One of my brothers in the Acts 29 Network, Matt Kruse of Seven Mile Road near Boston, recently wrote this reflection on money and stewardship. He gave me permission to post it here to help in the process of re-forming our hearts when it comes to money.
One of God’s graces to me over the years He has been His prying open of my fingers that tend to lock themselves tight around my money. (It’s still a work in progress.) Below are some simple thoughts that have shaped how I think through my giving to the work of the gospel.
#1 – It is a Biblical responsibility and a beautiful privilege to give generously to the local church I am a member of.
This is the primary community in which my soul (and my family’s) is cared for/accounted for and with whom I am set to mission. Every Christian needs to be fully engaged with their local church, living in glad submission to her officers, and committed to seeing her thriving. The world would be transformed if all Christians took very seriously the primacy of the ministry of the local church in discipling ‘the nations’. If every local church was gospel-driven and generously funded, the impact would not only be felt locally, but there also would be a resultant abundance of funding for missions work in places where there are no local churches. (For example, Seven Mile Road as a church immediately gives 10% of her congregational giving away to church planting and missionary efforts. If every Seven Mile member began tithing locally, what we give away would double overnight and we’d be getting more done locally.)
#2 – The local church herself is not the only entity that is doing good gospel work; there are others are worthy of financial support as well.
This would include missionaries, missionary families, missionary organizations, leadership training organizations, and so on. It should be a regular practice and huge joy of local churches and individual Christians to partner financially with those who are bringing the gospel to the world in varied, God-honoring ways. There are mission fields without thriving local churches, and we are called to partner with those who are getting indigenous, gospel-centered churches planted. There is also an endless array of mercy/justice causes that we can help as they serve the poor, etc.
#3 – Our primary place of giving should be our local church.
“First and most to local church, then as willing and able to others” is a helpful guide. Determining what ‘primary’ and ‘most’ means necessitates wisdom, of course. The fundamental idea would be this: be sure that your local church is amply funded for her work and that you are doing your part to get her there – then give to other worthy places. A good test would be to ask: “If everyone gave the way that I do, would my local church thrive or struggle financially?”
We are big on the simple practice of tithing to your local church and then giving over and above that to gospel works that you have been providentially connected to as you are able. (By ‘simple’ here I don’t mean that it is ‘simple’ to separate yourself from 12 or 15 percent or more of your loot, but ‘simple’ in that you are not stuck playing complicated mathematical games.) I absolutely loved it when John Piper said (paraphrasing) “even if the technical requirement of a 10% tithing law is fulfilled in Christ, I can’t imagine someone standing on our side of the cross of Christ not gladly giving 10% or more of their earnings to the work of the gospel.”
#4 – The exception always proves the rule.
Of course there are scenarios where someone’s giving is outside the norm of ‘first and most to local church, then as willing and able to others’. This does not mean that we can therefore go do whatever we want and then conveniently call ourselves ‘the exception’. (Sadly, I love doing just that.) It means we employ wisdom and grace in assessing particular, exceptional situations as they arise. This is where community and accountability and talking this stuff through with the saints come in. This is where humility and love and patience show themselves off. We never want to be the church that fights and condemns and attacks about money, but encourages one another on to the good work of glad giving.
#5 – Your money is not yours.
It’s God’s, and it’s given to you so that you can show off the surpassing worth of God and His gospel. Do that with gladness.