The Need for a Stewardship Paradigm Shift

Larry Johnston, executive vice president CAO at the Christian Research Institute, was recently on Hank Unplugged. Hank and Larry talked about the need for Christians to shift their paradigms on stewardship. The following is a snapshot of their conversation.

Hank Hanegraaff: There has been a dearth of good stewardship teaching in the church. As a result, we are far different today than the war generations were. War generations understood giving because a robust theology of stewardship was being communicated in churches. Today, that is not happening. In many churches and many traditions, the whole idea of tithing is lost on people, much the less freewill giving. So, there are now tippers, and not tithers, not knowing anything about freewill giving.

Part of what we are seeking to do today is to let people know that stewardship is not something that ought to be shunned in the church as though we have to apologize for it. The sin is not communicating to people the significance of stewardship and how they should be involved in stewardship. Let’s talk about that a little bit. Stewardship principles. We are talking about people getting involved with something that is transcendently important to such an extent that we can say with certainty — this is true of me and true of you — that if I really want to find out where your heart is, all I have to do is look at two things: one is your calendar and the other is your checkbook.

Larry Johnston:  Both are quite revealing. You and I were chuckling earlier in the week when I told the story about the $100 bill and the $1 bill. Both were facing the end of their lives. They were off to the recycling plant. The $1 bill asked the $100 bill, “Well, as you come to the end of your run here, how was your life?” The $100 bill replied, “Oh, man! You won’t believe it. It was just fabulous. The resorts, the 5-star hotels, the 7-course meals, yachts, it was just absolutely an amazing life.” The $100 bill asked the $1 bill, “How about you?” The $1 bill replied, “Ah, man! My life was a drag. All I ever did was go to church, go to church, go to church.”

Humorous, but painfully humorous.

Hank: Yes, painfully humorous. Let’s talk about stewardship.

Larry:  We have spent a lot of time talking about paradigms, because the truth be told, we do not think about our paradigms as much as we think with them. Paradigm shifts, while the term has become a bit trite, perhaps overused, I would contend that the great paradigm shift is the one I referred to briefly earlier, which is this: it is not how much of my money that I am going to give away; rather, it is how much of God’s resources do I need, and given the fact that I am on this planet for a brief season — Scripture will even use the metaphor of a vapor, we are like a passing vapor (James 4:14) — as I spend my years on this planet, is my mind focused on those things that have genuine eternal consequences, or am I just somewhat narcissistically focused upon me and my stuff?

Hank:  So interesting. I have been moved by a specific biblical passage many times; it has to do with the prayer of David. It is very moving because he is thanking God for the privilege of being able to give to the work of the Lord. David said, “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” and “now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you” (1 Chronicles 29:14, 17 NIV). What is interesting about this to me is this: if you go back to the history of the Israelites, they were taught to tithe. They were taught to give a tenth. Well, what David is now saying is they had graduated from tithing to giving joyously and giving willingly to one of the great projects in all of history, of course, at that time the project was building a temple. A temple where the Shekinah glory of the Lord would dwell among the people. It was a very worthwhile project, and the people who bought into the project thought, Through this project we can make an incredible difference. Indeed, they did because ultimately out of the temple comes another temple, and then out of the second temple comes a living temple. A temple not built by human hands. All of that was seeded actually by people who were giving generously at the time of David, a thousand years before Christ.

Larry: I think a part of the journey from a more impoverished notion of stewardship toward a more joyous notion of stewardship is the migration from what I must give to what I should give to what I get to give. It is a joy to be a conduit of God’s resources to bring about transformation in the world.

Listen to the full interview here.

For further reading on stewardship, please access the following equip.org resources:

Is the Tithe for Today? (Hank Hanegraaff)

What Is the Biblical View of Wealth? (Hank Hanegraaff)

What Does the Bible Teach about Debt? (Hank Hanegraaff)

The Good News about Capitalism (Hank Hanegraaff)

Tithing: Is it in the New Testament? (Revisited) (Elliot Miller)

Short-Term Recession of the Long Winter? Rethinking the Theology of Money (William F. High)

Wealth and Stewardship: Key Biblical Principles (Michael W. Austin)

Also recommended are the following e-store resources:

Secure: Discovering Financial Freedom (B1080) by Rick Dunham

The Treasure Principle: Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving (B679) by Randy Alcorn

The Law of Rewards: Giving What You Can’t Keep to Gain What You Can’t Lose (B776) by Randy Alcorn


Catching the Joy of Contagious Giving

I want to say a little bit about a biblical view of wealth. The first thing I want to mention is that I am persuaded — by the way, I am not just talking to you, but I am talking to myself — I am persuaded that the Bible teaches responsibility associated with wealth. I suppose from the standpoint of the broader globe — all of us, or the vast majority of those I am speaking to right now — are wealthy. God’s Word encourages us to use money for the sake of the Kingdom (Matt. 6:19–21; Luke 16:1–13).

It is not just money. I do not mean to trivialize everything to what you actually give, because the giving of your time and the giving of your talent are very significant for kingdom purposes. But, obviously, we ask that people would support this ministry financially as well. It is a very practical way in which you can continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us in the battle for life and truth. Why? It is crucial to realize that the Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it (Ps. 24:1). The bottom line here, according to the text, is that God is the landlord, and we are just tenants.

We did not arrive with anything, and we will not take anything with us when we leave (1 Tim. 6:7). You know, I was thinking about that when I was in the hospital room the other day. I had a complication as a result of the Rituxan that I was taking — one of the chemo drugs. I went from uncontrollable shaking until I finally reached equilibrium to finally having the amount being pumped into me and the speed being pumped into me bumped up a little bit, and then I had a fever of 101o until it calmed down again. I had some complications. But, when you are lying there, you recognize this statement is very, very true. Every single breath is held in the hollow of the Lord’s hand. We did not come with anything, we are not going to leave with anything, so in those moments, you think, “When I stand before you, Lord, are you going to be pleased with how I used my time and my talent and my treasure?”

It is important to view wealth with eternity in mind and to lead our lives here down below as responsible stewards, whether we have a little or a lot, so that one day at the judgment, God Himself will reward us (Matt. 25:14–30; Luke 19:12–27). Ultimately, it is not a bank statement on Earth that counts; it is the one in heaven.

I want to share just one verse with you in closing, and that is this: the Bible chronicles the prayer of David. I love this prayer because David here is thanking God for the very privilege of being able to give to the work of the Lord. So, this is what David says, “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand…now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you” (1 Chron. 29:14, 17 NIV). I think about that verse because as a result of the giving, that temple is built, and that temple contained the glory of God. That temple remained significant to the children of Israel because through that temple, the priest gave sacrifices pointing to an ultimate sacrificial lamb. So there was immense significance to the temple. It had a huge, huge impact on the world. In fact, only from the perspective of eternity will we fully know how huge that impact was. When Christ came, of course, there is no need for the temple, but that temple was the way-shower, as it were, to Christ. So, Christ comes, and that temple has made a huge difference in the meantime.

What I am saying here is that there is no telling what could be accomplished in our generation if we too catch the joy of contagious giving. We would be empowered to spread the gospel around the globe. We would be enabled to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the sick. Like our forefathers, our generation might yet leave an indelible mark on this world. As Solomon says in Proverbs, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops, then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Prov. 3:9–10). In other words, the arm of the Lord is longer than yours, and He will supply to you as you supply to ministries. God ordains the ends as well as the means. He does not need our money, but He is teaching us something through giving. Give as you can give, and give generously.

If you love this ministry, if this ministry has made a difference in your life, if you are seeing the difference it is making in the lives of others, in this last week, we are asking people to give and give generously.

For further related reading, please see the following:

Is the tithe for today? (Hank Hanegraaff)

What is the Biblical View of Wealth? (Hank Hanegraaff)

What Does the Bible Teach about Debt? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Tithing: Is it in the New Testament? (Revisited) (Elliot Miller)

Short-Term Recession of the Long Winter? Rethinking the Theology of Money (William F. High)

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This blog is adapted from the June 23, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.