Stewardship of Treasure
Giving of Our First Fruits
The New Testament word for stewardship is oikonomia, from which we derive the word economy. This word means "management of a household," and it refers to the responsibility that is entrusted to a manager. A steward acts as an administrator of the affairs and possessions of another. As Christians, we have been entrusted with a stewardship; the things we call our own are not really ours, but God's. We have no possessions, and we do not even own ourselves. God is our Master, and we are responsible to manage His affairs and possessions. Because we are His servants, all that we have is His. Whether we have much or little, our key responsibility as His stewards remains the same: faithfulness.
Benefits of Giving
The Bible mentions several benefits of giving:
- Giving glorifies God. It not only supplies the needs of others, but also causes the recipients to thank and glorify God (2 Cor. 9:12-13).
- Giving builds faith. Sacrificial giving creates a greater dependence on the Lord and leads to a more intimate relationship with Him. It is a step of action that puts Him first and acknowledges His ownership of all that we have.
- Giving develops character. Serving the needs of others through sharing what has been given to us makes us less selfish and covetous. Our character becomes more Christlike when we become other-centered rather than self-centered (Phil. 2:3-4; 1 Tim. 6:18-19).
- Giving results in God's blessings. Those who share abundantly in the lives of others will harvest the blessings of the Lord. We cannot outgive God, because He promises that He will give back to us whatever we share with others. (2 Cor. 9:6,11; cf. Phil. 4:17-19).
- Giving is an eternal investment. While it is true that "You can't take it with you," you can send it on ahead. Jesus exhorted us not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth because they can be corrupted and stolen. Instead, He told us to build incorruptible and lasting treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:19-21). If we set our heart on earthly things, we may make short-range gains but sacrifice long-range rewards. It is only what we give away that we truly keep. Thus, there is an "eternal return" on the money we invest in the lives and ministries of others.
What to Give
Tithing appears prior to the Mosaic law. In the Old Testament we see Abraham who gave a tenth of the spoils to Melchizedek in Genesis 14:20, and after his dream, Jacob vowed to give a tenth to God (Gen. 28:20-22). From this offering by Abraham emerges the Scriptural practice of tithing, of giving ten percent of our goods to God, a practice hallowed by thousands of years of Jewish and Christian practice. In the New Testament, we see guidelines for giving. The first is that each believer should give proportionately (1 Cor. 16:2). The tithe was the least God ever asked anyone to give, and we may be wise to regard it as a minimum amount. The second guideline is that believers should give sacrificially.
Sharing is an investment in eternity and an external testimony of an internal commitment. As Mark 12:41-44 makes clear, there is a difference between convenient giving and costly giving. If God blesses us with material prosperity, He may want us to give more rather than buy more. Proportional and sacrificial giving for some Christians may be 10 percent; for others, it may be 15, 25, or 50 percent. Here an essential point of tithing must be noted: God does not ask us to tithe because there are bills to pay; He asks us to tithe because we need to be reminded that nothing we have belongs to us absolutely. So dependent are we on His grace, that without Him we would simply not exist. Giving ten percent of our goods in a thanksgiving sacrifice to God is a powerful way of living always in the humbling truth that we are creatures in need of redemption.
When to Give
Giving should be planned and periodic, not erratic. Some giving will be on an ongoing basis, but it is also a good idea to set aside money for special needs and projects that arise from time to time. Our giving should be:
- Periodic. "On the first day of every week" (1 Cor. 16:2).
- Personal. "Let each one of you" (1 Cor. 16:2); "let each one" (2 Cor. 9:7).
- Planned. "Put aside and save" (1 Cor. 16:2); "do just as he has purposed in his heart" (2 Cor. 9:7).
- Proportionate. "As he may prosper" (1 Cor. 16:2)
- Plentiful. "He who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully" (2 Cor. 9:6); "you will be enriched in everything for all liberality" (2 Cor. 9:11).
- Painful. "Beyond their ability they gave of their own accord" (2 Cor. 8:3).
- Positive. "Not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7).
Praised are you, O God, our loving creator and giver of all good gifts. Bless our parish, strengthen our faith and grant us the spirit of Christian stewardship so that we may give generously of our time in worship and prayer, our talent, and our treasure to the spread of Your Kingdom here in our Church and throughout the world. This we ask through Jesus Christ, Your son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.
Charlotte, NC 28203
Fax: (704) 377-6403