In this week’s blog post, we are considering the habit or discipline of stewardship as it relates to money. In past posts, we have considered Bible intake, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, and stewardship as it relates to time.
If you have not seen these posts yet, go ahead and click on the links to catch up.
And remember that the primary motivation for these spiritual habits or disciplines is taken from Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:7, where he says, exercise or discipline yourself toward godliness. This applies to us just the same today and Paul makes it clear that, if we wish to be godly, it will take work, discipline, and exercise. Just as an athlete, musician, or artist must exercise disciplined practice to become more proficient at their chosen field, so a disciple must exercise disciplined practice in these activities as means’ of grace to become more proficient at being godly. That is to say, as we become more disciplined in the practice of these habits, more of God’s grace is available to us which will change us.
The previous post in this series was supposed to be about Stewardship generally, but there was so much material when considering both the time and money aspects that I decided to split it into two posts. So this is the second post, dealing with stewardship of money.
Now, the Bible relates not only our use of time to our spiritual condition (that is to say that our spiritual condition is closely related to the use of our time) but also our use of money. The disciplined use of money requires that we manage it in such a way that our needs and those of our families are met. Actually, the Bible condemns as a hypocrite any professing Christian who fails to care for the physical needs of his family because of financial irresponsibility, slothful mismanagement, or waste.
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever,” 1 Timothy 5:8).
So how we use our money for ourselves, for others, and especially for the sake of God’s kingdom is from first to last a spiritual issue.
Now, why do you suppose that God would consider the biblical use of money and resources a crucial part of our growth in godliness? For one thing, it is a matter of pure obedience. There are a whole lot of verses in the Bible that speak about our use of wealth and possessions. If we ignore it or take it lightly, our ‘godliness’ will be a deception. But as much as anything else, the reason our use of money and the things it buys indicates our spiritual maturity and godliness is that we exchange such a large part of our lives for it. Because we invest most of our waking days working in exchange for money, in a very real sense our money represents us. Therefore, how we use it reveals who we are because it makes plain our priorities, our values and our heart. To the degree we use our money and resources Christianly, we prove our growth in Christlikeness.
Let’s consider how the Scriptures teach us to discipline ourselves ‘for the purpose of godliness’ in the specific area of using our money for the sake of Christ and His kingdom.
Ten New Testament Principles of Giving
1. God owns everything.
1 Corinthians 10:26 - For “the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof.”
Exodus 19:5 – “…for all the earth is mine;”
Job 41:11b – “Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.”
God owns, everything, including everything you possess, because He created everything. This means that we are simply managers or, to use the biblical word, stewards of the things God gives to us.
As a slave, Joseph became a steward when Potiphar placed him over his household (Genesis 39:5-6). Since slaves own nothing, Joseph owned nothing. But he managed everything Potiphar owned on his behalf. His management of Potiphar’s resources included the use of them to meet his own needs, but Joseph’s main responsibility was to use them for Potiphar’s interests.
That is our task as stewards. God wants us to use and enjoy the things He permits us to have, but as stewards, we have to remember that they all belong to Him and should be used for His kingdom.
God has specifically said that He owns not just the things we possess, but even the money under our name in the bank and the cash in our wallet or purse. He said in Haggai 2:8 that the silver is His and the gold is His. So the question is not, “How much of my money should I give to God?” but rather “How much of God’s money should I keep for now?”
2. Giving is worship.
Philippians 4:18 – “I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”
In this verse, Paul calls the money that the Philippians gave a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to the Lord. This is a comparison to an Old Testament sacrifice people gave in worship to God. In other words, Paul said their act of giving to the work of God was a way of worshipping God.
Have you ever thought of giving as worship? You know that praying, singing praises, participating in the Lord’s Supper, thanksgiving, and listening to Him speak through His word are all worship, but did you realize that giving to God is one of the biblical and tangible ways of adoring and worshipping Him?
Giving goes way beyond being a duty or an obligation. Biblical giving displays a heart worshipping God.
3. Giving demonstrates faith in God’s provision.
Mark 12:42-44 - And He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And He called His disciples to Him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
This poor widow gave everything she had, all she had to live on because she believed God would provide for her. We, too, will give to the extent we believe God will provide for us. The greater our faith that God will provide for our needs, the greater will be our willingness to risk giving to Him. And the less we trust God, the less we will want to give to Him.
Your giving is perhaps the most tangible indication of how much you believe that God will provide for your needs. Examine yourself and ask God how He thinks you are doing.
4. Giving should be sacrificial and generous
2 Corinthians 8:1-5 - We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favour of taking part in the relief of the saints — and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.
Paul describes these Macedonians as people living in extreme poverty. And yet their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity. They gave not only according to their means but beyond their means. Like these people, our giving should be sacrificial and generous.
Remember this; giving is not sacrificial if you don’t have to sacrifice something to do it. Many professing Christians give only token amounts to the work of God’s kingdom. A much smaller number gives well. Probably only a small few actually give sacrificially.
5. Giving reflects spiritual trustworthiness
Luke 16:10-13 - “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
In these verses, Jesus reveals that your giving is a reflection of how trustworthy we are with spiritual resources. If we are not faithful with the money God entrusts to us (and that certainly includes the giving of money for Christ’s kingdom) the Bible says that God will not treat us as trustworthy to handle spiritual riches.
This is why your financial records tell more about you than almost anything else. If after your death, to learn more about your commitment to Christ, a biographer or your children were to scan your financial record of what you did with your money, what would they conclude? Would your footprints prove your spiritual trustworthiness?
6. Giving – Love, not legalism
God doesn’t send you a bill and your church doesn’t send you a monthly statement of your account to remind you to make the necessary payments as though you had an obligation. We don’t give to God and to support the work of His kingdom to fulfill some supposed ‘eleventh commandment’. Love to God should motivate giving to God. How much you give should reflect how much you love God (and it probably does).
In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul reports to the Corinthians how some of their fellow Greeks in macedonia were such good and faithful givers.
2 Corinthians 8:7-8 - But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.
Paul didn’t exercise his authority as an apostle of Jesus and command the Corinthians to give. No, instead of dictating a law of giving, he said that giving is a way of proving the genuineness of your love for God.
God wants you to give, not as a formality or an obligation, but as the overflow of your love for Him.
7. Give willingly, thankfully and cheerfully
2 Corinthians 9:7 - Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
God doesn’t want you to give with a grudge – that is, you give, but you would rather not. He takes no pleasure in gifts presented resentfully, regardless of the amount involved. God is not a divine landlord, tapping a greedy, outstretched palm, demanding His due, having no concern for how you feel about it. God doesn’t want you to give to Him out of a reluctant compliance to the reality that He owns it all anyway. He wants you to give because you want to give.
Somebody has said that there are three kinds of giving: grudge giving, duty giving and thanksgiving. Grudge giving says ‘I have to’; duty giving says ‘I ought to’; thanksgiving says ‘I want to’.
Some give because they can’t keep it. Others give because they believe they owe it. And a happy few give because they can’t help it.
God wants you to enjoy giving.
8. Giving – an appropriate response to those in need
Acts 11:27-30 - Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
The Christians (disciples) in Antioch, some three hundred miles to the north of Jerusalem, gave money to help feed and meet other needs of their unknown, fellow Christians in Jerusalem. This example gives a biblical precedent for our taking special collections in church, such as collections for international and home missions, world hunger, disaster relief, and so on – even for taking a spontaneous offering for any appropriate need.
Giving is an appropriate response when we become aware of those in need.
9. Giving should be planned and systematic
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 - Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.
This collection for the saints was a special offering for the poor Christians suffering in Jerusalem because of a famine. But even though the collection targeted a specific need, Paul instructed the Corinthians to give toward that need on a weekly basis (a recurring gift) for some time in advance of his arrival to Corinth. He knew that in the long run, greater efficiency and effective results from giving in a planned and systematic way than haphazardly whenever a need arises. Since many needs are ongoing – like missions, feeding the hungry and maintaining the ministry of the local church – systematic giving will meet those needs more consistently than an unceasing series of special offerings.
10. Generous giving results in bountiful blessing
Luke 6:35 - “…give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
2 Corinthians 9:6 – “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
These verses are not an endorsement of the ‘prosperity gospel’ that teaches financial wealth here on earth as a result of your giving a lot to those ministries. “Prosperity preachers”, I believe, pervert the gospel, misrepresent God and mislead their listeners.
But I do believe that these verses and others indicate that earthly blessings of an unspecified nature will be given to those who are faithful stewards of God’s money.
Much of God’s blessing for our giving, however, will not come in this life. And it takes faith to believe that giving money here lays up treasure in heaven. It takes faith to believe Jesus correctly said that it’s more blessed to give than to receive. These passages are true and at a definite time in a real place God is actually going to reward us bountifully for what we have given generously and cheerfully.
Regardless of your interpretation of these passages, regardless of how much God rewards you here for your giving and how much in heaven, the bottom line is clear: God will bless you bountifully if you give generously.
If you want to know about the many opportunities to give at OMS Canada, please click here.