I would like to talk about what Dave Ramsey calls the number one myth about money. We have an idea about what this might be, but if we don’t correct this misguided view, we’ll never really grow into the men and women that God designed us to be. Here’s the myth: the way to have more is to hold on more tightly. When we hold our money with an open hand, sure, we may lose some, but there’s room for more to come in. When we hold our money with a closed hand, we’ll hang on to what we have, but there isn’t room for more to come in. The fist is the international sign of anger. If you hold up your fist to someone, they know what you’re trying to say. The open hand is the international sign for acceptance. Even a dog recognizes the warmth of an open hand.
Ps. 24:1 says, “The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” We need to change our perspective. When it comes to money, we all get a little tight-fisted. We feel like we have to protect what is ours. That brings up a great question. What is ours? Several years ago I had someone managing my money. I was investing a sum of money each month and this man was responsible for taking care of it. It wasn’t a lot of money by the world’s standards, but I entrusted him to take care of it. Over the course of time, it became apparent that he was not handling my money responsibly. He consistently lost my money. I would have been better off putting my money in a coffee can and burying it in my backyard. I was angry that the money I entrusted to this guy was mishandled. Instead of giving him more of my money, I took the money I entrusted to him and I fired him. That’s the way it is with God and us. God entrusted His resources, money, stuff, time, and talents to us. We’re just managing His stuff. It belongs to God. He owns it all.
Ps. 24:1: “The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains.” We have a fiduciary trust responsibility with everything God has given us. If you’re a manager at a company, the owner gives you a responsibility for running a part of his company. That doesn’t mean you own it; it just means you’re responsible for part of it. If the owner wants it back, you give it back. If the owner tells you to write a big check to a vendor or charity, you do it. Your job is to manage the resources the way the owner tells you to. So what is real stewardship? Biblical stewardship is about managing what God has entrusted to you. 1 Cor. 4:1-2 says, “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.” When we talk about stewardship people usually hear give more. So what is a steward? Steward and stewardship has become a Christianized term. Oftentimes the church uses it wrong. A steward is a manager, not an owner. In medieval times, the second nicest property in the kingdom belonged to the king’s steward. His job was to see to the king’s business. The steward managed all of the owner’s affairs, and he enjoyed full use of every bit of the king’s property, but he didn’t own any of it. This is how we should view ourselves in relation to God’s blessings. We don’t own anything, just like the steward didn’t own anything. We simply manage the Owner’s wealth.
Stewardship is about managing. Stewardship is not a campaign to raise money. Stewardship is a biblical principle for daily living. The church goes about this all wrong. We usually just run around saying, “Give, give, give!” But if you actually teach people how to properly manage their money, you free them up so that they can, in turn, give like never before. That’s why we talked about basic financial principles in our first message and breaking the bondage of debt in the last message.
Before you continue reading, check out this video regarding the tithe. A lot of Christians honestly ask, “Why does God need my tithe?” That’s a bad question. God doesn’t need anything from us. As followers of Christ authentically pursuing God, we don’t have to give; we get to give. We’re not obligated, we’re honored. Giving makes us more like Christ. Gen. 1:26 says that God made man in His image. John 3:16says that God loved the world so much that He gave His only son. Giving is a crucial theme throughout the entire redemptive story in the Bible. Giving and God cannot be separated. If we’re made in God’s image and if God is a giver, then that means we are made to be givers, too. Giving changes us. We celebrate the image of God within us when we give. When we don’t give, we’re stopping up the flow of grace that God wants to pour through us. The Dead Sea is dead because it has a continuous inflow, but no outflow. It is not able to sustain life. Where there is no outflow – death results.
Giving may feel strange at first, but that’s just our selfish human nature trying to retain a grip on us. Over time, giving becomes more natural, like breathing. Giving turns good things loose in our lives. We become more creative. We become more passionate. We become less selfish. We become vested. Couples who tithe are less likely to get a divorce. Why? Giving makes you less selfish. When you’re less selfish with money, you’re less selfish with everything. Less selfish people prosper in their finances, business, relationships, families, and every other area. It’s not about money; it’s about character.
Giving helps us prosper. There’s no magical, “if I do this I get that” scenario in the Bible. But, as we become more responsible stewards, God can and will trust us with more and more. But don’t get confused. It’s not about money. It’s about management and faithfulness. Practically, givers are generally more likable and reliable. If you come across as a trustworthy, generous person at work, you’re more likely to be promoted. Who wants a selfish boss? Who wants a selfish employee? So what is the truth about giving? Giving is a reminder of ownership. Every time I put money in the plate at church or in reality through web bill pay, I am reminded that I am not the owner. For many people, money is a drug of choice. It’s almost as if we need to acknowledge it, “My name is Ian and I like stuff.” Giving is praise and worship. The offering isn’t something we pause to do at our church. It’s not a “half time” during the worship service. It isn’t an intermission. It is part of our worship!
Be a cheerful giver. 2 Cor. 9:7: “God loves a cheerful giver.” Cheerful comes from the word that means hilarious. A cheerful giver gives because it is a joy and a blessing, not a duty or obligation. If you cry when you give, expect your kids to do the same. If you’re excited to give, they’ll grow up thinking the same thing. Giving is spiritual warfare. Malachi 3:11: “Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the LORD of hosts.” Eph. 6:11 instructs us to, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” The devil doesn’t want you to give; he convinces you that you can’t. He wants you to hold on to every penny you have . . .well check that. He doesn’t want any penny you have supporting the work of ministry. We trust God with many other things in our lives, why not money?
And please don’t give me the old, “Tithing was part of the Law” speech. Tithing pre-dated the Law by over 400 years. And equally lame, “They tithed off of their grain and their agriculture.” True, that was their currency. If these are your attitudes, your heart is not right with God. My experience with people that say these things is that they don’t give ANYTHING! It’s just that simple. Yes, the New Testament teaches generous giving. So what is generous? I would say 10% is a good start.
We’ll never be happier and more fulfilled than when we are serving and giving. Giving changes us, and it can change the lives of the people around us. It’s also how God funds the work of the ministry. It’s time for each Christian to do his part.