My Dad is a giver. When we were kids, it was common for my Dad to pick up homeless people, bring them home, feed and clothe them and allow them to stay with us long enough to help them get on their feet. I don’t recall Mom ever complaining. She was always very hospitable and there was always room for a guest at the kitchen table even though we were very poor. I do recall Mom complaining about Dad giving away money, though. She was careful to empty Dad’s pockets BEFORE he went to church because he had given away rent money on more than one occasion. But that’s how Dad was. He loved to give and would (literally) give the shirt off his back if someone needed it.
I understand that my Dad has the spiritual gift of giving (Rom. 12:8) and therefore not everyone is expected to walk in that level of generosity but what is the Bible standard for ALL believers. Growing up with my Dad as my role model for giving, I have inherited some of his leanings toward generosity but I have also searched the Scriptures and the Church to find balance.
Being raised in evangelical churches, I have heard a plethora of sermons on “tithing” as the biblical model of giving for Christians. Although I am a tither and I believe in the “tithe,” I have found that this is just a small part of biblical economics, sometimes hindering the believer rather than releasing him to enjoy the riches of God. Instead, I propose that biblical stewardship offers a more complete framework from which to manage the resources of the kingdom. I would like to offer some points that may be helpful for those who are struggling with how to view finances within the church.
- Everything belongs to God. The reason I say that the concept of tithing can be restricting is because it teaches “the tithe [tenth] belongs to God.” Although this is true, the fact is that 100 percent belongs to God, not just 10 percent. I have encountered those who after giving the tithe, feel like they have fulfilled their financial obligation to God and His Church and the remaining money has nothing to do with Him. It is helpful to read the opening sentence of the Bible; “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This means that nothing existed before God made it. As the Creator and originator of heaven and earth and everything in it, it all belongs to Him-100%.
- God has chosen to make us his stewards. As soon as God made man, He informed him as to why he was made. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground’” (Genesis 1:27-28 NIV). The fact that we were made in God’s image and given the task of fruitfulness, subduing and ruling indicate that we are to be His representatives in creation, carrying out His work according to His plan. Ultimately, God is the Fruitful One; He is the one who subdues and the one who rules; however, in His infinite wisdom He has chosen (at least partially) to do this through us: His stewards.
- As his stewards, we are to use God’s money as we think He wants it used. Whether you believe in the tithe or not, if you understand this principle, you will use God’s money for His purposes regardless of percentages. When you do this, you will find that God often moves us to give much more than 10 percent and there is always more left over than when we pinch every penny to cover everything that we want.
- God is more generous than we are. Throughout the Bible and throughout history, we never see God struggling with generosity. He has proven Himself to be generous and He likes to lavish His creation (and His stewards) with good things. Think about it; He was the one who created gold and precious stones, He put them in the Garden of Eden and sprinkled them around the planet, He instructed Moses, than David and Solomon to make use of these things in His house and He made sure that the High Priest was covered in jewels and expensive clothing (Ex. 28).
- Stewards are allowed and even encouraged to enjoy the bounties of their Master. I am often reminded of the rich young ruler (Matt 19:16-22). He was not asked to give a tithe; as a matter of fact, he was already a faithful tither. Yet, Jesus asks him for 100%…this is stewardship and the faithful young tither missed it. Consequently, this young man missed an opportunity to really share in God’s bounty because he was bound in a financial ideology that made him the owner and gave God only a percentage. He failed to realize that this system had him bound to money and made him an alien from the real blessing. If he would have given Jesus everything, he would have become free of bondage and would have experienced abundance beyond his wildest dreams as God could use him to be a conduit of blessing to those around him.
In a nutshell, it is obvious from the pages of Scripture that God has no problem with money or generosity although humans often do. The New Testament warns us against “the love of money” (1Tim. 6:10) while also encouraging us toward cheerful generosity (1 Cor. 9:6-7). If and when we walk in this, our pilgrimage will take us far beyond the tithe and into hilarious generosity as stewards of God’s money.