Monday, July 23, 2018

Steps to stewardship

Here’s a thought: Don’t spend money that you don’t have.

Here’s another thought: Spend everything you have for the sake of the gospel.

I’m not trying to go all Dave Ramsey on you here, but isn’t that first thought simple enough? If you don’t have the money to buy it, don’t buy it.

For the sake of this discussion, I won’t even talk about taking on a home mortgage, a car loan, or student loans, which are all overwhelming enough. But isn’t it crazy the kind of credit card consumer debt many people carry?

I read a recent report that said Americans paid about $104 billion in credit card interest and fees over the past year, with total credit card debt running $815 billion.

Think about this for a minute. There are approximately 250 million adults in this country. If my math is correct, that’s an average debt of $3,260 per adult, with the average person paying $416 per year in interest and fees alone. Other reports vary in their numbers, but you get the idea.

Our household is now three adults (counting our 18 year old son). If we were the average on this, our credit card debt would be nearly $10,000, and we’d be paying over $1,200 in interest and fees alone. I can think of hundreds of things we could do with $1,200 a year rather than give it to Visa.

Like spending it all for the sake of the gospel – and that begins with a good understanding of stewardship. Christians should know that everything belongs to God, and He will hold us accountable for how we manage what He has entrusted to us.

I want to encourage you to take some new stewardship steps today and embark on a pathway toward giving gratefully, joyfully, and generously to God through the church, so that the good news of salvation in Jesus can reach more people locally and globally.

Most people know that the Old Testament command to tithe means giving 10% of one’s income to the Lord. The people of God understood clearly that the tithe belonged to the Lord; it was holy to the Lord (Lev. 27:30). And in addition to the tithe, there were other offerings they were regularly told to bring.

However, not everyone was always faithful. Through the prophet Malachi, God told His people that when they refused to give the tithes and offerings, they were actually robbing Him because they were keeping for themselves what belonged to God.

Well, what about the New Testament? Does the command to tithe still apply, since we are not under the law but under grace?

Let me answer it this way: Living under grace in Christ takes us farther than the letter of the law. If people under the law were required to give 10%, how much more should we living under grace delight to give above and beyond the tithe?

Studies show today that tithers make up only some 10-25% of normal U.S. congregations (although some studies say it’s much less!), with the average Christian giving something like 2.5% of their income to the Lord, and many giving nothing at all. That’s not just a math problem, that’s a heart issue. It ought to be a joy for believers to give faithfully and generously to the Lord through His church, and 10% ought to be the starting point, not the finish line.

So here’s a four-step challenge to rethink the way you handle the money God has entrusted to you. 1: Remember that it’s all His. 2: Repent of the ways you’ve been robbing God and/or spending His money selfishly and/or foolishly. 3: Start tithing. 4:  Prayerfully seek His wisdom in how you manage all He’s given you.

Then see how His blessings flow through you to a world in need of Jesus.

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