Money scares me! Actually the talk of money brings about fear for me and I know it does for others. It is also scary to talk about money in the church, especially for churches that consider October as their stewardship month. The reason why money brings about fear is because it is so closely connected to security, health, food, shelter and greed. Money is the driving force of our economy and lives. Unfortunately it can define our future, threaten our present and haunt us from the past. There isn’t a day that we aren’t impacted by money. Money has a way of hitting our fear nerve, if there is such a thing. Furthermore, it is no different in the church. When it comes to the church there are no decisions in the church that are not financial. Furthermore, there are no decisions in the church that are not spiritual. It seems as if the two are intertwined.
The use of money, resources and assets in the church are properly referred to as, “Stewardship.” Simply put stewardship is the ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources. So how does the church use resources, money and assets in the church? For the sake of simplicity I would like to summarize two motives of stewardship: anxiety stewardship and grace stewardship.
Anxiety Stewardship operates with the absence of the Coram Deo presupposition. Coram Deo can be translated as, “In the presence of God.” Coram Deo simply frames the living of our lives into the context of God’s presence, authority and grace. In other words, stewardship that happens outside the context of the presence of God inevitably leads to an anxious disposition. Why anxiety though? Apart from Coram Deo mankind is perceived as the sole generator, user and implementer of resources. The absence of Coram Deo limits the view of resources to the sphere of mankind alone, life under the sun, which inevitably gives the perception that resources belong to mankind. Once the resources are confined to the realm of man, mankind naturally and intrinsically attempts to secure resources due to the misguided view that resources are limited and need to be preserved for the health, stability and unfortunately at times for the greed of the person, organization or group. Fear of losing limited resources becomes the motive for stewardship decisions. “How much of my money should I give to God in the offering plate on Sunday? How much money does the church budget need? Etc…”
Grace stewardship on the other hand operates within the context of Coram Deo. The saints of Macedonia in 2 Corinthians 8 gave above their means, with a voluntary spirit and with an attitude of oneness. Paul emphasizes the church of Macedonia as a great example of grace stewardship not because of the amount that they gave but because of their attitude of giving. They gave gracefully in the context of Coram Deo. Grace stewardship is conducted in the context of the presence of God where we know that we have a giving God. D.J. Valleskey comments on page 136 of the 2 Corinthians People’s Bible Commentary saying,
“God’s grace is a giving grace; it centers around his gift of Jesus Christ and his redemptive work on our behalf. That grace moves the Christian to be gracious–to freely, gladly give everything, including material goods, back to God and to one’s neighbor. The offerings of a Christian, then, are much more than bills and coins. They are a part of one’s worship. The Christian who day by day is being ‘graced’ by God acknowledges God’s grace with freely given, grace-motivated gifts.”
This grace stewardship conducted in Coram Deo never says, “How much of my money should I give to God in the offering plate on Sunday?” Rather it says, “How much of God’s money and gifts do I use for the local church?” Grace stewardship never says, “How much money does the church budget need?” Rather it says, “How much money do I get to give back to God from his bountiful blessings for the furthering of His Gospel?” Grace stewardship begins with the presupposition that all resources belong to God, not man, and that we are simply entrusted to use the resources wisely for the sake of the Gospel, for the sake of blessing the church body and for the sake of blessing our neighbor. Furthermore grace stewardship doesn’t limit resources to the perspective that mankind is the one generating the resources. The resources do not originate with man, they originate with God; Coram Deo. This grace stewardship then leads the church body and individuals to freedom and joy, not giving reluctantly nor giving with fear. Keep in mind that grace stewardship doesn’t carelessly excuse the need for wisdom in stewardship issues, rather, it usurps the motive of fear. Grace stewardship brings about a non-compulsive and cheerful disposition of wisely managing God’s resources within His presence.
Money in view of Coram Deo grants me joy! Thinking about Coram Deo releases us to know that God has provided for us and will continue to provide for us. All of life becomes gift! Coram Deo grants us comfort when it comes to the church that all of the decision in the church get to be made knowing we have been given to, that there are no “what ifs” with God’s economy and that God is the supplier of not only our precious salvation but all of our resources as well.