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.
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.
Even though we live in an age of grace, the principles of Haggai are still true.
Adapted from the Transferable Concept: How You Can Experience the Joy of Giving, by Dr. Bill Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. © Cru. All rights reserved.
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