Found faithful in all kinds of financial giving, by Rev. John Kwasi Fosu

 

Introduction
The call to be saved is the call to be part of a giving community. For the Christian God is a giving God. Jesus, who is God incarnate gave himself first for us. So being part of both the universal and local church is therefore to belong to a giving community. The Christian is therefore expected to participate in the following kinds of giving: Giving as in thanksgiving, fundraising, pastoral support, helping the poor and the needy and giving as in tithing.

1. Thank God with your money
The value of expression of gratitude or thanksgiving cannot be downplayed in human life and in the practice of our Christian faith. God expects us to give financially, as part of our attempt to express our gratitude to him. This desire and expectation challenged the Psalmist to ask himself: What can I repay the Lord for all his benefits (Psalm 116:12). And as part of his expression of gratitude, to promised to pay his vows to God.

2. Be involved in fundraising activities
Another kind of giving relates to the involvement of fundraising activities especially in the context of the church. We are to take part in fundraising activities such as contributing money to build Auditoriums, buy musical instruments and towards evangelistic and mission related activities.

Fundraising periods therefore constitute the time to meet needs and worship God in highnesses. It is against this background that Paul challenged the Corinthians to give using two big examples: that of the Macedonian churches (Philipi, Bereans and Thessolonica) and that of Christ (2 Corinthians 8). The Macedonians gave to support the needy Jerusalem Church at the time.

In the book of Haggai, the Israelites were admonished to examine their priorities by contributing to the building of the Temple.

3. Be a tither
Another kind of giving that has often generated controversies and thus misunderstanding among some Christians is tithing. When one recognises that all that he or she has, belongs to God, then giving God at least one-tenth should not be a problem.
A careful study on tithing in the scriptures reveals that both the Old Testament and the New Testament encouraged it. In the Old Testament Abraham out of faith tithed. Then Jacob later through this same faith and trust in God followed suit. As part of the law, God demanded that the Israelites also Tithe in Leviticus 11. It was also explicit in the prophetic books (Malachi 3) where the Israelites were expected to tithe for heavenly opened windows. Jesus did not condemn the faith and obedience of the law needed on tithing and thus implicitly encouraged it in Matthew 23:23.
Samuel Kirk Mills insightfully brings out the purpose of Christian Tithing by writing that,

The purpose of Christian Tithing shows the use of the tithes. It is God’s economy for meeting the living subsistence of His delegated Priests (Pastors, Bishops Elders, General overseers) by whom the High Priestly Ministry of Christ on earth is served; and the maintenance of the Temple of God, which includes both the physical buildings, and the children of God in whom he dwells.

Tithing therefore shows our obedience and trust in God that all that we have belong to him. In fact the context and teaching of Malachi on tithing suggests that it serves as a weapon against the devourer. God promised to defeat the devourer and thus prevent the Devil from attacking God’s children who were faithful. In this case, God promised to protect the lives, business and family of those who were faithful in tithing (Mal 3:10 – 11). They were also to receive divine favour as in opened windows of heaven. This is also true today.

4. Give to support pastors and ministers of the Gospel
This kind of giving is very crucial in the African context and for that matter amongst African immigrant churches in that it is least taught. Some pastors fail to teach on this kind of giving simply because they don’t want to be seen as carnal men or women of God. Could we be justified in saying that such pastors are not teaching their church members the whole counsel of God? Denying church members of support to their pastors is preventing them from exercising their biblical stewardship mandate to their ministers. For if the family of Levi was to be cared for by the rest of the other clans then Christians have the stewardship mandate of caring for their pastors.

Three main reasons underscore the need to support our ministers of the gospel. In the first place, God’s word commands us to support ministers. Implicitly, the example of Abraham teaches us to support our ministers (Gen 14:20). Moses also taught about supporting ministers (Numbers 18:21-24). As Jesus sent his disciples to evangelize, he commanded them to be fed by the people to whom they ministered unto. To Paul, supporting pastors is the responsibility of every church member (Galatians 6:6).

Secondly, God’s work demands that the minister be supported. The nature of the pastoral ministry requires a divine calling and professional training. What this implies is that ministers are to be supported so that they will have total commitment and concentration on the work of the ministry (Acts 6:2-4).

The third reason is that God’s blessings and prosperity demands that his ministers are financially cared for. Before Paul could pray for the Philippian Christians, they had sown into his life and ministry (Phil 4:19). In the case of Abraham God blessed him with Children, financially and materially and physically in good old age. For he had financially supported Mechizedek (Genesis 14:20). The Shunamite woman had a miraculous encounter after supporting a man of God (2 Kings 4:8).

5. Give to the poor and the needy
The Bible makes it clear that God is concerned about the poor and needy and the oppressed. In the Old Testament, the Lord God is the champion of the poor and the needy. He reveals himself as their refuge, their help, their deliverer, and their provider (Psalms 40:17, Is. 25:4, Luke 1:52-53, I Sam. 2:8).

When God revealed his law to the Israelites, he provided a number of ways to dealing with the poor amongst them: God forbade charging interest on loans to the poor (Lev. 25:35-36); taking their cloak as security for loan; they were to be paid their daily wage so they could eat; all debts of the poor were to be cancelled at every seven years (Deut 15:1-6); During harvest time, grain that dropped on the ground was to be left so that the poor could feed on it. In fact, the edges of the farm were to be left unharvestered for the poor (Deut 19:9-10, Deut. 24:19-21).

God also instructs us to show deep concern for the poor and needy in the New Testament. Much of Jesus’ ministry was to the poor and disadvantaged in the Jewish society. This includes the downtrodden (Luke 4:18, Samaritans, Luke 17), those with leprosy and widows.

The early church established a caring community that shared their possession so that no one was in need. When they increased in number that made it impossible for the apostles to see to their needs, deacons were appointed to attend to the needs of the widows and the caring ministry. Thus in exercising our financial stewardship mandate, giving to support the poor and the needy is a way of partnering with God.

Our Christian Calling and money matters, by Rev. John Kwasi Fosu

Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Hamburg  – Bible Study material on Financial Stewardship (Luke 12:15)

Introduction
This write up looks at the Christian’s financial stewardship mandate. Having looked at the power and limitation of money, this material provides some biblical principles needed to be very good stewards of money.

The power of money
The power of money in the life of people and its place in the Church cannot be overemphasised. No wonder Solomon simplifies that by saying money answers all problems (Ecclesiastics 10:19). Money provides some physical needs such as food, shelter and clothing. Money is needed for providing good environment of mental development such as going to school. Money plays key roles in our spiritual growth and in the Church. Essentially, the Bible points out that we are to serve God with our money. And money is needed in our part of worship. Our good attitudes towards money show our faithfulness in fulfilling our stewardship mandate as individuals.

The limitation of money
The above influence of money has the potential of leading people into the belief that we exist only for money. It is clear in the Scriptures and in life that although money can buy a house, it cannot buy a home. For example, money cannot give or produce children. Similarly, although money can create happiness and amusement by way of organising parties, it cannot give joy. Money can give external happiness but it cannot give internal peace. That is why Solomon in spite of his riches could say that life is meaningless.

Moreover, the influence of money is limited in that it cannot buy the grace of God. Money can influence people into standing by your side such as in times of political elections, but not the grace of God such as forgiveness of sin and long life. Thus, money only has a temporal dimension. On the discourse on eternity, money plays no eternal role.

In the context of the local church, money is needed to pay off the bills of the church, to buy some equipment needed for worship such as set of musical drums, projectors, pews and to embark on missionary trips. In today’s technological world where the gospel travels on the wheels of various forms of media technology such as radios, television broadcast and through the internet, money plays a key role.

Biblical Principles of Financial Stewardship

1. Recognize that God owns everything: Including Silver and Gold
As the idea of stewardship implies, taking good care of other person’s property, the original owner of all that we have including money is God (Psalm 24:1; Haggai 2:8). If God owns all that we have, then we are just stewardship of God’s possession. We shall therefore give account to the owner as to how we manage his resources. Hence, one of the greatest errors when it comes to issues of money is lack of the recognition that God owns it. When that happens, God is not included in our plan of expenditure. That was the deception of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21. In his planning, he excluded God.

2. Recognize that God gives power to acquire wealth
Money must be worked for. This means that hard work pays. This truth about the acquisition of money has the potential of making one to think that the amount of money that one has relates to one’s own ability or hard work. But the Bible says in Deuteronomy 8:18 that it is God who gives strength to acquire wealth. The implication of this is that the rich is not to boast over his riches. Neither should the poor be condemned and undermined. Also, the one who gives us power to acquire or make wealth deserves to be praised and worshipped and not the money.

3. Be a person of integrity in money matters
One of the tests of true spirituality of a person relates to one’s attitude towards money. God expects his people to be men and women who have an attitude of integrity concerning how they acquire and use money. In this case, how one receives money is more important to God than the money itself.

Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary states, “Integrity implies trustworthiness and incorruptibility to a degree that one is incapable of being false to a trust, responsibility, or pledge.” God wants his people to be distinguished by financial integrity. The English have a saying, “A gentleman is one who uses the butter knife when he is alone.” The true character of a person is seen by what that person does when no one is looking at him or her. Integrity in money matters has to do with being honest and upright when you are alone. It means constantly acting according to biblical principles, even if you think you’ll never be caught. This comes as a result of the awareness that God is watching and that you want to please him.

4. Manage debts
The Bible enjoins Christians to stay away from debts where possible because the borrower or the debtor becomes a slave to the creditor. Inasmuch as in some cases we will have no other option than to be under debt, managing debts is therefore necessary if we are to fulfil our financial stewardship mandate. This can be possible when we make a saving plan towards the payment of our loans or debts. Another crucial way is by desisting from the habit of continuous borrowing, especially when we have not paid off the previous debt.

This discipline of managing debt applies not only to individuals but also to some organisations and nations. Some developing countries such as Ghana have the culture of borrowing in order to meet their development needs. Against this background of indebtedness, the third government of the fourth republic of Ghana had no other option than to apply to belong to the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPIC). It appears that, even after some years of been dismembered from the HIPIC countries, the culture of borrowing has resurfaced.

5. Being content is crucial
Writing about financial stewardship will not be complete without making mention of Paul’s teaching about contentment. That is the quality of being contented with our financial status and not being covetous. In speaking about the subject of contentment in his letter to Timothy, Paul encourages us to desist from the love of money by saying that, it is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:6). It is worthy of note that Paul did not say that money itself is the root of evil, but the love of it.

It must be understood that contentment does not mean one must not apply principles of wealth creation in order to acquire wealth for godly purposes. It is about avoiding all forms of unhealthy competition for wealth and also avoiding all forms of jealousyness of other people’s financial status and material possessions.

Contentment is not therefore about becoming satisfied with one’s status of poverty. For nowhere did Jesus magnify poverty or criticize the legitimate getting of wealth. God made all things, including food, clothing and precious metals. God has declared that all things that he has made are good (Genesis 1:31). God knows that we need certain things to live (Matthew 6:32). In fact, God “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17). It is therefore not wrong to possess things, but it is wrong for things to possess us.