Connecting you to God’s work through Cru
The joy of doling out the treasures God gives.
- Author: Kim Thompson
- Credits: Illustration by Phil Boatwright
- Published: March 1, 1997
Two brothers walked across the newly formed earth, each carrying an offering for God. Cain, a farmer, brought some produce while Abel, a rancher, brought the choicest animals from his herd. Together they presented their offerings. The Lord was pleased with Abel and his offering, but not with Cain and his offering (Genesis 4:2-5, New International Version). God saw into their hearts and judged their offerings accordingly.
In Cain, God saw a man who considered himself owner of his crops. Cain took what he needed first, then gave "some" to God. The NIV Study Bible describes "some" as a "careless, thoughtless offering." In Abel, however, God saw a man with the heart of a steward or manager. Abel considered God the owner of his herd, so he gave back to God what was rightfully His. This attitude¬that God is the owner of all we have¬pleased God in the beginning and continues to please Him today.
Wealth and honor come from God, according to 1 Chronicles 29:12, and He rules over all things. In His hands are strength and power to exalt. We must master this truth and know that we are only managers of the money and possessions God has entrusted to us. As such, we must use them for His glory and to further His kingdom.
In a society laden with shopping channels and outlet malls, changing our thinking about material possessions will require effort. We alone can't change ourselves, but God will gladly change us as we renew our minds by meditating on His Word. Crown Ministries, a group that teaches financial faithfulness, suggests meditating on 1 Chronicles 29:11,12 for 30 days. Their study guide also recommends using "the Lord's" instead of "my" or "mine" and acknowledging God's ownership at each purchase.
As managers we have a manual, the Bible, that contains principles for giving, saving and spending. It contains more than 2,350 verses on handling money, for God is concerned with even the smallest details of our personal finance. "How believers are to view and use their material possessions is a pervasive theme throughout the Word of God," says Gene Getz in A Biblical Theology of Material Possessions.
As in the case of the servants entrusted with wealth while their master was away (Matthew 25:14-30), our Master, too, will return to see how we have used His possessions. If we are diligent and reliable in using the treasures (whether many or few) God has entrusted to us, our Master will say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
As we think like faithful servants of the Master, our behavior changes. We look for ways to use our car or house or money to bring glory to God. If we know that the car we drive belongs to God, we use it generously to help friends and neighbors who need a ride. If we know that the house we live in belongs to God, we cheerfully open it to others who need a place to stay, or to host an evangelistic party. If we know that the money we have belongs to God, we use it to expand His kingdom because He desires that all men know Him.
This desire is God's priority and should be ours as well. While our personal funds might not be enough to tell the world about Christ, if we join others in giving to churches and missions agencies, we can help tell many. Currently, Christians give just 2 percent of their income to Christian causes. And less than a tenth of a percent goes specifically to foreign missions, according to statistics from Dr. David Barrett, editor of The World Christian Encyclopedia.
God's Word teaches generous and sacrificial giving. "The early Christians did not limit themselves to the tithe," points out Bill Bright in As You Sow. "Acknowledging God's ownership of all their possessions, they gave with an abandonment produced by love." Those first believers serve as examples for us today in their rich generosity despite extreme poverty. The tithe serves as a starting point for giving. In our heart we must determine how generously and sacrificially we will give.
In Matthew 25:45, Jesus taught specifically about giving to the poor: "I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me" (NIV).
"Jesus identifies with the poor," write the authors of the Crown Ministries study guide. "When we share with the poor, we are actually sharing with Jesus Himself. And if that truth is staggering, then the reciprocal is terrifying¬when we do not give to the poor, we leave Christ Himself hungry and thirsty." Crown Ministries suggests starting by asking the Lord to bring one poor person into our lives so we can serve God by helping the poor.
The trick is not to hold on too tightly to earthly things. Jesus said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19-21, NIV). Our cheerful generosity as we share with others leads to treasure in heaven.
But to give so that someone else can have more means that we might have less. And that can be scary. Giving requires faith that God will provide for our needs. For example, Dean and Kim Waldenmaier, Campus Crusade for Christ staff members at the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh, make it a point to keep their giving commitments despite periods of low income. In the process, they demonstrate faith that God will provide for their family of four. "We may not be living in the lap of luxury, but God has been faithful to provide exactly when we need it," say Dean and Kim. Once He provided through a dinner guest who unexpectedly left just enough money to pay for their daughter's damaged library book.
As we faithfully give of our worldly treasures, acknowledging in our hearts that they belong to God, we are obedient and faithful stewards. And to God, obedience shows love. Such faithfulness brings blessing, for God will use us to provide for someone else in need, just as He might use another to meet our need. And through it all, the kingdom of God advances.
Kim Thompson was a 1996 summer intern at Worldwide Challenge. She is a senior studying journalism at the University of Texas in Austin.
1. Do you give God the first fruits of your wealth or the leftovers (Proverbs 3:9,10)?
2. According to Matthew 6:19-21, where do you have more treasure¬on earth or in heaven? List what you consider your greatest treasures.
3. Do you give generously, or do you just give? Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15. Why does Paul say God gives wealth? Do you need to make changes to reflect your perspective on God's ownership of your treasures?