Tonight I will be meeting with a group of high school students for 24 hours of prayer and fasting. Together with some of our high school leaders we will be walking through seven spiritual disciplines that Christians should follow. And although giving does not make the list we will be covering, the practice of stewardship is certainly informed by the disciplines we will be discussing.
I think that most of us can get on board with the basic tenets of our faith and agree that the principles found in God’s Word are second to none in guiding our lives. But when we reach the parts of the Bible that talk about money (and there are a LOT of them), the advice doesn’t seem as providential. In fact, it seems to go against every other message in our culture that we receive about money.
Now - DISCLAIMER ALERT - I’m not writing this as a guy who has his J-O-B at a church and therefore needs to drum up revenue. Our church has experienced one of the greatest seasons of giving in its history. Rather, I want to convey that God’s principles and guidance regarding money are just as critical as His teachings about love, commitment, and salvation.
But having said that, please know that as a minister of the Gospel I wear the responsibility of stewardship differently (I think) than Joe Church Member. You see, since I’m responsible for spending resources that come into God’s house, I feel the need to make sure those monies are spent in ways that honor His Kingdom, broaden the scope and reach of His message, and facilitate spiritual transformation in the lives of individuals and families. That can be challenging since opinions about how those things are accomplished are broad. Yet, still, that’s not where the burden ends for me. I HAVE to be a participant.
I have several things driving me to be a participant in the stewardship of God’s resources.
1 - It’s a biblical mandate. Just like the other areas that I do my best (and fail miserably sometimes) to follow in God’s Word, money was and is an important part of a Christ follower’s life. It can’t be ignored as a necessary characteristic of a mature or maturing Christian.
2 - It makes me a better manager of money. Setting aside a tithe and/or offering each month in our family budget helps us pay attention to what we are spending. Being disciplined in just this one area of your budget will help drive discipline in other money areas for your family. Hmmmm - makes you wonder how THAT factors into God’s agenda regarding stewardship.
3 - It helps my conscience. There are sooooo many disciplines that I struggle to maintain even though I KNOW they make my life better when I just follow them as God instructed. Being faithful in stewardship is no exception. Yet, if there are things that I choose to give God’s money to that benefit me for entertainment or pleasure, I need to “own” my choice to please me rather than please Him. I have to remind myself sometimes that pleasing Him is for MY benefit - He wants what is BEST for me - that’s why He has given me a guide for how to use my money.
4 - I’m charged with His disbursements. As I mentioned earlier, I’m responsible for spending some of God’s resources on behalf of our church. I could not, in good faith, authorize monies to be distributed if I were not participating in the process. I couldn’t speak to curriculum we purchase, causes we chase, scholarships for students, not even purchasing paper clips - if I was not a willing participant in the stewardship of my own money toward the mission and vision of The Glade Church.
5 - It’s a measure of trust. It might be tough to admit, but ALL of the resources we have (house, car, job - EVERYTHING) - it ALL belongs to Him already. He’s simply entrusted it to our care for this season. When we are faithful with small things, He can trust us with big things. Just be cautious with this mindset - this is not a promise of prosperity for faithfulness in stewardship.
6 - It brings me joy. I know some view the attention that we pay to stewardship at different times of the year as an affront. Not me. It makes me mindful of all that He has given me (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) and challenges me to give on a level commensurate with His goodness and grace in my life. It makes me happy to try to give at a challenging level because of all that He has given me.
So - since we’ve barely scratched the surface of 2014, it’s a great time to take a look at your resources and ask the difficult question about your money: Am I honoring God with what He has entrusted to me? If not, I would challenge you to lay out a plan to get there. Take a 45 day tithing challenge where you give for 6 weeks and reassess at the end of that period. If you feel tithing is too great of a spiritual leap for you right now, start with something. Just make a plan - use Malachi 3:10 to guide you. He will prove faithful - just like He’s already doing in your life in other areas right now!