For the Christian, managing your resources goes deeper than budgets, planning for the future, investing in the right places, and giving to worthy causes.
Followers of Jesus have an altogether different starting point than the world when it comes to their finances: we believe that everything we have is the Lord’s, to begin with.
This is not a natural way of thinking. From the earliest days, children learn to say “mine!” It’s instinctive, not taught. Humans are naturally selfish. We have to teach children to be generous and kind and to share because those virtues are contrary to nature. For children, selfishness lives right on the surface, but as we grow older we learn to disguise it; we grow more sophisticated in the ways we reveal or don’t reveal it to others.
But the Bible says “To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it” (Deut. 10:14).
All things–everything that exists–viewed rightly, is God’s.
God Owns All that He Has Created
Let’s think about this in earthly terms. When a car company makes a car, it’s theirs until someone else purchases it. They own the manufacturing plant that made the car and they own all the materials used to build it and even the labor. It’s theirs from start to finish. If the company decides to sell the car, they still own it until a buyer comes along and purchases the car at the price they’ve agreed to.
Like the car manufacturer, all that God has created, He owns. He owns the means of production and everything that is produced too. But God’s ownership goes even deeper than that. God not only owns the raw goods used in production
Theologians use the Latin term ex nihilo to describe the way that God creates. It means “out of nothing.”
“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”Hebrews 11:3 (ESV)
Humans do not have the ability to create the way God does (out of nothing). We must borrow what God has already made to do our work. All of our creating, even our creative ability, is derivative. Not so with God. God creates and He even creates the ability to create. What this means for us is that everything we “own” is really a gift from God. He made our ownership possible first by creating the world, and then by creating us and endowing us with the ability to synthesize, to manufacture, to work and build, and to buy and sell. We are all indebted to God.
Healthy Christian stewardship understands this point.
The Problem with Mere Tithing
In some Christian circles, tithing is seen as the major (or only!) requirement for Christians when it comes to stewardship. As long as a believer is giving 10% of their income they are fulfilling their obligations to the Lord, so it is said.
One of the problems with this perspective is that it fails to see how stewardship applies to all of life, not just our money.
As we have just seen above, God owns everything and merely allows us to use it. So why do so many Christians believe that only 10% belongs to the Lord? (I am aware that many Christians give significantly less than this and even some give nothing at all.)
Certainly, every believer should set aside some money to be given to the local church. That I do not dispute in any way, though the amount is up for debate (see this helpful article and this one for two opposing perspectives). However, if our idea of honoring God with our resources is limited to writing a check to the church each Sunday, we have failed to grasp the nature of true Christian stewardship.
As believers, all that we have should be used to bring honor to God. Our bodies (1 Cor. 6:20). Our words (James 3:9). Our gifts (1 Peter 4:10-11). Our strength (Psalm 127:1). Our tangible wealth (Prov. 3:9). Our eating and drinking and everything we do (1 Cor. 10:31).
Because all of it, right down to the air we breathe, was a given to us by the God who made it.
My life is one of contradictions. I’m a southern boy living in northern New England; a boring guy married to super-fun girl; a conservative pastor in a progressive Christian denomination; a changed man in need of change; a sinner loved by a holy and perfect God.