Study 7 A LESSON IN STEWARDSHIP
DAYS OF HEAVEN UPON EARTH
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Acts 11:19-30)
It is strange that some Christians seem to resent any teaching on the giving of our money to the Lord. If that is so then surely this would indicate a lack of understanding of the real meaning of Christian stewardship. If we belong to the Lord, and if we have given back to Him all that we possess, then surely we shall welcome instruction from the scriptures on the right use of ‘our’ money. We are disciples, which means we should be disciplined people. Let us then look at some lessons on stewardship, seven of which are indicated in Acts 11:27-30
There had been a revival at Antioch (Acts 11:19-26), and one day a prophet named Agabus stood up and spoke of a very great need that existed among “the brothers living in Judea”. The Christians in Antioch immediately said, ‘We want to help relieve this need’ – (verse 29) and they did (verse 30)! It was not a matter of compulsion, but rather a spontaneous act of love on their part.
1. First Lesson: THE PRIVILEGE AND RESPONSIBILITY OF GIVING IS THE PRIVILEGE AND RESPONSIBILITY OF THE LORD’S PEOPLE.
It was “the disciples” (verse 29) who gave. Notice, from Proverbs 15:8; Isaiah 1:11; Amos 5:22, that God will not accept worship without righteousness. Nothing that we can give to Him is acceptable until we have received His Son and have been washed in His precious blood (1 John 1:7). So we see that the privilege and responsibility of giving belongs to Christians.
2. Second Lesson: THE PRIVILEGE AND RESPONSIBILITY OF GIVING IS THE PRIVILEGE AND RESPONSIBILITY OF ALL THE LORD’S PEOPLE.
Notice in verse 29 – “each…” gave – they all gave! The great constraint for our giving to the Lord is His giving to us – look up 2 Corinthians 5:14. When we remember Calvary surely we are immediately constrained to give to Him who gave so much for us! In the Old Testament giving was looked upon as a responsibility; but in the New Testament it was looked upon as a privilege. Under the Old Covenant it was commanded; under the New it is commended. Then, it was a matter of Law; now it is a matter of Grace. We are not bound by Law; we are bound by Love. If Christians today were diligent and conscientious in their giving there would be no lack of funds for Christian ministry.
3. Third Lesson: WE ARE TO GIVE PROPORTIONATELY.
Verse 29 tells us that those at Antioch gave according to their ability; or, as Moffatt renders it, ‘As each one was able to afford it’. Compare 2 Corinthians 8:12. The amount we give is governed by the amount we receive, and thus our giving will vary according to our receiving. Now read Mark 12:41-44.
4. Fourth Lesson: WE ARE TO GIVE SYSTEMATICALLY AND NOT HAPHAZARDLY.
Notice the word ‘decided’. The Greek word really means ‘to mark out’, which is exactly what you and I should do with all that we receive. 1 Corinthians 16:2 again makes this perfectly clear.
Have you ever decided the proportion of money the Lord would have you give to Him and to His work? – or are you haphazard, undisciplined and careless in your giving? Why not open a cash account for God? You have often sung, ‘Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold…’ Have you meant it? How does the amount you give to God’s work compare with what you spend on other things?
How much we should give is a personal matter between ourselves and the Lord, but we should remember that the basic requirement for the Jew was to give a tenth, and after this tenth (or tithe) then he began to give an offering. In other words, the Jews gave tithes and offerings. One thing is certain – we shall never find that God is in our debt! The more we give the more we shall receive – look up Luke 6:38, and compare Proverbs 11:24; Malachi 3:8-10.
5. Fifth Lesson: WE ARE TO GIVE FOR A SPECIFIC PURPOSE AND TO A SPECIFIC WORK.
The Christians at Antioch did this – verse 29. Compare 2 Corinthians 8:4; Galatians 6:10. Definite Christian work should have first claim upon our giving. Missionary societies do not receive support from the world; therefore, Christians should support them first. On the other hand, many good causes that are not specifically Christian do receive support from the world, and Christians should be discerning and discriminating in the matter of giving – giving first to God’s work.
6. Sixth Lesson: WE ARE NOT ONLY TO DECIDE HOW MUCH WE ARE TO GIVE, BUT WE ARE TO DO IT!
In verse 29 we read that “each…decided…”, but in verse 30 we read, “This they did!” It is one thing to make up your mind to do a thing; it is another thing to do it – see what the apostle says in 2 Corinthians 8:11.
7. Final Lesson: THE MEDIUM OF OUR GIVING IS THE LOCAL CHURCH
Verse 30 tells of “sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul”. Thus, the local assembly was the channel of their giving.
To be a disciple of the Lord Jesus involves discipline, and discipline must be comprehensive covering the whole of our life, including the matter of the use of money.