If someone were to ask you, “Who owns your house?” or “Whose car is that you’re driving?”, most of us would probably say, “It is mine, it belongs to me”. But is that correct?
The truth is, it all belongs to God. Even though as Christians most of us know this in our heads, but how deeply has it resonated within our hearts? We still like to think of our money and our possessions. Yet the Bible makes it clear that God owns everything. All things were created by Him and for Him. Everything belongs to Him.
The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.
Imagine if we were to write this verse about our own possessions or talents. How differently might we view the things we have? This desk I am sitting at belongs to God. For what purpose has He supplied me with it and how might I use it well? The talents I have to perform my job are God’s, too. He has given me these gifts to provide for my family, buy a house, and put food on my table. How can I use these talents to serve His purposes? The food in my refrigerator was given to me by God. How can I possibly eat it without thanking Him for it? And how can I not share it with those of His children who are hungry?
God has entrusted to us the care and use of many things, but in reality, we do not really own anything; everything belongs to Him. Neither health, nor wealth, nor time, nor talents are really ours; they are on loan to us from God and we are called to serve as good custodians of what He has entrusted us with.
As your Stewardship committee, our goal is to help all of us grow deeper in our relationship with Jesus Christ. To do this, in part, is to shift our focus from “What can I give to the church” to “What can I give back to God”?
Characteristics of a Biblical Giver
There are certain characteristics that the Bible lifts up when it talks about giving. As we all prayerfully consider our commitment of time, talent and treasure for the coming year, we wanted to share some excerpts from the book, “Ask, Thank, Tell” by Charles Lane, which outlines six characteristics of a biblical giver.
Value #1: Intentional
Being intentional in one’s giving means to develop a plan for your giving and then follow through with that plan.
Hopefully most of us have received our commitment envelopes which includes our monetary pledge cards for the coming year, as well as a pledge sheet for our time and talents. One of the greatest benefits of completing these is that they encourage us to be intentional in giving.
Value #2: Regular
A second stewardship value is regular giving. To be regular in your giving means to establish a pattern in your giving, and to follow that pattern. As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come.”
In biblical times, it was most common for workers to receive their pay at the end of each day. In today’s world, our income may come once a week, twice a month or even once a month. To be regular in giving means that, whenever you receive income, and however you receive income, you give according to your predetermined plan.
Value #3: Generous
Generous giving is arguably the most basic stewardship value. As Paul writes to the Corinthians:
“And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.”
–2 Corinthians 9:8
The predominant word here is abundance. Because God blesses us so generously, we can – and must – give generously to others.
Value #4: First
First-fruits is the next stewardship value. Simply put, it means giving to God first and living off the rest. How many of us, when contemplating our offerings of time, talent and treasure, take care of the needs and wants of this life first, and then give God the leftovers? It’s hard to look at it that way, but that is the approach of so many of us.
We live in a world where advertising can easily convince us that our “wants” are really “needs”. Each day we are bombarded by messages telling us that this product or that will make us happier, better people. And it is very easy to be influenced and tempted. But if we are giving to God first, then we know that we are truly giving from a grateful heart and showing that we trust that God will always provide enough.
Value #5: Proportional
The Bible calls us to percentage giving. Those who have much wealth are expected to give proportionately. Those who have little wealth are also expected to give proportionately. Jesus reminds us of this in Mark 12:41-44:
“Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Proportional giving is not about equal gifts, but rather about equal sacrifice. Those who have received much are expected to give much. Sometimes the smallest gift is the largest gift.
Value #6: Cheerful
Many of us are familiar with Paul’s words to the Corinthians:
“The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.”
–2 Corinthians 9:6-8
The words that surround Paul’s appeal for cheerful giving talk about the other stewardship values: generous giving, intentional giving, and regular giving. In other words, the key to being a cheerful giver is to practice the other stewardship values. If you do, you will be cheerful in your giving. If you don’t, you won’t. It’s that simple.
Stewardship is not a program, but a way of living a generous life trusting in God’s provision and gratefully recognizing the abundance of what we have. It is building capacity for giving on all levels.
Ask yourself: “How am I being called to respond to God’s gifts and presence in my life?” Whatever your answer, remember these words of Paul to the Philippians:
“And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”