"Stewardship" is a key teaching of the New Testament. The word "steward" means manager. It was used of someone who was entrusted with the property of another. When the Bible calls us stewards, it is recognizing the fact that everything we have has been given to us by God. As stewards, we are responsible for how we use the gifts, the time, the opportunities, and the material resources God has given us. Christian stewardship means that we seek to be faithful to the Lord in the way we use our resources.
Jesus taught us that our use of money is a key area of discipleship. Jesus warned us to be careful not to serve money rather than God. In our lives, money is an inescapable reality. The disciple of Jesus needs to be a good steward who uses his money in a responsible way.
The New Testament gives us some general principles of financial stewardship. It encourages us to work to earn our own means of living (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; Ephesians 4:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-12). We need to provide for our own families (1 Timothy 5:8). The New Testament commends sharing with others in special need (Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 6:18).
At New Life Church, we never expect guests to give. The financial responsibility for the church falls on those who regularly attend. Although giving is only a part of financial stewardship, it is a way to participate in the work of the church. This can be a touchy topic, but we miss a critical component of the Christian life if we avoid it. Money is an important part of our lives. It is not surprising that many Christians find that giving faithfully is a springboard to growing and maturing.
The clearest instruction on giving is found in 2 Corinthians 8-9. Paul is speaking of a group of believers: "I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord" (8:3 NASB). Our giving is voluntary, not something we are pressured into ("of their own accord"). Also, our giving is to be according to our ability. If we are only able to give a little, that is acceptable to God. Verse 12 of 2 Corinthians 8 says the same thing: "For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a man has, not according to what he does not have."
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 gives additional principles for giving. "Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver." Our attitude in giving is as important as our gift. We need to "purpose in our own heart" how we are going to give and give intentionally according to a plan. 1 Corinthians 16:2 tells us, "On the first day of the week, let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come." Our giving should be regular.
"How much?" is an important question. We live under financial pressure, and giving can be a real stretch. In the Old Testament, giving was mandated. In the New Testament, however, giving is voluntary. A helpful measure we can apply to our giving is the "tithe" (meaning "tenth"). Some believers are able to give more than 10%, and some will struggle to reach that goal. But Christians who understand stewardship will seek to give a substantial portion of their income to the church and to the work of the Lord.
It is appropriate to ask how our offerings are being used. Without the faithful giving of its people the work of the church would be greatly hindered. Programs, facilities, and staff cost money. We support missionaries as a means of expanding the ministry of our church. Churches need to be good stewards of their resources, and members are encouraged to participate in the decision-making process.
The New Testament teaches us the importance of giving. Individuals and couples can glorify the Lord and enable his work as they give cheerfully and regularly.