Study 7 A LESSON IN STEWARDSHIP
(Scripture Portion: 2 Corinthians, Chapters 8 and 9)
The key verses for this study are Proverbs 3:9-10 – “Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” In these verses we find a precept and a promise placed side by side. As Christians, we are to honour the Lord; that is, we are to give Him the first place, not only in our hearts, homes and businesses, but with regard to our money - look up Matthew 6:33. We belong to the Lord by creation (Ezekiel 18:4), and by redemption (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). In the same way, all that we possess belongs to Him (Deuteronomy 8:18; 1 Chronicles 29:11-14; Hosea 2:8; 1 Corinthians 4:7), so that strictly speaking it is wrong to speak of our possessions as “ours” or “mine”. If we belong to Him, all our possessions belong to Him.
It is very significant that the converts at Pentecost were not only added to the church and baptised, they did not only continue in prayers and in breaking of bread, etc., but the question of their money came under vital consideration - look up Acts 2:44-45. True conversion should touch not only the heart but the pocket. Yet there must be many Christians who are not surrendered to the Lord on the money question. They are robbing God (Malachi 3:8-11), and consequently they are poor spiritually, and in some measure, temporally too, for God always blesses the liberal soul (Proverbs 11:25). Here are two simple propositions upon which we shall base our consideration of this theme.
FIRST PROPOSITION: The Bible teaches that every Christian should give a fixed portion of his or her income to the Lord, and that this should be done as a first claim, regularly, systematically, proportionately and thankfully.
SECOND PROPOSITION: The Bible also teaches that where Christians thus honour the Lord with their substance, the Lord prospers them both spiritually and temporally because they have thus honoured Him.
1. Let us consider the first proposition stage by stage.
- This is something the Bible teaches. We are not outlining man’s method or idea. As far back as Genesis 14:20 and 28:22 we read of Abraham and of Jacob honouring the Lord with their substance, and we know that God was pleased with their action. In Leviticus 27:30, God commanded the Jew to tithe, and in many references in the Word of God it is made quite clear that it is God’s will that every one of His children should give back to Him a fixed portion of his or her income, to be used as He directs and for His glory - look up Deuteronomy 26:12; Proverbs 3:9; Malachi 3:8-11; 1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15; 9:1-15; Philippians 4:10-20.
- This matter touches every Christian. It does not refer to just a few Christians, but to all Christians. Notice the first two words in 2 Corinthians 9:7. The rich man is to give of his substance to the Lord, and the poor widow can also give of her substance (Mark 12:42).
- We should give a fixed portion of our income (1 Corinthians 16:2). We may decide to give one-twentieth, one-tenth, one-fifth or one-half; and the portion we give should be out of all our income - that is, all that we receive, which includes our regular salary or wage, bonuses, special gifts, etc.
- Our giving is to the Lord. This is important. Primarily we do not give to His people or to His work, but to Him. The channel through which we give to Him may be our local church or assembly or a missionary society, but once we realise that our giving is to Him then our giving will be sanctified and each act of giving will become an act of worship. Our giving will also become sacrificial - look up 2 Samuel 24:24.
- All this is to be done regularly. Look up 1 Corinthians 16:2, and think what it would mean if every Christian did this. There would be no lack of funds in church work, for the training of missionary candidates, for the supply of copies of the Word of God for free distribution, or for the support of foreign missions, etc.
- Systematically. God wants us to be practical in our giving. It is a good plan to keep a purse, a box or a bag into which the Lord’s portion may be regularly placed; or a bank account can be opened and at regular intervals amounts may be placed into this to be used specifically for His work.
Here is a suggestion. Buy a small cash book and on one side of the page record all that you receive; on the other side record all that is given to the Lord’s work. In this way it will be easy to see whether you are giving to Him the portion that you have decided upon. You are the Lord’s steward, so be a wise, careful steward and be systematic in the matter of your giving (1 Corinthians 4:2)
- Proportionately. That is, our giving is to be based upon our receiving. Those who receive less will give less - look up 1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 8:12 and 9:7, and you will see that a Christian is to “set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income”… ”according to what one has, not according to what he does not have”… ”what he has decided in his heart.” As to the proportion we are to give, that is a matter we must decide before the Lord, but the minimum that the Jew was required to give was one-tenth.
- Thankfully. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), and in the two chapters which give us the New Testament teaching on giving, strong motives are given for our giving - look up 2 Corinthians 8:9 and 9:15.
2. Let us conclude by considering the second proposition.
We would expect God to bless His children spiritually in response to their giving to Him, and of course He does this; but in addition, He promises to bless them temporally. We must never give to Him in order to get from Him, but as we give we shall receive, and the measure of our receiving will be in proportion to our giving. Let the following scriptures speak to you - Proverbs 3:9-10; 11:24-25; Malachi 3:10-11; Matthew 6:33; Luke 6:38 and 2 Corinthians 9:6-8.