A pastor friend of mine recently told his congregation that he has preached on money, either an individual message or an entire series, at least once a year throughout his 30 years of ministry. When asked if he could tell whether it made a difference in giving to the church or not, he had to admit he didn’t really know. After all, that’s not why he did it.
Why does this pastor, and why do many effective pastors, speak regularly on the subject of money? Because money, and the effect it can have on people, is one of the most prominent subjects in the Bible, and one of the most important topics a true disciple of Jesus must consider.
Jesus talked more about stewardship, or the management of resources that God entrusts to us, more than heaven, or hell, or faith, or prayer, or a lot of other things. Over half of Jesus’ parables are about stewardship, and one out of every six verses in the Gospels has to do with stewardship.
Understanding stewardship is one of the keys to understanding the Christian life. If we don’t understand that God owns everything, that we are uniquely created in God’s image to be stewards of his creation, and that how we manage the resources God entrusts to us personally is a test of our faith in him, we will allow those very resources to tempt us into selfishness and even self-destruction. Money and possessions can quickly become the focus and goal of our lives. In fact, as the Bible says, the love of money is the root of all evil.
No wonder The Baptist Faith and Message (2000) speaks so clearly to the biblical doctrine of stewardship in its Article 13:
“God is the source of all blessings, temporal and spiritual; all that we have and are we owe to him. Christians have a spiritual debtorship to the whole world, a holy trusteeship in the gospel, and a binding stewardship in their possessions. They are therefore under obligation to serve him with their time, talents, and material possessions; and should recognize all these as entrusted to them to use for the glory of God and for helping others. According to the Scriptures, Christians should contribute of their means cheerfully, regularly, systematically, proportionately, and liberally for the advancement of the Redeemer’s cause on earth.”
When our boys were young, my wife, Beth, always gave them their weekly allowance on Sunday mornings, along with their church offering envelope. She made sure to give them dollar bills and some loose change, making it easier to calculate a tithe of 10%. As our own parents modeled for us, tithing is best taught at an early age.
One Sunday morning we noticed our youngest son, Ethan, placing all five dollars of his allowance in his offering envelope. “Son, you don’t need to give your entire allowance to the offering,” his mom assured him.
Ethan smiled and said, “I know. But you and Dad always give me everything I need. So this week I thought I’d just give it all.”
Generosity is the antidote to materialism. I think that’s why my pastor friend, and many effective pastors, choose to preach about money regularly. Some people will misunderstand and feel those pastors are simply seeking more money for the church. But avoiding sermons on money for fear of that perception would be a disservice to the congregation. Disciples that are growing to be more and more like Jesus are learning to loosen their grip on money, and thereby money’s grip on them. They are finding in generosity the true freedom from materialism that God desires for his people.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.