How we manage God’s money is a central biblical subject of extreme importance. Hence, financial stewardship should be unapologetically addressed by Christian leaders—we who are called upon to declare “the whole counsel of God” to the people He entrusts to our care (Acts 20:27, ESV).
The sheer enormity of the Bible’s teaching on this subject screams for our attention. Why did Jesus say more about how we are to view and handle money and possessions than about any other topic—including both Heaven and Hell, and prayer and faith? Because God wants us to recognize the powerful relationship between our true spiritual condition and our attitude and actions concerning money and possessions.
In churches, stewardship should not be viewed as just one among many competing “special interests,” occasionally offered as an elective. We need much more than teaching on budgeting and financial planning. We need a Bible-based, Christ-centered theology of money and possessions that tackles critical stewardship issues pertaining to all Christians.
Despite the availability of excellent stewardship study materials, only 10 percent of churches have active programs to teach biblical financial and stewardship principles. Only 15 percent of pastors say they’ve been equipped by their denomination or seminary to teach biblical financial principles. (I encourage pastors to avail themselves of the many excellent resources, such as those available from Crown Financial Ministries, as aids to study what God’s Word says about this vital subject.)
In a society preoccupied with money and possessions, Christians will continually be exposed to wrong thinking and living. Certainly, we cannot expect the Christian community to take Scripture seriously in this vital area of stewardship unless pastors clearly teach and apply it.
Believers are often more open even about their sexual struggles than about battling materialism. Some churches do talk about getting out of debt. I applaud that. But you can be debt free and still be stingy and greedy. We don’t need to become smarter materialists; we need to repent of materialism and become smart stewards.
When churches address the subjects of stewardship and giving, a fundamental mistake they often make is tying the teaching to a specific project or need. We preach on giving because the offering is down or to kick off a building fund drive. The result is that people view the instruction merely as a fundraising tool, a means to the end of accomplishing our personal or institutional goals. (Indeed, often that’s just what it is.) I recommend scheduling messages on stewardship when there are no special pleas to give.
I was a pastor for 14 years. I understand that most pastors know this subject is important but feel self-conscious addressing it on their own initiative. Some may be hesitant because they aren’t being good stewards themselves so “How can I preach on something I’m not doing?” It’s also true that some in churches who imagine they “love to hear the Word” are offended when taught what the Word actually says, especially when it threatens their comfortable assumptions and lifestyles. Is the solution to avoid a defensive reaction by avoiding the subject of money? No! We are to follow the example of Paul, who told the Ephesian elders that he “did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable” (Acts 20:20). Pastors and teachers must give attention to this subject of financial stewardship to which Scripture devotes so much time.