Barry is the treasurer of his church. A few days ago, he sat in my office and told me of the financial trouble his church had found itself in. They are running some thirty thousand dollars behind their million dollar budget. I said, “Do you have unpaid bills?” “No,” he said. I said, “And your church is without a pastor?” “Right.” I said, “Friend, you don’t have a financial crisis. Your church is doing just fine. Besides, you’re going to get a new leader. The offerings will go up once he arrives and begins his ministry. Stop worrying.”
On the other hand, a new pastor told how his church is not responding to his sermons on stewardship. “In fact,” he said, “the Sunday after I preached on giving, the offerings actually went down. I’ve been in the pastorate a long time, but never had that happen.”
I said, “I think I know what happened.” He was all ears. I said, “Not all churches are alike. Some have members with deep pockets. When the church gets behind financially, the pastor brings it to their attention, and they bring in the money, and the crisis ends. However, I’ve known your church for many years. You don’t have wealthy people. So, they’re not going to be able to respond immediately to your stewardship lessons. But just stay the course. Keep telling them. They’ll come through.”
A few weeks later, I was in his church and picked up the Sunday bulletin, and noticed that the offering for that day was 50% above the weekly budget requirements. His people are giving.
“I don’t like to preach on money,” a pastor told me. As the Director of Missions for the Baptist churches in the New Orleans area, I sometimes serve as a sounding board for our pastors. I listened as he continued. “My people resent sermons on giving, like I’m trying to invade their bank account or steal out of their wallet. So I just don’t do it. If the money comes in and the bills are paid, then everyone is happy and I’m spared having to preach on it. After all, that’s the point. Right?”
“It’s one of the points,” I assured him. “But there are forty-nine more you’re overlooking.”
“You’re telling me there are fifty reasons why I ought to be preaching on stewardship? Name them!”
I will confess now that I had plucked that number out of the air, but the way he said it, I knew he needed to hear some. So I started in.
1. To meet the needs of the Lord’s ministries.
2. To honor the Lord by your giving.
3. To cut the bonds of materialism and greed in yourself.
4. To show the devil who is boss.
5. As a witness to outsiders who are watching you.
6. As an inspiration to other Christians.
7. To buy the Bibles missionaries give throughout the world.
8. To feed the hungry.
9. To clothe the needy.
10. To free up the ministers so they can devote full-time to the Lord’s work and not have to hold outside jobs.
11. As an investment in eternity.
12. To lay up treasure in Heaven.
13. To increase your reward in Heaven.
14. To discipline myself.
15. To bless your spouse and children.
16. To set an example.
17. For the sheer pleasure of it. (The Lord thinks we ought to love to give.)
18. To increase your love for the Lord.
19. To establish your priorities.
20. To actually give to Jesus.
Maybe there is a little overlapping on some of them, but you can see we could find thirty more reasons to give without stretching.
Now, if a person writing out a check to the Lord Jesus Christ through his church can accomplish all of that, then I’m doing him a favor by encouraging him to give.
When I do not teach my people to become generous givers, I cheat them. In fact, I predict here and now that at the final judgment a lot of angry church members will be mad at their spiritual leaders for not teaching them to give to the Lord.
Jesus wants us to give freely in every area of life. “Freely you have received,” He said, “freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)
A church member overheard me talking about this and butted in, “But you don’t know my church. I don’t agree with what our pastors and the deacons are doing with our money.” I said, “Did you ever read in the Bible where the Lord Jesus complimented the widow for dropping her two pennies into the treasury?” “Everyone knows the story,” he said.
I said, “And did you see how complimented the Lord was with her gift? He said she put in more than anyone else.” “Your point being?” he said.
“That at that very time the temple was under the control of crooks. The high priest was selling franchises in the outer courts to the highest bidder, where people sold animals and exchanged currency at scandalous rates. And yet, here is the Lord Jesus telling the disciples that woman did a good thing by bringing her gift to the temple.”
My friend went away muttering to himself, trying to think of a good answer.
Want to read my mail? This is a letter I received from Kelli and Shawn just as they were moving away from our city.
“Before we move, we want to share something with you. We began attending (your church) about three or four years ago. We were touched by the friendliness of the church and were truly led to become members. Yet, as a young married couple we were struggling to make ends meet. Therefore, we believed we couldn’t afford to tithe.
“In May of last year I graduated from nursing school. We were glad my college had ended, but we were eager to rid ourselves of the large debts we had accrued. The very Sunday after my graduation you challenged the members to give a tithe, at least ten percent of their income regularly. After a lot of prayer, Shawn and I accepted the challenge.
“The following Thursday I received my first nursing check which included a sign-on bonus. We humbly tithed ten percent of it. We felt so blessed. Not only did we have two great jobs, but for the first time in a long time, we honestly believed Christ was in the center of our lives.
“By the end of the summer, we were astounded. Not only had we tithed every Sunday, but we had also paid off two maxed out credit cards, bought a much needed second car, and even managed to save some money. The Lord had shown us the blessings of tithing just as you had promised earlier that summer.
“Since that summer we have continued to tithe. But most importantly, we have grown in our walk with Christ…. As our pastor, you laid on our hearts the importance of tithing as a form of worship and praise, in contrast to the idea of it being a ritual or a routine. I pray that these words will encourage you as you do God’s will.”
If there are doubters among us, send me your fax number and I’ll fax you Kelli’s entire four page letter.
“I can’t afford to tithe,” someone says. I have two answers. One, if you are a follower of Jesus, you can’t afford not to. Two, every generous giver I’ve ever met started giving when they could not afford it. That’s how it’s done.
Someone wrote a little poem just for you. It goes:
“The bride with age leaned over her cane;
Her steps uncertain need guiding.
While down the church aisle with a toothless smile,
The groom in a wheelchair gliding.
“And who is this elderly couple thus wed?
You’ll find when you’ve closely explored it
That this is that rare, most conservative pair
Who waited til they could afford it.”