Stewardship: Treasure

THE SOURCE – LESSON 9

STEWARDSHIP: Treasure

As a Christian, you have inside knowledge of an eventual worldwide upheaval caused by Christ’s return. This is the ultimate insider trading tip: Earth’s currency will become worthless when Christ returns – or when you die, whichever comes first. (And either event could happen at any time).

Investment experts known as market timers read signs that the stock market is about to take a downward turn, then recommend switching funds immediately into more dependable vehicles such as money markets, treasury bills, or certificates of deposit.

Jesus functions here as the foremost market timer. He tells us to once and for all switch investment vehicles. He instructs us to transfer our funds from earth (which is volatile and ready to take a permanent dive) to heaven (which is totally dependable, insured by God Himself, and is coming soon to forever replace earth’s economy)… You can’t take it with you – but you can send it on ahead.”[1]

Scripture addresses wise and godly stewardship of money frequently. The subjects range from planning, saving, investing, paying taxes, debt, along with giving and tithing. The reality is that God does not deserve or own a percentage of our finances but all of it. Yet, God allows us to steward His money for His kingdom purposes, inclusive of our families and ongoing needs.[2]

For some reason, when Christians or the church talks about money it is usually thought about from the perspective of a man with slick hair, an even slicker suit with shiny shoes, gold watch and charms to match with a wife in full dress, high hair and caked make-up all promising the blessing will be in proportion to our giving!?! This should not be. Indeed, there are too many examples of such whose greed, hypocrisy, and deceit will be self-condemning in eternity. However, it is biblically appropriate to address this subject. The subject of money is not meddling but mindful. God’s character and commands are relevant to all of life and therefore crucial to understand His principles and perspective on the subject. Essential to remember is that money is not evil until it becomes an obsession and substitute god (Matthew 6:24; 1Timothy 6:9-10). We can either worship our wealth or with our wealth; it is simply one of many tools or means God gives us to accomplish His work. “Simply put, if we love money, we use God and people. However, if we love God, we are free to use money to love God and people. Our money is inextricably linked to our worship, both corporately and individually…Every day with every dollar we are committing either worship or idolatry.”[3]

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” 

Mark 8:36 “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

Luke 12:15 “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Principles & Practices

µ      Jesus is our greatest treasure.
Money will only cover up discontentment and offer temporary satisfaction. Your net worth is defined by Christ not cash. God, in His Person and in His promises gives full and eternal satisfaction. We must look more intently at God, creation and the cross to fully understand this principle and rid ourselves of lesser treasure.

Ecclesiastes 5:10 “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.”

Isaiah 55:1-3 “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come,

buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your

money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently

to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to

me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant”

µ      God blesses some with wealth and blesses others without it; both are to be stewards.

As we look around the world it doesn’t make sense that ~80% of the world lives in poverty while the other ~20% are the world’s wealthiest. Is this fair? I’m not entirely sure of that answer except to say that this principle of no matter what you have you are called to be a faithful steward (Matt 25:18).

Proverbs 22:2 “The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all.”

Looking at this principle leads to other practical questions like: How much is enough to gain and/or give? This is often where Christianity gathers a bad reputation – either saying we shouldn’t have excess or that we should give more. I think that the measure of “excess” and “luxury” can be subjective. We must weigh Scripture, be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, compassionate toward others but also remember to graciously receive God’s generosity as He provides.

How much is enough to have or spend?

–   Multiple Biblical characters had wealth: Abraham, Job at beginning & end, David as King, Solomon, Macedonian Church, Paul at times, and others.

–   Nehemiah 8:10 Ezra and Nehemiah encourage the people to celebrate God in a lavish manner.

–   John 2:1-12 Jesus makes good wine, not cheap, watered down wine.

–   John 12:1-8 Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive (year’s wages) perfume and Jesus says “the poor you always have with you…”

How much should we give?

–   The tithing question.

  • A tithe means “tenth”, where God’s people gave 10% of their firstfruits to God and to support the role of the Levites (priestly tribe; Numbers 18:21-29; 27:30).
  • A tithe and offering of crops, herds and flocks was given (Leviticus 27:30-32; Deut 12:4-18; 14:22-23).
  • In addition, there were other tithes required of God’s people to support religious festivals for worship and community life (Deuteronomy 12:10-11, 17-18; 14:22-27); offerings of 3.3% to help the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29) along with allowing for the poor and aliens to crop glean (Leviticus 19:9-10); and even other occasional offerings (Nehemiah 10:32-33). In sum, the total “mandatory” OT tithe/offerings resulted in well over 23%.
  • In the NT, Jesus affirms the tithe (Matt 23:23); but even more the emphasis is on grace-giving. In other words 10% is the more likely a starting point for believers in grace; giving is to be compelled by God, and compassionate for others not compulsory (Acts 2:45; 2Cor 8:7-9, 9:6-9; Philippians 4:14-20).
  • The NT further shows giving should be systematic (1Cor 16:1-1); sacrificial (Widow’s Offering in Luke 21:1-4; 2Cor 8:1-6,10-12); willing & generous (2Cor 9:6-9; Galatians 6:9-10; Philippians 4:14-20); and visionary for advancing God’s kingdom (Matt 13:44-46, 25:29; Luke 16:10-13; 2Cor 8:7, 9:6-15)
  • The average regular church-goer gives 6% of their income of gross income; about 20% of all Christians account for 86% of all giving.[4]

–    The luxury question.

  • As mentioned, luxury can be subjective but do consider that most of the world lives on $1.25 per day. With that said and all before, God is not trying to guilt you for having air conditioning, tennis shoes and dress shoes, multiple styled purses, silverware, toilet paper, ice cubes, salsa dip… you get the picture.
  • Watch and Worship with your spending. Typically, increased wealth creates increased spending. If you make more you spend more; if you make less you spend less (though Americans do love their credit cards). Giving away wealth is a help towards excess spending. What does your spending say about your values, priorities and worship beliefs?
  • “When God provides more money, we often think, This is a blessing. Well, yes, but it would be just as scriptural to think, This is a test… God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving.”[5]
  • The point of luxury is understanding how to leverage money, power and position for influence and advancement of God’s kingdom, not our own where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal (Matt 6:19-21).

µ      Jesus’ radical generosity models and motivates our giving.
When it comes to giving we must look to the way God gives. He gave of Himself, His one and only Son (John 3:16). Jesus did not merely give a tithe or portion His life but all of it.

2 Corinthians 8:9 “for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”

As we consider God’s giving methods, we not only have an example but a desire to show our appreciation. Giving becomes fun and fulfilling, agreeing with Jesus that “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

µ     Wealth can be a sign of wisdom; debt not so much.

In continuation, wealth or the accumulation of possessions does not automatically qualify as sinful or selfish. Saving money is smart to give for strategic purposes, surprises and provide security (though ultimate security is in God). Further, there is a basic multiplication principle that it takes money to make money. Through compound interest accumulating over time and investing wisely, you can actually give more away over a lifetime than you could by giving instantly to every needy cause. Thus, investment and building wealth can be wise as long as it is not hoarding or lacking the trust that God will provide and give security in the future.

Proverbs 6:6-8 “Go to the ant, O sluggard, and consider her ways and be wise…she prepares [and saves] her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.”

Proverbs 10:22 “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and he adds no sorrow with it.”

Proverbs 13:22 “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.”

Proverbs 14:24 “The crown of the wise is their wealth.”

Proverbs 21:5 “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance.”

Additionally, accumulating debt is often an unwise financial move. Proverbs 22:7 says, “the borrower is the slave of the lender”. Debt is a cautious means to an end. If the end has unbiblical motivation it often turns into slavery and paralyzes flexibility in one’s finances. There is no explicit prohibition of debt in the Bible though only wise caution. One wise counsel is to distinguish between depreciating and appreciating assets – the latter perhaps being a good investment with debt.

 

µ     The Holy Spirit teaches, guides, and compels.

God has given believers His Spirit to teach on these and other financial concepts from the Scriptures. There are also times where the Holy Spirit will direct a financial decision or need across your path for you to consider. Keeping in mind the Bible’s teachings and allowing the Spirit to guide will show you what is right for you to contribute. Having a specific vision and values helps make this decision as well.

Concluding Questions & Challenge

¨       Should I tithe on net or gross? The real question is, Which does God own, or Which amount do you want God to bless in your finances? The point is we give to God our firstfruits and our best, not leftovers.

¨       Should a tithe go to the church or other ministries? In the OT the Israelites brought their tithes and offerings to the tabernacle where God’s presence existed (Deut 12:5-7, 12, 17-18; Ex 33:7-11) and later to the temple storehouse (Nehemiah 10:38; 13:12; Malachi 3:10). The early Christians in the NT brought their tithes and offerings to the church (Acts 4:34-35; 1Cor 16:1-3). If you already have certain commitments to various ministries, you should likely fulfill them through the year and look to follow this pattern as possible.

¨       Should I give weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually? It does not necessarily matter. The church does finances like an individual does, so it is helpful to know regular income of funds for spending in ministry. Essentially, how often you receive income is a good place to say how often you give tithes.

¨       Should pastors tithe? Absolutely. If the pastors and staff of a church do not tithe then the church should find new ones that do!

¨       What are your thoughts on Dave Ramsey? I think Dave is great, even more he’s got a great name J. Honestly, his teaching on financial peace is biblically sound, wise and challenging. However, Dave’s motto: “Live like no one else, so that later you can live like no one else” seems to miss the point of a gospel-centered perspective. His basic gist is don’t buy now what you cannot afford; save so that later you can afford. Gospel giving is different. When the gospel informs and fuels finances then the categories of saving, spending and giving become more radical. I am not saying Dave Ramsey isn’t a Christian, or doesn’t understand the gospel, or doesn’t give like he should…etc.! I am saying that a gospel-centered life does not seek satisfaction in the abundance of wealth or possessions now or later; therefore a better motto could be “Live contently, Give Christ-compellingly”.

When it comes to tithing there is an initial pause, thought and question – Can I really afford to do this? Honestly, Scripture teaches the contrasting question, Can I afford not to do this? God challenges us to trust that He is a great Provider. Our faith is strengthened when we act on His promises; tithing is ultimately an issue of faith.

 

Malachi 3:8-12 “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.”

 

Philippians 4:19 “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”


[1] Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle. pp.14-15, 18.

[2] Some influential resources for me on this subject have been: Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle; Mark Driscoll, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe, chapter 12 Stewardship: God Gives.; Pastor J.D. Greear The Generosity Matrix; and Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream by Pastor David Platt; Aubrey Malphurs and Steve Stroope, Money Matters in Church;  and finally Dave Ramsey’s basic common sense on financial peace though with caveat (see end conclusion).

[3] Doctrine. pp.375-376.

[4] Statistics compiled in Driscoll, Doctrine, pp.396-397. Even more interesting are proposed ministry and social actions that could be achieved if committed Christians gave only 10% of income accounting for an extra $46 billion per year of resources on p.398.

[5] Alcorn, p.75.

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