collecting the offering? Perhaps an elder reciting a long offering appeal? Maybe it is
something completely different.
Did you think of “thanksgiving” when you heard the word stewardship? It strikes me
that Biblical stewardship has much more to do with living a life that rejoices in
gratitude than what I give. Motivation is a big part of how the Bible uses the word.
Abraham’s experience with tithe is the first time that word is used in the Bible. After his miraculous victory over the marauder who had captured lot’s family after raiding Sodom, Abraham gave tithe to the priest/king Melchizedek. Abraham’s generosity flowed directly from what God had just done for him in battle.
Jacob is the next example. He does not return his tithe on the basis of what God had done for him. Rather, he promised a tithe on the basis of what God promised to yet do for him. After his dream of the ladder in which he was ensured a prosperous and enduring future, he committed to returning a tithe in response.
Let’s make this personal. What has God done for you and for me? “Exceedingly, abundantly more than I could ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). This ought to seriously impact not only the way I live as a steward, but how much I give as well – which can never match God’s generosity. Stewardship, like every other Bible concept or doctrine, is really more about the Lord our God than it is about ourselves, however generous our responses.
True biblical stewardship begins with the fact that God owns everything. By virtue of creation and redemption, His signature is on all of us and all of nature. Human rebellion doesn’t detract from the reality that God’s original creation was good. Christ has now redeemed us to be conformed again to God’s image, so we are still His. Now of course He honors our choices and lets us remain in rebellion if we choose. And yet He still claims us, even when we don’t yet claim Him. He gives up on that claim only when we have squashed every heavenly opportunity.
At first mention of stewardship and its expectation of our generosity, it’s easy to miss the opportunity of saying “thank You” to God. Giving in this context will result in greater generosity from us and not less. It will result in greater love and less fear.
One sage put it so well: “I don’t give until it hurts, rather I give until it quits hurting.” Good stewards constantly remind themselves that treasure stored on earth is ultimately no earthly good. Our true citizenship is in heaven, along with our true treasure laid up there.
Money of any kind, including tithes and offerings, is the easiest way to measure anything – but stewardship is so much more. Stewardship is truly worship before the Lord, “the One who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). This plays out holistically in all of life – time, talent, energy, prayer and finally resources.
The church family needs to be continually educated in the principles of tithe and offering giving in a systematic way. It is not just education but helping put this into real life practice. Don’t short change God’s people from the blessings systematic tithe and offering giving can do in their own life and service for God.
To summarize; Stewardship stems from what God has done for us and never what we do for God. The moment we confuse the motivation, we open the door to legalistic forms of stewardship – buying favor with God, or perhaps with men.
Let me encourage us to reflect constantly on what the Lord our God has done for us – too great to be measured with human standards. And yet what we can grasp will cause our generosity to flow like a river, bringing joy and blessing to the giver and receiver alike. Heaven’s ranks will be increased, sin will be overcome and the coming of Jesus hastened...
And that is all good!