Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? Some vow to exercise more or find a more fulfilling career. Others make this "the year" to lose weight. The most difficult part of any resolution to change -- is beginning.
But there is one change you will find highly fulfilling. Imagine developing a lifestyle where you can help your family, loved ones, and others, and as a result you enjoy life more fully. We call it a lifestyle of giving.
Because people are essentially hunter-gatherers, one of the first measures we use to gauge success is the accumulation of wealth. But what if we measured success by biblical principles instead? In seeking to understand God’s perspective, we discover five basic concepts:
Concept 1: God is the owner of all
Even though we may hold the title and claim ownership of what we have gathered, we’re just holding it for a moment in time. Scripture repeatedly reminds us that the earth, and all within it, belongs to God. We are stewards and not owners of God's resources, and that completely changes the way we look at what we “have.” As stewards, we desire to follow the wishes of the owner. To that end, God has set specific priorities.
Concept 2: Stewards must provide for their households
In 1 Timothy 5, Paul emphasizes the responsibility to provide for our households. We are to provide for family needs (not necessarily wants) as an act of faith and stewardship.
Concept 3: The basis of all stewardship is work
The theme of work as the basis of stewardship appears throughout the scriptures. “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food,” we read in Genesis 3:19. And Paul states, “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands that he may have something to share with those in need” (Ephesians 4:28).
As Christians, we strive to be the best at our skill or trade so that our labor will be worthy of those who pay for it. We desire that others seek our services not just because we are Christians, but because we are great at what we do. We strive for excellence because it is part of our Christian stewardship and calling.
In turn, it is important that we share our work ethic for the sake of Christ. When that happens, God will honor our labor, and allow His abundance to flow through us.
Understanding God’s view of wealth and stewardship provides a different view of the bounty God has entrusted to us.
Concept 4: Stewards should take a percentage of what they earn and give it
Why is this important? First, because giving reminds of us God's ownership of all. Second, giving teaches us the importance of thinking beyond ourselves. It is part of God’s plan to meet the needs of His people. Jesus says when we give to those in need, we do it unto Him (Matthew 25:40).
When we give, we demonstrate the genuine love of the Father through those who call themselves Christians. In this way, we help take the truth of the gospel into all the world.
Concept 5: Giving starts with the firstfruits
True charitable giving isn’t just what we do with small percentages or leftover funds. It’s not just about writing a check for 10% of our earnings to cover an obligation of church membership. By making giving a priority we show our understanding that God is the owner of all and that He wants us to care for our families, other believers, and the world.
Understanding God’s view of wealth accumulation and stewardship brings perspective to the bounty God has entrusted to us.
A lifestyle of giving is expressed in our support of our family and our community, and helps us realize that all we have is God’s gifts to us. “For God so loved . . . He gave . . .” (John 3:16)
Adopting a lifestyle of giving may be more powerful than any resolution. Through this lifestyle we recognize how much we have been given.