Summary: God gives us Biblical Financial principles to help us manage His wealth in such a way as to honor Him, sustain us, and allow us to live free from financial worries.
Good morning -- I can almost hear the groans and sighs -- Ron is going to talk about stewardship AGAIN.
I too struggle with this subject. I am always looking for fresh approaches to teach and practice good stewardship and sacrificial giving.
We have to start with the correct mind set or paradigm. We, in spite of our hard work, frugal ways, and astute investments, own nothing. God created everything, including our ability to earn wealth. It is all His (Psalm 24:1) and He expects us to manage His possessions to benefit Him and His kingdom. He allows us a broad range of freedom in this management, but He doesn’t enjoy being robbed in the process. (Malachi 3:8)
The first thing He asks for is 10 percent of our gross income. This falls into the category of DUTY. The 10%, called a tithe, is expected and is part of our responsibilities as members of God’s community. By not giving it, we are hurting our community of faith. We are not carrying our load. (Gal 6:5)--- we are undermining the work of God and we are cheating others.
We dance around the tithe --that is -- we make excuses -- we call it Old Testament legalism -- we say it no longer applies to us -- dance all you want -- it is clearly biblical --- Jesus affirmed the tithe (Matthew 23:23) (Luke 11:42) ----- God deserves and expects it.
If you are not in the practice of tithing, starting can be a little like training for a marathon. A non conditioned runner, would need to start with short runs and build up to the 26 mile event. The logical starting point for training to tithe is to get in the habit of setting Gods portion aside first each pay day and then gradually increase this amount over a period of weeks or months.
Next we are called to give over and above the tithe in loving response to what God has done for us. He sent His son to die on the cross for our sins. He clothed us in his righteousness. He has given us citizenship in heaven. -- he has redeemed us from sin, death and the power of the devil by His innocent suffering and death.
Opportunities to give over and above are everywhere -- special needs and ministries in our congregation -- Lutheran world relief -- Lutheran hour ministries, Our Vicar program --- district missions --- rescue missions -----food banks --- special needs of members of the congregation and community.
You might be thinking how can we do this?. We can not pay all of our bills now. Of the more than 31,100 verses in the Bible, 2350 of them deal with money and possessions. We can start by reading the Bible -- Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are full of practical wisdom concerning money. Parts of some of Paul’s epistles deal with the subject and many of the parables that Jesus taught use money and possessions as examples. Biblical financial principles are given to us by a loving God who wants to make our lives easier not harder. He gives us these financial principles to help us manage His wealth in such a way as to honor Him ----- sustain us ----- and allow us to live free from financial worries.
God tells us when we earn money to give first, (Proverbs 3:9-10) “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” Next: He tells us to save for emergencies and for times that we might not have an income. (Proverbs 6:6-8) “Go to the ant, consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” Finally He tells us to work and live within our means. (Ecclesiastes 4:5-6) “The fool folds his hands --does nothing -- and ruins himself. Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.”----- By living within our means or below, by discerning our needs, wants and desires. we can generate financial surpluses for more giving opportunities and we can save for emergencies or big purchases without needing to borrow money. Then when the lord increases our incomes, we are provided with more opportunities to increase our giving rather than increase our standard of living or to hoard excessive money.
None of this is complicated -- we do, however, need to develop an attitude of obedience to the word of God and be willing to start. The results are two fold. We can give more and we can live a more peaceful life.