How much of your stuff belongs to God? Some say 10%. Others say more, maybe as much as half, or whatever we don’t need to live. Hmm.
In actuality, poor Americans give about 3% of their income to charitable causes, wealthy Americans about 1.5%. * Here, the statistics define “charity” as everything from God to the university.
The concept of tithing is an Old Testament teaching absent in the New Testament. Yet, we are all familiar with the expectation of the tithe—even though the principle of tithing teaches follower of Christ stewardship based upon Old Testament guidelines.
What is the distinction between Old Testament and New Testament theology regarding our holdings?
God asked a small portion off the top from the Old Testament folks. Today, as New Testament Believers and recipients of all of God’s fortune through Christ, God does not ask for a portion. As those bought with a price, He asks for all!
Everything belongs to God, including our lives (Col 3:4). It is through grace that He privileges us to participate in stewarding His goods, talents invested in us, and repositories of truth that benefit others. Simply stated, we are stewards of God’s stuff.
Until we understand that God owns everything and we own nothing we will consistently mismanage the possessions within our care. Especially in the western world, the temptation is to use the things money affords to attempt our own creation of heaven on earth. But this shortchanges the desires of our hearts and kills the passion that fuels us through life toward our eternity in heaven.
God has set eternity in our hearts. The notion that we could relate to Him with ten percent from all that He has blessed us with misses the eternal message God desires for us to grasp.
Perpetuating the Old Testament concept of giving ten percent in these New Testament times places us in the arrogant position of believing we fund God rather than vice versa. To communicate to Believers that we owe a percentage of our holdings to God is a misguided teaching.
God asked little of Old Testament saints because they possessed little of Him. However, New Testament Believers possess all of God indwelling them in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19).
The great dangers for those blessed with abundance—and that is all of us compared to the rest of the world—is that we will mistake our abundance as God's means of security rather than looking to Him as the One who promised to meet all of our needs; that we will become intoxicated by our possessions and fail to drink deeply from Him, the fountain of living water; that we will live shallow existences rather than thrive through profound connection with Him; that our hearts will resonate to the iron string of self-sufficiency rather than dance to the music of eternity’s passion; that we will settle for giving 10%—or 2%—instead of giving from our heart.
If we are not careful, we who are blessed will fall into the trap of attempting to meet not only our needs but also our greeds by building unnecessary surpluses in hope of finding security. Security cannot be found in surplus! This undermines our ability to look to Him as the supply of everything we need both externally and internally. Our security can only be found in Him. To seek security from holdings that do not belong to us in the first place creates soul-level frustration, drowns passion, and wounds our spiritual being.
Let me step aside for a moment with this disclaimer: Part of stewardship is planning for the future, counting the costs, and investing. Look at your accounts. Measure them. Plan them strategically. Then, look again and inquire of your soul, Do these represent a plan or a statement of my security?
A plan is devised in consultation with everyone concerned, including your Heavenly Father, the giver of all that is good. A plan is shrewdly conceived and executed by people who charged with the management of practicality.
A security statement based upon material holdings is fundamentally selfish and is self-contained. Security is far too important to be measured by dollars and much too profound to be left to mankind. Our security is in Christ—it must be in Christ to be secure.
How can you know how much to give, and whom to give it to?
Here are two guidelines to consider. First, we are instructed to give to those who bless us (Gal. 6:6). Second, stewardship is related to the heart: Where do you desire to give?
Why such a short answer?
Because while profound, the concept is simple: God doesn’t need stuff to keep His kingdom afloat. His goal in giving us things to manage is to give us—Him and us—something to talk about and something to do together.
In summary, stewardship is recognizing that you own nothing. You, and everything around you, belong to God. Second, stewardship is recognizing it is God who takes care of your needs not you yourself. Finally, stewardship affords us as stewards the regular opportunity to visit with the owner about His investments.
Therefore, the question becomes, will you give what is tangible in order to seize in your heart that which is intangible?
* As examples: Giving USA 2012; http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/04/why-the-rich-dont-give/309254/; http://www.nptrust.org/philanthropic-resources/charitable-giving-statistics