Verses pertaining to ownership
- Gen 14:20a “And he gave a tenth of all . . .” (Abraham to Priest)
- Mal. 3:10a “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse . . .”
- Ps 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains . . .”
- Deut. 10:14 “Behold, to the Lord your God belong the heavens . . . the earth and all that is in it.”
- John 3:27 “John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven.”
Verses pertaining to warnings about wealth
- Matt. 6:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy . . .”
- Luke 12:34 “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
- Matt. 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
- Matt. 19:24 “Truly, I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
- 1 John 2:15-16 “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
Verses pertaining to balance
- Prov. 30:8-9 “. . . give me neither poverty nor riches . . . lest I be full and deny Thee.”
- Prov. 10:22 “It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it.”
- Luke 12:20-21 “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared. So is the man who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
- Luke 12:48b “. . . And for everyone who has been given much shall much be required.”
- Heb. 13:5 “Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you nor will ever forsake you.’”
Verses pertaining to conviction
- James 2:15-16 “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is this? Faith with no works, is dead.”
- Luke 21:2-4 “And He saw a certain poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, ’Truly, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.’”
- Matt. 25:40 “Truly, I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”
The tithe is first mentioned in Genesis 14:20, where Abraham gave a tenth of all of his possessions to the priest. This sets a pattern of recognizing dependence on God by giving ten percent of spoils of battles and crops throughout the Old Testament. The Malachi 3:8-10 verses suggest man is robbing God by not giving ten percent to his church. There is much Old Testament support for the tithe (ten percent) concept, but I don’t necessarily accept these legalistic arguments. If it was left up to me, I’d let you off that hook—at least for the moment. Rather, I want you to look at what both the Old and New Testaments say about ownership: “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it . . .” (Ps. 24:1). “To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it” (Deut. 10:14). “. . . ‘A man can receive only what is given him from heaven’” (John 3:27).
The Bible is certainly replete with the idea that God owns everything. He blesses us and entrusts us with a multitude of possessions from the gifts we receive from Him to the talents we use to earn a salary and the “luck” we have in investments. It is all His. Therefore, everything we have should be managed not because we’re the owners, but because we’re the stewards. He owns it all. In my mind, the first stewardship issue, ownership, is settled.
If you aren’t sure yet, then try convincing yourself that all your success and blessings are from your own strength. Who gave you the strength and abilities to work as you have and obtain what you have?
As you can see in the bulleted lists above, there are three other categories of thoughts (besides Ownership): Warnings, Balance and Conviction. These all have to do with attitude, or where your heart is. I won’t go through each scripture, but I’d like to focus on a few and explain the categories.
The Matthew 19:23 warning about how hard it is for a rich man to get to heaven always strikes me, because we are all rich. We are all subject to having material things interfere with our walk. That happens when your treasure spoken about in Luke 12:34 becomes the thing you hold dear in your heart; when it becomes more important than God. And to what end do we succumb to these temptations? Do our treasures have any eternal purchasing power? Matthew 6:19 warns us about treasures on earth as opposed to those in heaven. They become rust and dust and do not buy salvation.
Rather, verse 20 says “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . .” Christian author, David Mallonee, says, “I as a Christian have two accounts: earthly and heavenly.” In his book Foolproof Finances, he presents interesting ideas about how we add to each and why only one balance really matters.
There are good reasons for these warnings, because they address conflicts within our hearts. You may know the right answer in your mind, but the heart remains a battleground.
I am convicted and re-convicted by Jesus’ discussion (Matt. 25:35-45) of how we cared for Him when He was hungry, cold, or sick. When I don’t remember to do these things He reminds me of the underfed, ill clothed and sick people of the world and how those “least” among us are important to Him. “. . . ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me’” (Matt. 25:40). How often have I helped them and honored Him?
But nothing convicts me more than the story of the widow’s mite. In Luke 21:4, Jesus says, “. . . but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” I sit on the board of a Christian retreat center where, after prayer, we often dig into our own pockets to solve problems for which we see no other solution. Many of us are once retired with second incomes and kids out of college. I remember the time when our twelve anonymous gifts totaled over $20,000 and a young wife and mother, attending her first meeting, asked cautiously how often we did this. Many of us quickly assured her that we were in different stages of life, that our blessings were different, and God’s expectations of us were different.
I believe He expects us to give as we are convicted and are able. I have seen people give $250 sacrificially, while others of our group easily gave $5,000 from their excess. Whether our gifts are out of our need or out of our excess, the measuring stick is not our wallets, but our hearts. I’m sure some of those gifts in the hundreds are far more pleasing to our Lord than some $5,000 gifts. I’m also convicted that at times I could have, and should have, given more of my excess.
As with many aspects of life, balance is important in our stewardship. God is not anti-money or wealth or success. He is the God of the rich just as He is the God of the poor. He knows our hearts and credits us for good or bad based on the feelings of our hearts. A couple of years ago Bill Gates gave a $5 billion gift to world health. That same day, you may have responded to the appeal of a friend’s son or daughter asking for support for a summer mission trip and you may have sent $100 that cost you a special dinner out or something your kids wanted. It is not about dollars, but about your heart (attitude). Which is the greater gift?
Colonel Lou Sturbois, an old Bible-study brother from Leavenworth in the late 1980s used to say, “to whom much is given, much is expected.” Lou lives a consistent Christian life, and I felt convicted the first time I heard it. I liked it so much I thought it should be scripture. Later in my study of stewardship I found the statement in Luke 12:48 and now claim it often. Thanks, Lou.
So to summarize the strategic issues. Who owns it and where is your heart? I hope you see why I let you off the “legalistic” ten percent hook. How much is between you and God. Tithing and gifting are not requirements of Christianity; they are a product (reflection) of your relationship with God.