What is Christian Stewardship?

Christian stewardship is defined as the free and joyous activity of the child of God and God's family, the Church, in managing all of life and life's resources for God's purposes.

Carl Berner, Sr. writes: "Stewardship is the acceptance from God of personal responsibility for the faithful management of life. There is no compulsion other than willing and loving loyalty to Christ. In Helmut Thielicke's words: "The Christian stands not under the dictatorship of a legalistic 'you should' or 'you must,' but in the magnetic field of Christian freedom which says 'you may,' and promises rich rewards." The Lord trusts us to do a good job, and we trust Him to show us His will and give us strength to live it out. Jesus told of a lord who said to his steward, "Look, I'm going on a journey. Now you take over in my place and do what you think I would want you to do." Given freedom to think for himself the steward could act on his own initiative. He was trusted to run his lord's affairs with intelligence, honesty, aggressiveness, and faithfulness. This gives honor and dignity to our position as stewards."

Because of what God has done for each of us in Jesus Christ He says, "You are the manager of My household." An option to be or not to be God's stewards is not left open to us. We are God's stewards. We may choose to be good or poor stewards, but we cannot choose to be or not to be stewards. (See 1 Corinthians 4:2)

Is It Mine — Or Gods?

The spirit and tone of Scripture is a witness to God's total claim on all things. The redemptive sacrifice of Christ, who died for the whole world and the whole life of each individual, underlines God's statements that He was reclaiming His lost/strayed/stolen property - what He had always owned and never relinquished.

The Psalmist's plea for help in Psalm 51:10 echoes that claim because it is based on the assumption that God has all the power, even down to cleaning the individual heart and renewing each inner spirit. The Biblical position is clear. You are not your own. You belong to Him.

Now He's getting personal! God's view of stewards, stewardship and stewarding is wide - ranging. God wants the whole 10 yards. He's deep into the day-in-day-out, every-corner-of-life understanding that Luther cites in his explanation of the First Article of the Apostles' Creed: "God has made me and all my members, my reason and all my senses...Also clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and home, wife and children, field, cattle, and all my goods." The truth is — it all belongs to God!

What About Pledging?

The Bible does not command that a practice of pledging must be followed. Pledging is, however, in the tradition and spirit of many examples in the Bible.

Jacob is one such example of making a pledge to God: "...and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth." (Gen 28:22 NIV)

A pledge or faith promise can be helpful in safeguarding our decision to return a portion of that with which God has blessed us. It can also remind us of the place that God has in our lives and keep the love of money from overcoming our love of God.

People are often hesitant to pledge a stated amount and for good reason. Health, economic downturn, change in employment, can all effect a person's income over the course of a year. However, every Christian can in good conscience make a faith promise to return a definite percentage of God's gifts to Him. He/She can always keep that promise in the ups and downs of finances.

When we make an estimate of giving (call it pledge, faith promise, commitment, covenant or vow) we are committing ourselves to being intentional about our stewardship of the financial blessings God has given us.

What percentage shall I pledge?

The New Testament offers no answer to that question. The answer must be determined by faith, love, gratitude, and concern for God's kingdom. God gives us the privilege of setting the percentage. As He increases faith and love and blessings, we will surely be prompted to increase the percentage.

Should the tithe (10%) be commended? It was in the Old Testament. Dr. Francis Pieper had this comment, "One would expect that New Testament Christians begin where the Old Testament believers left off."

T. A. Kantonen writes, "I am convinced that the tithers in our churches are by and large not Pharisees but humble and sincere Christians who have been led to use this ancient device as a helpful means for a steady expression of their gratitude and faithfulness to their Lord."

For many people, the tithe has become the gateway to a splendid ministry of giving. Many tithers testify that they have experienced rich blessings in giving the tenth. To those who resist the tithe on the ground of legalism we may suggest that they give eleven percent on the ground of grace. Of tithing we may say: Abraham commenced it (Gen 14:20); Jacob continued it (Gen. 28:22); Moses confirmed it (Lev.27:30); Malachi commanded it (Mal 3:10); Jesus commended it (Matt 23:23).

What is sacrificial giving?

In the Old Testament sacrifice was an important part of the lives of the Children of Israel. God set the provisions for these sacrifices as a training ground for obeying God as well as a method to point to the future sacrifice of the promised Messiah. That sacrificial system stayed in place, and was practiced, right up to the time of Christ.

Sacrifice, however, went beyond the prescribed sacrifices required by God of the Children of Israel. That same God called for sacrificial living in their day-to-day lives in addition to sacrificial giving at His altar. The same is true for us. God reminds us in His word, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -- this is your spiritual act of worship." (Romans 12:1)

We often think of sacrifice in terms of what we give up. The Scriptural understanding of sacrifice has more to do with bringing God the best. Consider the following quote: "In Scripture sacrifice doesn't talk so much about giving something up as it does about bringing something to."

The sacrifices we bring to God are a response to His love for us in the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus Christ. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to bring our best to Him — whether it is offerings of time, talent, or treasure. Love will result in sacrifice — it always does! As Jesus gave His best for us, so we give our best that others may know Him.

Who comes first?

I had just finished paying my monthly house payment, utility bills, prescription drug bill, charge accounts, doctor bill and insurance premiums. Looking at the figures, I noticed that there was not much left for my church and the work of the Lord. Why should I be so far behind with my offerings for the Lord's work through the church when I was not behind with my other obligations?

I looked around the rooms of my home and I saw all the things I had accumulated over the years. There were TV sets, furniture, appliances, closets filled with clothing and many other "things".

I went out to the garage and saw my two cars, golf clubs, lawnmower, fishing equipment and tools of all kinds.

I was embarrassed, really embarrassed. I was not behind in supporting myself and my family! Why? Didn't I care about my Lord and the work He asks me to support? Was I expecting others to give to His work and excusing myself? Or was it that I was just selfish with the gifts God had given me?

God has created me and preserved me. His Son died for me. And the Spirit, through Holy Baptism, has made me His own and has kept me in the faith through Word and Sacrament. Help me, Lord, to put you first!

What Is Percentage Giving?

God lays down for the Christian steward one explicit principle of giving in the New Testament. It is called the percentage principle.

On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. (1 Cor. 16:2 NIV) God's plan is both beautiful and simple. It calls us to return to Him as He has given to us. If God gives us much, we return to Him proportionately much. If God gives us little, we return to Him proportionately little. Giving to God no longer rests on what we have always done or on the mood of the moment. It is as constant as the Giver's gifts and is proportioned to His gifts.

God's way is the way through which He can increase the outflow of gifts for Gospel work. The person who remains true to the percentage principle will faithfully acknowledge God's generosity by increasing his gifts in ratio to the increase God has granted.

Man's way of financing the kingdom is inadequate; God's way is fruitful; it will get the job done. We give as He has given to us. (See Luke 6:38)

Where Should I Give?

The mail arrives at the door and there they are again — letter after letter asking for a contribution. For the most part they are all worthy organizations in need of assistance — we'd like to support them all, but we can't — how do we decide? Do we choose the mission program of our Synod, the radio ministry of our church, the cancer society, the lung association? "Where should I give?" is a question we may wrestle with as so many worthy causes beg for our support. Obviously we cannot give to everyone who asks.

Choices have to be made.From Bible stories like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), we know that God wants us to care about everyone including our enemies. In fact, God Himself showed the greatest care for all people when He sent His Son, Jesus, as the Savior of the world.

We also see, however, that Jesus had to make choices. Because limitations of time and space did not permit the disciples to go everywhere at once preaching the Gospel, Jesus sent them first to "the lost sheep of Israel" (Matthew 10:6).

Like a rock thrown into a quiet pond sending out ripples in the water, giving can most easily begin with our local church family and to those in need who are closest to us. We might then expand our giving in our community, to groups in our District and Synod and then on to other charities we may know less about. We need to remember, however, that wherever we decide to give we do it in a spirit of joy and gratitude to God for all He has given us. "Freely you have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8)

Why is the Church always asking for money?

Does the Church ask for money? Most definitely — and it shouldn't cause us to be ashamed or embarrassed. Instead, we need to understand why the Church needs money and asks boldly for it. Consider the dentist, grocer, or plumber. They all ask for money in return for something they give us or do for us. God is different. The blessings He gives us are free. Romans 3:24 reminds us: (We) are justified freely by (God's) grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. When Jesus sent out His disciples to preach, heal, and raise the dead, He did not want them to charge for God's blessings. Jesus said, Freely you have received, freely give. (Mt 10:8) So why does the church ask for money?

The answer can be found as Jesus further instructs His disciples. Jesus tells them not to take gold or silver or extra provisions with them. Their needs were to be supplied by those receiving the blessings For the worker is worth his keep. (Mt 10:10) God's blessings of salvation are free. They were purchased "not with gold or sliver but with Christ's holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death" (Luther's Small Catechism, 2nd Art.). God's blessings are free, however, it is the job of the Church to distribute these free blessings as she makes disciples, teaches, and baptizes. While the blessings may be free, the workers need to be sent and cared for, houses of worship built and maintained, Bibles printed and distributed, and the poor clothed and fed.

As long as there are people who need to hear the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ we can be glad our Church asks for money!

What's wrong with gambling?

Admittedly there is no commandment which says, "Thou shalt not gamble." Neither are there Bible verses which speak specifically about games of chance. So, what's wrong with gambling?

One major problem with gambling is that it is poor stewardship of what God has given us. In Jesus' Parable of the Talents (Mt. 25), we are taught that God expects us to use what He gives us in a responsible way so that what we own has the best opportunity to increase in value. Our possessions are then to be used to benefit our families (2 Cor. 12:14), help others (Eph. 4:28), and do God's kingdom work (I Cor. 16:1 - 2). Most forms of gambling rely on luck for someone to win. No work is required.

Talent or skill make no difference. There is nothing we can think or do or say to in any way influence the results for our benefit. (Contrast this with what some incorrectly say are other forms of gambling like farming, investing, and crossing the street. In these pursuits we can have some possibility of influence on the final results.) Gambling profits mostly the people who operate the games and the few winners who get "lucky." For the vast majority of people who gamble, much more will be lost than will ever be gained. And this is very simply poor stewardship of what God gives us.

Other dangers of gambling include greed, covetousness, and for some the potential of addiction. The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod has prepared a report titled, Gambling.


 

Adapted from the Iowa District East web site. Used with permission.

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