Taking Care of Business
Sharing With Others
By David B. Smith
In the category of odd-but-true, a pastor recently became discouraged and abandoned both his ministerial career and his Christian faith. “I am going to try out atheism for the next year,” he announced via social media. He had received some part-time income from a few ministry jobs here and there; understandably, those quickly dried up! The interesting thing is this. Hearing that he was in dire straits, atheists around the country chipped in with a flood of small donations; soon the new atheist had $19,000 to tide him over.
There is a more sanctified side to this tithing coin, of course. Two principles ring true throughout the pages of God’s Word. First, everything we are and have belongs to the Lord. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father (James 1:17). We don’t truly own this planet, our homes, our material possessions, our bank accounts, or even our selves. Second, dynamic, even miraculous good can be accomplished for the Lord’s missions of mercy as the community of faith joins together in a spirit of stewardship and grateful giving.
You are bought with a price. The tissues of our body, the thoughts in our mind, the years and days and hours we will live our lives — these actually are the Lord’s. Do you not know, Paul writes, that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20). An article in a national magazine reported that the Adventist denomination is one of the fastest-growing in the United States; one reason is that onlookers are pleasantly intrigued by the possibility of living an extra ten years! Treating our health as a gift to be gratefully protected and spent in volunteer service is an appealing adventure.
What is “Stewardship”? On planes and cruise ships, stewards distribute pillows and plates of delicious food. In a country estate, a steward is a reliable person who manages assets that belong to a trusting benefactor. The Bible teaches that our resources such as income, ability, and time are on loan to us from God; we’re responsible to Him regarding how we spend these gifts. Someone has defined stewardship as: “The wise and unselfish use of life.” Those who have been given a trust must prove faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2). In Jesus’ entertaining parable of the three men who were given talents (Matthew 25), the foremost principle was that the gifts actually belonged to the owner; the servants were duty-bound to invest wisely and also to give an accounting of what they did with the funds.
God has established a proven, simple system to accomplish His kingdom’s generous goals in our fallen world. The billionaire believer sitting in church next to a minimum-wage worker putting in a shift at Del Taco both are invited by God to be stewards of their varying estates. This Bible plan, found all through both Testaments, is called tithing: the returning to God of 10% of what is already His by divine right as our Creator. Jacob, a successful rancher, committed a tenth of his herds to the Lord. The children of Israel, grateful for God’s protection and the many miracles received at His hand, accepted this same principle: A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord (Leviticus 27:30). Centuries later, the prophet Malachi reissued the challenge: “Will a man rob God? Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it” (3:10).
I confess that as a math teacher who often waxes eloquent about the metric system, I admire the pure simplicity of tithing: one simply examines his monthly paycheck with a prayer of thanks, then moves a decimal one spot over! It is brilliantly proportional and equitable; all of us taste the blessing from participating on the purposes God has set before us. Those gifted by heaven with great resources do more; Luke writes: From the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked (12:48). Paul, who sacrificed his secular career into order to travel and preach and build churches, was moved by the Holy Spirit to explain in 1 Corinthians 9 that those who work full-time for God’s kingdom have a right to a fair (but not extravagant) living, gladly provided by those who had been blessed to encounter the story of the cross. (If this concept works for atheists, how much more so for the Christian Church!)
Stewardship is for our sake, not God’s. To participate in tithing is to be reminded every week that we are children under God’s faithful watch care. We stay in a mode of constant thankfulness to Him for our talents and earning power: Remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18). In love, He offers us tithing as a sane reality check that protects us from covetousness. “Watch out!” Jesus told one complainer in the crowd. “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (12:15).
Wise use of all resources. Stewardship is much more than a dollars-and-cents matter. In Eden, the Lord entrusted the splendid, untouched abundance of the garden to Adam and Eve, allowing them to bask in its fruitfulness, but also instructing them to care for His creation. Psalm 24:1 reminds us: The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. This is a fragile blue planet with limited capacity and resources; we cannot selfishly use more than our share of its fossil fuels and pollute its atmosphere, robbing generations that may come after us until the Lord returns.
We also have the gift of 168 hours in a week; we have the ability to make friends and nurture the souls of those around us. C. S. Lewis once observed that, next to the Bible itself, our neighbors are the holiest thing ever presented to our senses. Even our play, he suggested, has sacred overtones. When we socialize, as we spend happy moments in neighborhood block parties, our words and deeds either nudge friends toward a home in heaven . . . or slowly in a different direction. Make the most of every opportunity, Paul writes, perhaps looking at the calendar himself, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15).
Don’t be a Scrooge! Charles Dickens’ most infamous literary character is hailed for his midnight conversion on Christmas Eve. But consider how imbalanced and toxic his life was at the beginning: fearfully grasping each coin, resentful over Bob Cratchit’s pittance of a salary, hating the idea of spending even to put some coal in the office stove — so poisoned by greed and insecurity he couldn’t even find sympathy for Tiny Tim. Our generous Father wants to liberate us from such fears, to cheer us with the realization that money mainly has value as it blesses others, and to share with His Church the joy of being part of something eloquent and grand: the setting free of our sin-locked world.
Stewardship reminds us that we are all together in a family. God bless us every one.
View related article: Taking Care of Business
David B. Smith writes from California. (21 of 28) His web page is Copyright © 2014. Click here for content usage information. Biblebay