Stewardship is not Just Giving to the Church – Stewardship is Giving Wisely

For the past two posts, I have made the case that mandatory tithing does not apply to believers. Such teaching is unbiblical, legalistic, and wrong. We examined the proof-texts proposed by mandatory tithing proponents and found them faulty.

This is not to say that we should not give generously; Jesus speaks much about helping the poor and needy, and he also had a good bit to say about those who were too attached to their wealth. Believers should be caring and giving people, but we should not give blindly.

Stewardship is a word often used to encourage believers to give more to the local church; but stewardship is not just giving to the church—stewardship is giving wisely.

Tithes and offerings

Tithes and Offerings

Church Stewardship

For many years, I belonged to a church of about 2000. Giving was always heavily emphasized, and mandatory tithing was expected—in addition to generous offerings. The church had a large gym, quite a number of paid staff, and the pastor lived in a parsonage that was nicer and larger than most members could afford.

The pastor was fond of big projects; we had a bus ministry with one of the largest fleets of buses in the nation, and we had a television program for broadcasting church services that included cameras, editing equipment, and a paid television director. All of this took money—lots of money.

When the strain on the church’s cash-flow became overwhelming, the church voted to eliminate the bus and television programs. The pastor was so disheartened that he left, letting the next pastor clean up the finances by raising millions of dollars from the members in addition to what they were already giving. It was a great burden caused by poor stewardship.

This is not the entire story. My church belonged to a denomination that required each church to raise a significant amount to go the denomination’s district offices—plus an equal amount to go to the denomination’s general offices and its departments. In addition, there were regular massive campaigns to raise additional funds for missions. Needless to say, there was a constant emphasis on raising money.

This is not good stewardship. Most churches are not so extreme; but in many of them, when membership rises and more money comes in, the response is not to give to the poor or to the community but to build new buildings, add more paid staff, and start new church-centered projects that enhance the church’s image. Of course, I know this is not true of all churches; but, when it occurs, supporting this kind of financial church-centered orientation is not wise stewardship.

Some television ministries are even worse. How many well-funded TV ministries have you heard say: ‘We have plenty of money now, so you can cut back on giving.’ Not likely.

Personal Stewardship

Many people like the goal of 10% for their giving, even though they know tithing is not mandatory. But the question is: must we give it all to the local church? Some pastors and churches say Yes!; but believers can give to whatever causes they wish. Churches have no legitimate right to dictate how much we should give to them.

Pastors often point to the expenses in running the church, and this is valid. Churches have operational expenses, staff salaries, and building costs to pay off. But I think it is important to ask: Do we really need all those expenses? We are never told in the New Testament to build buildings or to have a paid staff. Now if we want such things we must pay for them; but if I don’t want all the things the church spends money on I am not going to pay those expenses just because the church incurred them. This is not wise stewardship.

In fact, before I give substantially to a church I want to view the budget to see how the money is spent. It IS my business because my stewardship is my personal responsibility. Is the money used too much for internal church projects or is a considerable amount used to provide for those outside the church?

Rather than giving blindly to the church, there are other important uses for our money like supporting services to the poor and needy, relief agencies, and other organizations that make a difference in people’s lives (whether they are tax-exempt or not). There may also be relatives or others we know who need our assistance. Unless a church has a robust outreach to those in need, I don’t think it is good stewardship to give that church all our contributions.

Taking Responsibility for Our Personal Stewardship

Some pastors want to bring in as much money as they can and then find a way to spend it, but I don’t think this is the spirit of most ministers. Some even struggle financially, especially in smaller churches. When we expect so much out of our ministers in terms of responsibilities and theological education, we must compensate them for it. We also need a place to meet, though I think newer and smaller churches often are in too much of a hurry to build when they could remain in homes or rented facilities.

I think we should support our local church, but I also think we should be aware of where our money goes and whether it is wise stewardship. And we should also consider whether we should direct all our giving to the local church or should give some of it to other organizations that help people, or even to personally help particular people who are in need.

Stewardship is not just giving to the church – stewardship is giving wisely.

Articles in this series: Teaching Mandatory Tithing is Wrong
The Bible Does not Teach Mandatory Tithing for Believers: Answering False Proof-texts
5 Reasons Why the Harmful Doctrine of Mandatory Tithing is Wrong
Stewardship is not Just Giving to the Church – Stewardship is Giving Wisely
Does Paul Tell Us to Bring Our Tithes to Church on Sundays? He Does Not

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21 Responses to Stewardship is not Just Giving to the Church – Stewardship is Giving Wisely

  1. newtonfinn says:

    I have found over the years that is so often the “poor” churches, poor in things but rich in Spirit, that give the most to their members, the larger community, and the Kingdom of God. The church that operates the food bank to which our local community gardening project donates its produce is largely comprised of people who themselves could be standing in the distribution lines.

    Didn’t Jesus say a thing or two, and do a thing or two, to indicate how God glorifies and magnifies the impact of “the little things” and “the least of these.” When will Jesus’ message about the danger and sinfulness of wealth accumulation, beyond daily needs, ever sink in?

    Thank you for addressing this issue, which strikes at the heart of much that has gone wrong with the church since its ill-matched marriage to empire.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Newton, I have often observed the same thing. Perhaps the poor or near-poor have greater empathy for others who are in need. By the way, apparently commenters cannot edit their comments once they are published. But I made the correction you highlighted.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: 5 Reasons Why the Harmful Doctrine of Mandatory Tithing is Wrong | Jesus Without Baggage

  3. Pingback: The Bible Does not Teach Mandatory Tithing for Believers: Answering False Proof-texts | Jesus Without Baggage

  4. Chas says:

    Tim, I fully agree with you about churches wanting to build new buildings to glorify themselves, as I have been active in three very different churches in the past fifteen years, and the leadership in all three set out to construct a new building when that seemed unnecessary. The leadership also seemed to be good at elbowing their way into outreach projects which had been begun and were being successfully run by ordinary church members without there having been any previous input from the leadership.

    I would urge other contributors here to be cautious in regard to charities that they support, since many charities have ‘chief executives’ or ‘finance officers’ who draw salaries of at least a quarter of a million dollars. It therefore takes the givings of many merely to pay their salaries, before any money can go to help anyone in need. Some information on the efficiency of charities is available on the internet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Chas, I think the constant urge of churches to spend money on themselves is unwise stewardship. Regarding high salaries in charities, I agree that most charities are scored (with details) by secular or religious accountability organizations.

      Like

  5. mark says:

    In recent years there has been a big push for “growing the Church/your Ministry”..seminars have sprang up to address this issue.
    Sadly something seldom heard anymore is Growing the Kingdom or Reaching out to the communities.
    Most have their Visitation groups and many have their Evangelizing teams but for the most part these are just afterthoughts. A public show to point out the fact they are “Christian”. Normally these “service missions” are underfunded and regimented in their delivery of Mainstream Baggage. Conclusion? about useless.

    Yes we are encouraged and dare I say commanded to be good stewards for the Kingdom.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      “In recent years there has been a big push for “growing the Church/your Ministry”..seminars have sprang up to address this issue.” Ain’t it the truth!

      Mark, I don’t think numerical goals are the important thing; the important thing is touching lives with the good news of the kingdom. The two are not the same.

      Like

  6. mark says:

    “Mark, I don’t think numerical goals are the important thing; the important thing is touching lives with the good news of the kingdom. The two are not the same.”

    Very very true Tim….we see these things..simple observations for us.
    Why can’t the Warren’s or the Osteens’ mega church folks see it?
    My suspensions are that they are in this not for GOD but for their personal kingdoms. And it would seem a majority of large growing church’s want their own slice of the Pie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Mark, I am not sure all megachurch leaders are in it for themselves, but I suspect most of them are–either in terms of money or power. I also notice that many such churches teach either prosperity or heavy conservative baggage; I don’t know how either furthers Jesus’ good news of the Kingdom.

      Like

  7. Anthony Paul says:

    I hope I don’t sound crude or offensive when I say that to way too many pastors, “Size Matters”; and this is not just restricted to the mega-churches… small churches want to be BIG and big churches want to be BIGGER. My father was a decent man who worked to take care of his family even though he lacked any kind of formal education. He seemed to have a kind of built-in understanding about the church which has taken me years of practical experience to come to see for myself: the church is big business and the ministers who tend the flock are the first to receive their crust of bread from the treasury. Not all, but way too many of these church leaders know little or nothing of the poverty of spirit or the humility of heart in which Jesus walked and which we see in the needy of our world today.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Anthony, I must agree that too often numerical growth in churches is a higher priority than many other more important issues in being a pastor or even a member. For many churches, it is big business and some of them don’t even deny it. Churches should be business minded enough to operate efficiently but should not be profit oriented.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Paul Had Remarkable Insights but He was not Inerrant | Jesus Without Baggage

  9. tonycutty says:

    “But the question is: must we give it all to the local church? Some pastors and churches say Yes!; but believers can give to whatever causes they wish. Churches have no legitimate right to dictate how much we should give to them.”

    I love revolutionary talk. It’s what Jesus did, and still does!

    a) Of course the churches say Yes! You must give us your money.

    b) My brother never tithed, even though we were in a tithing church (although admittedy nowhere near as pressured as some). He saved up his money and treated people to meals, car rides, gifts, that sort of thing. Generously, too.

    c) Churches have no legitimate right to dictate *anything*!, not just financially. They have only the power we give them by consenting to their pressure.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Does Paul Tell Us to Bring Our Tithes to Church on Sundays? He Does Not | Jesus Without Baggage

  11. michaeleeast says:

    Tim, I agree with you entirely.
    Especially in regard to giving outside the Church.
    This problem is more pronounced in the U.S..
    But some of the new U.S. style Churches do it here.
    Its not a healthy trend.

    Liked by 1 person

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