This post originally appeared on Oct. 30th, 2013 as part of our Consecrated Stewards sermon series and congregational study. As we prepare ourselves to make pledges again this year, the topic is worth revisiting.
con·se·crate ‘känsiˌkrāt’ verb 1. make or declare something sacred; dedicate formally to a religious or divine purpose.
stew·ard ‘stü-ərd’ noun 1. a person whose job is to manage the property and/or possessions of another person
~by Pastor Mike Middaugh
Talking about money is probably the most challenging topic for Christian pastors. Because of past abuses we tend to be suspicious toward anyone who wants to talk about our money, especially if they are telling us to give it to them. In addition, the church does not have a great track-record. There are those who twist the scriptures in order to guilt people into giving, and sometimes they make false promises saying “if you give, God will return to you even more.”
But I think in many ways it is just in our human nature to have an aversion toward this topic.
In going to church, we may expect to hear about topics such as faithfulness, heaven and hell, caring for those around us, and even sexuality, but we may not really want to hear about money. Not only at church is this the case, but I am guessing many of us will talk with out friends about almost anything, but we rarely, if ever, open up about our personal, financial well-being. In fact, you may have never discussed your finances with anyone other than immediate family in your entire life, with the possible exception of a financial planner.
Why is this? In our culture, financial status is the #1 way we compare ourselves to those around us. We simply tend to equate our self worth with how much we have, either in our bank account, or in terms of the toys (car, home, vacations, etc.) we have. Our money and stuff provide a sense of security and stability in an uncertain world. We feel we have earned what we have and we take pride in it. We also are constantly justifying ourselves in comparison to those around us: we convince ourselves we have “done well” when we have more than someone else, and conversely, we convince ourselves we aren’t really rich when we come across those who have more.
For all of these reasons we are especially sensitive about discussing our finances. It can be a hard topic to discuss at church, and quite honestly it makes me feel uneasy as well – I don’t want to guilt people into giving, and I definitely don’t want to misrepresent scripture in any way. However, the Bible shows this topic is too important to ignore. Approximately 25% of Jesus’ words recorded in the Gospels have something to do with money.
So, I think our view of money and wealth is a huge part of our personal discipleship. As discussed above, money has the ability to control our lives and to become the only the thing for which we are living. When that happens, we become enslaved by our own desire to have “enough.” But the gospel seeks to set us free – first from sin – and then from the things that control us in this world – money being one of the biggest.
We will spend more time on this on Sunday, answering questions such as: “What is a tithe?” “How much giving is enough?” and “Is it ok to be rich?” But for now, you can check out this helpful post from The Gospel Coalition about tithers in America. It points out that most people who do tithe would say “I am better off because I give.” Whereas a non-tither looks at that and says “Oh, they give because they are better off.”
And I will finish with this thought – I think this whole discussion of stewardship and Consecrated Stewards could be boiled down to this one thing: if we truly believe that God is the creator of all we see, and all we have, and all we are, perhaps we should change the way we think about our stuff. Rather than asking “how much should I be giving away” we might ask “how much of God’s stuff do I need to keep?”