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“Beware of preaching on money.”

That’s not in the Bible, but it ought to be.

And somewhere in the Proverbs we could insert this one:

“He who preaches on money to a new congregation should expect the honeymoon to end abruptly.”

Few subjects are as fraught with danger for the unsuspecting pastor as preaching on stewardship (money, giving, tithing, contributions to the Lord’s work, greed, materialism, however you want to put it).

As a new pastor of a church that had broken ground for a $5 million sanctuary just before I arrived, I found we were running behind the budget and were facing some hard financial decisions quickly. So, I did what I had always done in previous churches with a fair amount of success: I preached on giving.

It seemed the logical thing to do.

In fairness to myself, I wasn’t harsh or demanding, legalistic or judgmental. I thought my approach was balanced and scriptural.

Almost immediately, I began receiving anonymous notes from longtime members, all saying pretty much the same: “We are not used to our pastor preaching on money all the time. Please stop.”

I got the message.

There is no use in doing something the congregation is rejecting.

Another approach would have to be found. (I never did find it, and my ministry there—which got off to such a rocky start—lasted a very short three years.)

The preacher is in a no-win situation. If the money to support the church program does not come in, he gets blamed. The staff’s ministries grind to a halt (or are seriously curtailed) and the pastor, being the point man, is accused of not inspiring the congregation to give. However, in order to get the money in, he has to talk to the congregation about it, whether in sermons or letters or other means, depending on his creativity.

If the congregation rejects this direct approach, there is nothing more to be done. (At least, nothing I could think of at the time.)

The next church I served had a different kind of financial problems. Eighteen months before I arrived, the previous pastor had split the church and taken away a group to begin a new congregation. I came into a church with millions of dollars in debt but a fraction of the income they had received prior to the upheaval.

Guess what I did.

Right. I preached on money.

I came up with a cute idea—or so I thought.

You’ve heard the expression “put up or shut up.”

I had a large banner made for the front of the sanctuary that read: “PUT UP OR SHUT DOWN.” I liked that clever play on words. I built a few sermons around the theme of putting feet to our faith, of getting in or getting out. As our Lord said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things I say?” (Luke 6:46)

I thought the slogan was an appropriate way of summing up that text and spoke clearly to our situation.

I was the only one who thought that. The chairman of deacons advised me that it sounded negative, that instead of inspiring the people the theme made it appear that we were on the brink of bankruptcy. In private conferences with a few other leaders, I found they agreed.

So, I took it down and did what I should have done in the previous church.

I waited on the Lord.

I told the Lord I would not preach on stewardship/giving until He specifically told me how to do it, the texts to use and when to start.

Two summers later, He provided the answer.

Somewhere at that time I read where a pastor challenged his people to tithe their income to the church for a certain time period and promised that if, at the end, they had not been blessed financially, the church would refund their money.

Something about that struck a chord within me.

I could not get out of my mind the Lord’s challenge in Malachi 3:10 where He invited Israel to put Him to the test: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse … and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord, if I will not open the windows of Heaven and pour you out a blessing there will not be room to contain.”

As I laid that before the Lord, a plan began to emerge.

The plan that took shape and that was eventually approved by our key leadership we called “SUMMER BLESSED: Make this a summer blessed of the Lord.” (We made jokes about it: “Summer blessed and summer not.”)

We would challenge our people to tithe their incomes to the Lord through our church for the three months of that summer. Come the first of September, anyone who would write the pastor a letter informing him that he had not been blessed sufficiently—in whatever way he chose to define that, spiritually, financially, whatever—could ask for and receive his tithes back.

Once again we erected a banner in front of the sanctuary and I brought sermons on giving. We had a few testimonies about stewardship and we undergirded this with a great deal of prayer.

The difference this time was that we had waited on the Lord. This one had His blessing.

This turned out to be only the second summer of my entire ministry—which had begun three decades earlier—when the church’s contributions climbed Sunday by Sunday instead of taking a nosedive. The results were stunning.

At the end, one man wrote to ask for his money back. The funny thing about this—which I can tell now, 20 years later—is that this same fellow had written a book on financial stewardship and giving just a year or two earlier.

I informed a couple of key leaders about his request, they approved the refund, and we returned his contributions to him. (I have no memory of how large a sum that involved.)

Not long ago, a pastor told me he never preaches on stewardship and that the very idea makes him physically ill. When I pointed out that by his own admission his congregation was hurting financially—they were having to cut the budget!—and that the solution was to teach his people about stewardship, he was adamant that he would not do so. It was his protest, he said, against the preachers who manipulate their people in order to get their money.

I understand his concern but not his conclusion.

Because some do it wrong does not mean the rest of us should not get it right.

The “right” way to preach on stewardship, to train one’s people to honor God with their income, involves:

1. Knowing all the New Testament’s teachings on the subject.

That is not a formidable task for a pastor who is devoted to knowing and teaching all of God’s word anyway. Passages like Matthew 6:19-21, Mark 12:41-44, I Corinthians 16:1-9 and II Corinthians 8-9 are some of the most helpful teachings on this subject.

2. Setting a good example himself.

The pastor who would not be willing to invite the entire congregation to look at his giving record is not going to do a good job of preaching on giving. Let him build a reputation as a generous giver.

3. Learning, knowing and teaching all the reasons God wants His people to give to His work.

And how many reasons are there? Probably 500. The first 10 reasons are: to honor the Lord, to break the stranglehold of greed and materialism, to lay up treasure in Heaven, to fund laborers who go into distant fields with the Gospel, to encourage other believers to give, to rebuke the devil, to maintain the church’s strong presence in this community, to fund the local ministries and programs, to set a great example for our children and to force myself to keep my priorities straight.

This is why it is never an adequate reason not to preach on giving when a church is meeting its budget financially. That is indeed one reason we are to teach our people to give (“that there may be provisions in my house”—Malachi 3:10), but it’s only one. There are 499 others!

A pastor who can preach well on stewardship owes it to other preachers to show them how. And all pastors should labor in prayer and in the study until the Lord shows them how He wants it done.

I hope someone invites me to preach on stewardship soon. I love to help people get this thing straight!



Dr. Joe McKeever is a preacher, cartoonist and the retired Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. Currently he loves to serve as a speaker/pulpit fill for revivals, prayer conferences, deacon trainings, leadership banquets and other church events. Visit him and enjoy his insights on nearly 50 years of ministry at JoeMcKeever.com.

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Talk about it...

David Buffaloe

commented on Mar 13, 2013

Good points

Anonymous

commented on Mar 13, 2013

How about just being honest? The church is in dire financial straights and ask for tithing? That's why I don't tithe, I prefer to give what God gve to others and bypass the church. Too much deceit and trickery. It's pathetic.

Matthew Roberts

commented on Mar 13, 2013

My folks know that every January I will bring a series of messages that focus on Stewardship (time, talent, touch and treasure). They expect it, respect it and accept it. Fortunately, no one rejects it.

Bob Gosey

commented on Mar 13, 2013

Great article Joe. I recently preached on tithing and gave a 12 week tithing challenge with no refund promises. I have continued the emphasis with reminders in the bulletin and scripture on tithing. Our tithes and offerings have increased and God has blessed. Thanks for sharing!

Steven Leapley

commented on Mar 13, 2013

A few things here: 1. Thanks Joe! 2. at number 2....the reality of you signing in anonymously invites the assumption that you have something to hide.... especially on a site like this. It is the very reason you give for not tithing as one main reason why the church is the way it is. We are not united in the church by and large...most congregants come into the church with a whats in it for me....Joe's challenge he gave his congregation is a welcomed wake up call.... and a final thought for you..tithing is not just about money... I am currently unemployed and without the help I receive my family and I would be homeless... I have no money....other people provide financial support to me...so what do I do...I tithe my time, and my talents....One day soon I will be able to tithe with my money...I did before and I will again.....it comes down to your heart....

David Nuhfer

commented on Mar 13, 2013

Steven, Thank you for the input. I was also wondering who the writer of #2 was and why he/she even is on this forum.

Rick Mays

commented on Mar 13, 2013

Every Sunday morning in February I teach on stewardship with a challenge to give for 90 days that comes with a money back guarantee. One of my favorite sayings I've learned in the 15 years I've done this is ...God isn't concerned with what you are going to do with what you are going to get - He is concerned with what you're doing with what you have... Everyone can say that will bless the church when the win the lottery, but if you can't give to the church now, doubt you would then. Stewardship is a lifestyle. Every thing we have God has given us. He is the owner, We are the managers. The very core of God's nature is to give (John 3:16). To be stingy and tight fisted with our time, talent and treasure - shows a void of God's nature in us.

Phillip Frye

commented on Mar 13, 2013

eIf tithing is a God given opportunity to worship Him, why wouldn't you want to tithe! I have never seen anyone who has given a true tithe, living without, never. I have seen those who halfheartly have given some tithe but never give all. They end up unhappy, miserable, vindictive and even hateful. They want to call tithing decietful, moneygrabbing, even pathetic. In reality they are totally disobedient to Christ and are crucifing Him all over as the scripture says. Give and it will be given to you, pressed down, shaken together and running over! You will never out give God!!! Great message for all to pray over and submit to the Lord.

Anonymous

commented on Mar 13, 2013

Mr. Leapley, your assumptions about my wanting to hide something is off. My name is dalia. When I first signed up, I don't know what happened, but my name didn't come out. So I am not hiding anything. As to not tithing, I choose to tithe the way God desires me to tithe, and that is to give to third world countries where children are suffering, and other organizations such as supporting missionaries. The body is a church of believers and the body gives to his or her brothers and sisters in Christ. So it's not like I am holding what God gives me, I just choose to not give to church's million dollar building and big screens. If a pastor doesn't want me there cuz he doesn't get the green I am more than happy to leave and he can explain to my Father why His child was cast out. The church is the way it is? What exactly do you mean? Do you mean the church is suffering in attendance? Of so, don't blame me. Blame it on the ... As Spurgeon said, the downgrade of the messages. You, my friend, assume too much.

Anonymous

commented on Mar 13, 2013

David, I am on this forum just like you, to give an opinion. What was wrong in saying the writer of this article be honest in needing the tithing? He danced all over the place to no avail of what his goal was. To get tithing. Sounded deceitful to me. Also, to mr. Leapley, I failed to mention that I do do one my time. I also volunteer in many organizations. I have a very good job that I am blessed with and I share everything I have. If I knew you, I would even help you financially to see you through. But enough my tooting my own horn. I just can justify giving to a church who has the latest gadgets that men so love and thinking about some poor soul who is sooo hungry in another country. So, mr. Nuhfer, stop being a goat, and focus on sheep.

Ron Hicks

commented on Mar 13, 2013

Ron Hicks says... Dear #2 You can give all of your income to the poor and needy, and that's an awesome thing to do. However after you have emptied your pockets, you still have not paid your tithes. The book of Malachi says that your tithe is to be brought into the church to provide the sustenance the church needs. And on another note, I seriously doubt that you are giving to others. I think your mad at God.

Donald Dzirahwi

commented on Mar 14, 2013

Are we not running away from Grace by putting more emphasis on tithing(works). seems tithing is being legalistic...."give God and you will be blessed". Salvation by our own works(tithing) or by Grace. why not study on the Grace of Giving of the new testament faith Brethren.Look at what the church at Macedonia did, 2 Corinthians 8.

David Buffaloe

commented on Mar 14, 2013

Tithing is, to me, no more than a starting place. I give 10 of my gross income and my time to God not because a law demands it, but because I do not worship money and do not want to worship money. I give beyond the tithe because I started at the 10. In America, we can easily fall into worship of money. Both husband and wife work so they can have three cars, a 2 story house, land, I pods, I pads, televisions in every room, smart phones, computers, and on and on. We complain about gas prices but drive cars with but one person in them. We eat out, and waste resources. Money, money, money. The tithe earmarks a small amount of money - and TIME - that we are to give to God. I give that to God, and more, and trust Him - and He cares for me and my family - and I love Him and not green paper.

Anonymous

commented on Mar 14, 2013

Dear no. 11. Oh, how sad you are. In no way am I angry with God. I will tell you who I am angry with. And that is pastors who fleece the sheep. I am angry that people are starving and man-made pastors, not ordained by God, who stealing to build million dollar buildings and top notch equipment. We want to see Jesus through the messenger's voice, not a close up picture of the messenger on a huge wide screen. No. 11, are you a group leader or a pastor? I find these males have the biggest egos, and their pride quite sensitive. I have no reason to lie, and I do give. My Father sees. I would gladly give to the church, but it is being mishandled by man-made pastors. How sad to rob God's children. That's why their church suffers financially.

Anonymous

commented on Mar 14, 2013

No. 12. That's exactly what I am talking about. When pastor's say, give God and you will be blessed. So people who want the blessing give, not for the sake of giving, but for the sake of being blessed. A friend of mine is attending a church where the pastor challenged them to give till it hurts and see the reward. I told her to get out of that church fast. It's the gullible that they prey. Pastors love to combine the words challenge and blessing in one sentence. And the gullible lap it up. We are to be wise stewards. When I see a pastor who isn't foaming for the latest technology or a pastor who sizes himself up with a prosperous church down the street, that's when I will tithe. U til then, I give to the body of Christ.

Ron Hicks

commented on Mar 14, 2013

Dear #14 Men who have a giver's heart are very special and if that's true about you, I'm with you. My problem with you is that if you sit every Sunday with your church family and in your church and do not pay tithes, then I think its wrong to soak up the A/C and heat, drink their water, enjoy the lighting, feel protected by the church insurance, read their bulletins, etc. I guess its a shame that us gullibles have to pay for your enjoyment. Yes, I am a pastor and I love you man.

Anonymous

commented on Mar 14, 2013

No 16, we all have something to contribute to the family of God, agreed? How many church goers give to organizations? I know the ones who give to the church do not give to the ones who are really hurting, such as the mercy ship, pro life organizations, etc., because ten percent is going to the church. And the church keeps building, while the children are thinning. While babies are aborted, the church gets better technology to entertain the crowd. I believe you are right. I will not be attending church any longer. Most pastors overbuild, and then fall short financially, and then expect the people to pull them through. I don't need or want comfort. And I won't pay for it. I want the truth of Jesus. The rest is for the least. If you have a problem with that check your heart. Jesus did not intend for massive churches. He wants His word preached. That is it. Pure and simple. Man wants the bling and the comfort. That is why the churches are suffering. And will get only worse. Keep your church. I will keep the children. On a side note, there is an honest church where the word is preached unabashedly. It is in sun valley, and takes me two hours to get there ones a month. I mostly listen to John MacArthur on my iPad. His church is one I sometimes donate to. But you're right, I will not attend my home church anymore, as they have watered down and have become people pleasers. As for paying for my "enjoyment", do you mean "entertainment", "comfort", "fellowship"? I seek only boldness, discernment and spiritual wisdom to reach lost souls. That is the most important. Fluff is useless. I do treasure the fellowship of serious Christians, and these are important in the battlefield that is rising rapidly while the church's are focused on numbers. Now is not the time to diddle. We have to get serious. The world is declining at an alarming rate. Pastor, I love you, too. I know you are Satan's target. Prach the word faithfully, and God will uphold a faithful church.

Charles Ingwe

commented on Mar 15, 2013

With due respect to all who have commented on this subject, I only pray that we get to know that at all times we shall have differences but we still remain family. What is important is to note that there are those we are pastoring who are hurting over some issues. Need we get closer to their hurts and find out why they are hurting. If they have missed out somewhere, by His grace they shall be made to see clearly. If by way of human error us, who are ministering have lost track somewhere; we need to be humble and do right. I really appreciate you all beloved ones. I kindly wish to ask if at all DALIA can be kind enough to email me on charlieingwe@yahoo.com . I would love to learn more from you and see if I too can be of any value to you.

Ron Hicks

commented on Mar 15, 2013

#17 It is with sadness that I have to agree with much of what you have said. And it was never my intention to bring you to the point of decision to leave your church and church family. My point was that it takes money for the church to operate and I believe that tithing was God's plan to provide for that need. I also believe that many Pastors and church leaders will have to give an account for squandering God's money for personal acclaim. I am also angered at the direction the modern church is going. Our forefathers would turn over in their graves if they were to see what's going on in todays churches. If your heart is in a church two hours away, I'm sure for you the difference is worth the distance. Go and be faithful but realize that the principal of supporting the church is still our responsibility and that given to us by God. Still love you man. God Bless.

John Sears

commented on Mar 19, 2013

Dalia, let me also add that you appear to be a generous person who has compassion for people in need. You want to make sure that money is spent wisely. That is a good thing and a gift from God. But many churches use their finances wisely. And many charities are just as guilty of misppropriating their funds.

Steven Leapley

commented on Mar 20, 2013

John...my sentiments exactly! Dalia: I did less assuming than you did blaming...and it is apparent from the follow up comments. As John said you do appear to have a huge heart (am I assuming too much here??). When all the dust settles the question remains what will the answer be when Jesus asks us "how did you take up your cross and follow me?" Christ was not judgmental..He loved....Christ saw the challenges with money makers (Zacchaeus) and He loved them... I come from the belief that as followers of Jesus we should follow His lead..a leader of love not of judging. God is the only judge ans I agree with you that there are many churches who misappropriate funds...and many churches that are legalistic and judgmental on many issues where they shouldn't be... The Bible doesnt say that we should judge others before we give..it calls us to give......

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