Principles of the Plate
In this short book we have reviewed several ideas about Christian stewardship, primarily that stewardship is the care and management of someone else's property. In our case as Christians we are responsible for managing and distributing the wealth God has given to us.
In lesson number:
- We talked about motivation. What motivates our giving as good stewards (not guilt or pride, but the Holy Spirit).
- We studied tithing, the Old Testament method of giving and reviewed the teaching in the New Testament about "how" we should give.
- I showed you a plan for good stewardship. In it we learned how we, as Christians, could become good stewards regarding the management of our resources (think, act and feel like stewards).
- In this final chapter I would like to review several fundamental principles about giving that transcend culture and time. These truths about giving are valid at all times, and I refer to them as, "The Principles of the Plate."
Principle of the Plate #1
The More You Give the More You Get
The Bible is filled with basic principles that guide our lives and that are true in every generation and culture. One of these is the principle of increased return. In other words, you cannot out give God!
In the prophet Malachi's day (400 BC), the Jewish people had forgotten this idea and were cutting back on their giving and offering inferior sacrifices to God in order to cut corners. In his book, the prophet Malachi reminds them that in doing this they were actually robbing themselves of potential blessings.
9You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! 10Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the Lord of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.
- Malachi 3:9-10
In the New Testament, Jesus reinforces this idea of increased return:
Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return."
- Luke 6:38
Giving is an expression of faith. The believer says, "I believe enough in what I do not see to give up some of what I do see." Some people think that the more you give, the more of the same (money, health, success, etc.) you will get. This is true to a certain extent, generosity begets generosity, but the true reward of giving is that the more you give up of what you see, the better able you become in seeing the One who is hidden.
Principle of the Plate #2
It is More Blessed to Give than to Receive
In Acts 20:35, Paul quotes a saying of Jesus that is not recorded in the gospels. A beatitude that could have quite easily fit in the Sermon on the Mount. The suggestion here is that taking is pleasurable in its own right:
- It feels good to receive.
- It builds our esteem to be given gifts.
- It is easy to receive, and profitable for the one who is receiving.
Like all beatitudes, this passage reveals a truth about the workings of the Kingdom of God not easily seen by the unbeliever or the casual observer.
As far as giving is concerned:
- It feels better than the feeling experienced when receiving.
- Giving builds our souls in a way receiving cannot.
- Although difficult, inconvenient and sacrificial at times, giving is much more profitable than receiving.
- Two people are profited, the giver and the receiver benefit.
- Giving pleases God thus gives joy to the giver in affirming the fact that he is doing what is right.
- Giving guards the soul against greed (giving is the antidote to the poison of envy).
- And as Paul says, giving puts us into the Spirit of Christ who came to give His life, not save it.
I think that people who do not give at church, or anywhere else for that matter, are denying themselves a pleasure and joy that would free them from fear, jealousy and selfishness as well as the misery that comes with these attitudes. Have we ever noticed that "giving" people are usually "happy" people?
Principle of the Plate #3
God Provides for your Giving
The ironic thing about giving is that we never give what is ours anyways. Whatever we have, God has freely and cheerfully given it to us in the first place. All of it!
10So David blessed the Lord in the sight of all the assembly; and David said, "Blessed are You, O Lord God of Israel our father, forever and ever. 11Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. 12Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. 13Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name.14"But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You.
- I Chronicles 29:10-14
The fact that people do not acknowledge this or rarely give or give very little does not change this basic truth. Paul expresses this principle in II Corinthians:
8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; 9as it is written,
"He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor,
His righteousness endures forever."
10Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; 11you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.
- II Corinthians 9:8-11
This is not just a passing comment, it is an explanation of how God works, how this business of giving operates from God's perspective. Pay attention to how this system functions:
- God is able to provide everything you need (material, emotional, spiritual). He is the source for all things (verse 8).
- Not only will He provide for your needs, He will also provide for your giving (verse 8b).
- God will take care of you and give you an abundance so that once your needs are cared for you can glorify Him and bless yourself by the doing of good deeds and supplying other people's needs.
The problem is that we always invest our extra income, our extra talents, our extra time into ourselves. The sin here is that instead of using what God has entrusted to us for the service of others, we use it in the pursuit of our own comfort and pleasure. The Bible assures us that God can and will provide for everything we need to live (money, food, family, leisure, etc.) but it also instructs us to recognize the fact that not all of what we have is solely for us. Some of it has been given to us so that we may bless others in God's name (thus glorifying Him) and one day God will require an accounting of our stewardship from us.
Thing brings me to...
Principle of the Plate #4
We will be Judged Concerning our Giving
Some may say, "We are saved by faith in Christ, not by how much we give. That is salvation by works!" The Bible says:
But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works."
- James 2:18
My faith in Christ must be expressed somehow and Jesus tells us that it is expressed or shown to be genuine in a variety of ways.
- In Mark 16:16, He says that if you believe you will be baptized. So baptism is an expression of my faith.
- In John 14:23, He says that if you love Him you will obey His word. So obedience is an expression of my faith.
- In Matthew 25:31-46, He says that when He returns, the disciples He will take to heaven are those who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick and imprisoned, not the ones who only believed that He was the Son of God but did nothing about it except to listen to sermons about this basic truth.
It is not that giving replaces faith or that much giving can pay for Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf, that is priceless. Giving is a barometer of our faith. It registers how strong or weak our faith really is because it measures our deeds not just our words.
Principle of the Plate #5
Giving Determines the Growth of the Church
In the book of Acts we watch the explosive growth of the church in Jerusalem in the first century. Note that this growth was fueled by two main factors:
- The preaching and miracles done by the Apostles.
- The tremendous generosity of the church.
43Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common;45and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need
- Acts 2:43-45
32And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.33And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.34For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales35and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.
36Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), 37and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.
- Acts 4:32-37
Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food.
- Acts 6:1
The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.
- Acts 6:7
Preaching without giving does not produce growth because growth requires service and services need resources. Giving without preaching will not lead to growth because the Word is what converts, not the money. You need solid preaching yoked together with sacrificial giving in order to produce dynamic church growth.
Pressing on to maturity in the area of giving requires us to understand and implement these "plate principles."
- The more you give away the greater your blessing from God - try it!
- Giving provides certain rewards that receiving cannot - experience them!
- God gives to you so you can give to others and receive a blessing - identify His portion and give it regularly.
- Judgment and giving are related - be careful. How will you be judged?
- Growth and giving are also related - everyone in the church affects its growth by their giving or not giving - if a member of the church does not regularly give time, money or talent, then they are moving the church backwards not forwards.
My hope is that this small book has encouraged you to see yourself not only as a disciple but also a steward of God's many blessings. God bless you in the management of His wealth.