When people hear the word “stewardship” the first thing that comes to mind is usually money so let’s talk about it first. This may not be what you are thinking because we are not looking at money because it is most important or because it has a lot of complicated moving parts.
We are going to look at it first because it is the easiest and most predictable area of stewardship. Sound Surprising – let’s see. One might ask me “How do you know that money is so easy.” Well I did not say anything about making money was easy, I just said that determining our stewardship of it was easy.
Jesus said it straight out when he said ”For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Luke 12:34
We don’t really even think about it but what we decide in our hearts and minds as a priority is where our money is in support already. Jesus didn’t say we think and weigh things out over a long period of time and ultimately give our money when everything feels safe and secure. His thought was that our hearts and desires hold the keys to our money and our money can often be moved without any spiritual discernment. So, the first step in being a good steward of our money would be to answer honestly the question – “If God owns our very lives and if He is living in our hearts then is He the owner of our money also ?”
Let’s get one ground rule down in the beginning – The amount of money you have or make is irrelevant to true stewardship. Paul said, “The Love of Money was the root of all evil….” The rich man in Luke 12 did not lose his life because he had wealth but for putting the treasures God had blessed him with in the place of God as an idol.
Giving back from what God has blessed us with is not a new age or even a New Testament thought. It was so from the beginning – In Genesis we read where Cain and Able brought their offerings back to God and we find God is only interested in our best which is what Able alone gave to Him. Later the same balance is found within God’s people in 1 Chronicles 16:29 Give to the Lord the glory he deserves! Bring your offering and come into his presence.
There is a very important math formula that goes with the stewardship of our monetary blessings. Haggai explained it very clearly in the opening of his account –
Haggai 1:3-6 Then the Lord sent this message through the prophet Haggai: “Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins? This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes!
Now I bet you were thinking about the 10% tithe formula or possibly if the calculation is based on our gross or net income. Unfortunately, we have a long way to go before the tithe math can be considered. You see for many it is difficult, if not impossible, to see how we can come up with 10% more to give back to God when we cannot make ends meet today.
From that perspective, it is not hard to see why statistics tell us that the average churchgoer supports their local congregation with 1-2 % of their income in offerings. This is not hard to see, we just don’t like what we see at first but it provides the only vision that allows our future to be different than our past. We often feel like we are on a hamster wheel in life where the faster we run the more we stay in the same place and the more tired we get.
The people in Haggai’s day were exactly where we are in that they had built the best life ( materially ) for themselves that they could afford and were only giving a small part to God. The challenge with that life as Haggai points out was that the larger, they lived the less they had to the point they were not satisfied with anything that God had blessed them with.
They were on the hamster wheel, and they allowed themselves to be consumed by life so that they only survived not lived. Their money which was seemingly always gone was falling through their hands so fast it was like going to their pockets and falling onto the ground only to be lost to them forever. They were doomed to reap little because they had in fact sown little.
6 Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.2 Corinthians 9:6-8
A story is told that Chinese farmers decided they would eat the good big potatoes and just use the small ones for seed. A new understanding of the laws of life came to them when, through the years during which they kept up the practice, nature reduced all their potatoes to the size of marbles! Those farmers learned through bitter experiences that they could not keep the best things of life for themselves and use the leftovers for seed. The laws of life and God’s nature proved that the harvest would reflect the planting.
“Planting small potatoes” is still a common practice. Too many folks take all the big things of life for themselves and only plant the leftovers. They expect that by some crazy twist of the laws of nature, their selfishness will reward them with blessings.
A few closing thoughts on the tithing of our money and blessings – It is not a simple math formula to just adhere to and be done. It is first and foremost an act of worship and thanksgiving to our creator. In the record of Genesis, the scripture says that Abraham gave a tenth of all he had and we find Jacob making a vow to give a tenth of his increase to the Lord.
These acts of thanksgiving were hundreds of years before the “law” was ever written. I have often heard people say “ I sure wish they could find a Church that wasn’t always asking for money.”
If you do happen to find one, I would suggest you run the other way as quickly as possible. Only dead, non-functioning Churches can exist with no money. A Church with any life and growth will require needs to be able to meet needs.
Martin Luther put it well – “A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.” Stewardship of our finances is a natural commitment of thanksgiving and worship that comes from within our spirits.
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