The concept of responsible stewardship before God requires that believers use all their property and possessions in ways that are pleasing to God and faithful to his teachings in Scripture.
1. Some resources should be used to support oneself and one's family. Paul instructed the Thessalonians “to work with your hands … so that you may walk properly … and be dependent on no one” (1 Thess. 4:11–12), and to tell those “walking in idleness” “to do their work quietly and to earn their own living” (2 Thess. 3:6, 12; cf. 1 Tim. 5:8). The NT does not command Christians to follow rigid asceticism (see 1 Tim. 4:1–5) but encourages believers to enjoy the resources of the earth “with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:4) to God, “who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17; cf. Eccles. 6:1–2). Yet there are also strong warnings against the love of money, the temptations of wealth, and spending that is wasteful, selfish, or self-indulgent: “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have” (Heb. 13:5). “If riches increase, set not your heart on them” (Ps. 62:10; cf. Eccles. 5:10; Matt. 6:19–21; Luke 12:15–21; 15:11–13; James 5:5; 1 John 2:16; 3:17). Jesus gave a number of warnings about wealth: “You cannot serve God and money” (Matt. 6:24). “The deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation” (Luke 6:24).
2. Another morally good use of some resources is to save for future needs. Because “you do not know what tomorrow will bring” (James 4:14), it is wise, for those who are able to do so, to save some of what they have for a time when they will not be able to work (due to age, weakness, sickness, or loss of employment). A person who assumes that he will need no savings to depend on in the future is very likely deciding to impose a later financial burden on his children or relatives. However, accumulating savings also provides significant temptations to sin: Jesus says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth … but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. … For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:19–21; cf. Ps. 62:10; Matt. 6:24; Luke 12:15–21; Heb. 13:5). And Christians should continually realize that whatever amount they save, that amount is not being given to the needs of others or to the building up of the church or to the spread of the gospel throughout the world.
3. A third use of resources, one repeatedly emphasized in Scripture, is giving money to those in need, or to the Lord's work in the church and in missions. In the OT, God required his people to give a “tithe” (that is, 10 percent) of their grain (see Lev. 27:30) and of their “herds and flocks, every tenth animal” (Lev. 27:32; see also Gen. 14:20; 28:22; Num. 18:21, 26; Deut. 12:17; 14:22; 26:12–13). But while Jesus spoke about the tithing of the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23:23) during his earthly ministry, after his resurrection and the establishment of the NT church at Pentecost (Acts 2) the requirement to give a “tithe” or a tenth of one's income is never explicitly imposed on Christians. Rather than stipulating a fixed amount, the NT places emphasis on generous, abundant, cheerful giving: “God loves a cheerful giver” who “sows bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6–7), and promises that “you will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way” (2 Cor. 9:11). So, while Christians are not obligated to give a fixed amount, it is hard to imagine that God expects people of the new covenant to give any less than the 10-percent tithe in the old covenant.
The NT specifically encourages giving to assist others in need: “If anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17; cf. James 2:14–17). Jesus even encourages active imitation of God in doing good for “the ungrateful and the evil” (Luke 6:32–36). Paul devoted a significant portion of his third missionary journey to collecting funds for the needs of poor Christians in Jerusalem (see Acts 21:17; 24:17; Rom. 15:25–28, 31; 1 Cor. 16:1–4; 2 Cor. 8:1–4; 9:1–5; cf. chart). Though it is right to give to the material needs of all people, both believers and unbelievers, the NT prioritizes giving to the needs of Christian brothers and sisters: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10; cf. “brother” in 1 John 3:17).
The NT also encourages Christians to support the needs of the church and of those who do the work of evangelism. Paul received financial support from the church at Philippi (cf. Phil. 4:15–19), and he told churches to support their elders, “especially those who labor in preaching and teaching,” for “the laborer deserves his wages” (1 Tim. 5:17–18; cf. 1 Cor. 9:6–14; Gal. 6:6). This would require that those who are part of a church should regularly give to support the ministry of the church.
NT Guidelines for Giving
|Giving Should Be||References|
|willing and cheerful||“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7; cf. 8:2–3).|
|a regular pattern of life||“On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up” (1 Cor. 16:2).|
|proportionate to one's ability||“Each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper” (1 Cor. 16:2).|
|generous||“In a severe test of affliction, [the Macedonians'] abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave … beyond their means” (2 Cor. 8:2–3; cf. Prov. 14:21, 31; 19:17; 2 Cor. 9:6; 1 Tim. 6:18).|
|sacrificial||The poor widow with “two small copper coins” is commended by Jesus for putting into the offering “everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:42–44; cf. Acts 4:32–33; 2 Cor. 8:3).|
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