a legalism.
Many suppose that tithing was a requirement of the Mosaic law that has passed away, for it is not explicitly commanded in the New Testament. But tithing as an expression of faith towards God preceded the law of
Moses (Genesis 14:18-20; 28:20-22), and the New Testament speaks approvingly of the practice (Matthew 23:23; Hebrews 7:4-10). Certainly God expects and desires us to tithe today as an expression of our faith in His Word and love for His kingdom.
Nevertheless, it is possible for us to develop a self-righteous attitude because we tithe. The tithe can become a token of stewardship; it can become a legalistic standard of what we suppose righteous giving
to be. People who look at tithing in this way are convinced of their good stewardship simply because they tithe, when in fact God may expect them to do much more.
As one writer has noted, the tithe focuses on how much we give rather than how much we keep. He used the example of one family earning $10,000 and another $i00,000. The first family tithes $1,000 and struggles along on $9,000. The second tithes $10,000 and can live extravagantly on the remainder. The latter family might feel quite self-righteous and smug about the total amount tithed to the church.
But actually, the Lord expects us to give as He prospers us. Certainly the wealthy family could give $30,000 or even $50,000 and still live quite comfortably-though more modestly. After all, we have seen that the
New Testament encourages generous, even sacrificial giving. The tithe is good and righteous in itself, but we should not reduce its significance’s to a token or let it cause us to shirk the great responsibilities of
kingdom stewardship. Instead, we might view the tithe as the minimal exercise in the faith of giving.
In conclusion, Christian stewardship is based on recognizing the source of wealth and on developing godly attitudes towards receiving and using financial blessings. We must admit that Christian stewardship is,
indeed, a gauge of our faith in the Lord, a measure of holiness. Faithful stewardship is a sign that we have submitted to His rule, His kingdom.
If we can only capture the vision of grace and generosity that God has for His people, many of the dilemmas of church finance would vanish. We would be more thankful and more generous, and our giving would be consecrated to His glory. Great is His faithfulness! So, too, should our faithfulness be great.
(The above material appeared in an April 1989 issue of Pentecostal Herald.)
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