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How much stuff do you own?

Let’s talk about money, the acquisition of stuff, financial security, and how much is enough. As the end of the year approaches, you will receive financial appeals from your pastor, politicians, the humane society, and non profits like LGI. What better time to consider the bottom line—and all the lines above that—than right now?

Here is the critical question: How much of your stuff belongs to God?

Some say ten percent, and reference this tithe of your money as the portion that belongs to God. Others are more vague advocating that you are to contribute to God’s causes until it hurts. To determine how much belongs to God using the first formula requires only a calculator, from the second angle, an awareness of fiscal suffering. The facts, however, speak for themselves: Protestants gave just 2.6% of their income in 1999, one of the more affluent periods in our national history.1

What we know, and have been taught, concerning the stewardship of our holdings is rendering a paltry result when it comes to giving, donations, and contributions.

The concept of a tithe is an Old Testament teaching that is absent from the New Testament. And yet, we are all well-acquainted with the expectation of the tithe. In my opinion, this has been done in an effort to gain fiscal control and predictability.

With only passing thoughts of spirituality, and significant weight from tradition and budgetary measures, the modern church has latched on to the concept of a ten percent tithe in order to predict its future and destiny. Many ministers use their platform as a bully pulpit educating their people that the tithe belongs to the church. If parishioners wish to contribute to other causes, that must be over and above the ten percent to the church.

Believe me, I understand the frustration of building a budget based upon the inclination of donors to make contributions. However, to attempt to control the budgetary outcome by dictating percentages is a philosophy rooted in a lack of faith, trust, and understanding. The shortsighted rationale is simple and goes like this: If our members would contribute ten percent, then all of our projects would be guaranteed funding.

This approach is limited and detrimental. It teaches New Testament Believers how to live based upon Old Testament guidelines. In other words, this instruction is rooted in a legalistic standard. As you may recall, the power that fuels sin is the law (1 Cor. 15:56). To teach stewardship from an Old Testament perspective actually facilitates the temptation for Believers to adopt a sinful attitude toward their holdings rather than experience the confidence and freedom that comes from living a life of faith and trust.

Please do not jump to the conclusion that I am advocating we discard the Old Testament. I am not! But, we are taught that we must accurately handle, or divide, the Scriptures (2 Tm. 2:15). As you will see in a moment, the Old Testament established one standard while the New Testament set another. If Christ saw fit to die in order to ratify a new covenant, surely we would not advocate continuing in Old Testament theology when we are New Testament people (ref. Heb. 9:15 ff).

What is the primary distinction between Old Testament and New Testament theology and their philosophical approaches to life? God asked a small portion off the top—the “first fruits“—from the Old Testament folks. Today, as recipients of all of God’s fortune through his adoption of us, God does not ask for a portion. He asks for all, and not just monetarily! We have been bought with a price. Therefore, we belong to God, and as Scripture further states, we are not our own (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

Everything belongs to God, including our lives (Col 3:4). It is simply out of His grace that He privileges us to participate in stewarding His material goods, talents invested in us, and repositories of truths that benefit others. By definition, a steward is an agent who supervises the care and distribution of another’s possessions. Simply stated, we are stewards of God’s stuff.

Until Believers understand that God owns everything and they own nothing they will consistently mismanage the possessions within their care. Especially in the western world, and even more so for those who are blessed materially, the temptation is to use the things money affords to attempt our own creation of heaven on earth. But this shortchanges the desires of our hearts and kills the passion that fuels us through life toward our eternity in heaven. What a tragedy! Could there be anything sadder than going through this life surrounded with God’s blessings and miss the point of eternity in exchange for the heavenly trappings of earth created by wealth?

God has set eternity in our hearts. He has given us the potential to bond with Him at that level—the heart level. The mere notion that we could relate to Him with ten percent from all that He has blessed us with—and that either of us would be satisfied with that—is an earthly perspective that misses the eternal message God desires for us to grasp.

Perpetuating the Old Testament concept of giving ten percent in these New Testament times places us in the untenable position of believing we fund God rather than vice versa. It shows us in monetary clarity how we would behave if we were God. To live opposite this—according to His intention—and respond to His grace with abandon allows us to grasp something of His values and perspective in preparation for the revelations of eternity.

To communicate to Believers that they owe a simple portion of their holdings to God aborts their ability to realize the eternal gain that could accrue to them. God asked little of Old Testament saints because they possessed little of Him. However, New Testament Believers possess all of God indwelling them in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). Further, we also gain our perspective from looking backward at Christ’s finished work at Calvary instead of toward it as Old Testament folks were required to do.

The Bible says, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). Literally, the rendering of the verse is that God loves a hilarious giver! God, who is blessed with all of the riches of the universe, gaveeverything He had in order to gain something of greater value—amazingly enough, that would be you and me. The hilarity of this for Him was something He simply did not want to possess alone. Out of His great love and grace for us, He instructs us to follow His lead and give from that which we cannot keep anyway in order to gain those things which we cannot lose due to their eternal nature. It is not possible to take our money, time, talents, or contacts with us. But the joy, character, and celebrated memories we gain by giving from that which is not ours to begin with is something we will treasure throughout eternity and do so with hilarity in our souls.

One of the great dangers, especially in the western world and with those blessed with abundance, is that we will mistake our abundance as God’s means of security for us rather than looking to Him as the one who promised to meet all of our needs; that we will become intoxicated by wealth and our possessions and fail to drink deeply from Him who is the fountain of living water; that we will live shallow existences rather than thrive through profound connection; that our hearts will resonate to the iron string of self-sufficiency rather than dance to the music of eternity’s passion…being cared for by God; that we will settle for giving ten percent—or 2.6%—instead of giving from our heart.

If we are not careful, we who are blessed will fall into the trap of attempting to meet not only our needs but also our greeds by building an unnecessary surplus. The belief being that our surplus creates security. This undermines our ability to look to Him as the supply of everything we need both externally and internally. Our security can only be found in Him. To ask our security from stuff (i.e., holdings) that does not belong to us in the first place creates soul-level frustration, drowns passion, and wounds our spiritual being.

In addition to the detriment this stockpiling causes in our souls and spirits, the surplus of funds entrusted to us is derailed from being invested in the destinations God desires for us to support. Not only do potential receivers suffer, but the potential giver suffers as well. While God will supply those in need through other means, the eternal benefit for the potential giver will be lost for eternity. This is in addition to the vulnerability the potential receiver has to being attacked by the enemy as he sees possibility derailed by shortsighted thinking and mishandling of God’s funds by his stewards.

And so, assuming we become motivated to do things differently, take God at his word, live like everything is His, and trust that His provision is better than all we might be able to afford ourselves, we are left with these questions: how do I know what to give, how much to give, and whom to give it to?

There are two guidelines I think of offhand. First, we are instructed in Galatians (6:6) to give to those who bless us. This may be the church, a tape ministry, a cause that we believe in, a nonprofit organization, an individual, or a stranger we are impressed to assist. While these provide valid guidelines, I think the more profound sense of stewardship is related to the heart: Where do I want to give? What is on my heart to give? Where do my passions lie? As I answer these questions I will gain a sense of where God wishes to invest. Finally, we simply must remain still and quiet in order to hear the discussion between God’s heart and ours—His spirit and our new man—in order to find agreement regarding his investment plan.

Why such a short answer to such a long article? The answer is quite simple, yet incredibly profound: God doesn’t need stuff to keep His kingdom afloat. His whole goal in giving us the stuff to manage is to give us—Him and us—something to talk about. He is into relationship, not stuff. The stuff is a forum, a meeting place, a coffee shop if you will, a business lunch—with the point being what happens in our hearts during the meeting

In summary, stewardship is first recognizing that you own nothing; God owns everything. This includes not only your financial standing, but your abilities, talents, gifts, contacts, and even your very life.

Second, you must realize that it is God who takes care of your needs not you yourself. Caring for your needs is a promise He has pledged upon His honor to keep. If you attempt to do this yourself, by directing His resources in your own direction, you undermine God’s best for you in exchange for your own sufficiency, you obscure God’s hand in you life, and you do so to the detriment of your heart and passions.

Finally, stewardship gives you the grand privilege of communicating with God about His purposes and plans while participating in them with Him. Giving out of obligation, or abdicating your responsibility to engage in the relationship, and submitting to the legalism designed to meet a budget or control an outcome, will render a shallow relationship with God and foster dispassionate leanings in your soul. God is simply too wild and too passionate about his own thoughts and dreams for what you and He are together to tolerate living in a box defined by a portion—any portion—let alone ten percent. He gave all and asks the same from you if you are to experience His satisfaction and His eternal joy portrayed and realized through stewardship.

The financial resources you are blessed with have the potential to deceive you through abundance while leaving your soul void of passion. On the other hand, they may serve to catapult you into the hilarious joy of seeing God do something unique and profound with you and in you and through you. The potential for stress and pain imminent within the financial resources you possess is in direct correlation to the potential for eternal joy and satisfaction that lie before you.

Therefore, the question for you as a steward becomes this: Will you look to all that you see around you as a means to meet your own needs, or will you see all that is around you as an opportunity to create something eternal from something temporal? Will you give from that which you cannot keep, and which does not belong to you, in order to gain that which you cannot lose either in this life or the next? Will you give what is tangible in order to seize in your heart that which is intangible? Will you be a channel through which He blesses and provides for others, or will you be a collector of God’s provisions in order to craft your own security (ref. Israel’s effort to store manna)? Will you attempt to control today’s outcome, or will you be a steward whose heart is set on eternity?

Now that you have read the article, I would like to draw your attention to one final thing. I made a determination to leave Lifetime Guarantee, its projects, and ministry initiatives out of this discussion. The goal of this article is to encourage you with the perspective of God’s grace as revealed in the New Testament perspective of stewardship. To mix the investment opportunities through Lifetime Guarantee among the lines of this letter would be to jeopardize my ability to speak with candor and lack of bias. I owe you my honesty as your friend as well as a personal demonstration of my confidence in God that He is the source of supply for the outreach and opportunities of LGI and its staff.

Should you wish to have a conversation about Lifetime Guarantee and our financial needs, the LGI staff or I will be delighted to have that discussion with you. Call toll free, 888-395-LIFE, or send me an email: president@lifetime.org. If God is leading you to give financially to Lifetime Guarantee, an easy way to do this is by visiting our secure donation page.