What does the word “adventure” mean to you?
Is it shooting the rapids on a hot summer day…
Or speeding around a rave track at two hundred miles per hour…
Or climbing a sheer cliff in the Alps…
Or trekking through a wilderness on safari?
Permit me to share with you one of the most exciting adventures you can experience — the adventure of giving by faith.
Most people don’t relate adventure to the act of giving. In the following pages, I want to show you how to turn your giving into a thrilling personal adventure. But first, let me tell you about Deborah, just one of God’s children who has made this wonderful discovery.
Not long after her arrival back in the United States for her scheduled home leave from overseas missionary work, she learned that one of her neighbor’s sons had been seriously injured. The family had no insurance and was suffering financially as well as physically.
Concerned about their urgent need, Deborah went into her bedroom to pray. “Lord,” she asked, “what would You have me do?” She sensed a nudge from the Lord to give her neighbors some money. Checking her bank account, she realized that her bank balance was a mere $200.
“Lord, how about $25?” she prayed. With $175 left over, she thought she could survive the rest of the month. Quietly waiting on the Lord, however, she felt the Lord say, “No, I want you to give $100.”
“I choked a bit,” she says. “That was half of what I had. As I continued to question the Lord, I had no peace about anything less than $100.”
Finally, she wrote out a check , breathing a prayer. “Lord, I’ve done what You said, so You’ll have to take care of my needs.”
With a sense of joy and expectancy, Deborah took the check across the street. By this act of sharing, she greatly encouraged the family, and God blessed her abundantly. Two days later a check for $100 came in the mail. Three days later a woman dropped by her home with a check for $200.
“Within five days of writing my check, I received from unexpected sources a total of $500,” Deborah says. “I stood in awe of God and His ways.”
Like Deborah and many other Christians who have learned to obey God’s principles of stewardship, you can know and experience this wonderful adventure of giving by faith.
As with any adventure, we must prepare for our journey. In the next few pages, I want to share how you can equip yourself for your adventure. I urge you to read this booklet prayerfully and carefully, underlining significant points and making notes in the margins for quick, easy reference. Then pass these principles on to your spouse, a close friend, and other Christians whom you know, especially to those whom you are discipling.
1. Understand Stewardship
To start on your adventure, you first must understand the meaning and importance of stewardship.
In the New Testament, two different words describe a steward. One emphasizes guardianship over children and the administration of a master’s household. The other stresses the role of a manager over property. In either case, a steward oversees the affairs and property of another person.
One cannot overemphasize the importance of stewardship. Stewardship over all that God entrusts to us in life is foundational to giving. All that we have, we enjoy because of God’s grace and goodness. He has put into our hands the administration of all that He owns. As your preeminent master, He holds you accountable for how well you manage what He has entrusted to your care.
This divine perspective helps us understand much of our purpose for living as Christians. We are here to glorify God thorough the wise investment of our time, our talents, and our treasure. Our Lord came to seek and to save the lost. He has commanded us to continue His mission by helping to fulfill the Great Commission in our generation.
My goal is to help you fulfill God’s purpose of your life by showing you the biblical way to invest wisely in God’s kingdom and thereby increase your fruitfulness for Christ.
2. Be Faithful
Faithfulness is another quality that will equip you for your adventure in giving. The apostle Paul says, “It is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” Faithfulness is dependability — a steady, day-by-day obedience to God in what He has given you to do.
A trustworthy steward will evaluate his opportunities and invest what God has given him in such a way that it will produce the best possible results.
3. Adopt a Godly Attitude
The attitude of a steward is vital. Paul admonishes, “Let everyone give as his heart tells him, neither grudgingly nor under compulsion, for God loves the man whose heart is in his gift.” Or as the Living Bible renders it, “Cheerful givers are the ones God prizes.”
The Greek word translated “cheerful” is hilaros, from which we get the word “Hilarious.” Supernatural, Holy Spirit-directed stewardship is giving with expectation, excitement, joy, praise — even laughter. Indeed, God prizes “hilarious givers” because they are the ones who have discovered the exciting adventure of giving.
4. Recognize and Fulfill Your Stewardship Responsibilities
One of the major responsibilities — and privileges — of a fruitful steward is to share the life–changing message of God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Our Lord has given to every Christian the command to “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere” and to “make disciples in all the nations.” This command, which the church has historically called the Great Commission, is the privilege and duty of every man and woman in every generation who confesses Christ as Savior and Lord.
If you and I and Christians everywhere will simply obey our Lord’s call to the stewardship of our time, talents and treasure, we will release not only vast sums of money to advance His kingdom, but all other resources needed to reach billions of people for Christ and, thus help fulfill the Great Commission in this generation.
Matthew 6:21 records perhaps the simplest truth about your commitment:
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
One can determine much about a Christian’s spiritual life and how faithfully he fulfills his stewardship responsibilities by what he treasures. Your use of time, talent and money clearly shows your spiritual commitment because you invest in what your heart values most.
Enjoying God’s Abundant Blessing
Giving by faith is meant by God to be an exciting privilege
Giving by faith is meant by God to be an exciting privilege. When you honor and praise God through your commitment and obedience to stewardship, He showers you with joy. He turns your giving into a thrilling adventure in Christian living.
Would you like to enjoy such an experience?
Let me share six steps you can take to appropriate God’s abundant blessings through your faithful stewardship.
1. Recognize That Everything You “Own” Actually Belongs to God
All that we have, we possess by the grace and gift of God. Everything belongs to Him. The psalmist records, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” God’s ownership is eternal and unchanging. He never has given up this right — and never will.
As Christian stewards we must realize that in Christ “we live and move and have our being.” Jesus Christ created us. He bought us with His precious blood. And God anointed Him as our Lord. Thus, the whole of our life — our personality, influence, material substance, everything — is His, even our successes.
God has placed in our trust a measure of time, a unique set of talents, and sufficient treasure to carry our His will for our lives. Our task as faithful stewards is to manage those blessings to bring the maximum glory to His name.
2. Realize It Is More Blessed to Give Than Receive
The Book of Acts records the words of the Lord Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” I first heard this as a growing boy, then as an agnostic and later as a young Christian. Then, I could not comprehend how giving could be better than receiving. Now that I have been a Christian for many years, I truly understand from my own experience and through observing many others why it is “more blessed to give” than receive.
Giving produces abundance. When you give freely of yourself and of your possessions as a material expression of your spiritual obedience to Christ, God in turn meets your needs abundantly. This is true whether you are rich or poor, whether you serve God in a land that is blessed with great material wealth or in a poverty-stricken part of the world. The apostle Paul records:
If you give little, you will get little. A farmer who plants just a few seeds will get only a small crop, but if he plants much, he will reap much. Everyone must make up his own mind as to how much he should give. Don’t force anyone to give more than he really wants to, for cheerful givers are the ones God prizes. God is able to make it up to you by giving you everything you need and more, so that there will not only be enough for your own needs, but plenty left over to give joyfully to others.
For God, who gives seed to the farmer to plant, and later on, good crops to harvest and eat, will give you more and more seed to plant and will make it grow so that you can give away more and more fruit from your harvest.
Yes, God will give you much so that you can give away much, and when we take your gifts to those who need them they will break out into thanksgiving and praise to God for your help.
Most Christians have not learned to give, either out of their abundance or out of their poverty, and therefore, are not experiencing the reality of that promise. As a result, they feel unfulfilled and don’t understand why.
You can never outgive God. It is a law of God that His blessings back to you always greatly exceed what you give to Him.
The truths of God’s holy, inspired Word are universal. The principle of abundant blessing is not just for the rich and famous or for those who live in a land of wealth and opportunity; it is for everyone everywhere who obeys God and follows the principles of blessing given in His Word. I will share more on this later.
Giving begins an endless circle of joy. God gives; you receive. You give; He receives, He then multiplies your gift back to you in the form of additional supply. It is important to remember that God is the one who initiates this process of blessing. The purpose of the return is not just to reward you for giving, thus completing the circle again and again.
Although God owns all the wealth in the universe, few people are willing to share the portion of resources which He has entrusted to them. When someone does begin to give, God releases additional abundance to them so they can give even more. If we break this process on the receiving end of the circle, He is likely to look for someone else whom He can trust and through whom He can channel His blessings. The Book of Proverbs records:
One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.
My good friend Don Preston considers himself an average person. At the age of twelve, he found his first job working in a small grocery store after school. From the beginning, he gave at least 10 percent of his income to the work of the Lord. Through the years, Don worked hard, and God blessed him abundantly.
Don married young, and he and his wife raised their three children while Don grew in his career. At age 29, after eleven years of managing supermarket meat departments, he began his own wholesale/retail meat business. At that time, he and his wife and children made a family decision to give a t least 15 percent of their $6,000 yearly earnings to the Lord.
God began to increase their income immediately from $6,000 to $21,000, then $37,000, $62,000, $85,000, $100,000 and more a year.
“Fifteen years later we sold the meat business to a larger company, wrapped up our assets in nice, neat investments and went into self-supported Christian ministry for two years,” Don says. “We later heard of the evangelistic work of Christian nationals in foreign countries. Their work is flourishing, and it takes little to maintain national families in full time ministry compared to our own — less than $100 per month in some countries.
“A little fast meat-market math convinced me that I could go back into business, earn money to support these nationals, and multiply myself fifty to one hundred times. By giving $50,000 a year, I could contribute a million dollars to God’s work within just twenty years.”
With his family’s enthusiastic support, Don put aside his plans to join the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ and began instead to pursue this twenty-year course of earning to give. This time around, he and his son started a machinery business in Greenville South Carolina, and true to his commitment, Don began giving away 50 percent of his income, paying 33 percent in taxes and living modestly on the rest.
Things worked out much better than he expected. He fulfilled his million-dollar commitment in just ten years, channeling the bulk of his funds into New Life 2000, a comprehensive plan for world evangelism designed to help reach the millions who have not yet heard about Christ. Don’s wife, Virginia, died in 1987. Now he and his second wife, Jeanne, have begun to work on a second million to give to the work of the Lord, and their goal is to find a hundred or more other men and women who will do the same.
God’s promise in Proverbs 11:24,25 is for everyone. Whether rich or poor, you, too, can give to receive, to receive to give again. God knows your heart and whether He can trust you to end of the process, as Don Preston emphasizes, on the right word: give.
Permit me to give you a word of caution here. Do not be disappointed if God doesn’t provide you with an immediate financial return as He did with Deborah or Don. The various possibilities of Gods’ blessings are endless. He may have a different plan for you. God knows your true needs, and you must give Him the freedom to do His very best work in your life. He may give you improved health and strength to do your work. He may lead you to a better job, help you decrease your expenses, or change your spending habits so you can live better on your present income. Or He may teach you to be content with what you have so you can enjoy a greater sense of fulfillment in life. Paul affirms this:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Many Christians misunderstand the meaning of blessing. Like Paul, Job was a man who experienced both prosperity and deprivation. True prosperity is living and giving at the level to which God has called you with all your needs met by His supply.
3. Give By Faith
Simply defined, giving by faith is taking God at His Word and giving generously in anticipation of His faithful provision.
The premise of this concept is three-fold. First, God is the absolute source for your supply. Second, giving is based on His resources, not your own. Third, Christ is your link to God’s inexhaustible riches.
The apostle Paul includes these precepts in his letter to the Christians at Philippi in which he says:
My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Let’s look at each for a moment.
God shall supply. Living in a humanistic society, it is easy to believe that man is your source of wealth. When in need, it’s easy to look to people and institutions for help. Indeed, God uses them in His process of provision, but they are only the instruments — not the source — of your supply.
According to His riches. Our heavenly Father holds the treasures for heaven and earth in His hands. Jesus Christ claimed all authority in heaven and on earth. Our Lord’s supply is not based on the size of your need, but on the enormity of His riches and His authority to disburse them. In good times and bad, His reserves remain stable and inexhaustible.
By Christ Jesus. You claim God’s abundant blessings through Christ. Our Lord laid aside His riches in heaven to identify with you in every area of your human need, ultimately dying on the cross for your sins. When He returned to His Father, God reinvested Him with all that He had laid aside, including His inexhaustible riches.
4. Realize That What You Sow, You Will Reap
On the third day of creation God commanded, “Let the earth burst forth with every sort of grass and seed-bearing plant, and fruit trees with seeds inside the fruit, so that these seeds will produce the kinds of plants and fruits they came from.”
This principle applies spiritually as well as physically. Paul writes, “A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
The apostle makes it clear that the law for sowing and reaping applies to the use of our material goods as well, as previously examined in 2 Corinthians 9. This law embraces four basic principles.
Plant a Seed
First, to reap anything, you must first plant a seed. Whether your gift is measured in cash or goods or any other medium of exchange, whatever you give will return to you because what you give is a seed that you sow.
Sow Your Best Seed
Second, to reap a bountiful harvest you must sow your best seed. Merely sowing for the sake of reaping is not enough. God asks for your finest because He uses what you give as the basis of His supply. There is no second best with God. His provision in response to your obedience is perpetually perfect and always abundant. Since He gave you His very best — His only Son — you grieve the Spirit of God when you do not give Him your best.
This means that the best of your life — the best of your time, the best of your talents, the best of your treasure, the best of everything you have — should be on the altar of sacrifice to God.
In some cultures, the seed may be the first and best of one’s produce or other tangible foods. For example, Abraham willingly gave a tenth of all his spoils of war to Melchizedek, the king of Salem and high priest for the Most High God, as a testimony to God’s faithfulness in giving him the victory. No doubt these spoils included a wide variety of valuable treasures. On another occasion, after Moses sanctified the Tabernacle in the wilderness, the leaders of Israel brought covered wagons drawn by oxen as gifts to the Lord.
Reaping and Sowing
Third, whatever you give, you reap according to the amount you sow. This biblical principle is basic to life and it applies in every culture and economic custom, whether free enterprise, socialism, or a system where tangible foods are bartered.
Fourth, an abundant harvest springs from the most fertile soil. No intelligent farmer would think of planting inferior seed in poorly prepared soil using worn-out equipment. Rather, he would buy the choicest seed and prepare the soil thoroughly with the finest equipment and fertilizers he could afford.
Like planting good seed in fertile ground, your task as a steward is to seek the greatest possible return for the sake of God’s kingdom. You cannot appraise good stewardship by the amount of your gifts, but by how wisely you invest your resources. Good stewardship of any gift is determined by how well it reflects the will of God.
The “Sound Mind” Principle
In making decisions, I believe in using the “sound mind” principle of Scripture recorded in 2 Timothy 1:7, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
The “sound mind” referred to in this verse means a well-balanced mind, one that is under the control for the Holy Spirit, “remade” according to Romans 12:1,2:
Therefore, my brother, I implore you by God’s mercies to offer your very selves to Him, a living sacrifice, dedicated and fit for His acceptance, the worship offered by mind and heart. Adapt yourselves no longer to the pattern for the present world, but let your minds be remade and your whole nature thus transformed. Then you will be able to discern the will of God and to know it is good, acceptable, and perfect.
There is a vast difference between the inclination of the natural or carnal man to use “common sense” and that of the spiritual man to follow the “sound mind” principle. One depends upon the wisdom of man without benefit of God’s wisdom and power; the other, having the mind of Christ, receives wisdom and guidance from God moment by moment through faith.
I encourage you to use the “sound mind” principle to help determine where to invest in Christ’s kingdom. Avoid emotional giving. Giving on impulse just for the sake of giving or contributing where your gifts are likely to be misused or wasted is not only poor stewardship, but is also contrary to the will of God and grieves the Spirit. Perhaps you have received requests from organizations inviting you to invest in their various projects. Carefully evaluate the worthiness of the ministry you choose and the sincerity of the people involved, and respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find out the conditions of the “soil”. Investigate the financial soundness and integrity of the organization soliciting your support; determine what percentage of your donation will actually go to the project and whether your gift will really be used for the glory of God. I also encourage you to evaluate — in terms of discipleship and evangelism — the fruitfulness of the church or other organizations which invite your contributions.
5. Give to Glorify God
As a steward for God’s resources, you have but one purpose — to glorify Him. It is easy to let the day-to-day demands on your finances turn your eyes from this aim unless you clearly define your priorities. God’s holy Word does this for you.
Your number one priority is God. Your second priority is your family. Since the family was the first institution formed by our Creator, no conflict exists between the preeminence of God and the priority of family. Rather, meeting the needs of your family is a scriptural mandate and an evidence of faith. Helping nonbelievers see the life-changing power for Jesus Christ as a result of your caring for the poor, the orphans and the widows and your gifts of time, talent and treasure to agencies concerned for the welfare of the community glorify God as well.
But your top priority is to love, obey and glorify God. Putting God and the fulfillment of our Lord’s Great Commission first in your time, talents and treasure must be the priority goal of your stewardship. This involves giving to the kingdom of God through your local church and mission organizations which faithfully exalt our Lord, proclaim His holy, inspired Word and actively work toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission. It is poor stewardship to invest resources which God has entrusted to you in any church or mission cause which is not directly related to discipleship, evangelism, and the fulfillment of our Lord’s commands, including the Great Commission.
6. Give From the Heart
Good stewardship involves more than the mere knowledge and application of the principles and priorities for giving. Motives are an essential part of the picture as well, for they determine your reasons for giving.
Godly motives stem from a cheerful, loving heart for God. We give to please God and express our love to Him. We give out of obedience to our Lord’s command to lay up treasures in heaven. We give to be a channel of God’s abundant resources to a desperately needy world. We give to help fulfill the Great Commission and, thus, help reach the world for Christ. Maintaining right motives through the power of the Holy Spirit is essential if we are to accomplish this objective to the glory of God.
Why is it, then, that we so often fail in this goal? It is because we follow our deceitful hearts and live self-centered lives. Bowing to this materialistic world, we fail to use the keys which unlock God’s abundant blessings in our lives and, as a result, plunge into financial bondage.
How can you avoid this? In the following pages I want to show you how to manage your finances and release your faith to experience the adventure in giving which God intended for every Christian.
Perhaps you have seen enticing advertisements in you newspaper or on television promising you financial independence. What a wonderful prospect! Although God has blessed many of His children with wealth, most of us can only dream about financial independence. Financial freedom, however, is for every Christian steward who faithfully follows God’s plan for giving, saving and spending.
Financial freedom means having enough to provide adequately for your household and to give generously and joyfully to God’s work.
God wants you to be financially free so you can put Him first in your life and be sensitive to His voice, ready to follow Him whenever — and wherever — He leads.
If this is God’s plan, why do many Christians live in financial bondage? The reasons are basic. Not understanding or obeying scriptural principles of stewardship, they succumb to the world’s philosophy of money. They burden themselves with the material concerns of life and make little or no commitment to God’s work.
I believe that materialism is the greatest hindrance to the worldwide propagation of the gospel today. Perhaps in no other area of our lives are we more guilty of rationalizing. When it comes to material possessions, we seem quite capable of not only convincing ourselves that we need them, but that we also deserve them.
This is not to say we shouldn’t enjoy life. In fact, Jesus promised an abundant life to all who trust and obey Him. The Spirit-filled Christian enjoys life more than anyone else. What I am asking you to consider is this: What material possessions in your life are consuming too much of your time in order to secure and maintain them?
Materialism is not just a Western problem. People in all countries and cultures — from New York to Paris to Calcutta to Nairobi to remote villages along the Amazon — wrestle with some form of materialism.
Bailey Marks, vice President for International Affairs for Campus Crusade for Christ, relates a story which illustrates this:
One day a friend of mine was visiting a pastor in a remote African village. His house was very plain. Built of sticks and mud, it had only a dirt floor and its sparse furnishings were crudely constructed.
My friend asked the pastor, “What is one of the most difficult problems you face in your ministry?”
Without hesitation, the pastor slapped his hand on the table and exclaimed, “Materialism! If my people have one pig, they want two. If they have two pigs, they want a cow, or several cows…”
When I first heard the story, I had a good laugh. But then I realized how true this is of all of us.
It is in the faithful stewardship of that which God entrusts to you, not materialism, that you find fulfillment and true meaning to life.
Let me share with you six specific things you can do to ensure financial freedom for you and your family:
1. Know and Obey God’s Will for Investing Your Money
God’s will about money is not a mystery. Biblical principles of stewardship give you a clear revelation of His plan. By basing your decisions on these precepts, you will experience lasting financial freedom.
Every investment of your time, talents and treasure, unless otherwise directed by the Holy Spirit, should be determined by the “sound mind” principle which I mentioned earlier. Additionally, you should seek the wise counsel of godly people who have successfully applied biblical principles in their financial giving.
God’s Provision for Guidance
There will be times in your life, however, when difficult situations arise for which no scriptural principle or human counsel offers specific direction. You may wonder, Which course should I take? How do I know for sure that my decision is right? Even then God makes provision for guidance.
The apostle Paul instructs, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” What does this mean?
Peace is a gift and a calling. The Holy Spirit guides you by the presence or assurance of peace in your heart. When you make the right decisions, you will sense calm even in circumstances that are very difficult. When your actions do not coincide with His plan, however, you will feel restless and uncertain.
No better way exists for you to know God’s will in your financial decision than to base your actions on the principles of His Word, and then to incite God to guide you with His peace from within.
2. Breathe Financially
True financial freedom requires spiritual health. For many years, I have taught the principle of “Spiritual Breathing.” In Spiritual Breathing, I explain, you exhale the impurities of sin by confession. The Bible promises that if you confess your sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive you and to purify you from all unrighteousness.
To confess your sins is to agree with God about your sins. This means you agree that your sins are wrong and grievous to God; you recognize that God has already forgiven your sins through Christ’s death and the shedding of His blood on the cross; and you repent — change your attitude: Through the strength of the Holy Spirit, you turn from your sins and change your conduct.
Then, I explain, you inhale the purity of God’s righteousness by claiming the fullness of His Spirit by faith on the basis of God’s command in Ephesians 5:18 and His promise in 1 John 5:14,15. In this way you invite Him to direct, control and empower your life.
As Spiritual Breathing sustains your spiritual health, so “Financial Breathing” preserves your financial freedom and well being.
Exhale and Inhale
You exhale financially by confessing your sin of claiming personal ownership of the resources God has entrusted to you and of withholding those resources from God’s work — as though, because you earned them, by right they actually belong to you.
You inhale financially by acknowledging His lordship over all your time, talents and treasure and by sharing with others the abundance God provides.
This simple act of faith calls for a total, irrevocable commitment to the ownership of God over every area of your life.
3. Develop a Financial Plan
A written financial plan gives you the framework for your economic decisions and enables you to measure your progress toward financial freedom.
Developing a plan is not difficult. The family budget serves as a starting point. Easily identifying your needs, wants and desires, the plan provides a vehicle for setting priorities and forming strategic short-range and long-range goals to govern your spending. Furthermore, the budget enables you to think before you buy, thus keeping your spending on target, enabling you to live modestly and effectively manage credit.
Let me suggest a sound approach to accomplish this goal:
Living With a Budget
In developing a budget, you will need to calculate your normal monthly cost of living, including insurance, plus seasonal expenses such as vacation and Christmas and long-term needs such as your children’s education and your retirement.
Once you have established a budget, make a commitment before the Lord to live on that amount. Of course, the budget may need to be adjusted from time to time to provide for inflation or changes in circumstances.
Any income over and above what you need according to the budget can be designated as surplus. For example, if you receive a special bonus during the year but you already have enough resources to cover your budget, assume that God has given you this to help others invest in His work. Any salary increases beyond what your needs require can be passed on as well. By setting a limit on personal needs, you will not only begin to enjoy financial freedom, but you will be able to give substantially to the work of the Lord as God blesses you.
I am not suggesting that you set your needs so low that you cannot adequately live in the society in which God has placed you. I caution you, however, to be careful not to mirror the values of those around you for whom increased income automatically means increased spending on self. God doesn’t necessarily reward us as we progress in life by allowing us to increase our standard of living without reference to some set guidelines on what our needs are. He blesses us so that we will have enough for our needs with “plenty left over to give joyfully to others.” This would, of course, include laying up treasures in heaven to help fulfill the Great Commission.
4. Master Your Credit
Good stewardship requires that you live modestly and effectively manage credit.
Paul admonishes, “Pay all your debts except the debt of love for others.” Many Christian leaders take this to mean that one should never be in debt for anything. I disagree. A young couple will frequently incur monthly obligations while establishing their home. Throughout life the purchase of large dollar items — such as a house or a car — usually requires indebtedness. The real danger does not lie in the provision of needs, but in self-indulgence, poor planning, lack of discipline, and the passion to satisfy one’s greed.
Satan aims to drive Christians into debt so he can drain them with worry or despair and keep them spiritually impotent and fruitless. For this reason, a faithful steward will never obligate himself to the place where he cannot, through control of his income, make a reasonable payout.
5. Invest in God’s Kingdom
Every Christian should consider how he can give to help win and disciple the largest possible number of people for Christ. But don’t be discouraged if you do not have large financial resources to give.
God measures the value of your gift by the total of your resources. As with the widow who gave her two mites, He is pleased and honored when you give sacrificially and will supernaturally multiply your gifts to meet your needs as well as the needs of others. God also is pleased when you give generously out of the abundance He has given you. You can use these resources to give strategically to help take the message of Jesus Christ to millions who have not yet received Him.
Let me suggest giving a minimum of 10 percent of your income to the work of the Lord as a realistic starting point for a steward who wants to honor and glorify God with the resources with which he has been entrusted.
The practice of giving 10 percent is called “tithing,” and is common among many Christians today as a systematic method for giving. The word tithe itself comes from an Old English term simply meaning a tenth and usually refers to giving 10 percent of one’s income or resources to the kingdom of God. Tithing, or proportional giving of even more, should play a critical role in our stewardship as we seek to obey our Lord’s command to help fulfill the Great Commission.
God established the tithe during the Mosaic period of the Old Testament. Many argue against tithing for today on the grounds we are no longer under the law which required tithing but now live by grace. They assert that, if under law the Israelites gave at least a tenth, under grace we should surely do more as God prospers us. On this basis, many advocate proportional giving, but not necessarily a tenth. I agree. For most people, however, a tenth is a good starting point.
Let me illustrate. A friend who was just beginning to experience the reality of his salvation asked his pastor if God would be satisfied with 5 percent of his income instead of 10 percent. The pastor replied, “Would you be satisfied with 50 percent of you salvation and all the other blessing which God has available for you?” From my perspective, it is unthinkable from the standing point of Christ’s great sacrifice on the cross that anyone would give less under grace than the Jews gave under law. So in discussing the matter of tithing, I am referring to giving at least a tenth of your income or resources to God’s work, not as a matter of law, but as an expression of grace.
The provision of God under grace is based on the principle of the harvest: What we sow we will reap. The apostle Paul says, “If you give little, you will get little. A farmer who plants just a few seeds will get only a small crop, but if he plants much, he will reap much.” Giving too little to the work of the Lord would amount to “robbing God” just as much today as it did in Malachi’s time. To the children of Israel, the Lord said:
“Will a man rob God? Surely not! And yet you have…robbed me of the tithes and offerings due to me. And so the awesome curse of God is cursing you, for your whole nation has been robbing me.
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so that here will be food enough in my Temple; if you do, I will open up the windows of heaven for you and pour out a blessing so great you won’t have room enough to take it in!”
Although Christ has “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us,” God has His ways of chastening us for lack of giving or rewarding us for faithfulness in stewardship. Consider what He said to the leaders of Judah through the prophet Haggai:
“Why is everyone saying it is not the right time for rebuilding my Temple?” asks the Lord.
His reply to them is this: “Is it then the right time for you to live in luxurious home, when the Temple lies in ruins? Look at the result: You plant much but harvest little.”
You have scarcely enough to eat or drink, and not enough clothes to keep you warm. Your income disappears, as though you were putting it into pockets filled with holes!”
Have you ever had that feeling? You seem to be on a financial treadmill. You are working harder, yet getting farther behind. Your checking account seems to have sprung a leak. God has not changed. In the time of Haggai, He considered it a top priority to reestablish His physical presence among the people of earth by having the people of Israel rebuild His Temple in Jerusalem. In the Church Age in which we live, God’s physical presence among mankind is spread as His Church grows and spreads. How does this occur? By evangelism and discipleship, by helping to fulfill the Great Commission in obedience to our Lord’s command.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me in my entire life?
- What is the greatest thing I can do to help others?
- Since our Savior came to seek and to save the lost, is the spread of the gospel still a top priority for God today?
- Does God expect me, as a Christian, to be involved in spreading the gospel to the world and thus help fulfill the Great Commission?
- If opportunities to give to evangelism and discipleship exist, does God expect me to give to them?
- If I ignore the opportunity to give significantly to God’s top priorities, is it reasonable to believe that He is well-pleased with me?
- If He is not well-pleased with me in the way I handle the finances which He has entrusted to me, what might He do to get my attention?
Even though we live in an age of grace, the principles of Haggai are still true.
What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. And how do we glorify God? Jesus explains that in John 15:8, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
In other words, the most important thing you and I can do as believers is to help take the most joyful news — the good news of God’s love and forgiveness through the Lord Jesus Christ — to everyone who will listen through the investment of our time, our talents and our treasure.
Under grace, the love of Christ constrains us. We cannot misuse or abuse our New Testament liberty. We must remain sensitive and accountable to our just and righteous God.
Obedience is Key
Obedience to His commands in every facet of our lives is the key to experiencing the presence of Christ and the joy of heaven. Jesus says, “The one who obeys me is the one who loves me…I will only reveal myself to those who love me and obey me. The Father will love them too, and we will come to them and live with them.
Are you experiencing the presence of Christ in your life? Do you know His joy, His love, His peace, the sense of His direction? If not, could it be that you are not obeying His commands? When you withhold the resources that God has entrusted to you for His work, He has little with which to bless you, and your life becomes unfruitful and unhappy.
I personally know of no greater joy than that of being an instrument of God to communicate the good news of the gospel to others. And that takes money. We are not our own anymore; we have been bought with a price, the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our time, talents and treasure are our way of expressing gratitude to our great and glorious God and Father for all that He has done to fill us with His presence.
Discipline Comes From Love
Since under grace everything we have belongs to God, we tithe — or even give a greater percentage — not as a requirement of law, but as an act of loving obedience and worship. I believe that we disobey God when we ignore our responsibility in giving and stewardship. And just as God disciplines His children under grace when they are disobedient because He loves them, the unfaithful steward should be prepared for discipline as well. Let me illustrate.
I love my sons dearly. I remember when I first held them in my arms. I felt my heart attach itself to them as I embraced them. But through the years while they were young, I found it necessary to discipline them. On each occasion before and after their punishment, I explained to them that I loved them and that the correction was for their good.
To make sure they understood, I would ask, “Why did I discipline you?”
Each time through their tears they would respond, “Because you love me.”
The fact that I reproved them when they were disobedient did not mean that I loved them less, but more.
Obedience in Stewardship
So it is with obedience in stewardship. It is vital that we do not allow anything to take precedence over giving our tithes and offerings. I would rather miss my meals and not meet other obligations than to rob God — even though I am under grace, even though I know that He loves me, even though I know that my relationship with Him is vastly different from that of Old Testament believers because of the cross and the empty tomb and the reality of His indwelling presence in my life.
To fail in our accountability to God would be a misunderstanding of grace. Jesus said, “You should tithe.” Since everything we have we enjoy as a gift of God, not returning a percentage of what He has given us to the work of the Lord as an expression of our gratitude and love is disobedience and can result in discipline.
The Malachi Principle
Just as in Malachi God promised to abundantly bless Israel for faithfulness in tithing, I believe God will abundantly bless those today who tithe or give more in a regular, systematic way. The New Testament verse, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows,” lies in the context of giving to one’s spiritual teachers. An attitude of obedience when you tithe — or give generously in a systematic way — softens the soil of you heart for fruitfulness and thereby gives God opportunity to bless you.
I believe this is the spirit of the Malachi principle.
The premise of tithing as an expression of grace is three-fold:
First, tithing acknowledges God as the source and owner of all that we possess. Tithing performs a role separate from that of unsystematic giving, which suggests that we believe we own all that we possess. Through tithing we acknowledge that God created our increase.
Second, tithing is a voluntary act of worship. At Bethel Jacob said:
If God will help and protect me on this journey and give me food and clothes, and will bring me back safely to my father, then I will choose Jehovah as my God! And this memorial pillar shall become a place for worship; and I will give you back a tenth of everything you give me!
If you don’t already, you too should consider tithing — or giving more — as an act of worship. Through this act, you keep your focus on the heavenly Father and testify to His kindness and generosity toward you.
Third, tithing teaches us to put God first. Moses said, “The purpose of tithing is to teach you always to put God first in your lives.”
Tithing as a systematic, purposeful plan for consistent giving enables you to circumvent the emotions and circumstances that would hinder you from being a faithful steward and, thus, from putting God first in your life. This prioritizing releases you from the tyranny of materialism and clears the channel for God’s additional and abundant blessings.
Don Myers, Campus Crusade for Christ Director of Affairs for Southern Africa, relates how he and his wife, Sue, learned to put this principle into effect in their lives.
“During our first two years as Christians, Sue and I devised a plan to become tithers. The plan entailed a one-percent-per-year increase in our giving until we reached the magic 10 percent. Since our giving at that time was an anemic 4 percent, we were looking at a long laborious process. We tried that plan for two years, but it was life pulling a tooth slowly!
“At that point, we made a radical decision to jump our giving from 6 percent to 10 percent in one leap. This proved to be a relatively painless procedure, and it yielded a financial liberty and sense of peace in our marriage beyond our previous experience. We were encouraged to try new ‘quantum leaps.’
“As staff members from 1968 to 1972, we managed to maintain a modest ‘beyond tithe’ level of giving. Then as we prepared for our move to Africa in 1973, we listened to a message at a staff conference that changed our lives. The speaker said that the best faith response to a financial crisis would be to increase one’s level of stewardship.
“After prayerfully considering this radical principle, we decided to follow it during our Africa career. We encountered severe financial crises on six occasions during the sixteen years we served in Africa. Each time, by faith, we increased our level of giving. And each time the Lord solved the crisis. By the time we left Africa, our giving level was 38 percent!”
Tithing in All Areas
Does the principle of tithing apply equally to your time and talents as it does to money? I am convinced that it does.
Giving at least 10 percent of your time to God is not a burdensome task. Many of God’s children give far more.
Opportunities to devote your time and talents are limitless. Do you sing? Play a musical instrument? Bake? Perhaps you are an executive, a professor, secretary, childcare provider, carpenter, landscaper, mechanic or bookkeeper. Ask God to show you how to use your talents for His glory. And check with your pastor of the leaders of Christian organizations in your area for opportunities to invest your time and talents for the cause of Christ.
I challenge you to give generously of your time and talents as well as your treasure for six months to see how God will multiply the fruit of your gifts in the lives of others. What an exciting privilege to watch your resources touch lost and hurting people around the world for the glory of God!
- Make a list of people you know who give faithfully to God’s work. Ask them to share their experiences of joyful giving.
- Memorize 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and meditate on it whenever you feel unthankful.
- Memorize Matthew 6:21. Evaluate your giving and spending habit to see where your treasure lies.
- Think of an instance in your life that illustrates the reasons giving is better than receiving.
- Memorize Philippians 4:19. Remind yourself of this verse each time your faith to give is tested.
- How have you been giving your time, talents and treasure to help fulfill the Great Commission? How do your gifts reflect a desire to see others accept God’s love and forgiveness?
- Prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to help you set financial priorities. Write them down and review them each time you pay your bills or do your accounting.
- Examine your giving to missions to see if it reflects the priority you have set for it.
- In which areas of your life do you feel greedy or materialistic? How have these feelings affected your spiritual well-being?
- Is there any part of your finances that you have not completely surrendered to God? If so, why? What course of action do you plan to take to correct this matter?
- List ways to tithe your time and talents. How can you work them into your present schedule?
- Outline 1 John 2:15-17. How does this relate to your stewardship?
Group Discussion Questions
- To encourage one another, share with your group how God has blessed your giving.
- Do a group study of the parable found in Matthew 25:14-29 and list the characteristics you find in the good and bad stewards. Apply these to the way people live today.
- Share one way in which Satan tempts you to give less. Be specific. How can you overcome this temptation in the future?
- With your group, list several ways in which you can share your abundance with others in both material and non-material ways.
- Discuss with your group: Suppose a new Christian confides in you that he is afraid to give God control over his giving. How would you advise him?
Adapted from the Transferable Concept: How You Can Experience the Joy of Giving, by Dr. Bill Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. © Campus Crusade for Christ. All rights reserved.