I remember the first time I saw him put a check in the offering plate. I was sitting next to him in the choir. He didn’t make a big deal about it; just quietly took the check out of his pocket and dropped it in the plate. I have no idea what the amount was. But I wanted so badly to be able to do it, too. I was only 15 at the time; not old enough to work a regular job like he did. I cut grass for $1.20 per yard. In my mind, my twelve cents didn’t match up to a hand-written check. To me, the amount was more important than the spirit behind it.
I turned 16, got a job, and opened a checking account. Each week I wrote a check and dropped it in the offering plate on Sunday morning. I can’t say I tithed every week, but I was pretty consistent. After all, we are to be good stewards. Right?
Right. But tithing was about the extent of my idea of stewardship. Give my 10% and I’m in! I began to see tithing less about worship and more about a great partnership. I tithe; God blesses. With every increase in my salary, God got His 10% and I got my 90%. More for God, and lots more for me.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with tithing and trusting God will take care of our needs (see Malachi 3:10, Matthew 6:33-33). But I came pretty close to making tithing all about me.
And when I do that, generosity flies out the door.
Good stewardship is not built on “What’s in it for me?” Genuine stewardship builds on the principle it all belongs to God. Howard Dayton says, “The Lord is the Creator of all things, and He has never transferred the ownership of His creation to people.” The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it (Psalm 24:1-2). After God provided an environment that could sustain life, He placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it (Genesis 2:15). Whatever God allows us to possess still belongs to Him.
Patterns for life are often set with a few small decisions made at an early age. There are things I cannot do today—generosities I cannot deliver—not because I have tithed all my life, but because I didn’t understand how important to God the other 90% is.
Tithing is good; stewardship of all my life is best. When I let the good become the enemy of the best, not only do I miss out on the fullness of the rich and satisfying life Jesus promised (see John 10:10), but also others miss out on the blessings they could have received from my generosity (see 2 Corinthians 9:6-8), and God will miss the glory due Him (2 Corinthians 9:12; Matthew 5:16).
If you are where I am in life you recognize your generosity is limited. Or, you may still have time to make decisions that can make a world of difference. Whichever place your find yourself there are still some things you can do:
- Come to grips with the fact all you have belongs to God; you are just the manager. Spending decisions, whether about your life, your talents, your time, or your money, are spiritual decisions. Commit to this principle and live it out. Let your children and grandchildren see it.
- Come to grips with the fact God’s plan for you is to live in such a way that you can always be generous (see 2 Corinthians 9:11). Let your children and grandchildren see stewardship is more than money management. It is a commitment that your life—all of it—will reflect the generosity of God
- Then leave it all in His gracious hands to provide everything you need and plenty left over to share with others (2 Corinthians 9:8)