We live in the most prosperous and wealthy nation that has ever been. I would say this is one of the most relevant spiritual topics both on a macro and micro level to the Church. It also doesn’t hurt that this topic is right up my alley given my profession. In my profession I have seen all kinds of examples of stewardship where money is treated as the master and how people are consumed with making and acquiring the next dollar as well as the avenues and lengths they have gone to get it.
Do you realize that money/stewardship is one of the most frequent topics in all of scripture? Did you also realize that in the 89 Chapters of the gospel accounts (Matt, Mark,Luke, and John) that money/stewardship is discussed approximately 123 times. Further more one half of all of Jesus’ parables discuss money/stewardship in some aspect? And lastly some of the most harsh warnings in scripture are in regards to money/stewardship.
So what is stewardship? I define stewardship in very simple terms…. Stewardship is the management of an asset that is from or belongs to another. With that definition in mind it brings me to what must be the first principle in Christian stewardship. EVERYTHING BELONGS TO GOD!!! See Deuteronomy 10:14 and Psalm 89:11. With that definition of Stewardship and the first principle in mind we need to ensure that we give equal significance, effort, and focus in acquiring assets and proper handling of these assets. It has to be a balance or we run the risk of stepping into the many harsh warnings that we see in scripture.
A few of these warnings are found in 1 Timothy 6:9-10, Matthew 19:24, and Matthew 6:24. As you can see, it is very clear the warnings that scripture lays out for us in our pursuit of possessions and money and how easy it is to be overtaken by those desires. However, if we go back to the first principle that EVERYTHING BELONGS TO GOD, we are merely stewards of his assets that he created and gave to us, and we realize that we only have possession for a short period of time
Next let’s take a look at what the wisdom writer of Ecclesiastes has to say in regards to this topic. The writer brings out the meaningless cycle and toil, the burden of trying to keep up with others, and the effects of never being satisfied. However, he also points out that we can have satisfaction as we see in chapter 2:24-25.
So as we are going about living in a world that views Stewardship in basically an opposite way that we strive to as Christians, let’s remember the words of Jesus in Acts 20:35: IT IS MORE BLESSED TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE!
When we think about Jesus and material possessions, perhaps we think of passages like Luke 8:3 that tell us He lived from the financial support of Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and many others. Or His own words: “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58). Jesus lived humbly. Despite this, how often do we reflect on Jesus’ giving?
He gave Himself. Scripture says this explicitly in several places. He gave Himself “for our sins” (Gal. 1:4;). He gave Himself “for me” (Gal. 2:20). He gave Himself “for us” (Eph. 5:2; Ti. 2:14). He gave Himself for the church (Eph. 5:25). He gave Himself “for all” (1 Tim. 2:6). No matter how you look at the cross, it must be described in terms of His giving. This gift was the most significant act of all history. The writer of Hebrews says “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (10:10). Isn’t it interesting that Paul praises the unexpected generosity of the Macedonian givers, in part, by saying “they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God” (2 Cor. 8:5). Gracious, generous giving is impossible without our first giving ourselves to God. Submitting ourselves to Him in utter dependency, yielding our will and desires, is a prerequisite for Christlike giving.
He found it more blessed to give than receive (Acts 20:35). This was His mentality and outlook. His default position was doing for others, not having others do for Him (Mat. 20:28). Paul, speaking with the Ephesian elders, reflects back on this character trait of Jesus, saying, “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” What is Paul talking about? In the context, he is talking about material things like gold, silver, and clothing (33), material needs (34), and helping the weak by working hard (35). He’s not referring to the Sunday collection (cf. 1 Cor. 16:1-2), but an attitude of heart instead. Again, the Macedonians embodied this attitude. Paul is still speaking of them when he writes, “Each one must do as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). We should grow to the point where it brings us joy to give to God. Isn’t that how Jesus gave Himself for us? Study Hebrews 12:1-3 closely!
He gave with grace (2 Cor. 8:9). Most lexical definitions of “grace” include the word “gift,” “favor,” and “benefit.” These are undoubtedly giving terms and, when Paul uses it in 2 Corinthians 8:9, a financial term. Paul says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” He ties Christ’s gracious giving to his admonition that Corinth be gracious givers, too. He urges them to complete this gracious work (6), to abound in this gracious work (7), and co-participate in this gracious work (19-20). For Jesus, grace meant giving up something to meet the needs of others. For us, gracious giving means giving up something to supply the needs of others. Like with Jesus, we prove the sincerity of our love by gracious giving (8).
Should we give out of duty and obligation? Not entirely and certainly not primarily. Should we give out of gratitude? That’s certainly better than guilt. How about giving out of an effort to imitate our Savior? When we are giving, it is not merely “to the church.” It is giving to the head of the church, the one who gave everything to purchase it (Acts 20:28). Remarkably, sacrificial giving is a tangible, explicit way for us to give like Jesus. Could there be a stronger motivation?