What is Christian stewardship?
Christian stewardship is the free and joyous activity of the child of God in managing life and all of life’s resources for God’s purposes.
But isn’t it my money, my time, my talents?
The Bible, especially the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 teaches that everything we have ultimately comes from and belongs to God. We are his servants, and he’s given us the responsibility to use it and invest it wisely. So there’s a different mindset to Christian stewardship. If you think yourself the owner, then yes, you have rights. But if you know you’re the manager of God’s possessions, then it’s more about responsibility, the responsibility to use and invest his resources according to his desires and purposes. Our generosity is not simply giving, but giving back.
Why is giving money away so important?
If we cannot give it away, there is a sense in which we do not own it anymore; it owns us. Therefore it’s important to give money away so it doesn’t become a little god in our lives. When we generously give of our resources, we are knocking down the number one idol in the land, and we are putting our faith in God and trusting him to provide. Tithing is a way to help us “fix our eyes on Jesus” (Heb. 12:2).
What’s the tithe all about?
A tithe is a one-tenth part of something. In the Old Testament era, it was often 10% of the harvest. Today, tithes normally come in the form of money. Many Christians believe the tithe was part of the Mosaic Law for the nation of Israel. It is not commanded of Christians because Jesus has liberated us from the ceremonial laws of Moses. Just as Christians are not required to sacrifice animals or do the ritual washings, neither are we required to give ten percent of our income. The New Testament never commands it but in multiple places the New Testament indicates it’s a good principle for Christians to follow.
Is anyone too poor to tithe?
Not according to the Bible. If you have an income, you have the responsibility and privilege to give a portion of it back. John D. Rockefeller said, “I never would have been able to tithe the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary, which was $1.50 per week.” Therefore even children should be taught to tithe. We learn everything as children. We should learn Christian stewardship as children too.
What if I am in debt? How can I afford to give while I’m trying to pay down debt?
Most everyone has debt in one form or another and if having debt freed us or relieved us of our stewardship responsibilities, then most non-profits would soon shutter their doors. Certainly having debt will have an impact on your giving. Therefore it’s important to get out of debt as quickly as possible. To help with that, Good Shepherd regularly offers a course called “Financial Peace.” But again, if we have an income, we also have the responsibility and privilege to give a portion of it back to God, debt notwithstanding.
Suppose I were to tithe. Does it all have to go to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church?
If you consider Good Shepherd to be your “home church”, then it is appropriate to allocate a significant portion of your tithe to the community where you invest yourself (your time and energy) and where others are investing in you. Besides, Jesus gave his life for his bride, the church. It’s the only human agency Jesus established. And God’s work in the kingdom begins in the local church. That said, most choose also to give portions of their tithes to other agencies, such as district missions, LCMS World Relief. For more possibilities, see LINKS.
Is the tithe 10% of my gross or net income? That is, is it before or after tax income?
The very question indicates a misunderstanding about the spirit of the tithe. The question is aimed at meeting the minimum obligation. But stewardship isn’t about obligation, or doing the minimum. Stewardship is about praise and thanksgiving for what Paul calls the “indescribable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15), the grace of Jesus Christ. So Scripture teaches we are to give back to God our “firstfruits” (Ex. 23:16,19, Prov. 3:9) meaning the primary and choicest of our possessions, not the leftovers. God modeled firstfruits giving when he offered his Son Jesus. In our response, therefore, we want to model firstfruits giving. We want to be thoughtful and deliberate, but not cold and calculating. In 2 Corinthians chapter 9, Paul writes, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (vv. 6-7).
What else does the New Testament say about giving?
1 Corinthians 16 says it’s important to give weekly “in keeping with your income” (v. 2). Just as God gives his gifts to us regularly, not sporadically, so we return thanks to him regularly, not sporadically. If your employer or government decided to pay you when the spirit moved them, how would you meet your financial obligations? So also the church and her financial obligations. Moreover, if we give on a hit or miss basis, it may feel as if we are being generous, but in the end, we will likely have been much less generous as those who give weekly.
1 Corinthians 16:2 also says we should give in keeping with our income. Jesus said in Luke, “To whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48).
Can I make God happier with me by being more generous?
No. There is nothing we have that he needs. Moreover, he already loves you unconditionally. Your cash cannot make him love you more, nor does being miserly make him love you less. Even if you were to give him every last penny, that would not make up for the sins of the day. All the silver and gold in the world cannot pay for forgiveness and salvation. Only the blood of Christ can do that.
Does tithing improve my chances of “making the cut” on the Last Day?
How can it? By grace through faith, salvation already belongs to you. John 3:36 says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.” That means eternal life is already a present possession for you. Your money cannot tip the balance one way or the other.
Are there any promises associated with giving?
In fact there are. When we give, we empty ourselves in order to be filled again by God. In Luke 6, Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” In other parts of Scripture, God even invites us to “Test me in this.” But the motive for giving is never to manipulate God. The motive is always gratitude.
God loves a cheerful giver. How can I become a more cheerful giver?
The greatest giver this world has ever known was Jesus who left behind the glories of heaven and came down to this messy, hostile earth, and willingly, even for the joy set before him, went to the cross to give his life so we could keep ours. It is only at the foot of the blood-stained cross where we really learn the art of Christian giving.