Stewardship is about recognizing that our life – all of it – is God’s. All of life must demonstrate this: “whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Time, talent, money, dreams, family, Sundays, golf, football, vacations, beach homes – these are a part (perhaps a big part) of our lives. And we must use all these in a manner that bring God glory. We worship in all of life – presenting our “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).
Excerpt from "First Things" Vol. LXIV No. 37, September 14, 2014 Read more>
In studying through Genesis recently, it struck me how quickly the Bible gets to the discussion of giving. Only 4 chapters into the Bible God gives us the account of Cain and Abel. This is really the first story of man living after the fall and is the first mention of man giving back to God. There were three things that stuck out to me in this story:
For some reason God regarded Abel’s offering as acceptable and even pleasing but not Cain’s. This story certainly gives me pause for concern. I can actually be bringing my tithe, the full 10% and God may not accept it as pleasing. I believe that this story, as with so many others in the Bible, is not about what I bring, but how I bring it. I think that God is focused on the heart. Jesus told us “where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” Well that certainly worries me too, because my treasure is quite often found in the things of this earth. I wish I could say that my heart is always “right” in my giving. Frankly, sometimes I just do it because I know God told me to.
I feel that I have personally been very blessed, as it relates to tithing. I was fortunate to grow up in this incredible church with solid teaching on what tithing is. I was fortunate to grow up with parents who reinforced the same teaching in what they said, as well as in what they did. I was fortunate to have an amazing wife who grew up in a very similar way. I also feel that I was fortunate that I became a believer at almost the exact same time that I moved in to the working world. Kristin and I were fortunate together to have teachers early on in our marriage who were willing to discuss tithing with us and encourage us to give. I will never forget a small Bible study I was in when the question was asked, “Should we tithe on the gross or on the net?” The teacher did not skip a beat and said “Do you want God to bless you on the gross or on the net?” (No, he was not preaching prosperity gospel.) I think that all of those things, and many more, have shaped our family’s tithing and offerings. So, our decision on what, or how much, to give to the church was never really an issue, or a discussion. I will confess that it was not until a few years ago that I realized that our church does not just want us to give our 10%, but they actually want us to do something with those little pledge cards they send us every year. I freely admit that I had no idea the importance of pledging until I started serving on the diaconate. Well…lesson learned. Pledging is very important. Please pledge.
Outside of our tithe to the church, we try to focus our giving on ministries and missionaries where we have a connection, or a conviction. But giving outside the church has always come second for us, as we believe that the church itself is where God wants us to give our time and resources first. Fortunately, our church is so gifted in so many ways with incredible staff, preachers, and missionaries that we support. If our giving stops, so does their work.
With growing up in a church with such incredible teaching and doctrine, one of the negatives can be the prideful way we look at what others are doing. I think that one of those, for me, tends to be the frightening view of the “prosperity gospel.” We all know the dangers of this, and that is not what I am writing about. What bothers me a little about this is that the truth is that God tells us he will bless us when we give back to him. Time, money, energy, things, and emotions, God will always out give us. The truth is, he already has in his son, Jesus Christ. Now it is on me to give back out of appreciation for that gift. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift.
In my late twenties I was being casually mentored by an older Navigators staff in town. One day at lunch he asked me how I was doing with my money, and particularly my giving. I had no idea what to say because I was doing poorly. He could tell and graciously encouraged me to take it seriously.
He offered two principles that have proven helpful to me.
I've taken these things to heart over the years. For me it is important to send the check as soon as my paycheck hits my account; it’s the first thing I do. Money can easily become an idol in my life. "Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man" (Proverbs 27:20). This verse has served as a warning to me in my love of money (and many other worldly attractions).
Also, I have found that tithing is a blessing that helps to invest not just my money, but also my heart into my church.
For myself and my family, there has never been a question as to whether or not tithing is important. Both Elizabeth and I were taught from childhood the importance of tithing by our fathers. If we are blessed with provision and gain, then that is a gift from the Lord and it is only right, by scripture, that we return the portion of the Lord's money that He requires back to Him. This conviction of our fathers has carried through to our family. Matthew 25 puts forth the parable of the talents. Two of the servants are told “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over little; I will set you over much.” It is our desire to hear those words when we are before Christ, and I am certain that He will call to account not just my time, talents, or opportunities in sharing the gospel, but how I have acted with His money that He entrusted to us. I want the reward which He speaks of resulting from our faithfulness.
We see this not only as obedience, but an act of worship on a Sunday morning. For us, putting that envelope in the plate is not just something we are supposed to do, but a part of coming before the Lord. Don't get me wrong; sometimes our hearts are not where they should be in this, and we have to pray through that. The joy that comes from knowing that we are making our heavenly Father proud adds a wonderful dimension to Sunday worship.
Tithing on a regular basis, in our case when the paycheck comes, is also a concrete reminder for us that we are to put our trust in God for all the areas of our life. It reminds us that all that we have is from God and that putting our trust in money or things is not only misplaced, but hurtful to spiritual growth.
God has been so good to us, more so than we could have asked for and certainly more so than we deserve. It only makes sense to return to Him and His church part of what He has given to us.
Shawna and I were both blessed to be raised in Christian homes where the Bible was taught and Christian living was modeled. It was in these early years that we were taught the Biblical principles of ownership (everything belongs to God), responsibility (managing what belongs to God), and accountability (we will be called to give an account of our management of His gifts). We watched our parents choose to tithe when it appeared there was no way ends would be met. We also watched how God always provided exactly what was needed.
As we grew older, we began to better understand God's design for giving and adopt an eternal perspective toward stewardship. Tithing is the least we can do to show our gratefulness for what God has done for us. It is one of the ways we can outwardly show our devotion to the pursuit of eternal treasure.
Throughout the years, God revealed to us the need to tithe as we saw his faithfulness in our lives in spite of our feeble grasp of stewardship. While paying off college loans, we committed to continue tithing (which was painful at the time). We still scratch our heads about how we were able to pay off our debt years earlier than the amortization table reflected. Over the past 16 years of our marriage, we have learned some valuable lessons similar to this about God's promises and faithfulness in spite of our lack of full understanding.
One of the key lessons we have learned is that stewardship is about obedience. We are called and required to be "found faithful" and, like our children, who tend to stray from the protection of obedience, we have experienced discipline in our own lives when we have failed to be obedient to this principle. God doesn't need our money, but He knows we need to give. Tithing is a verifiable way to put into our minds that everything we have belongs to God. We have learned that the long-term benefits outweigh any short-term sacrifices.
Another key lesson and meaningful application we have learned is that stewardship is about money, but it is also about much more than that. We have been entrusted to give our all in our marriage relationship, as father and mother, as employees, and as members of First Presbyterian Church. How we view money, and the decisions we make about giving financially (tithes and offerings), invariably impacts how we approach and live out the other areas of stewardship in our lives. We have seen in so many ways over the years how the Lord is pleased and honored when we give sacrificially (both in attitude and resources), and how he blesses that obedience. We have also been reminded how God teaches his children lessons when we abandon what we know is right.
We are now in the season of life that we are providing instruction to our children as we prayerfully strive to live out our role as stewards. Practically speaking, we try to be purposeful about discussing and being united in decisions about what percentage of our income we give to the church, and how much and where we would like to give above and beyond our tithe. We are having conversations with our children about cheerfully giving (tithing each Sunday, etc.) and ultimately asking hard questions like, "Are we being obedient?" Even little members make commitments.
Being a part of the body of Christ and members at First Pres are tremendous blessings for our family. We are encouraged by the accountability and the camaraderie in obedience we share with our fellow members who are committed to giving. We give thanksgiving to God as we see others obedient in this act of grace.
I was born in Laurens in the upper part of South Carolina in Trinity Ridge, a rural community, which one of my teachers called “the garden spot of the world.” Life at Trinity Ridge centered around Chestnut Ridge Baptist Church, a small flock of about 100 people where both my immediate and extended family were members all their lives. Not only did I receive solid Biblical instruction from a very early age, but I also saw from my family’s example the importance of belonging to a local church and participating fully in the life of the church.
Not surprisingly, the first Scripture I learned was John 3:16, but my second memory verse, oddly enough, was Malachi 3:10 about giving the tithe to God : “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.”
Even though I learned later that I was totally challenged in math, I somehow grasped early on that this was a good thing: give God 1/10 of my money; then He would open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing! I had just learned to write, so I wrote out this verse for my friends in Sunbeams class at church with instructions that they should learn it!
I am so grateful to God that I learned the principle of tithing at this young age. While many Christians struggle with how much to give, when to give, how to juggle an already-tight budget to allow giving, I was fully convinced that the tithe came first out of any money I received or earned. As I grew in my faith, I understood that the tithe was just the beginning and that, as the Lord trusted me with more resources, I could also trust Him more through increased giving to His work.
The biggest challenge to my belief in giving first to the Lord’s work came after losing my husband to cancer. Four months following his death I, still in a terrible state of shock with a very uncertain future, moved from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Columbia with a one-year contract to teach at the University of South Carolina. I had received some insurance money, and everything in me said I should save it to live on after the job at USC ended. Singing the words from the hymn, “Take my silver and my gold/ Not a mite would I withhold,” took on new meaning.
Thankfully, because the principle of tithing was so engrained in my life, by the grace of God I was able to let go and give first to the Lord’s work. I was not a member of First Pres at the time but felt drawn to the church even though I was a lifelong Baptist. As a sheer act of faith and trust in the God of the Scripture and His promises, I tithed the insurance money.
Twenty years later I can say unequivocally that the God of the Scripture and His promise of Malachi 3:10 have been marvelously true in my life. As the hymn says, “All that I needed thy hand hath provided; great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.” Not only have my physical needs been abundantly met, but spiritually I have been blessed beyond measure through the preaching, teaching and fellowship of this local body of believers.
“To God be the glory, great things He has done!”
I have very early memories of my parents teaching me about stewardship, although I am not sure I knew that word as a child. I learned how to tithe 10% and that offerings were separate and different. I even remember a discussion on "first fruits" (see Deuteronomy 26) after listening to a Buddy Greene song: "Honor the Lord with all your wealth, with all the first fruits of all we produce". I am very thankful to the Lord for the strong Christian teaching I received as a child and for the legacy of faithfulness to the Lord that my parents sought to pass on to my brother and me.
I am also thankful to the Lord for a godly husband who made stewardship a priority from the very beginning of our marriage. While I cannot remember specific discussions from our early days of life together, as our circumstances have changed over the years (i.e., children, changing jobs), we have had to continue to evaluate our commitments and levels of giving. As we became more involved in the church and began to understand how our pledge to give a certain amount was related to the church's budget, we made a more conscious effort to plan our financial stewardship on an annual basis. We have had to change our tithing from weekly to monthly and back as we've changed jobs and pay schedules. A large portion of our household income is commission-based, so we frequently have to “balance” our tithing to our pledge.
Our children are young (9 and 7) and are just beginning to learn what things actually cost and how money works. Obviously, they are not bringing in any income, and we do not have a formal system of allowances or getting paid for chores, but they take great delight in being able to place the money that we give them each week in the offering plate as it is passed. We are starting to teach them some of the same lessons my parents taught me – that our giving to the Lord is acting in faithfulness in response to His faithfulness to us. All that we have is from Him, and as we set some aside (back) to Him, we remember His graciousness to us.
I think this is where some of the blessing comes in from stewardship. Pledging, and writing a check each week (or each pay period), is a tangible, perhaps the most tangible, way of reminding myself that what we have is not of our own doing, but it is all from the Lord. And I need that reminder as I consider how to steward the other areas of my life – time, talents, etc. It reminds me a bit of the decision to exercise regularly. Once you have committed to an exercise routine, it makes you think very carefully about what you eat and how much sleep you get each night. With stewardship, you are committing to be faithful to God with your finances. That decision will, in turn, lead you to make other decisions with the goal of being faithful to God.
One other blessing I have noticed in relation to stewardship is the feeling of participation in the Lord's work through our church. Our tithes and offerings do not just go to paying the salaries of our ministers and church staff (although that is very important), they go into a carefully constructed budget that helps fund local ministries, seminary students, and international missionaries, to name just a few things. As we commit to faithfully return to Him a portion of His provision to us, we enter into the advancement of His kingdom in participation with our own beloved church. Praise the Lord that He allows us to join Him in His work in the world.
This page last updated November 24, 2014.