Stewardship in the Biblical story entails using the resources entrusted to us to promote the flourishing of life and the community of faith.
What is stewardship? The Bible teaches that God is the creator of all things. This has two radical implications for how Christians live. First, it means that God is generous. Not only did he create a beautiful universe, he generously shares his creation with all humanity. Jesus said that God makes the sun to shine and rain to fall on the just as well as the unjust. Elsewhere Scripture says, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father..." Second, because God is the creator, everything belongs to him. Therefore, we have been given the task of managing, or stewarding, everything in our possession. We control our material wealth in the same way a fund manager controls the assets he or she has been given. When we use out possessions only for our own prosperity, we are defrauding our creator. A Christian must always ask how God wants us to manage his money.
How should I steward my wealth? While stewardship certainly includes much more that money, it does not exclude it. In the Old Testament, believers were required to give a tenth of their income to support the Temple and the needs of the poor. While the New Testament does not teach at length on the subject of tithing, Jesus encourages people to continue this Old Testament practice (Matthew 23:23). The Church is told that they should give as they are "able and even beyond (their) ability" (2 Corinthians 8:3). Jesus himself teaches that his disciples' relationship to wealth should be far more radical and generous that that of the Old Testament. He reminded his followers that God was "pleased to give them the kingdom" which, Jesus says, should liberate us to "sell your possessions and give to the poor...For where you treasure is, there you heart will be also" (Luke 12:33-34). Therefore, a tithe (10%) is seen as a minimum guideline of giving for those of us who have been "given the kingdom." Of course, there are seasons to economic life that sometimes strain a Christian's ability to give. In many cases, good planning over time will be necessary to move our giving into Biblical proportions without reneging on legal and personal financial obligations.
Should I give all of my offering to Christ Community Church? giving is an act of personal worship to God in response to his grace. Therefore, generosity should mark all aspects of a Christian's life. However, God prioritizes the church over everything else: "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers" (Galatians 6:10). Furthermore, the Church is the only community established by God--though which all expects of his kingdom are to be lived out. At Christ Community this means our budget goes to: teaching and worship, the financially and socially marginalized, church planting, the deepening of community through Community Groups, administration counseling, global missions, and many other areas. So, if you consider Christ Community your home church, then you should be allocating most of your tithe and offering to the community where you invest most of your time and talent--and where others are investing in you. After supporting the work of your local church, you should give generously to all people--particularly those who are intentionally promoting the work of God's kingdom.
Do I give 10% of my gross or net income? Scripture teaches that we are to give back to God our "first-fruits" (Exodus 23:16, 19). Proverbs 3:9 encourages the believer to "...honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first-fruits of your crops." This is consistent with the understanding that we are first and foremost citizens of God's kingdom, seeking to invest our resources (time, talents, money) in ways that are consistent with God's values and priorities. This is what Jesus meant when he asked us to think first of investing our wealth "...where no thief comes near and no moth destroys." It is Biblical to calculate your tithe and offering on your annual gross income.
How do I get there from here? First, remember that giving must be a joyful response to God's grace. Paul asked for money by saying, "I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, he became poor, so that through his poverty you might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:8-9). What a test! Paul says that the difference between moralists (those who think that God accepts them because of their goodness) and Christians (who know they are sinners saved purely by grace) is that a Christian wants to give as generously as he or she has received. Put starkly, we always give effortlessly to those things that give our life meaning, to our "gods." Second, your giving must be systematic and thoughtful. Paul directed the Corinthians to set aside a portion of their wealth each week until he came and received it, in this case for the relief of famine victims in Palestine (see 2 Corinthians 8). Giving "spontaneously" might be joyful, but it's rarely significant. You need a plan, and the church can help with reminders and directions.
A PLAN FOR STEWARDSHIP
- Evaluate your own heart with regard to money. What do you most enjoy spending money on? What percentage of your income is going to support the work of the church and other Christian ministries and those in need (outside your family)? How close is it to 10%? Read Matthew 6:19-34, 1 Timothy 6:6-10 and 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 9:6-15. Do you need to adjust your giving in light of Biblical values and eternal investments?
- Evaluate the use of your "non-liquid" resources--time, talents, energy, and home.
- Do you have a regular plan for giving? First, decide what percentage of your income you will give to the Lord's work this year. Then ask yourself, on the one hand, if this is sacrificial and, on the other hand, if this is responsible. Last, whenever money comes in, set aside the Lord's portion first, with the understanding that it is his, not yours.
The Scriptures are clear that the more you trust God with your material treasure, the more he will entrust you with Spiritual treasure (see Luke 16:9-12 and 2 Corinthians 9:10-12).
~Adapted from material used by Redeemer Presbyterian Church