Based on a booklet “The Stewardship of Money” written in England during the 1940s by F. Mitchell and revised by Mark Morgan, November 2021.
The Christian life begins when we receive Jesus Christ as our personal saviour. It was by his coming into our lives that we became Christians at all. No doubt when we first came to him, it was with a sense of frustration or a burden of sin and helplessness, and our conscious need was to receive forgiveness, peace and power. These, we discovered, were available only in Christ, and, receiving him, we enjoyed the gifts he always brings.
But the New Testament always presents Jesus Christ as both Saviour and Lord. It is regrettable that we too easily divorce these offices. The lordship of Christ – his claim to absolute authority over all of our life – was a dominant note in the message of the early Christians. They did not divide the Christ, offering him first as saviour, and then, at some later date, as Lord. Preaching his first sermon to the Jews, Peter reminds them that ‘God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus’ (Acts 2:36). Preaching his first sermon to the Gentiles, the same apostle reminds them that Jesus ‘is Lord of all’ (Acts 10:36).
From early in the Old Testament, salvation has always had a cost. In Exodus 12, the first-born of Israel is saved by the sprinkled blood of the Passover lamb. In Exodus 13, the spared first-born is claimed as sanctified to God. The New Testament states this truth very plainly, ‘Do you not know that … you are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body’ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This means that when we partake of the benefits of Christ’s cross and suffering, we commit to his rule over us at the same time; a rule which is to be acknowledged in every part of our life. It is this fact of Christ’s lordship which lies at the heart of the teaching given in the Bible concerning our responsibilities as stewards of the possessions God gives us.
Although the most common meaning of the word ‘steward’ is now a person who looks after passengers, another meaning – and the one we are concentrating on here – is ‘a person entrusted with the management of another’s property’. Christian stewardship, therefore, means that whatever has been entrusted to us by God – our time, talents, prospects, opportunities and possessions – belongs to him. His claim covers everything in our life, and the believer is responsible for the right use of every gift and faculty. We are not, therefore, to feel a sense of responsibility in the matter of money, for example, and yet be careless in the use of our time.
The purpose of this booklet, however, is only to give Scriptural teaching on the stewardship of money (including its equivalent in terms of board and goods). All of us receive some income. It may take the form of a salary, wages, dividends, grants, scholarships, or even pocket money; but whatever the form or origin of our income, we who are Christians need to remember that the ultimate giver is God. We are therefore answerable to him for its use. ‘Who am I,’ said David, ‘and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you’ (1 Chronicles 29:14).
Nothing offers so practical a test of our love for Christ or for others as does our attitude to money and possessions. Nor does anything so test our claim that we have been delivered from this present evil world. The attitude of the unconverted man to money is too widespread to be other than well-known. The world asks how much we own; Christ asks how we use it. The world thinks more of getting; Christ thinks more of giving. The world asks what we give, Christ asks how we give; the former thinks of the amount, the latter of the motive. Men ask how much we give; the Bible how much we keep. To the unconverted, money is a means of gratification; to the converted, a means of service: to the one an opportunity for comfort, to the other an opportunity for consecration.
The Christian must think differently from the man of the world on many problems, but especially on the problem of money. Alas, we may reject worldliness expressed in certain forms of pleasure, and yet be very self-indulgent in the use we make of what God gives us in the form of possessions.
A further and compelling reason why the Christian should seek to please God in this matter is that God commands it. Giving is not a matter of preference and taste, but is obligatory and binding because of the plain command of God.
Our love for Christ is ultimately shown by doing the things he tells us to do. ‘Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me’ (John 14:21). ‘If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love’ (John 15:10). This is the obedience of faith which is the mark of the true believer. The commandments of Christ are no less binding on us than the commandments which God gave to the children of Israel in the wilderness were on them. To fail in giving, therefore, is disobedience, and the Bible never condones such an attitude or act.
The subject of stewardship is given its most exhaustive and orderly treatment in Paul’s two letters to the Christians at Corinth, and two whole chapters (8 and 9) of the second letter address our motive for giving. While the reasons of inequality and need are mentioned, the chief appeal to the hearts and consciences of the Corinthians is because God gave his son and Jesus gave everything.
It appears that the Christians at Corinth had been failing in the matter of stewardship as well as in other more obvious faults. Had they ignored the apostolic instructions given in the earlier letter? Paul had written, ‘On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper’ (1 Corinthians 16:2) in order, he explains, that when he himself came, the church might be able to appoint some of their number whom he could send to carry their gifts to the needy in Jerusalem.
It is to remedy this defect in their Christian character and conduct that the Apostle devotes these two whole chapters of his second letter to this fundamental responsibility of the Christian. He gently introduces the subject by telling them of the noble practice of the Macedonian church (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). The Christians there had given out of their deep poverty not only what they could easily afford, but to the point of sacrifice, ‘they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means’ (verse 3). Paul, knowing this, had evidently hesitated to accept the gift, as being more than they could afford; but these generous-hearted disciples had insisted that he take it, ‘begging us earnestly for the favour of taking part in the relief of the saints’ (verse 4). The Macedonians had heard of others in greater need than they, and they begged to be allowed to take part in the relief of the saints. This must have proved a strong rebuke to the worldly Christians at Corinth; it may also rebuke both writer and reader.
Paul then proceeds to tell his readers that he desires a similar disposition in them: ‘see that you excel in this act of grace also’ (verse 7). This, he writes, would prove the sincerity of their love (verse 8). It is the mention of others giving as a proof of real love which leads the apostle to make his greatest plea for their giving – and this is the plea:
Continuing the irrefutable argument of this section of his letter, the apostle closes his plea with a brief but touching doxology:
The logical reasoning of the two chapters may be summarised briefly as follows. The great expression of God’s love is the gift of his son to meet our need; we should express our love in return by giving to his needy ones as we would to him. The Macedonians did it out of their great poverty, for love must give. Let the Christians at Corinth find in the need of the saints at Jerusalem an opportunity which should be eagerly grasped to show their love to Christ and his brethren. A Christianity which is not large-hearted and liberal is not of the apostolic kind.
Failure to give adequately may easily involve spiritual loss, while a right fulfilment of the responsibilities of stewardship will almost certainly bring spiritual gain, or, at any rate, will save us from numerous spiritual perils. The New Testament is full of warnings regarding the danger and hindrance of too many possessions:
Money, in its various forms, is a real responsibility. The more of it that comes to us, the greater our responsibility. ‘Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more’ (Luke 12:48). As Christians we must cultivate the Christian attitude to material possessions. We should not aspire to wealth, which may easily be our undoing. Rather we should seek to use aright that which God may give us, trusting him to send more if the need be greater, or if he judges us sufficiently faithful to be trusted with more.
More than 70 years ago, the booklet “The Stewardship of Money” was written by F. Mitchell examining how Christians should use their money. We think that it’s worth reading, so we have made it available for you to download below (although we don’t agree with everything in it). Three versions of the booklet are available:
Sometime, we hope to issue a complete revision of this booklet. While this is still in progress, the first chapter in its revised form is provided above.
How should Christians use money? (Bible Tales article)