“So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction. The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
(2 Corinthians 9.5–8, ESV)
Imagine this letter being written for you. That is the reality of the whole of Scripture. It is God’s story for us, a history of Creation and Fall to New Life. That new life doesn’t come without a price. However, that price is not a price that we pay. That price is paid for us. It was paid upon the cross of Jesus Christ. That price was high, but with one purpose. Your redemption. The reality is that outside of believing in what Christ has done for you there is nothing that you must do for salvation. Though, that does not free us to do as we please. We don’t give for salvation nor out of obligation, but out of our joy and thanksgiving for the blessings, we have received.
Though stewardship is more than the monetary gifts that we bring, it is the most often focused upon in ministry. The reason for this is that ministry costs money. To keep up a building, staff, utilities, and other obligations cost money. So, most of the time we hear appeals for the monetary gifts. Another reality is that money is the easiest for most to give. Time is expensive. When we are younger, we may not fully understand that because we don’t often think about the true value of our time, but as we age, it becomes an even greater reality. We can not make more time.
The reason that we are called to give of our finances is to break its hold on us. Often we find that people misunderstand this though, including ministers. Jesus spoke of the need to put our financial cares into perspective when he said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19–21, ESV)
He goes on further in this explanation, but the central point is to have perspective. The average age of a person has not changed much throughout the history of our world. Most people live between 70—80 years and that statistic has been steady. If the legacy we live is based upon accumulating for self that is not much of a legacy to leave.
Now having money is not a bad thing and being wealthy is not in and of itself a sin. Money is amoral. It is about what one does with it. The same is true with our time and our talents. If it is all about self, that is where the issues arise. The calling for us as followers of Christ is to focus a portion of our giving to the congregation, this includes a tithe and other areas in which to serve the ministry. The reason for this is that we desire to promote the service of our congregation in our community. Then we look at other areas which we can serve and give outside that are within our passions. The goal, as followers of Christ, is not to acquire, but to serve. Our service is not for salvation, but for the betterment of our neighbor and to be Christ-bearers in the world. It is about the legacy of faith that we leave because our greatest treasure can not be determined by the portfolio of assets, but by the lives that have been changed in the saving faith of Christ.